RELIGIOUS AND ETHICAL ISSUES IN THE STUDY AND CONSERVATION OF OF TIBETAN SCULPTURE
CHANDRA L. REEDY
The study and conservation of Tibetan sculpture involve many complex issues arising in part from the fact that these pieces were not made as works of art for purely aesthetic purposes but were intended to fulfill a variety of functions within serious Tibetan religious practices. Multiple functions are especially common for tantric images—those used for esoteric teachings found in a special class of religious literature called the tantras. It is these images that pose the most complex problems and ethical dilemmas to the scholar and conservator. Their very presence in Western collections today is due to recent Tibetan misfortunes that are difficult to ignore. However, there are some positive steps that a conservation professional can take to educate himself or herself about Tibetan Buddhist images and to ensure that the ethical choices are fully explored.