ISSN 2768-4261 (Online)
Abstract: The Tibetan-Mongolian interface that emerged in the 13th century led not only to the confluence of these two cultures but also to the introduction of various Mongolian legal practices on the Tibetan plateau. A short document penned by the influential Sakya hierarch Lama Dampa Sönam Gyeltsen (1312-1375), translated and analyzed here, shows both how these practices affected policymaking in Tibetan monasteries and how Tibetans adopted the distinct Mongolian chancery style over time. At the same time, the text gives us an insight into the social history of central Tibet in the 14th century, especially the way in which dietary rules and the reconciliation of Buddhist ethics with local conventions were negotiated.
Keywords: Monastic policies, Tibetan chancery practices, Buddhist ethics, legal anthropology
When the Tibetan plateau was incorporated into the Mongol Empire and subjected to Mongol law (hor khrims) during the 13th century, it led to new forms of cultural soft power exercised by influential lamas. A key Buddhist concept became the basis of the emerging Tibetan-Mongol interface: the donor-recipient relationship (yon bdag mchod gnas). This linked secular and religious spheres of influence centered on the pairing of Kublai Khan (1215–1294) and the Sakya monk Drogön Pakpa (’Gro mgon ’Phags pa blo gros rgyal mtshan; 1235–1280).
In addition to the personal relationship that these two figures maintained, they also created an institutional structure that, on the one hand, entrusted Tibetan Buddhist monks with the administration of all Buddhist communities throughout the Mongol Empire, which became the Yuan dynasty from 1271, and, on the other hand, facilitated the implementation of Mongol demands for Tibet. This resulted in the establishment of the Bureau of Buddhist and Tibetan Affairs (xuanzheng yuan 宣政院). Its first supervisor was Drogön Pakpa, who was conferred with the title of national preceptor (guoshi 國師) and subsequently imperial preceptor (dishi 帝師).
This imperial administrative structure was continued by the successors of both Drogön Pakpa and Kublai Khan into the 14th century. For example, the Red Annals report that, since the tenure of Lama Dagchen Zangpo Pel (Bla ma bdag chen bzang po dpal; r.1306–1323), the abbots of the Sakya Zhitok residence (sa skya bzhi thog bla brang), Sakya’s administrative centre,[i] also held the seal of a guoshi (Tshal pa Kun dga’ rdo rje 49-50).[ii]
Apart from requiring residence at the royal court in Beijing, these titles also came with the authority to issue directives. One such directive is the subject of the following discussion. As my analysis below will show, it gives us fascinating insights into the Sakya monastery hierarchy, the social history of fourteenth-century Tibet and sheds some light on how recognized Buddhist legal traditions, such as monastery rules (bca’ khrims) and customary practices, were reconciled with the obligations that arose under Mongol rule.
To date, we have been able to examine some of the functions and activities of the Tibetan dishi or imperial preceptors, as several of their decrees have survived in the monastic archives and have been made available in recent publications (Xizang Zizhiqu dang an guan (ed.); Everding Herrscherurkunden). However, the situation is different concerning the directives and responsibilities of a guoshi, which were not recorded in such detail in either Tibetan or Chinese chronicles. One of the few surviving guoshi documents is found in the Collected Works[iii] of Lama Dampa Sönam Gyeltsen (Bla ma dam pa Bsod nams rgyal mtshan; 1312–1375), the son and successor of Lama Dagchen Zangpo Pel to the Sakya Zhitok throne in 1344.
Description of the document
The short text, which extends to only two folios, is seamlessly connected to another text by the editors of Lama Dampa’s Collected Works and forms the end of the last volume of the collection. The editors have, therefore, not given it a separate title, and the text calls itself an “open letter (yi ge)” promoting moderate meat consumption (hereafter Open Letter).
