In his new book, Envisioning A Tibetan Luminary: The Life of a Modern Bonpo Saint (Oxford University Press, 2018), William M. Gorvine provides a multifaceted analysis of Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen (1859-1934), one of the most prominent modern representatives of the Tibetan Bön tradition. Engaging two written versions of Shardza’s life story as well as oral histories gathered during fieldwork in eastern Tibet and Bön exile communities in India, Gorvine explores the ways in which Shardza has been represented and what such representations can tell us about the religious communities in which Shardza operated as well as the genre of religious biography more generally. In the process, Gorvine also provides an accessible introduction to Bön, a religious minority that remains understudied by scholars of Tibet. This book will be of interest to those who are interested in religious biographies and how they related to the religious, literary, and historical contexts in which they were produced.
Catherine Hartmann is a PhD candidate in Buddhist Studies at Harvard University. Her work explores issues of perception and materiality in Tibetan pilgrimage literature, and she can be reached at email@example.com.