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An Examination of the Relationship between the Religious Heritage and the Natural Environment of the Tibetan Buddhist Hidden Land called Pemako

Mayard, Layne (2018) An Examination of the Relationship between the Religious Heritage and the Natural Environment of the Tibetan Buddhist Hidden Land called Pemako. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Environmentalists often turn to the world’s religions for guidance in conservation theory. Buddhism is frequently viewed as a religious tradition that embraces attitudes conducive to the preservation of nature. In contribution to scholarly dialogue, my doctoral thesis explores Tibetan Buddhist perspectives on the treatment of the natural environment. My research focusses on the Tibetan Buddhist religious culture of the sacred geography known as Pemakö. My thesis is guided by two principal research questions: the first asks about the nature of the relationship between Pemakö’s religious narrative and its environment. In response, I initially explore how practitioners have related historically to the region’s landscape with an analysis of the Treasure text Self-Liberation upon Hearing and other relevant scripture. Through ethnographic research I then study the narratives of recent pilgrims to the region. The second research question enquires about the implications of this relationship for Pemakö’s environment, and whether the Tibetan Buddhist theory that supports the religious tradition could have any influence on conservation of Pemakö’s ecosystems. My research reveals that planned construction of hydro-electric dams and existing trans-boundary tensions in Pemakö could conceivably cause widespread damage to the environment. The most immediate threat to Pemakö’s ecosystems, however, stems from local Tibetan Buddhist communities’ farming, hunting and poaching practices. Unlike contemporary Tibetan Buddhist environmentalist discourse that accentuates compassion in environmental activism, my study demonstrates that practitioner faith in the mythology surrounding Pemakö defines the spiritual relationship to the landscape. I show that this belief serves soteriological aims rather than instilling any inherent reverence for nature. I turn to two conservation projects from China and India that focus on the endangered snow leopard to demonstrate that a civic environmentalist approach to local conservation could incorporate Pemakö’s religious narrative to inform the region’s continued existence as a sacred geography.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: environment, Pemako, compassion, Tibetan Buddhism, hidden land, myth of ecological wisdom, Nyingma
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > School of Philosophy, Religion and the History of Science
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.755144
Depositing User: Ms M Layne Mayard
Date Deposited: 04 Oct 2018 16:20
Last Modified: 18 Feb 2020 12:32
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/21612

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