Research Project


The Dice Divination of the Tibetan Protectress A phyi Chos kyi sgrol ma

Dr. Jan-Ulrich Sobisch

This project focusses on a Tibetan dice divination composed around the end of the 17th century. Its central figure, A phyi, dates back to at least the late 12th century and is supposed to have been a historical person. She is said to have been an emanation of a female Buddha (Vajrayogini) and the great-grandmother of 'Jig rten gsum mgon (1143-1217), the founder of the 'Bri gung bka' brgyud tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. The first part of the divination ritual is a tantric sadhana that culminates in the recitation of her mantra and the casting of the dice. The far more extensive second part contains an elaborate evaluation of the cast. A remarkable feature of the text is the prescription of remedies to ward off unfavorable developments and events. The posing of specific questions while throwing the dice is possible, concerning, for instance, the loss or (re)gaining of property, possible accusations and disputes, lawsuits, sickness, attacks by evil spirits, the prolonging of life, medical therapy, or male offspring. In my research, I will try to locate the ritual within the broader Tibetan cultural spheres and also investigate how such divination relates to specific Tibetan Buddhist doctrines, such as those represented by the twin categories "mundane" and "transmundane" (Tib. 'jig rten pa, 'jig rten las 'das pa), "relative" and "absolute" (Tib. kun rdzob, don dam), "to be interpreted" and "ultimately ascertained" (Tib. drang don, nges don), etc.

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