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caves 8 volume 47, number 3 expedition number volume 47, A e lmnsi h ardgorpyo Tibetan . key elements inthesacred of are and artificial, natural both caves on theplateau, of majority use rock faces have hollowed been and past two atleast, millennia For the rock shelters inTibet have created alsobeen by people. Many caves and processes create caverns androck shelters. where natural plateau nearLhasahasalimestone , f b o r mo d f y mark aldenderfery mark o nks, r d P o lamas, etcproe n,mr omny asshelters more commonly, and, purposes mestic laces on the lthough most of ca und o plateau riven mountainchains bywide high p and othe v e es w otesis thsade,hde,and hidden, ithasadeep, n to theskies, e rground dimension aswell—numerous ith e as Sacred r tniedr oe.Mc fthe Much of xtensive zones. dark lgosfgrs ned thelarge Indeed, figures. eligious ca asahigh us thinkof ves es

Mark Aldenderfer cAt Piyang inwestern Tibet many caves have beendugintotheface ofthemesa. aves www .m use um.up e nn.e d u/expedition 9 10 ha ( plateau after AD 1000 Buddhism to theTibetan on there-introduction of my research of tant aspect ca the majo r the near Lhasainsouth-central Tibet. Small, nat a r thisisdue to In part, great cave useon theplateau. of antiquity B ha t e oth- while sites, habitation Some are clearly covered. and sizes have dis- been shapes varying caves of this process—over 1,100 At Piyang—a key site in C ion caves, and still others andstill ion caves, e Expedition rs are probably medita- dhs eifsses eko upiigyltl fthe littleof we know surprisingly systems, uddhist belief hinese ar c ves are isanimpor- used v ve architecture ritual e e U Despit r lat e a ntl e wasnor nd volume 47, number 3 expedition number volume 47, i c v y hasan t e e la i ca r v r ca standing ho h motneo caves to pre-Buddhist both and of e theimportance e r c c ha k o e v 47(2):28-34). ligious structures within them. within structures ligious e c v e y r es arefound f olo eal se ar o esear mple helgclrsac.Utlte17s when Until the1970s, research. chaeological g ists b nse o c x oue nteBdhs r.Work in onh focused theBuddhist era. es hasalsob e w g an systematic workan systematic on theplateau, f a T ib e a rhsoy andonly tan prehistory, e en limitedmost because “ o othe c the of division Thistripartite andritual. action worlddle of spir b nounc ab osmos isc f t iea uditadpeBdhs eifsses while systems, oth Tibetan Buddhist andpre-Buddhist belief T its mostimp o its live beneath the water. In between, people live people inamid- In between, its live beneaththewater. r ib d s ha e. e e ” d tan sa Landscap né v e not o ). mmo cr G nas e M water. or beneaththesurfacethe peaks of intomountains anddown thelowlands below between upinto the fundamental distinction sacred categories—a have of noted aduality theHimalayas of Ethnographers meanings. andcaves have andsacred symbolic boulders, vistas, rivers, lakes, Mountains, ronment. and built envi- categorize thenatural world, are perceived. into forhowBuddhist insight caves thought caves to indigenous Tibetan Iturned and To better understand these them. within e d g o d, ountains are the abode of gods and deities in godsanddeities ountains are of the abode r n t ieas like around mostpeople the Tibetans, e f tant f t it hasamo e r o o man anslat eatur g ah a eprosi niut.One raphy hasdeep roots inantiquity. eatur es are the abode of spirit forces spirit and es are of theabode es as y p es isthec e r o “ ciesneo t bd”or “to abide” e active sense of ples ar pla c e, ” ound theworld. but asToni Huber and o ncept of g nas (p r o -