First, I shall address some aspects concerning some of the designations in the document. At the beginning of the text, reference is made to various persons and offices that “belong to the white roof (dkar phibs la gtogs pa)”. At the end of the Open Letter, this reference is expanded to “white roof temple (dkar phibs lha khang)”. This description does not obviously relate to any specific place or building in the relevant primary sources. In Müsépa Dorjé Gyeltsen’s (Mus srad pa Rdo rje rgyal mtshan; 1424–1498) Sakya Genealogy, however, we find an architectural sketch of the Sakya Zhitok residence, which includes the abbot’s sleeping quarters and an assembly hall called “Great White Roof of Sakya (sa skya dkar phubs chen mo)” which was supported by nearly two hundred pillars[iv] and, despite the spelling variant dkar phubs for dkar phibs, this is most probably the place in question. Based on this knowledge, I was then able to identify a “white roof house (dkar phubs khang pa)” in Lama Dampa’s biography, which is described as the reception venue for important imperial envoys (gser yig pa) and also served as the storage unit for their numerous gifts (Dpal ldan Tshul khrims 114).
Next, a partial dating, the eighth day of the fourth month of the Monkey Year, and a concurrent event, a “great dharma assembly” (chos ’khor chen po), are provided, but we lack the crucial element sign for establishing the exact year. I could not identify any dharma assembly in a monkey year from the numerous Sakya genealogies available, but judging from the dates of Lama Dampa’s life, only the years of Wood- (1344), Fire- (1356) or Earth-Monkey (1368) seem possible. He is listed as abbot of the Sakya Zhitok for a short period between 1344–1347 (Dpal ldan Tshul khrims 395), so I am inclined to assume the Wood-Monkey Year, i.e., 1344.
Further evidence is provided by his biography (Lo chen Byang chub rtse mo 17a), which states that in a monkey year, he was invited to Sakya to act as a counsellor (bka’ gros pa) in the aftermath of hostilities within Sakya following the death of Pang Lotsāwa (Dpang Lo tsā ba; 1276–1342). I think the reference to the “great dharma assembly” might refer here to the general meeting at the beginning of an abbot’s tenure, at which it was common practice to address indecorous habits and customs within a monastery (Jansen 29). It is, therefore, quite possible that the Open Letter was addressed to the Sakya Zhitok community at large, which was gathered in the white-roofed assembly hall of the Zhitok residence and represents the record of a public speech given by Lama Dampa at the beginning of his abbacy in 1344.[v]
Given that the document is currently only available in its edited and printed pecha format, no seal impressions are present that might indicate the exact capacity in which Lama Dampa authorised this directive. It only partially corresponds to the rules of Mongolian diplomatic and chancellery practices as identified by Dieter Schuh, while at the same time exhibiting formatting features common in Tibetan monastery rules, such as quoting sutra passages, upholding established traditions or addressing potential pitfalls that threaten one’s liberation from samsara. Still, the document’s classification as yi ge[vi] and the text’s indication that the measures set out in the Open Letter are to be understood as part of the “long-life rituals for the emperor” suggest that Lama Dampa may well have issued this directive in his capacity as guoshi.
To conclude our preliminary remarks, the following passage from the 16th-century Sakya Genealogy of Shakya Dondup (Shākya don grub; 16th century) is worth mentioning:
In his 33rd year (1344), [Lama Dampa was appointed] per edict of the emperor to reside as the Zhitok throne holder, and [thus] became the Buddha’s regent. He set all pious people on the path of liberation.[vii]
The author acknowledges not only that Lama Dampa held the seat of Sakya Zhitok through the emperor’s benevolence but also that he was responsible for the salvation of all Buddhists in Tibet. This meant, above all, educating them in Buddhist values and reminding them both of their obligations to the emperor and those established by the Buddha’s teachings.
Translation & Analysis
Since I interpret the Open Letter as an official document and legalistic testimony of the 14th-century Tibetan-Mongol interface, I have divided the translation into sections following the accepted subsets of diplomatic analysis. The Tibetan text and uninterrupted translation are included in Appendix One.
Invocatio: Oṃ swasti siddhaṃ!
Intitulatio: A letter [written] by the monk Sönam Gyeltsen Pel Zangpo
Publicatio: [to] the kalyāṇamitras belonging to the “white roof”, the monastic secretaries (nye gnas), lay officials (dpon skya), stewards, guards (bza’ ba), workers, higher and lower guests from far and near, and travellers.
