Religion and Politics in Tibet 1931-2009


Religion and Politics in Tibet 1931-2009

© Mario I. Aguilar

This research project aims at exploring the close relation between religion and politics in Tibet focusing on a history of rapture always allied to developments in Tibetan Buddhism between 1931 and the early years of the twentieth-first century. The brief period of complete independence by Tibet from China (1931-1950) was marked by the finding of the 14th Dalai Lama in 1935, the reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lamas, a very significant moment that was to mark an insider/outsider perspective in the history of religion in Tibet after the Dalai Lama’s self-exile in India of 1959. Since then China has annexed Tibet as an autonomous region of China and has even restored some of the Tibetan monasteries destroyed in their hundreds within the period of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. The question that remains unanswered for the future is how Tibetans are going to manage religion and politics as two geographically separated entities within a Tibetan Buddhist practice that incorporates past histories and a Tibetan region that remains part of contemporary China: both on the path to human Enlightenment in different ways. This research project aims at covering the historical ground as to help answer such a question that will arise with the ageing of the 14th Dalai Lama and his future reincarnation.

Methodology.- Following from other previous works by M.I. Aguilar the historiography within this research project will explore the `problem of generations¿ as outlined by Karl Mannheim as to describe and interpret Tibetan history in terms of generational constructions, religious and political, Tibetan and Chinese. The use of historiography, social anthropology, international relations and comparative religion will follow the patterns of a multi-disciplinary discourse as previously attempted in A Social History of the Catholic Church in Chile published by the EMP.

Sources.- Primary sources: (1) Tibetan Buddhist texts, (2) Jesuit narratives of missions to Tibet, (3) documents available at the library of the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, and (4) collections of lectures, writings and speeches by the Dalai Lama mostly published in India. Secondary sources: (1) available printed monographs, (2) journals such as The China Review, The Peking Review and journals of Tibetan Studies published in India.


Time Framework 2007-2017

Aims: To produce a series of monographs that comprise arguments by several previous studies that deal with single periods of Tibetan history during the 20th Century and to provide a more complete series of scholarly work accessible to historians, political scientists and scholars of religion.
Research outputs under contract: Entries on the 13th and 14th Dalai Lamas for the Berkshire Encyclopaedia of Religion and Social Justice; a full monograph with the provisional title Religion and Politics in Tibet 1931-2009 under contract with The Edwin Mellen Press of New York.

Christian Buddhist Dialogue: This research project will include a series of events related to research under a wider umbrella of Christian-Tibetan Buddhism Dialogue with a visit in 2009 by Professor M.I. Aguilar to the headquarters of the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India.

General Research Topics

  1. The History of the Lamas 1391-1935
  2. Tibetan Buddhism
  3. Independence of Religion 1931-1950
  4. The Dalai Lama and the Chinese 1950-1959
  5. A Government on Exile 1959-2000
  6. From Uprising to Cultural Revolution
  7. A Chinese Autonomous Region
  8. The Restoration of the Monasteries





Religion and Politics in Tibet 1931-2009


Surveillance & Religion Network

Occasional Papers

International Network of Liberation Theology and Interreligious Dialogue