Holley Moyes Holley Moyes

Mark Aldenderfer ha these pla are imbued with power.are imbuedwith plant andevenairfrom thevery such places water, parts, stones, Earth, rounding areas. power thesur- saturate literally of fields whose the past800y made over paintings andwall statues, altars, d as he fr Thesecaves range Tsangpo river drainage. Lhasainthe Yarlung 30 kmsoutheast of cave systems istheGuru Rinpoche complex Tibet’s most important Oneof forces. spirit and rulers, secular figures, famous religious plat finally destroyed.finally through asheer rock thedemon face was until powersplex by usinghismagical to tunnel thecom- caveshe created thelabyrinthine of me ue,cetn pwrpae”( places” creating “power tures, their powertribute to fea- theselandscape may con- Theseentities kinds. all of deities r itat andtheir med- havevana for centuries, emulated thistradition Monks nir- andlamasseeking throughreborn thisprocess. was sense, inaspiritual inacaveenlightenment (nirvana) and, achieved Buddha, thehistorical Sakyamuni, In canonical Buddhist thought, figure. gious apowerful reli- of or emanation the birth with at tant kno tur was ask B ated with ated with eep, subterranean passages thatcontain subterranean eep, uddhist hist om small, artificial shelters thatserved artificial om small, ions of yogis and monks who wish to absorb the to absorb wish andmonks yogis who ions of ve been modified by later generations who built and ve built by shrines modified later been who generations A Caves obtain Caves may alsoobtain y to udim nhspruto ademon, In hispursuit of Buddhism. nt of o ae,epcal hs ftems aos are satu- themostfamous, thoseof especially ion caves, eau, w r lthough cavelthough systems like theGuru Rinpoche complex AD b ic mast n asP rmitage or meditation sites to or meditation large, rmitage e ces to assistthem toward their goals. th d t y theT g us p nas e a o s r in o dmasambha r . r y r gnas These caves are often by later revisited gener- e v ubd ear ib par it e e e lat s. d t tan kingT ue thed ing itf through association with through association es thatG G o Tibet inthe8th cen- ur v gnas u R a, or theestablish- was anI e r by association inp ur mo iso u Rinpoche ng Detsen. o gnas-chen ns o c he, ndian the f also ) Buddhist r the right)tocave supposedly usedby SongstenGampo,the Empire’sTibetan first The cave templeofPalha LuphukinLhasaprovides access(throughtheupperdooron g nas o f uler . tak r int t p il their former many contain physical of manifestations tures, While seldom contain they recognizable fea- utter simplicity. caves hermitage areby their distinguished them, altars within ion of miso h rns o vroecnseti vdne It Not thisevidence. cansee everyone theprints. emains of utiu sr.Hand are saidto andfootprints have been users. lustrious esdit h adrc al n los aclear manifesta- ressed into thehard rock andfloors, walls h ok nohr,simpledepressions are saidto the be In others, o therock. es belief, training, and faith to recognize them.According to and faithto recognize them.According training, es belief, g nas . In some instances, these prints have these prints carved been In some instances, www .m use um.up e nn.e d u/expedition 11 twin accumulations of merit and wisdom. But it does not appear this way to ordinary persons whose karmic obscurations have not been purified.” Caves are pilgrimage destinations for both laypeople and religious figures. While there is no indigenous Tibetan pilgrimage tradition, there has been a remarkable syncretism between canonical Buddhism and the indigenous concept of gnas. All devout Buddhists are encouraged to make a pilgrimage at least once in their lives to improve their karma and advancement toward nirvana, while indigenous motivations involve gnas and the desire to benefit directly from a powerful place. The pilgrim may acknowledge Buddhist canonical motivations, but these tend to be obscured by the indigenous concept of gnas as the pilgrim gains physical and mental benefit from moving into the gnas-chen. For the advanced pilgrim, it is especially important to visit specific caves that have special meaning for that yogi’s religious lineage. For example, the Cave of the Subjugation of Mara at Lapchi in central southern Tibet has special interest for the Kagyupa order because its founding yogis, teachers, and lamas all meditated there for extended periods. Cave pilgrimage has interesting archaeological implications since pilgrims leave things in caves. These include personal items (clothing, shoes, hats), household goods (bowls, glasses), and/or