Unlike the default preambles used by Mongolian and Tibetan chanceries in official documents, e.g., the use of the proclamation noun gtam, the beginning of Lama Dampa’s Open Letter mirrors the structure found in Tibetan monastery rules from the 13th century.[viii] Next, we learn about the hierarchy of the various persons and offices to whom the order is addressed and who is expected to obey it. In addition to the venerable teachers or spiritual friends, these include the monastic assistants or secretaries and the somewhat diffuse office of “lay official (dpon skya)”. This office ranks hierarchically below the secretary (nye gnas)[ix] and above the monastery’s steward and guards (bza’ ba)[x]. Although no other functions of this lay official are described, it can be inferred that he was employed within a monastic community as a mid-level official, and he, too, had to observe the monastery’s regulations.[xi] The same applied, of course, to workers, guests, and travelers who, as soon as they entered the monastery’s jurisdiction, became subject to its rules (Jansen 153).
The Open Letter continues with the petitio, a short section that refers to existing precedents on the matter at hand:
Petitio: At the time of the supreme Lama Pakpa, the tradition of serving copious amounts of meat did not exist. On this topic, there was even an official proclamation, [adding to] the monastery rules. Later, however, the custom of serving copious amounts of meat developed due to the comforts of the time and to look good in the eyes of others.
The petitio, which invokes an earlier decree of Drogön Pakpa[xii] to establish a precedent, makes it clear that the main concern addressed in the Open Letter, namely the excessive consumption of meat, has only recently become an issue. Meat-eating is generally associated with rather negative qualities in Buddhism. In the Laṅkāvatāra-sūtra, for example, it is said to cause hard-to-control cravings and mental confusion, which ultimately hinders liberation from saṃsāra (Barstow The Faults of Meat Ch.1).
If we take Lama Dampa’s biographies at face value, this was also a matter of great personal concern to him. The biographers (Dpal ldan Tshul khrims 394; Lo chen Byang chub rtse mo 9b) emphasize that from the time of his full ordination in his late teens, he strove to set an impeccable example to others by observing the 253 precepts that form the basis of monastic discipline. He strictly avoided even the smallest offences, such as wearing long-sleeved clothes, drinking alcohol, or eating meat.
Furthermore, contemporary political concerns also seem to have influenced the writing of the Open Letter. Since at least the 1290s, the Sakyas had been the undisputed leaders in central Tibet and prospered considerably from tax revenues and numerous donations from the Mongol court. Lama Dampa mentions the en vouge-ness of indulging in meat to “look good in the eyes of others”, which suggests Sakya’s ostentation vis-à-vis other Tibetan communities. Moreover, various monastery rules justify compliance with the prescribed regulations because indecent or improper behavior on the part of the monks would undermine the confidence of their followers and supporters (Jansen 40-41).
The petitio is followed by the narratio, in which Lama Dampa quotes from the eighth chapter of the Laṅkāvatāra-sūtra and joins the ranks of Tibetan commentators who have advocated for the renunciation of meat since at least the 10th century and who all based their reasoning on this treatise (Barstow “Monastic Meat” Introduction).
Narratio: If you continue like this, it will directly harm many sentient beings. As the Laṅkāvatāra-sūtra says, “Because they lack noble kindness, others consume such disgusting fare. Meat is a food for carnivorous animals; the Great Sage has declared it to be unsuitable. People pay money for meat, causing animals to be killed for profit. Both the killer and buyer own this sinful karma and will boil in the Crying Hell. All those who go against the Buddha’s words, and eat meat with an ignoble mind, destroy their lives, both now and in the future and defile the conduct found in the Śākya’s teachings! Those people endowed with sinful karma go to hells that are thoroughly terrifying. Those who eat meat will be boiled in the Crying Hell.”[xiii] [The Laṅkāvatāra-sūtra] speaks about such sins and many [others].
