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Rhythms of a Himalayan Village

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Item Code: NAY284
Author: Hugh R. Downs
Publisher: Book Faith India
Language: English
ISBN: 817303043X
Pages: 299 (Throughout B/W Illustrations)
Other Details 9.00 X 7.00 inch
Weight 690 gm
Fully insured
Fully insured
Shipped to 153 countries
Shipped to 153 countries
More than 1M+ customers worldwide
More than 1M+ customers worldwide
100% Made in India
100% Made in India
23 years in business
23 years in business
Book Description
About The Book

Rhythms of a Himalayan Village fuses splendid photographs and text to capture the life of the Buddhist Sherpa community of Gompa Zhung in northeastern Nepal, revealing a world where the sacred and secular coexist in harmony. The opening section of the book, "Celebration," recreates a festival called Mani Rimdu. At its heart is a mystery play in which every event corresponds to a different aspect of an indi-vidual's spiritual awakening as he moves beyond greed, anger, and negligence to illumination. The second section of Rhythms of a Hima-layan Village, "Vocation," focuses on monastery-trained artisans, who make books, woodblock prints, and paintings. The daily life of one painter, a hermit monk, is examined in detail. The book reaches its climax in the final section, "Return." This intimate account of a funeral is the only published photographic record of rituals described in the Tibetan Book of the Dead. It reveals the Sherpa view of the alter-nating currents of life and death, which compose the whole rhythm of being. Rhythms of a Himalayan Village is an unparalleled portrait of one of the last remaining cultures where art and religion are integrated in daily life. Underlying all of the book's rich and varied aspects is the graceful spirit of a remarkable people, adroitly captured and movingly shared with the reader in both word and pictures. Hugh R. Downs was born in Chicago and currently lives in Oakland, California. He is a world traveler and frequent lecturer on Buddhist art and related topics. In Nepal, Downs learned to paint traditional temple scrolls and monastery frescoes, an experience which provided the basis for Rhythms of a Himalayan Village.


For about two years I lived near a small Sherpa village in northeastern Nepal. That brief stay occupies a position of rare prominence in my memory, and the friend-ships cultivated during that time still bear incomparable fruit. I have always been restless, unsatisfied with what my surroundings provided. When I became an adult, the prospect of material gain—elegant food and clothing — wasn't attractive. I could see people who had all those things, and I was unconvinced that they were satisfied—from time to time satiated perhaps, but never satisfied. Ob-serving that people who, according to the criteria of society, should have been content were not, I arrived at that curious juncture of appearance and substance, where things are not as they appear. Fascinated by that discrepancy, I stumbled into the related world of symbol and its use in iconographic representations. I did not stumble for long; indeed, I very quickly fell flat on my face. The worlds of symbol and iconographic art necessitate guidance. What do all those symbols mean, anyway? India offers not only a wide selection of iconographic material but 400 million opinions to assist in interpreting it. After only a few months in India, how-ever, and having surveyed only a fraction of the population, I moved on to the neigh-boring mountain kingdom of Nepal. I continued asking questions like, Why is that deity sitting on a lion? What's he doing with the sword? After living in Nepal for two years, I was sufficiently fluent in the Nepali language to embark on more formal training with a Sherpa painter. I stayed in Nepal another two years, studying with the Sherpas. I studied for a few months with one painter, a layman; then I discovered a monk named Au Leshi who painted. He gently guided my poor attempts to paw out the drawing of a deity according to canonical proportions, correcting a measurement here or the grace of a curve there. More important, however, than any of the artistic skills he imparted was his behavior, which engendered a sense of why his way of life is called traditional. The Latin root of tradition, tradere, means to hand over: one of the most valuable charac-teristics of our species is the ability to pass on our experiences. The knowledge that is handed over in traditional societies is of two sorts. People learn how to make fires, to farm, and to build houses; in addition, they learn something of themselves. Sherpas explicitly recognize this bifurcation of knowledge by referring to outer and inner wealth. Those who have attained inner 'wealth are rare, even among the Sherpas. When noticed, however, they are accorded decidedly more esteem than those who have acquired outer wealth. To hand over knowledge of the outer world, we often give someone a tool and demonstrate its use. The recipient can then practice and master the new skill. Passing on knowledge of the inner world is more difficult. There is nothing substantive, such as a plow or an adze, that can be handed over. The tools can only be represented sym-bolically; the student must discover the tool, and its proper use, himself. Representa-tions of one thing by another are like little ligaments that transmute all the myriad things into a single universe. Without a sense of symbol these ligaments remain un-noticed, and much of our experience appears unsatisfactory—disjointed, separate, or scattered. Undisturbed by this tendency toward fragmentation, Au Leshi seemed content. He never asked for anything; whatever people gave him was what he wanted. His apparent satisfaction did nothing to ameliorate my discontent. Whenever I was restless he responded by saying, "Ask yourself, Where is the desire coming from? What color is it? What shape is it?" I had 'lways believed that one could find some-thing—if not a possession, then a philosophy—that would satisfy one's desire. Au Leshi's constant admonitions slowly chipped away at this conviction. I once lamented that my inability to read and speak Tibetan fluently might thwart his teaching. He broke out laughing and said, "What you're after, you're not going to find in any language." Nothing happened during this stay with him. I learned painting techniques, cooking skills, garden craft, and things like that. But I never found anything that I could point to and say, "This is it." I left Nepal and went on to live in Taiwan, Japan, and California. Occa-sionally I remember Au Leshi's uproarious laughter as he looked at me saying, "Well, did you find it?" I never found it. In fact the constant repetition of his comic jibing left me with the distinct impression that if I ever did find anything —even a thought, an idea, or a feeling —I should beware, because it would belong to the outside world. However emphatically Au Leshi disparaged the pursuit of palliatives for rest-lessness, he respected and encouraged attempts to look for the source of discontent. There certainly is nothing to be found in this book that could satisfy anyone who seeks an answer. But it does reflect several ways of looking that were presented to me as important by a number of Sherpas. The photographs in this book were taken partly as gifts for the people de-picted, and partly because I have always taken photographs.

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