Global Virus, International Lamas: Tibetan Religious Leaders in the Face of the Covid-19 Crisis
This paper aims at analyzing how the COVID-19 (2020) crisis has been treated by leading Tibetan teachers in the global media. First, an introduction to Buddhist notions related to sickness both at the individual and collective levels is provided, followed by a detailed account of the public pronouncements up to early August 2020 of the leading teachers of the main schools of Tibetan Buddhism. The paper tries to show how Tibetan Buddhists' response is characterized by an appeal to an external compliance with the authorities, and an internal plural interpretation that reflects a common tension between a symbolic and a transcendental construal of religious categories. It also attempts to provide interpretative keys for the lack of a successful fundamentalist or millennialist reaction while pointing to the particular suitability of Buddhism to accommodate to the crisis.