At first glance, the matter seems quite clear. All meat consumption carries the potential danger of a hellish experience and bad rebirth and must be avoided at all costs. The catch, however, lies in the person’s “ignoble mind (bsam pa ngan)”. As explained in the Foundation of the Vinaya (’dul ba gzhi), the Buddha is said to have established the rule of threefold purity, which allows monks to eat meat that has not been killed specifically for them; without even hearing about it or having the slightest suspicion that this might be the case (Barstow Food of Sinful Demons 24). Once these possibilities had been considered and ruled out, as someone with a noble mind is wont to do, eating meat was permitted. This excluded eating meat for pleasure and taste rather than for subsistence.
Geoffrey Barstow observed that vegetarianism was upheld as the preferred diet for Buddhist monastics. Still, for the most part, strict vegetarianism failed to hold up in practice in Tibet. For one, the geographical location was crucial. At high altitudes, agriculture was minimal, while in other regions, a variety of root vegetables and grains enriched people’s diets (Barstow Food of Sinful Demons 117). The keeping of livestock and dairy production, meanwhile, did not seem to pose any ethical problems, probably because yoghurt, milk and butter were considered non-lethal. Butter was also indispensable for the monasteries’ daily butter lamp offerings. However, on the other hand, vegetarianism was also associated with a range of health problems, general physical weakness, and wealth. Many monastery rules criticized meat consumption, but the wording of their texts allowed monks and nuns to decide whether to consume meat (Barstow “Monastic Meat”).
Consequently, the subsequent dispositio, the part in which the actual legal content is formulated, presents a practical approach for the moderation of meat consumption and gives specific and detailed instructions on implementing the directive. To this end, particular quantities and quality of meat are recommended for different social groups, and an attempt is made to reconcile the principle of abstaining from meat according to the Laṅkāvatāra-sūtra with the practice of meat-eating prevalent in 14th-century Tibet.
Dispositio: It is most improper to bring raw meat into the chambers of the high lamas. Therefore, from now on, serve important guests and people of different [social] rank as follows: to the highest, give two lhu[xiv] portions of meat from small animals[xv] and to the others, no more than one lhu. To the servants and workers, give only one carcass of an animal that has died naturally (las sha), butter, and Tibetan cake. To the rest, give meat from animals that have died naturally, butter, and Tibetan cake. Do not give slaughtered meat.
On the three auspicious days of the month, do not take meat to the White Roof temple and other [adjacent] places. To those who need to eat in the residence, either serve purchased meat[xvi] or meat from naturally deceased animals. Do not harm any sentient beings under any circumstance.
The strict observance of this precept, especially during holy days, was a common concern of influential Tibetan Buddhist masters, particularly in their relations with their Mongol patrons from the mid-13th century onwards. The biography of Karma Pakshi (1203/06–1283) mentions that he persuaded Kublai Khan’s predecessor, Möngke Khan (1209–1259), to observe this precept, and the Great Khan is even said to have issued an edict (’ja’ sa) to this effect (Manson 67). Similar accounts are also found in the correspondence between Drakpa Tsondru (Grags pa brtson ’grus; 1203–1267) and his patron Hülegü Khan (r. 1256–1265), in which the Tibetan advises the Mongol to abstain from meat during the auspicious days of the month.
The Open Letter concludes with the proclamatio, in which Lama Dampa emphasizes the significance of complying with the directive and appoints the persons responsible for its implementation:
Proclamatio: These measures are for the emperor’s longevity and [constitute] a service to the Buddhadharma. Since this measure will benefit you and all others in this life and all the next, the people residing in the residence’s headquarters should supervise [its realization].
Sanctio: None of you oppose this letter!
Dating: This letter was written at the Great Dharma Assembly on the eighth day of the fourth month of the Monkey Year.
Eschatocol: May all be well and virtuous!
