Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

That's French for "the ancient system," as in the ancient system of feudal privileges and the exercise of autocratic power over the peasants. The ancien regime never goes away, like vampires and dinosaur bones they are always hidden in the earth, exercising a mysterious influence. It is not paranoia to believe that the elites scheme against the common man. Inform yourself about their schemes here.

Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:15 am

CHAPTER IX. Beautiful Tsarang and Dirty Tsarangese.

At the foot of the mountain out of which we had emerged, and where the plain began, we came upon a stone-turreted gate about twenty-four feet in height. Standing by itself and entirely unprotected, the gate was not intended, as I was told, for any military purpose; but it was used for housing Buḍḍhas and other deities that would keep guard against the invasion of the locality by evil genii. About a mile and a half to the rear of the gate stood the town of Tsarang, at the entrance of which we were met by fourteen or fifteen men, who, as it appeared, anticipated our arrival. Serab Gyaltsan led me to the house of the Chief of the town, which was of considerable size. As in Tibet so in Tsarang, all well-to-do people generally have a separate chapel in their residence. When they have a visitor of rank and social position, they, out of respect, put him up in their chapel, and a person entitled to such distinction in these localities is generally a Lama. So it was that, as a Chinese Lama, I was given that privilege in the Chief’s chapel, which I found to be a typical one of its kind, with its image-crowned altar, a special depository for religious Texts, etc., and altogether much superior in its general finish and furnishings to the family dwelling. I may remark that these folk generally keep a good store of the Texts, not because they make use of them themselves, but more as a matter of form, the form showing their deep reverence for their religion; but it is apparently beyond their ken that volumes of Texts are but so many sheets of waste paper, if their possessors do not understand and live by them.

By the side of the chapel in which I was installed there was another small building, in which lived Serab Gyaltsan. My host was a widower, quiet and amiable, and living with two grown-up daughters, about twenty-three and eighteen years of age respectively, who between them managed the household and the family business, employing under them a number of servants, farm-hands and cattlemen. I could not but admire the two young women for the creditable manner in which they attended to their business. I also observed that the chief amusement of all the villagers consisted in spending evenings in dances and comic songs, except when they went to a sort of semi-religious meeting presided over by a Lama Maṇi, who would narrate the stories of ancient priests of great renown, or the biographies of the more famous monarchs of Buḍḍhist States, to the great delight of his audience.

The days I spent in Tsarang were, in a sense, the days of my tutelage in the art of living amidst filth and filthy habits. In point of uncleanliness, Tibetans stand very high among the inhabitants of the earth, but I think the natives of Tsarang go still higher in this respect. In Tibet people wash themselves occasionally, but they almost never do so in Tsarang. In the course of the twelve months that I lived there, I only twice saw a person wash himself, the washing being confined even then to the face and neck. Such being the case, the native’s skin all over the body has on it a peculiarly repulsive shine of polished dirt, so to say. I often noticed women, whose complexion would have appeared quite fair if only an occasional scrubbing were administered to the skin; but what can they do when it is a custom, as it is among them, to laugh at persons who wash their faces nice and clean, and to deride them as being very dirty in their habits? Not only in their appearance, but in all that they do, the natives[53] seem to have absolutely no idea of cleanliness. To say that they think nothing of making a cup of tea for you with the same fingers with which they have just blown their nose, is to give only a very mild instance of their filthiness, and I have no courage to dwell here on their many other doings, which are altogether beyond imagination for those who have not seen them done, and are too loathsome, even unto sickening, to recall to mind. As it was, my life among these slovenly people did one good thing for me, in that it thoroughly prepared me for what I had to endure in Tibet.

My work with Serab Gyaltsan consisted in this: a lecture on Buḍḍhism for three solid hours in the morning, which required much preparation, and exercises in Tibetan rhetoric and penmanship for another three hours in the afternoon, which was, however, of a very easy nature, and gave me occasion to engage in discussions with my teacher.

