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Books > Buddhist > Biography > Songs and Lives of the Jomo (Nuns) of Kinnaur, Northwest India (Women’s Religious Expression in Tibetan Buddhism)
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Songs and Lives of the Jomo (Nuns) of Kinnaur, Northwest India (Women’s Religious Expression in Tibetan Buddhism)
Songs and Lives of the Jomo (Nuns) of Kinnaur, Northwest India (Women’s Religious Expression in Tibetan Buddhism)
Description
From the Jacket

Jomos are nuns, celibate women devoted to the practice of Buddhism. Kinnaur is a Himalayan tribal district on the Tibet border in Himachal Pradesh, India. This ground-breaking book tells the story of Kinnauri jomos in their own voices through their two song genres-Kinnauri and Tibetan-and their self-narrated lives.

After hearing a Kinnauri jomo singing at a hermitage in north India, the author sets out to trace the jomos back to their villages in Kinnaur. Journeying into the mountainous land of the Kinnauras-said to be descendants of legendary celestial musicians-staying in isolated villages, and participating in the jomos’ daily lives and rituals, she begins to understand who these women are, what Buddhism means to them, and why they sing.

The book, based on interviews and recordings of 50 jomos over a 15-month period, contains the texts of 23 songs and 7 life stories.

Linda LaMacchia is an adjunct assistant professor in humanities at the University of Maryland University College in Adelphi, MD, U.S.A., and holds a Ph.D. in South Asian Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Introduction

This study of jomos (nuns) is based on their self-narrated lives, songs, and Buddhist ideology in the Himalayan Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh, India. On one level of meaning, this study reveals the contributions of jomos to maintaining and spreading Buddhism in Kinnaur. The jomos accomplish this through acts of devotion and service such as teaching younger nuns, memorizing texts, meditating, and preparing the altar. In their view these acts also serve their own spiritual progress by purifying negative karma, accumulating merit, increasing knowledge, and so on. To tell about such acts and the basic Buddhist ideas they are based on is one level of meaning that jomos express in their songs and life stories. On another level of meaning, this work illustrates the process by which Buddhism assimilates the customs of a particular place while at the same time being assimilated. Buddhism is known for its ability to integrate local beliefs and traditions, and this ability is one of its greatest strengths. The process by which Buddhism takes root locally is another level of meaning that jomos’ songs and life nodes express, and this work demonstrates that women religious practitioners play a significant role in that process.!

The full meaning of the nuns’ religious expression is not visible if we study only the "Buddhist" beliefs expressed by the jomos. At this level, the songs present in a straightforward, uncomplicated way basic Buddhist ideas. Life stories echo these ideas and attempt to show that the glomos have followed a non-gendered Buddhist ideal in becoming renunciants and seeking knowledge. Read in a different way, though, the stories tell of a jomo’s struggle to be a renunciant, and show in many or most cases that jomos have not been able to renounce fully: they can not completely give up their family responsibilities when they stay in their natal villages or even when they leave Kinnaur. Often, for example, nieces and nephews, younger sisters or brothers follow them to their hermitage. The details of an individual’s struggle vary. In the vernacular songs, if we look at what else is expressed besides "Buddhist" ideology, we find village gods and tree spirits, a strong connection to local place, landscape, river, and inhabitants. In addition, there is the presence of the vernacular language, a context of orality and conventions that are shared with the secular song tradition, in contrast to the Tibetan language and literary context of the prayers, liturgies, and rituals the nuns recite and the Tibetan songs they sing. In other words, on one level, jomos’ songs and stories tell the Buddhist story; on an another level, they tell the female renunciant, regional, and local story. This work argues that jomos, who are in an ambiguous position, neither fully renunciant nor lay, are key figures in embodying and expressing the process by which Buddhism is reproduced and given meaning locally.

Back of the Book

“….a valuable and original effort that will significantly add to our knowledge of beliefs and practices of living Buddhism in the Himalayas….”

-David M. Knipe, professor emeritus,
University of Wisconsin-Madison

“The religious lives of renunciant women in Kinnaur are brought to life through their verses of spiritual insight, accessible to readers for the first time in this volume.”

-Karma Lekshe Tsomo, associate professor,
University of San Diego.

