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Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit


Aims of the project

The research aims to undertake a historical study of the Pema Lingpa tradition and its establishments, focusing on the three principal institutions of Pema Lingpa reincarnations. In reconstructing the history and assessing the significance of the Pema Lingpa tradition and its leading institutions, the project shall:

  • study and record the development of the Pema Lingpa institutions
  • assess the significance of the Pema Lingpa institutions in the greater Tibetan Buddhist world and Bhutanese history
  • consolidate the entire textual corpus connected with the Pema Lingpa institutions by creating a complete xml catalogue
  • digitize the entire literature connected with the Pema Lingpa tradition into searchable documents that will be available to international scholars
  • preserve the original manuscripts and wood block prints in digital surrogates in RAW, TIFF or JPEG formats

Research Context

Despite its eminent position and role in the religion and politics of the Himalayas, no proper study of this tradition has so far been done apart from the biographical and selective works on the person of Pema Ling pa by Michael Aris, Lopen Pemala and Sarah Harding. Michael Aris’s account is considered a judgemental work deriding Padma Gling pa as a shrewd fraudster while Pemala and Harding, writing in a defensive tone, treated him as a religious and cultural hero. This project aims to present a more objective account of Pema Lingpa put in the larger context of the history and development of the tradition and its literary cultures and narratives.

To do so effectively, the project shall start with the digital documentation of the historical and religious books associated with the Pema Lingpa tradition and the input of these books into searchable texts. They will be then used to write a book on the history of the Pema Lingpa tradition. The photographic data, text files, catalogue and the publication, it is hoped, will make a significant contribution to Asian and Buddhist Studies in general and Bhutan studies in particular by enhancing the accessibility of the resources previously unobtainable and by filling a major gap in our knowledge of Bhutanese and Himalayan Buddhist history. The outcome will be useful resources for scholars and lay people interested in Buddhism and the Himalayan region globally.



Research team

Principal Investigator: Dr Stephen Hugh-Jones

Co-Investigator: Dr James Laidlaw

Principal Researcher: Dr Karma Phuntsho

Karma Phuntsho is a scholar working Buddhism, Buddhist Himalayan history and culture. After going to school in Bhutan, he was received a full monastic training in Bhutan and India. He studied Classical Indian Religions at Balliol College, Oxford and did a D.Phil. His thesis was published in 2004 as Mipham’s Dialectics and the Debates on Emptiness, To be, Not to be or Neither.