Precarity of Death: Exploring the Boundary between Death and Life in Tibetan Traditions

tibetan image
Event time: 
Friday, December 3, 2021 - 9:00am to 5:00pm
Online () See map
Open to: 
General Public
Event description: 

A one-day mini-conference over Zoom bringing together scholars from multiple fields to consider the porous nature of death in Tibetan traditions

Co-hosted by the ISM and the Council on East Asian Studies, MacMillan Center

R E G I S T E R    H E R E (by the start of the event)

What is death? How do reincarnation and the transmigration of consciousness complicate our understanding of death? What role does the body play in the process of death? How have various traditions understood the post-death experience? How are death and life inextricably linked? Using textual analysis, historical excavation and ethnographic inquiry, scholars will present research considering the ways in which death and rebirth are parts of a complex continuity. Rather than thinking of death as a permanent state, a one-way border, this conference seeks to examine the ways in which death is a tactical concept, with ever-changing boundaries and definitions.


9–10:30 am | Session I

Introductory Remarks and Welcome
Kati Fitzgerald, Yale University

Death or No Death: The Ambiguity of the Deloms in Bhutan
Françoise Pommaret, National Centre for Scientific Research & Royal University of Bhutan

Perception towards Death, Dying with Dignity, Preference of End-of-life care and Medical Aid in Dying among Asian Buddhists Living in Montreal, Canada
Nidup Dorji, Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan

When the Death Process Reverses: At What Point Are the Dead Truly Dead?
Alyson Prude, Georgia Southern University

Memories of Birth, Echoes of Death: The Entwining of Life and Loss in Mustang Women’s Reproductive Histories
Sienna R. Craig, Dartmouth College

10:45 am–12:15 pm | Session II

Death as Moral-Heuristic Ground: Paradigms of Generating Resilience and Cultivating Compassion among Tibetan Buddhist Practitioners in South India
Tenzin Namdul, University of Minnesota

Evoking Death and the Dead in Tibetan Secular Songs: Teachings, Devotion, Commemoration
Isabelle Henrion-Dourcy, Laval University

Coping with (Un)timely Deaths and Extending One’s Life Span: Reflections on Ethnographic Research among Tibetans in Darjeeling, India
Barbara Gerke, University of Vienna

What is the Lifespan of a Tibetan Incarnation?
Gray Tuttle, Columbia University

Buddhism and Organ Donation: The (Dead) Body Multiple
Tanya Zivkovic, University of Adelaide


2–3 pm | Keynote Address

Mystery, Meaning, and Nature of Death: A Tibetan Buddhist Perspective
Dr. Thupten Jinpa, McGill University

3:30–5 pm | Session III

The ‘Das Log: Revenant Experience in the Khandro Chodzo Chenmo
Padma ‘tsho (Baimacuo) , Southwest University for Nationalities

The Miracle of Yama’s Little Helpers: Problems and Practices of Bodiless Transference in the Kalacakra Tantra
Michael Sheehy,  University of Virginia

Modes of Liberation in Tibetan Buddhist Death Practices: Purificatory, Didactic, and Yogic Approaches
Rory Lindsay,  University of Toronto

Ontological Realities and the Biocultural Nexus of Life in Suspension with Death: Perceptual Cues and Biomarker Diagnostics for the Tukdam State
Tawni Tidwell, Ph.D., M.D.,  Center for Healthy Minds, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Speaker Bios & Abstracts (link)

PDF kindly provided by ISM Fellow Kati Fitzgerald