Representations of the Buddha Sakyamuni, bodhisattvas, and historical figures—some special ritual objects that have gnas, such as tsa- more than 1,000 years old—are carved on the walls of Palha Luphuk, a cave excavated tsa (important Buddhist deities or bodhisattvas into the living rock. mold-shaped in unfired clay). Pilgrims may also take things from the . Although no one the Ti Se Gnas Bshad—a late 19th century Tibetan guidebook removes material from cave altars, pilgrims may take earth, on the pilgrimage route around a sacred lake near Mount Tise water, stones, plant parts, and other objects from around the (known to Hindus as Kailash)—Kunchok Tenzin, an impor- cave. Gnas saturates these objects, providing benefits to their r

tant lama, states, “Concerning the statement that here exist possessors. For example, the earth taken may be formed into e f r e d

sands of gold, silver, lapis, and diamond, this is how it appears tsa-tsa, which can then be used at home on household altars, n e d l A when seen by tenth-stage bodhisattvas who have perfected the taken to other shrines, or placed in secret meditation places. k r a M

12 volume 47, number 3 expedition Caves may also serve as symbolic foundations for temples, shrines, and monasteries. The —Tibet’s most sacred site and the residence of the Dalai Lamas—was founded upon a med- itation cave used by Tibet’s first Buddhist king, Songsten Gampo. Through this association with a powerful figure, the cave has become sacred, providing the basis for the establishment of a temple complex. The cave as gnas has spiritual power. Of course, not all caves, and not all temples, achieve this exalted status. Returning to Piyang, our limited excavations revealed that most of the caves there were habitation or medita- tion sites. Some of the more isolated caves, however, were ancient shrines An altar found in a cave temple near Piyang is draped in (white ceremonial scarves). Tsa-tsa, used by modern pilgrims to obtain gnas bank notes, and pages of writing are placed upon it. from this sacred place. We are only beginning to understand the true importance of caves in Tibet’s sacred geography. To make use- Dowman, K. The Sacred Life of Tibet. London: Thorsons, 1997. ful comparisons to cave use in other of the world will Erhard, F-K. “Pilgrims in Search of Sacred Lands.” In Sacred require much more research into their multiple roles. Landscapes of the Himalaya, edited by N. Gutschow, A. Michaels, C. Ramble, and E. Steinkeller, pp. 95-111. Vienna: Austrian Academy of mark aldenderfer is Professor of Sciences Press, 2003. Anthropology at the . Huber, Toni, ed. Sacred Spaces and Powerful Places in Tibetan His research interests include the archaeology Culture: A Collection of Essays. Dharamsala, : The Library of of foraging societies, the emergence of persist- Tibetan Works and Archives, 1999. ent leadership strategies, and the origins of Huber, Toni. “Putting the Gnas Back Into Gnas-khor: Rethinking social inequality. His methodological interests Tibetan Pilgrimage Practice.” In Sacred Spaces and Powerful include geographic information systems and the development of Places in : A Collection of Essays, edited by Toni digital approaches to archaeological fieldwork. He has worked in Huber, pp. 77-104. Dharamsala, India: The Library of Tibetan Works and , but is especially interested in and Archives, 1999. high-elevation archaeology, and has worked on each of the ) Huber, Toni, and Tsepak Rigzin. “A Tibetan Guide for Pilgrimage to t h g i r

( world’s three high —Ethiopia, the , and Tibet. Ti-se (Mount Kailas) and mTsho Ma-pham ().”

s e y In Sacred Spaces and Powerful Places in Tibetan Culture: A o M

y Collection of Essays, edited by Toni Huber, pp. 125-53. Dharamsala, e l l For Further Reading o H

India: The Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1999. r , ) e t f f r e e l Aldenderfer, M. “Piyang: A 10th/11th C A.D. Tibetan Buddhist Temple ( d n a i j e a d and Monastic Complex in Far Western Tibet.” Archaeology, l h A c

g k n r

i Ethnology, and Anthropology of 4-8 (2001):138-46. a y N M

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