There is in existence to this day in Tibet a sect of Buḍḍhists which believes in a teaching originated by a priest whose name may be translated into “born of the lotus flower” (Padma Sambhava) or Padma Chungne in Tibetan, and whom they regard as their savior and as Buḍḍha incarnate. His teaching is a sort of parody on Buḍḍhism proper, and an attempt to sanctify the sexual relations of humankind, explaining and interpreting all the important passages and tenets in the sacred Text from a sensual standpoint. Indeed, Padma’s own life was simply his teachings translated into actual practice, for he lived with eight women whom he called his wives, drank intoxicants to his heart’s content, and fed freely on animal food. Now in the Tibetan rhetoric in which I took lessons under Serab Gyaltsan I found this lewd and detestable teaching largely incorporated, and it was on this account that hot disputes not unfrequently arose between my instructor[54] and myself. At times I felt sorry, as I feel sorry now, for my Serab, because, from what I was able to gather, he is one of those on whom (as the result of twenty years’ study, maintaining well the while his undefiled priesthood) was conferred the title of Doctor by the great monastery of Sera, but who, because of having afterwards yielded to feminine temptation, lost his qualification to go back to Mongolia as a respectable Lama, while out of shame it became impossible for him to continue to live in Lhasa, so that he was compelled to pass his life in obscure seclusion. I felt sorry for him all the more, because I found him to be a profound and widely-read scholar, who could have risen in life but for his carnal weakness. Another thing I noticed about him to my pain was that he very easily became angry, like all the Mongols I came across, but, like them also, he was very quick in becoming reconciled.

I said I had disputes with my Serab. It was on one of these occasions that I differed from him with regard to the real merits of a certain Buḍḍhist saint. Thereupon, flying into a terrible rage, he caught hold of my clothes near my throat with one hand, and, with the other picking up a bar belonging to a table that stood between us, was about to visit me with a blow. The situation was very humorous, and I broke out into loud laughter, saying the next moment that I had always thought a little better of him than to suppose that he was capable of such an exhibition as he was thus making of himself, in defiance of the teachings of the saint he revered so much. This took him aback, but he did not let go his grasp. I saw him grind his teeth, and fire glared in his eyes; he then removed his grasp and withdrew as if too wroth to be near me. But reconciliation followed. So time passed on, I spending seven to nine hours a day in preparation, besides the six hours of[55] the regular daily lessons. Out of the twenty-four hours, thirteen to fifteen were thus taken up for purposes of study every day, with the exception of Sundays, my other occupation being to take one meal a day with some tea, and to go out for a walk. Sundays I invariably spent in mountaineering of a somewhat unusual character. I had an idea that I should never be able to compass the arduous journey before me, toiling on in a rare atmosphere through trackless wildernesses at great heights while burdened with heavy luggage on my back, unless I had a thorough training beforehand for the purpose. Guided by these thoughts, I made a point of carrying on my back a heavy load of stones when making my Sunday climb, and of making the ascents with all possible speed. I was in excellent health then, and I felt that the mountaineering made it still better, especially with regard to my lungs. Such was the life I led for awhile, and I shortly became quite a famous man in the locality. It was in this way.

The natives hereabouts are merely, it may be said, creatures of animal instincts. True, they engage in agricultural work to some extent, which keeps them occupied during the summer months, but at the other seasons they think of nothing but eating, drinking and sleeping, their minds being otherwise filled with thoughts pertaining to sensual love. They occasionally spend their evening in listening to a Lama Maṇi preaching or lecturing, but only occasionally. They change their clothing but once a year, casting off the old for the new; but if any of them is brave enough to wear the same suit for two years, that person is made an object of high praise. And as they never wash their wearing apparel, it is always shining with grease and dirt. Indifferent as they are to their appearance, they are very painstaking in preparing food, as also in making their sleep comfortable.[56] But their ruling passion is that of carnal love, and that applies to all ages, from the young to the very old. But as human beings they are subject to illness, and like all uncivilised people they are intensely superstitious. To them a Lama is omnipotent, for they believe that he can cure diseases and divine all future events. So it came to pass that the Chinese Lama—I myself—became an object of great esteem and reverence among them. For it was not long before my presence in Tsarang became known among the inhabitants, and my doings in the mountain on Sundays began to attract their attention. Especially my altercations with Serab Gyaltsan, which were often loud enough to be heard outside, furnished them with no end of material for gossip, while the fact that the medicines I gave away at their pressing request occasionally proved of good effect contributed greatly to my fame. I knew not of these things myself at first, but heard of them from my host’s daughters, who frequently called to favor me with tea and sweets, when they would inform me of what people were saying of me. The most ridiculous of all was their interpretation of the quarrels between Serab and myself; they made out that these disputes originated in Serab’s objecting to my giving away, to the poor, things sent to me as presents, instead of giving them to him, or to my giving some cash to beggars! Idle tales as these were, they seemed to find ready ears among the natives, who looked on me as a being of a higher order.