CONTENTS

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS xiii
NOTE ON LANGUAGES xv
INTRODUCTION 1
Kinnauri Background 2
Geography
Ethnicity/caste
History
Language
Kinnauri women
Two religions
Origins of Buddhism in Kinnaur
Beginning the Research 25
Research Methods and Materials 27
Outline 38
CHAPTER 1
JOMOS OF KINNAUR
41
Who are the Jomos of Kinnaur? 42
History of the Jomos’ Lineage 47
Becoming a Jomo 51
Living as a Jomo 57
Religious Work: Learning and Practicing Texts, Prayers, and Rituals 60
Jomos’ Song Traditions 67
Case study: Jomos of Kanum village 71
Leaving Kanum
A Kanum nun’s story
CHAPTER 2
GURUS AND DISCIPLES
Buddhist Ideals and Images of the Guru 84
Gurus in Nuns’ Songs 85
Song of Bure Temple
Song of Kangyur Rinpoche
Song of Yulgyal Tulku
Actual (Nun) Gurus and Disciples 100
Chandra Mani: The Biography of a (Nun) Guru 102
CHAPTER 3
SONG IN KINNAURI BUDDHIS:
GITHANG AND MGURMA
119
Two Genres 120
Githang 123
Song of Negi Rinpoche
Song of Lotsa Rinchen Zangbo
Song on Impermanence 147
Mgurma 147
Ga Rinpoche’s mgurma
Lama Topgyal’s (Ani Dolma’s) mgurma
Sung-gur I
CHAPTER 4
KINNAURI NUN’S SELF-PRESENTATION IN
SONG AND LIFE STORY
163
Self-Presentation in Nuns’ Songs 164
Songs about female renunciation
Songs in which appear female Buddhas.
goddesses, and dakinis
Songs about the singer/composer’s (male)
guru (and the guru’s mother)
Songs about temples, villages, miraculous events
Mgurma, songs composed by lamas and written down in Tibetan
Self-Presentation in Nuns’ Life Stories 185
Suffering and hardship
Chos Nyid Zangmo’s story
Upal Devi’s story
Renunciation
Tenzin Dolma’s story
Becoming a jomo
Leaving home
Acquiring knowledge (and other achievements)
Chosem Dolma’s story
Bogti’s story
Self-Presentation: Some Conclusions 201
Postscript: Why Don’t Nuns Sing about Nuns? 202
CHAPTER 5
CONCLUSIONS
205
Appendix 1: List of Jomos, Lamas, and Scholars 215
Appendix 2: Chos Nyid Zangmo interview 219
Appendix 3: Githang 233
Appendix 4: Mgurma 279
Appendix 5: Death of Negi Rinpoche: Told by Bogti and Tenzin Dolma 293
BIBLIOGRAPHY 309
INDEX 329
PLATES

Songs and Lives of the Jomo (Nuns) of Kinnaur, Northwest India (Women’s Religious Expression in Tibetan Buddhism)

Item Code:
IHL609
Cover:
Hardcover
Edition:
2008
ISBN:
8170309018
Size:
8.8 inch X 5.8 inch
Pages:
364 (28 B/W Illustrations)
Other Details:
weight of book 644 gms
Price:
$43.00
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$32.25   Shipping Free
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From the Jacket

Jomos are nuns, celibate women devoted to the practice of Buddhism. Kinnaur is a Himalayan tribal district on the Tibet border in Himachal Pradesh, India. This ground-breaking book tells the story of Kinnauri jomos in their own voices through their two song genres-Kinnauri and Tibetan-and their self-narrated lives.

After hearing a Kinnauri jomo singing at a hermitage in north India, the author sets out to trace the jomos back to their villages in Kinnaur. Journeying into the mountainous land of the Kinnauras-said to be descendants of legendary celestial musicians-staying in isolated villages, and participating in the jomos’ daily lives and rituals, she begins to understand who these women are, what Buddhism means to them, and why they sing.

The book, based on interviews and recordings of 50 jomos over a 15-month period, contains the texts of 23 songs and 7 life stories.

Linda LaMacchia is an adjunct assistant professor in humanities at the University of Maryland University College in Adelphi, MD, U.S.A., and holds a Ph.D. in South Asian Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Introduction

This study of jomos (nuns) is based on their self-narrated lives, songs, and Buddhist ideology in the Himalayan Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh, India. On one level of meaning, this study reveals the contributions of jomos to maintaining and spreading Buddhism in Kinnaur. The jomos accomplish this through acts of devotion and service such as teaching younger nuns, memorizing texts, meditating, and preparing the altar. In their view these acts also serve their own spiritual progress by purifying negative karma, accumulating merit, increasing knowledge, and so on. To tell about such acts and the basic Buddhist ideas they are based on is one level of meaning that jomos express in their songs and life stories. On another level of meaning, this work illustrates the process by which Buddhism assimilates the customs of a particular place while at the same time being assimilated. Buddhism is known for its ability to integrate local beliefs and traditions, and this ability is one of its greatest strengths. The process by which Buddhism takes root locally is another level of meaning that jomos’ songs and life nodes express, and this work demonstrates that women religious practitioners play a significant role in that process.!

