Author Biography

Holly Gayley is Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Her current research explores the revitalization of Buddhism in Tibetan areas of the PRC and a new ethical reform movement spawned by cleric-scholars at Larung Buddhist Academy in Serta. Her recent publications on the topic include: "Reimagining Buddhist Ethics on the Tibetan Plateau (Journal of Buddhist Ethics, 2013) and "The Ethics of Cultural Survival: A Buddhist Vision of Progress in Mkhan po 'Jigs phun's Advice to Tibetans of the 21st Century" in Mapping the Modern in Tibet (International Institute for Tibetan and Buddhist Studies, 2011).


This article explores the online debate in the Tibetan-language blogosphere over a burgeoning ethical reform movement. Annually, whole villages and clans in nomadic areas along the eastern reaches of the Tibetan plateau are committing to a newly formulated set of ten Buddhist virtues that include vows not to sell yaks for slaughter, not to fight with weapons, and not to drink, smoke, or gamble. Spearheaded by Khenpo Tsultrim Lodrö and cleric-scholars at Larung Buddhist Academy concerned with the erosion of social values in the face of state modernization policies, novel vow ceremonies have generated a new level of commitment to Buddhist ethics among Tibetan nomads while spawning controversy over the role of religion in the public sphere. A set of virulent critiques of ethical reform have appeared since 2012 in Tibetan blog posts by well-known intellectuals like Jamyang Kyi and Notreng. This article examines the secular terms through which clerical authority is criticized in the Tibetan blogosphere and several responses that address the polarizing tendency of online debate due to the circulation of misinformation and slander. How is the Tibetan blogosphere creating a new public forum for the secular critique of religion? On what grounds are Tibetan bloggers challenging Buddhist clerical authority online? How do monastics and their supporters advocate, in response, for the role of Buddhism in governing Tibetan social values and practices?

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