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Love Letters from Golok: A Tantric Couple in Modern Tibet
Published by Columbia University Press
Love Letters from Golok chronicles the courtship between two Buddhist tantric masters, Tare Lhamo (1938-2002) and Namtrul Rinpoche (1944-2011), and their passion for reinvigorating Buddhism in eastern Tibet during the post-Mao era. In fifty-six letters exchanged from 1978 to 1980, Tare Lhamo and Namtrul Rinpoche envisioned a shared destiny to heal the damage done to Buddhism during the years leading up to and including the Cultural Revolution. Holly Gayley retrieves the personal and prophetic dimensions of their courtship and its consummation in a twenty-year religious career that informs issues of gender and agency in Buddhism, cultural preservation among Tibetan communities, and alternative histories for minorities in China. The correspondence between Tare Lhamo and Namtrul Rinpoche is the first collection of love letters to come to light in Tibetan literature. Blending tantric imagery with poetic and folk song styles, their letters have a fresh vernacular tone comparable to the love songs of the Sixth Dalai Lama, but with an eastern Tibetan flavor. Gayley reads these letters against hagiographic writings about the couple, supplemented by field research, to illuminate representational strategies that serve to narrate cultural trauma in a redemptive key, quite unlike Chinese scar literature or the testimonials of exile Tibetans. With special attention to Tare Lhamo's role as a tantric heroine and her hagiographic fusion with Namtrul Rinpoche, Gayley vividly shows how Buddhist masters have adapted Tibetan literary genres to share private intimacies and address contemporary social concerns.
List of IllustrationsAcknowledgmentsNote on Transliteration and TranslationIntroduction: Journey to Golok1. Daughter of Golok: Tare Lhamo's Life and Context2. Local Heroine: The Hagiography of Cultural Trauma3. Inseparable Companions: A Buddhist Courtship and Correspondence4. Emissaries of Padmasambhava: Tibetan Treasures and Healing Trauma5. A Tantric Couple: The Hagiography of Cultural RevitalizationEpilogue: The Legacy of a Tantric CoupleAppendix A: Catalogue of the Letters of Namtrul RinpocheAppendix B: Catalogue of the Letters of Tare LhamoAbbreviationsNotesGlossary of Tibetan NamesBibliographyIndex
Holly Gayley is assistant professor of Buddhist studies at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her work has been published in the Journal of Buddhist Ethics and Numen, with a forthcoming article in the History of Religions.
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