While treating of Tsarang, I may dwell a little on the natural beauties of that place. Tsarang has but two seasons, namely, summer and winter, and many are the natives that do not know even the names of the other seasons. In summer, simple as is the contrast between the verdant fields of luxuriant wheat, interspersed with patches of white and pink buck-wheat, and the majestic[58] peaks that keep guard over the plain and look ever grand in their pure white robes of perennial snow, the combination makes a striking picture. Throw into the picture a buoyant army of butterflies, that flutter up and down, keeping time, as it were, to the stirring melody of sky-larks, which is now and then softened by the clear notes of a cuckoo, while the fields below are resonant with the rustic melodies of joyous damsels, and the tout ensemble becomes at once as enchanting as it is archaic; and this is the picture of Tsarang in summer, when the day is bright and warm. But more sublimely spectacular is the view on its winter’s eve. The moment the sun begins to descend behind the snow-covered mountains that rise about ten miles to the west of the town, the equally snow-robed peaks that tower above the eastern range become luminous masses of coral-red, as the last rays of the sinking sun strike them. The ruby color gradually changes into a golden-yellow, but that only for a moment, and it fades away to reveal huge pillars of silver-white, shining out majestically against the cloudless clear blue sky. The scene once more changes as the dusk deepens, burying the peaks in faint uncertainty, and the moon in her glory rises slowly from behind them, to spread again an indescribable lustre of cold—if coldness has a color of its own—over the mountain tops, which now look like a vision of celestial seas hung in mid-air.

But Tsarang has its horrors as well as its charms, as when a snow storm rages. The wind is often so strong that it blows away the tilled surface of a farm, and in time changes it into a barren field of sand, while the snow comes down in such abundance that it drifts itself into huge mountains here and there on the plain. The cold is, of course, intense on such occasions and nobody dares to go out. But the scene on a moonlight night after a blizzard is worth seeing. The sky is filled with clouds of[59] dusty particles of snow, moving ever onward like phantom armies, now thickening into ominous darkness and then thinning into vapory transparency, through which one sees struggling, the lustre of the grey steely moon. No scene so weirdly harrowing can be seen anywhere else.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:16 am

CHAPTER X. Fame and Temptation.

Since I had arrived in Tsarang early in May, 1899, nearly eight months had sped by, and I found myself on the threshold of a New Year, whose advent I observed with my usual ceremony of reading the Sacred Text, and praying for the health and prosperity of my Sovereign and his family, and the glory of Japan. The first day of the year 1900 filled me with more than usual emotion. For was I not then thousands of miles away from home, and was it not the second New Year’s Day which I had spent on the heights of the Himālayas? Yet I was hale and hearty, both in mind and body, and ready to resume my journey, the end of which the future alone could reveal.

In order to give vent to my feelings of gratitude, not unmixed with hope and fear, all deeply impressive, I ended the day by entertaining the villagers of Tsarang, having previously provided for them a full and liberal store of such viands and delicacies as were considered to be most rare and sumptuous. I have already described how I had been gaining fame and popularity among the villagers, my ascetic conduct in the midst of unbridled licentiousness causing them to respect me, and my generosity in the matter of medicines, of which I still had a fairly large stock with me, making me much sought after by them; and now, through my New Year’s treat, I seemed to have reached a pinnacle of glory. For from that time onward I gradually perceived that traps were being set for me, so that I might be tied down to Tsarang for life. The arch-spirit in this conspiracy was my own instructor Serab, who insisted that I should marry the youngest of my host’s daughters, or rather who brought all his[61] ingenuity to bear upon assisting her to make a captive of my heart and person. Fortunately my faith proved stronger than temptations, and enabled me to remain true to the teachings of the Blessed One. Had I yielded then, Tsarang would have had to-day one more dirt-covered and grease-shining priest among its apathetic inhabitants, and that would have been all.