The fact that these practices are not only for individual spiritual development but are also considered part of the long-life rituals for the Mongol emperor is an important detail. In the early 13th century, when the Mongol Empire began to take shape, tax exemptions for religious groups, monasteries, and parishes were introduced and confirmed by the ruling khans. These exemptions applied not only to Tibetan Buddhists but also to subjects adhering to other faiths and were linked to certain obligations, such as abstaining from any commercial activities and reading the holy scriptures (Cho 77-81). All religious specialists were expected to devote their skills to praying for the long life of the Khan. We find frequent evidence of this, for example, in Sakya Paṇḍita’s Letter to All Tibetans[xvii], a directive addressed to all Tibetan speakers which outlined the parameters of the Mongols’ demands and rules (hor khrims) for Tibet written during his stay at the Mongol court from 1246 to 1251.
Sakya Paṇḍita’s nephew Drogön Pakpa also sent a decree (bka’ shog) to the spiritual friends of central Tibet in his capacity as guoshi in 1262. In the document, he reminds the Tibetan religious communities of their obligations to the emperor: “The tools you need to turn the dharma wheel have been sent along with the imperial envoys. Therefore, spiritual friends and Buddhist communities, I ask you to pray for the long life of the great Emperor and do it in accordance with the Dharma.”[xviii]
Also, some indications as to the longevity of Lama Dampa’s directive can be found in Müsépa’s Sakya Genealogy. Here, we encounter a reference to the fact that in the mid-15th century, two taverns (chang rwa) were operating in the middle of the Sakya monastery complex.[xix] The apparent laxity of the monks caused offence to the Sakya master Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo (Ngor chen Kun dga’ bzang po; 1382–1456), a vocal discussant in the vegetarianism debate. In response, he wrote an Epistle on the Faults of Alcohol and Meat before founding his own Ngor monastery a few years later, on which he imposed stringent rules on the drinking of alcohol and consumption of meat (Heimbel “Ngorchen on the Faults of Alcohol and Meat”).
Lama Dampa’s Open Letter Promoting Vegetarianism continues the tradition of his predecessors at Sakya and continued the Sakya-Yuan relationship, which began with Sakya Paṇḍita and Drogön Pakpa, well into the 14th century. The document appears to be a hybrid between a monastery rule and an official directive issued by the national preceptor of the Yuan dynasty, the guoshi. It is too monothematic for a conventional monastery rule by focusing on only one particular topic, not using clear chancery language, and explicitly addressing a mixed lay and monastic audience.
However, it also corroborates previous studies which have characterized the period from the thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries as a “high-water mark for vegetarianism in Tibet” (Barstow Food of Sinful Demons 34). In contrast to other contemporary commentators, we find a rather pragmatic attitude towards meat-eating in Lama Dampa’s Open Letter, obviously attuned to the social realities of 14th-century central Tibet. Its political headquarters, located in Sakya and supported by the Mongols, was at the same time the residence of religious and secular dignitaries whose diets required a certain degree of control.
The significance of the Open Letter is that it highlights the indirect effects Mongol laws (hor khrims) had on Tibetan policymaking. By citing adherence to Buddhist ethical principles as a prerequisite for the successful implementation of Mongol demands, namely performing long-life rites for the emperor, Lama Dampa demonstrates the practical intersection of secular and religious interests—the very foundation of the Tibetan-Mongol interface.
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—. Food of Sinful Demons: Meat, Vegetarianism, and the Limits of Buddhism in Tibet. New York: Columbia University Press, 2018. Print.
—. “Monastic Meat: The Question of Meat Eating and Vegetarianism in Tibetan Buddhist Monastic Guidelines (bca’ yig).” Religions 10.4 (2019): 240. Print.
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—. “Introduction to a Research Project on Documents Issued During the Period of the Great Mongolian Empire to Tibetan Recipients.” Nepalica-Tibetica: Festgabe for Christoph Cüppers. Eds. Maurer, Petra H. and Franz-Karl Ehrhard. Vol. 1. Andiast: IITBS, 2013. 173–186. Print.
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—. Vajradhara in Human Form: The Life and Times of Ngor chen Kun dga’ bzang po. Bhairahawa, Nepal: Lumbini International Research Institute, 2017. Print.
