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Namtar (biography)

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A namtar (Tibetan: namthar, Wylie: rNam.thar) is a spiritual biography or hagiography in Tibetan Buddhism.

Namtar literally means 'complete liberation', since the texts tell the stories of yogis or Indo-Tibetan Mahasiddha who attained complete enlightenment. Namtars do not focus on a literal chronology of events, but rather function as a kind of learning example that hits the high points of the sprititual life of a yogi.

In her book, Women of Wisdom, Tsultrim Allione collected translations of the namtar of six Tibetan Buddhist yogini: Namgsa Obum, Machig Lapdron, Jomo Memo, Machig Ongjo, Drenchen Rema and A-Yu Khadro. According to Allione:

The sacred biography is called 'rNam.thar' in Tibetan, which literally means 'complete liberation.' The 'rNam.thar' are specially geared to provide records for those on a spiritual quest, in much the same way that someone about to climb a high mountain would seek out the chronicles of those who had made the climb before. The sacred biographer is primarily concerned with providing information which will be helpful and inspirational for someone following in the footsteps of the spiritual adept or 'saint.' Establishing a mythical ideal and the communication of the sacred teachings takes precedence over providing a narrative portrait or "likeness" of the subject as a personality. The personality is stressed only in so far as it relates to the spiritual process of the individual.[1]


  1. Allione, Tsultrim (1986). Women of Wisdom. London: Arkana. p. 56. ISBN 1-85063-044-5. 

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