The White Cotton Robe

Charisma and Clothes in Tibetan Buddhism Today

in Religion and Society
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  • 1 Bonn University turek@uni-bonn.de
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ABSTRACT

Contextualized in discussions around charisma as originally conceived by Max Weber, this article examines the case of Tsültrim Tarchin, a charismatic adept from Eastern Tibet whose everyday dress consists of a specialized garment, a white cotton robe. Earned as a mark of virtuosity in the Tantric tummo practice and worn as a sign of an ascetic lifestyle, this robe functions as a key instrument in Tsültrim Tarchin’s charismatic actions. More than a repository of power and beyond insignia that signify privilege or superiority, the religious garment I consider in this article does not merely channel the routinized charisma of the lineage. It also effectively augments the master’s personal power through the performativity of its symbolism, while its real potency lies in structuring all meanings within the master’s network of influence.

Contributor Notes

MAGDALENA MARIA TUREK obtained her PhD in Tibetan Studies from Humboldt University Berlin and is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at Bonn University. Her work focuses on the contemporary religious and ethnic revival in Eastern Tibet, especially in the former kingdoms of Nangchen and Dege. Specific research interests include sainthood, charisma, and materiality in Tibetan societies and Buddhism in general as well as histories and the production of memory in Eastern Tibet today. E-mail: turek@uni-bonn.de

Religion and Society

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