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Oṃ swasti siddhaṃ!
A letter written by the monk Sönam Gyeltsen Pel Zangpo to the kalyāṇamitras belonging to the “White roof”, the monastic secretaries, lay officials, stewards, guards, workers, higher and lower guests from far and near, and travelers.
At the time of the supreme lama Pakpa, the tradition of serving copious amounts of meat did not exist. On this topic, there was even an official proclamation, [adding to] the monastery rules. Later, however, the custom of serving copious amounts of meat developed due to the comforts of the time and to look good in the eyes of others.
If you continue like this, it will directly harm many sentient beings. As the Laṅkāvatāra-sūtra says, “Because they lack noble kindness, others consume such disgusting fare. Meat is a food for carnivorous animals; the Great Sage has declared it to be unsuitable. People pay money for meat, causing animals to be killed for profit. Both the killer and buyer own this sinful karma and will boil in the Crying Hell. All those who go against the Buddha’s words, and eat meat with an ignoble mind, destroy their lives, both now and in the future and defile the conduct found in the Śākya’s teachings! Those people endowed with sinful karma go to hells that are thoroughly terrifying. Those who eat meat will be boiled in the Crying Hell.” [The Laṅkāvatāra-sūtra] speaks about such sins and many [others].
It is most improper to bring raw meat into the chambers of the high lamas. Therefore, from now on, serve important guests and people of different [social] rank as follows: to the highest, give two lhu portions of meat from small animals and to the others, no more than one lhu. To the servants and workers, give only one carcass of an animal that has died naturally, butter, and Tibetan cake. To the rest, give meat from animals that have died naturally, butter, and Tibetan cake. Do not give slaughtered meat.
On the three auspicious days of the month, do not take meat to the White Roof temple and other [adjacent] places. To those who need to eat in the lama’s residence, either serve purchased meat or meat from naturally deceased animals. Do not harm any sentient beings under any circumstance.
These measures are for the emperor’s longevity and [constitute] a service to the Buddhadharma. Since this measure will benefit you and all others in this life and all the next, the people residing in the residence’s headquarters should supervise [its realization]. None of you oppose this letter!
This letter was written at the Great Dharma Assembly on the eighth day of the fourth month of the Monkey Year. May all be well and virtuous!
Acknowledgement: I would like to thank my two colleagues Tenzin Choephel and Sherab Chomphel for their help with some of the difficult passages in the primary sources. All errors and omissions are my own.
[i] The term sa skya bzhi thog is ambiguous. In addition to the name of the building, the bzhi thog bla brang, which included the chambers of the presiding abbot, it was also associated with a title of office (Heimbel Vajradhara in Human Form: The Life and Times of Ngor chen Kun dga’ bzang po 83-84). For this brief study, I adopt Leonard van der Kuijp’s analysis of Lama Dampa’s “appointment to the abbatial throne of Sa skya’s Bzhi/Gzhi thog Residence, which amounted to being the grand-abbot of Sa skya monastery as a whole and was therefore the most prestigious post” (“Lama Dampa Part One” 112).
[ii] Kublai Khan’s successors apparently divided the office of guoshi into two. In the Red Annals we read that in addition to the guoshi there existed the adjacent da yuan guoshi 大元國師. The addition of “Great Yuan 大元” must have indicated the requirement to reside at the royal court.
[iii] More information about this collection can be found in Leonard van der Kuijp’s “Lama Dampa Part Two” & “Lama Dampa Part One”.
[iv] Mus srad pa Rdo rje rgyal mtshan 69a64. For a full study, see Venturi.
[v] A very similar case is found in the work of a companion and contemporary of Lama Dampa by the name of Dolpopa Sherab Gyeltsen (Dol po pa Shes rab rgyal mtshan; 1292–1361). His 1325 treatise entitled “Advice and Quotations about Abstaining from Meat and Alcohol (sha chang bkag pa’i lung ‘dren rnams)” was written shortly after he was asked by his teacher to take over the leadership of the Jonang yogic community. For a translation and analysis of Dolpopa’s treatise see Sheehy.