The full meaning of the nuns’ religious expression is not visible if we study only the "Buddhist" beliefs expressed by the jomos. At this level, the songs present in a straightforward, uncomplicated way basic Buddhist ideas. Life stories echo these ideas and attempt to show that the glomos have followed a non-gendered Buddhist ideal in becoming renunciants and seeking knowledge. Read in a different way, though, the stories tell of a jomo’s struggle to be a renunciant, and show in many or most cases that jomos have not been able to renounce fully: they can not completely give up their family responsibilities when they stay in their natal villages or even when they leave Kinnaur. Often, for example, nieces and nephews, younger sisters or brothers follow them to their hermitage. The details of an individual’s struggle vary. In the vernacular songs, if we look at what else is expressed besides "Buddhist" ideology, we find village gods and tree spirits, a strong connection to local place, landscape, river, and inhabitants. In addition, there is the presence of the vernacular language, a context of orality and conventions that are shared with the secular song tradition, in contrast to the Tibetan language and literary context of the prayers, liturgies, and rituals the nuns recite and the Tibetan songs they sing. In other words, on one level, jomos’ songs and stories tell the Buddhist story; on an another level, they tell the female renunciant, regional, and local story. This work argues that jomos, who are in an ambiguous position, neither fully renunciant nor lay, are key figures in embodying and expressing the process by which Buddhism is reproduced and given meaning locally.

Back of the Book

“….a valuable and original effort that will significantly add to our knowledge of beliefs and practices of living Buddhism in the Himalayas….”

-David M. Knipe, professor emeritus,
University of Wisconsin-Madison

“The religious lives of renunciant women in Kinnaur are brought to life through their verses of spiritual insight, accessible to readers for the first time in this volume.”

-Karma Lekshe Tsomo, associate professor,
University of San Diego.

CONTENTS

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS xiii
NOTE ON LANGUAGES xv
INTRODUCTION 1
Kinnauri Background 2
Geography
Ethnicity/caste
History
Language
Kinnauri women
Two religions
Origins of Buddhism in Kinnaur
Beginning the Research 25
Research Methods and Materials 27
Outline 38
CHAPTER 1
JOMOS OF KINNAUR
41
Who are the Jomos of Kinnaur? 42
History of the Jomos’ Lineage 47
Becoming a Jomo 51
Living as a Jomo 57
Religious Work: Learning and Practicing Texts, Prayers, and Rituals 60
Jomos’ Song Traditions 67
Case study: Jomos of Kanum village 71
Leaving Kanum
A Kanum nun’s story
CHAPTER 2
GURUS AND DISCIPLES
Buddhist Ideals and Images of the Guru 84
Gurus in Nuns’ Songs 85
Song of Bure Temple
Song of Kangyur Rinpoche
Song of Yulgyal Tulku
Actual (Nun) Gurus and Disciples 100
Chandra Mani: The Biography of a (Nun) Guru 102
CHAPTER 3
SONG IN KINNAURI BUDDHIS:
GITHANG AND MGURMA
119
Two Genres 120
Githang 123
Song of Negi Rinpoche
Song of Lotsa Rinchen Zangbo
Song on Impermanence 147
Mgurma 147
Ga Rinpoche’s mgurma
Lama Topgyal’s (Ani Dolma’s) mgurma
Sung-gur I
CHAPTER 4
KINNAURI NUN’S SELF-PRESENTATION IN
SONG AND LIFE STORY
163
Self-Presentation in Nuns’ Songs 164
Songs about female renunciation
Songs in which appear female Buddhas.
goddesses, and dakinis
Songs about the singer/composer’s (male)
guru (and the guru’s mother)
Songs about temples, villages, miraculous events
Mgurma, songs composed by lamas and written down in Tibetan
Self-Presentation in Nuns’ Life Stories 185
Suffering and hardship
Chos Nyid Zangmo’s story
Upal Devi’s story
Renunciation
Tenzin Dolma’s story
Becoming a jomo
Leaving home
Acquiring knowledge (and other achievements)
Chosem Dolma’s story
Bogti’s story
Self-Presentation: Some Conclusions 201
Postscript: Why Don’t Nuns Sing about Nuns? 202
CHAPTER 5
CONCLUSIONS
205
Appendix 1: List of Jomos, Lamas, and Scholars 215
Appendix 2: Chos Nyid Zangmo interview 219
Appendix 3: Githang 233
Appendix 4: Mgurma 279
Appendix 5: Death of Negi Rinpoche: Told by Bogti and Tenzin Dolma 293
BIBLIOGRAPHY 309
INDEX 329
PLATES
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