Tuesday, June 19, 2018

From ‘Mantras & Misdemeanours. An accidental love story’ by Vanessa Walker

In Lhasa I joined great streams of Tibetans circumambulating the sacred Jokhang Temple, falling in next to an ambling elderly nomad who had taken his best friend – a goat on a leash, its snout covered with a pink-crocheted mouthguard – on the circumambulation in an attempt to rid of its bad karma so it could climb higher up the species ladder to be reborn a human.

Throughout India, I’ve learned, every donut looks good and tastes bad.

Tibetans embraced Buddhism so strongly that, before the Chinese arrived, one in ten people was a monk or a nun. One of the first things Tibetans did when they went into exile was to rebuild their three largest monasteries so monks could immediately continue their study. But they too old habits with them. The nuns were forgotten. Many faded into obscurity and poverty, their traditions dying with them.

Tara is among the most loved of the Buddhis deities and is said to be the mother of all the Buddhas. She was born from a tear that fell down the cheek of Chenrezig, the God of Compassion, after his realization that sentient beings were locked into a cycle of suffering. Her image represents enlightened activity.……..Tara has a reputation for fast action.

…….that peculiar Indian stench of rotting vegetables mixed with kerosene.

Prior to the Chinese invasion, of the three provinces, Amdo, Kham and U-Tsang, the government in Lhasa had effective political authority only in U-Tsang.

…..the long-haired charismatic Amdo boys who break into beautiful song at the slightest provocation and see the world as artists do. Khampa people tend to be the most direct and toughest of all Tibetans; their reputation as people who, once riled, will fight to the death frightens even other Tibetans. It was the Khampas, pa meaning people or person, who escorted the Dalai Lama to exile in 1959 and who, in those early years, formed the CIA-trained Four Rivers Six Ranges, the guerilla group that was the backbone of armed resistance to the Chinese occupation. Those from U-Tsang or Central Tibet tend to be worldlier. Unlike Amdos they don’t need a singing voice that will carry across distant valleys and they have long since filed down the rough edges of the Khampas. Other Tibetans will secretly whisper that Lhasa people smile at you, uttering soft words as they poison your drink.

Tibetans have never experienced women’s liberation. Society is essentially conservative. Wives still honour and obey their husbands. A wife’s behavior reflects tenfold on her husband. In this world the best thing a wife can do for a harmonious relationship is to be observant of traditions, subdued and shy in public and accommodating in private …….

In a typically Tibetan manner, he wanted to know, ‘Does she have a good heart?’ In my experience one of the most refreshing things about Tibetan men is their attitude to female beauty. While it is given the highest currency in the western world, in Tibet it is simply not that relevant. It is a person’s heart, and their mind that count.

When Tibetans are sick they like company.

Lamas are always reminding students to contemplate that death – the gateway to reincarnation – can come at any time……..Death is used as a constant reminder both to value life and to be vigilant.

The difficulties he has experienced would be enough to throw most western people into despair. It seems to be a Tibetan trait to be perceptive yet angst-free. Unlike many of us raised in the west it would never occur to Choying that his self-esteem would go up and down according to his fortunes or that he should judge himself by comparing to others. His deep acceptance of the law of karma, that whatever happens to him in this life is the result of his past actions, gives him an ease of being that I find refreshing.

…….in Tibetan culture there is little notion of dating and once a couple are in a relationship they are automatically referred to as husband and wife.

……having at least one monk or nun in the family is a matter of pride for most Tibetans.

By 1962 ninety-seven per cent of monasteries and nunneries in the area designated by China the Tibet Autonomous Region (and up to ninety-nine per cent in areas outside TAR but inside Tibet’s historical territory) lay in ruins. The people of Tibet suffered a devastating famine during the Great Leap Forward and numerous disastrous social and political experiments.

….the Dalai Lama’s previous incarnation, the thirteenth Dalai Lama, starkly warned Tibetans of the threat shortly before he died. He was very specific, announcing, ‘In my lifetime conditions will be as they are now, peaceful and quiet. But the future holds darkness and misery. I have warned you of these things.’ He further prophesised:
It will not be long before we find the red onslaught at your own front door.

Despite the Dalai Lama urging restraint and a new push for vegetarianism, most Tibetans I know, having come from a place of scarce vegetation, are devoted meat-eaters and any occasion that calls for a celebration is judged successful or otherwise by the amount of mutton and chicken on offer.

Tenzin Palmo ….. ‘………Women on the whole are better at meditation, many senior meditation teachers have told me. Women have a natural affinity with meditation, they are much more intuitive. Men as a whole tend to be more analytical and pragmatic, going one step at a time. Women are more able to take a leap – they don’t feel threatened by something which is beyond words.’

……….my flight to Kathmandu, one of the most stunning air descents in the world.

While Tibetans are generally a tidy people they often have little concern for bathroom hygiene, coming as they do from a country like a refrigerator.

Tibetans are a very social people but there is, I’ve noticed, no need for small talk. Just to visit and sit quietly is enough – as long as you eat the host’s food you’ve done the right thing.

Friday, June 15, 2018

From ‘Saffron and Silk. An Australian in India’ by Anne Benjamin

Christopher Kremmer’s explanation of India today as ‘a secular society grafted onto a deeply spiritual society’ ………For centuries, India has balanced its cauldron of faiths and cultures with spectacular resilience…….

……….what it means to be poor as expressed by a Dalit (‘Untouchable’) poet in 1973. The poem, ‘Mother’, starts with children waiting alone at home in the dark in the early morning while around them they smell the food which other families are enjoying. One day, their mother is bitten by a snake and dies.

…In our nostrils, the smell of food. In our stomachs,
From our eyes, welling up, streams of tears.
Slicing darkness, a shadow heavily draws near.
On her head, a burden. Her legs a-totter.
Thin, dark of body ……my mother.
All day she combs the forest for firewood.
We wait her return.
When she brings no firewood to sell we go to bed hungry.
One day something happens. How we don’t know …
The day ends. So does her life …
Mother is gone. We, her brood, thrown to the winds.
Even now my eyes search for mother. My sadness grows.
When I see a thin woman with firewood on her head,
I go and buy all her firewood.
Warman Nimbalkar

……..a Tamil proverb……
What we have learnt is a handful of sand.
What we have not learnt is as big as this world.

………the man is – like every other Indian I have met – so proud of his country.

From ‘Healthy Living. According to Gandhi’ by Gandhi

Walking gives movement to every portion of the body, and ensures vigorous circulation of the blood ……Walking a mile or two is no walking at all; at least ten or twelve miles are necessary for exercise.

As most fevers are caused by disorders of the bowels, the very first thing to do is to starve the patient. ………In fever the digestive organs are very weak, the tongue gets coated, and the lips are hard and dry. If any food is given to the patient in this condition, it will remain undigested and aid the fever. Starving the patient gives his digestive organs time to perform their work; hence the need to starve him for a day or two.