[vi] The classification, according to Karl-Heinz Everding (“Documents issued during the period of the Great Mongolian Empire to Tibetan Recipients” 181) usually indicates that a document was issued by a subordinate chancellery, e.g., by the guoshi or the chancelleries of the Tibetan myriarchies.
[vii] gung lo so gsum pa la gong ma’i lung gi bzhi thog gdan sar bzhugs nas thub ba’i rgyal tshab mdzad de/ (Shākya don grub dpal bzang po 295).
[viii] See e.g., the monastery rule written by Chennga Drakpa Jungné (Spyan snga Grags pa ’byung gnas 385-386) during the 1230s.
[ix] A term that, in addition to its literal meaning “to be near someone > assistant,” was probably used from at least the 13th century to designate an official position.
[x] According to Tai’i si tu Byang chub rgyal mtshan (305), this group of people were employed as military guards at important sites such as the Great Temple of Sakya (lha khang chen mo) and were apparently under the supervision of the dpon skya (Byang chub rgyal mtshan 272). As Luciano Petech (61) notes, this term was used exclusively during the Yuan period and disappeared after the mid-14th century.
[xi] From one of the monastery rules written by Chennga Drakpa Jungné, we learn that a dpon skya oversaw the monastic estates and was also subject to these regulations (Spyan snga Grags pa ’byung gnas 388).
[xii] I have not yet been able to find such a decree by Drogön Pakpa. However, in his Speech on Disappointment in Thirty-Five Verses from 1259, he states that he renounced impure foods such as meat and being distracted by games such as dice (’Gro mgon Chos rgyal ’Phags pa “Skyo ba’i gtam tshigs su bcad pa sum cu rtsa lnga pa” 516).
[xiii] This is an often-used passage from the Laṅkāvatāra-sūtra, cited by Tibetan authors writing about meat renunciation. I have opted for the excellent translation by Geoffrey Barstow (The Faults of Meat Ch. 1) instead of producing my own.
[xiv] I could not find a definitive translation for this technical term. An informant from Kham explained to me that lhu refers to the meat between the ribs, while Goldstein’s dictionary offers both “meat cut into pieces” and “a quarter of a carcass”. While I tend to understand the term as a specific measurement, as this would make the most sense in this context, I decided not to translate it.
[xv] Presumably this refers to sheep and goats.
[xvi] Geoffrey Barstow (Food of Sinful Demons 49) notes that although “butchers would kill an animal with the intention of selling its meat to the monks, they would not have had a specific monk in mind while they wielded the knife [making it] sufficient to satisfy the rule of threefold purity.”
[xvii] This document is known as “A letter from the glorious Sakya Paṇḍita to the spiritual friends and patrons of Dbus, Gtsang, and Mnga’ ris (dpal ldan sa skya paṇḍitas dbus gtsang mnga’ ris dang bcas pa’i dge ba’i bshes gnyen yon mchod rnams la springs pa)” contained in ’Jam mgon A mes zhabs (160-165).
[xviii] da res chos kyi ’khor lo bskor ba’i yo byad dang/ gser yig pa btang ba lags pas/ dge ba’i bshes gnyen dang/ dge ’dun rnams kyis/ rgyal po chen po sku tshe ring zhing thugs dgongs chos dang mthun par ’grub pa dang/ (’Gro mgon Chos rgyal ’Phags pa “Dbus gtsang gi dge ba’i bshes gnyen rnams la spring ba” 315).
[xix] Heimbel “Ngorchen on the Faults of Alcohol and Meat” (note 173). Original passages in Mus srad pa Rdo rje rgyal mtshan (72-73).
Daniel Wojahn is a PhD candidate in Tibetan and Himalayan Studies at the University of Oxford, a Leverhulme scholarship holder and 2023 Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Dissertation Fellow in Buddhist Studies. He received his baccalaureate and MA in Indology and Central Asian Studies from Leipzig University, Germany. His current research focuses on the intersection of power and law during the Yuan–Sakya period in pre-modern Central Tibet.
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