My recent post discussing the Dalai Lama reminded me of an interesting article I read a number of years ago about a rather unusual category of monks that existed in the monasteries of Tibet- the Ldab Ldob (dabdos) or, as they have also been called, ‘Punk monks’. These monks, who were an established and accepted part of the monastic community earned the moniker ‘punk because there time in Tibetan monasteries was spent engaging in violent duels, competing in intermonastery sporting events and rather infamously kidnapping young boys for sexual pleasure.
As such, they don’t just contradict the romanticised image of Tibetan monastic life but they grab that image, beat it senseless, steal all of its belongings then kick into a ditch and tell it not to come back and bother them again. They also illustrate how the real situation is often far more interesting and complex than any simplistic fantasy version can be.
Since this blog was created with the intention of addressing the weird and the wonderful in both anthropology and religion I’ve decided it would be a good idea to start producing reviews of interesting research.
My areas of ‘expertise’ are in the literature from the academic ‘study of religions’ and from anthropological studies (i.e. ethnographies) focusing on religion & East Asia so you can expect most of the material for these reviews to be drawn from those sources.
Now, to get things rolling, the first article I’m going to examine is a recently published article by John K. Nelson, a scholar specialising in Japanese religion, examining how the marketing of household altars in Japan reflects the changing attitudes towards spirituality and religion found in modern day Japan. The article is titled ‘Household Altars in Contemporary Japan: Rectifying Buddhist “Ancestor Worship” with Home Decor and Consumer Choice’ and was published in 2008 in the Japanese Journal of Religious Studies (incidentally, for anyone interested, the article can be viewed online, for free, here).