This documentary by David Cherniack looks at the place of the Oracles in Tibetan Buddhism (original title is: The Oracle, Reflections on Self). The interest began when David was allowed to film the State Oracle in 1989, as he was filming he was almost swept off his feet by the power emanating from the Oracle. At that time he was unable to follow up on the experience though.
Between 2006 and 2011 David returned to Dharamsala to collect the materials for this film. He looks at all aspects of the oracle, its history in the old Bon religion, and adoption by Tibetan Buddhism, and the gradual increase of its importance to the stage where the Dalai Lama and the Govt.-in-Exile both consult the oracle before making important decisions.
In Dharamsala itself there are four main oracles, which include one woman, the radiant Namsel Donma (Khandro La), who is the medium for the Tenma Oracle. The oracles give interviews and talk about their position, and also there is an extended interview with the Dalai Lama about the phenomena, and its place in Tibetan Buddhism.
The film also discusses the problem of the Dorje Shugden, the oracle for the Gelug tradition, who is regarded as an exclusivist, and has been banned by the Dalai Lama as being too divisive for the good of the community and people.
Lesser oracles also exist at the village level and are usually consulted on all sorts of matters, including illness, marriage and good fortune in business. There is some ambiguity about whether their traditional role as spiritual advisors is being undermined by materialist needs.
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6 thoughts on “The Tibetan Oracles”
This is film at its best and most meaningful. TIBETAN BUDDHISM IS SPECIAL. THIS DOCUMENTARY IS MOST WORTHY IN PARTNERING SPIRITUALLY WITH TIBETAN BUDDHISM, IN ENLIGHTENING HUMANITY.
Thanks for sharing about Tibetan Oracles. I am from Urgeling Village, Tawang Arunachal Pradesh, India. My cousin is a medium for Gyalchen Karma Thinlay Oracles and is inherited from his father. Interestingly he is Monpa Tribe working as Extesion Officer and cannot speak proper Tibetan in normal time has no proper knowledge of Tibetan Buddhism. But when he is in Trance he speak pure Literary Tibetan and most of prediction come true. Other three i.e. Tamdrin Pesang, Thokchen and Kheuw also visit his body and carry out rituals. Y.Tsering, Shillong.
Dear Yeshi Tsering, thanks for sharing this valuable information with us.
I find it strange that the Gadong Oracle can not speak and the Lamo Tsangpa Oracle has not re-manifested after the death of that Oracle. None of the four sons of Lamo Tsangpa have taken trance since their father’s death in April 2003.
The second and third highest State Oracles of Tibet are now silent.
I can not understand the lengthy piece on Dorje Shugden. This documentary was about “Oracles” and there was absolutely no reference to the “Oracle” of Dorje Shugden. It was just any anti Dorje Shugden piece of nonsense and had nothing to due with the topic. Sadly this deliberate act of overt politics took away from a fabulous documentary.
The Gadong Oracle, Tenzin Wangdak passed away on August 10, 2015 after a lengthy illness. He was possessed when in trance by “Shinjachen”.