Sunil's Blog – Mistico Indio

Ruminations of a poet and philosopher

Posts Tagged ‘Syncretic’


Posted by Sunil on December 6, 2012

By Sunil Kumar

The roof of the world; a plateau region in Asia, north-east of the Himalayas. In today’s world; Tibet is synonymous with quiet reflection; synonymous with a mythical Shangri-la. A closer look at the country’s history reveals a more violent past; tempered by its association with Buddhism, an Indian cultural import.

Today’s cartographic boundaries are not like the past; the relatively fluid, mystical kingdoms that existed in close proximity. We have relatively rigid dividers, and more insularity. Admittedly, democratization in one thing; the internet gives us access to instant communication. But, merely two centuries back; the world must have seemed infinitely more mysterious, lost worlds waiting to be discovered.

It may come as a shock to some that what seems like a placid, docile people were in-fact intensely warlike at one time. In the eighth century, Tibet had even conquered some parts of modern-day China, including Xi’an. But, the most interesting part of the country was its esoteric doctrines; stories of transportation, levitation, shape-shifting that can beat any science fiction story for sheer fantastical quotient. The land of the lamas had always been construed as an obscure philosophical conundrum; a sort of Eastern Egypt.

China’s atheist Cultural Revolution destroyed a lot of the ancient monastic system; so the world may never know what was transmitted by Tibetan and Indian philosophers such as Nagarjuna and Padmasambhava. But, even with what remains of its past; most people can make an educated guess as to the mental labyrinth of the Indian- influenced Tibetan intellectual maze. Fans of the country’s military history may be intrigued by the fact that even as early as 1834; the Sikhs had invaded Tibet under Zorawar Singh.

Religion in Tibet; its Bon, shamanistic and Tantric Buddhist practices including the ‘Book of the Dead’ are again some of the other-worldly parts of the country’s cultural identity.

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