But, things having come to the pass which I have described, it became urgent that I should make haste in discovering some secret passage into Tibet. But it was as dangerous for me in Tsarang as it had been in Kātmāndu to disclose my real intentions, and whatever discovery I might make for my own purposes, I had to make it in some indirect and roundabout way. After having once more racked my brains, I finally hit upon the plan of working upon the weaknesses of the local people. The Tibetan Government had began to levy customs duties even on personal valuables. It was a most outrageous act; supposing one wanted to do trade with the inhabitants of the north-west plain of Tibet, and to take thither a stock of coral ornaments, or some useful knick-knacks imported from Europe, how could one avoid being unjustly set upon and robbed of the best part of one’s would-be profit, on first setting foot upon Tibetan soil? Ah! there must be ways and bye-ways by which to accomplish this, and to be absolutely safe from guards and sentinels! Surely the plains might be reached, if one did not mind three days of hard trudging over the trackless snow of the Himālayan Range, to the north of the Dhavalagiri peak, and thence to Thorpo? Having once got the villagers into the right humor, in some such way, it was not necessarily a very hazardous job to keep on tapping them for information. On the other side of that mountain yonder, they would volunteer to tell me, there was a river which might be forded at such and such a point, but which was dangerously treacherous at others; or, that[62] if not very cautious, one might die a victim to the snow-leopard, while crossing over this or that mountain. All these bits of information, and hosts of others, were carefully noted down, and a synthetic study of these scraps finally convinced me that the route I should choose was the one viâ Thorpo; and so I decided. This meant that I had to retrace my steps almost as far back as Tukje, or more accurately to Malba, a village in the immediate neighborhood of Tukje. Nor was this retreat without some advantages in itself, for it would have only been to court suspicion and to run unnecessary risks for me to strike off into pathless wilds in full view of the Tsarang villagers, who were sure to come out in hordes to see me off on my departure, not only out of respect for my person, but also from curiosity to know whither I was bound after my lengthened stay amongst them. The route decided upon, I could not however yet start on my journey, because the season was then against me, the peaks and defiles on my way being passable only during the months of June, July and August. The mountains were not, of course, entirely free from snow even during those three months, but for those thirteen weeks or so the traverser would, as I was told, be secure as a rule from being frozen to death. And therefore I bided my time.

To go back a little in my story, there came to Tsarang one Adam Naring, the Chief of the village of Malba, whither I had to retrace my footsteps. That was in October, 1899. Naring owned a yak ranch on the north-west plains of Tibet, and he was openly privileged to have free access thereto over the “King’s highway”. It was on his way back from one of his periodic visits thither that he stopped at Tsarang, and, as he put up at my host’s, I was introduced to him. He had in his chapel, as he told me then, a set of Buḍḍhist Texts which he had brought home from Tibet, and he was very anxious that I should[63] go with him to his house and read them over for the benefit of himself and his family. The invitation was as unexpected as it was opportune, and I accepted it. That was in October, 1899, as I have just said, and if my acceptance of Naring’s invitation had no definite motive at the time, it stood me in good stead afterwards. In the meantime, however, Naring had gone to India on business, and it was not till March, 1900, that I had tidings of his return to Malba. On the 10th of that month I bade good-bye to Tsarang and its simple inhabitants.

My stay in Tsarang was not entirely devoid of results; for while there I succeeded in persuading about fifteen persons to give up the use of intoxicants, and some thirty others to abandon the habit of chewing tobacco. These were all persons who had at one time or another received medical treatment from me, and whom I persuaded to give pledges of abstinence as the price they were to pay for my medicine.

Nearly a year’s stay in Tsarang had made me acquainted practically with its entire population, and, on my departure, all these people favored me with farewell presents of buckwheat flour, bread, maru, butter, fried peaches—all in various quantities—while some gave me kata and silver coins. At three in the afternoon of that 10th of March I left my residence on horse-back, with my volumes of Buḍḍhist Texts and other baggage loaded on two pack-ponies. The books I have just referred to were given to me by one Nyendak, Lama-Superior of the principal Buḍḍhist temple of Tsarang, in exchange for my white horse, which had proved such a faithful animal on my journey from Nepāl, and to which the priest had taken a great fancy. The books were chiefly in manuscript, penned by a Sakya Paṇdiṭ, and altogether were worth at least 600 rupees.

On reaching the outskirts of the village, I found about one hundred persons waiting for me, and to each of these[64] I gave the ‘double-handed blessing’. The parting was not easy, and time sped on. It was now five o’clock, and I left my well-wishers in tears behind me. Reaching the village gate, by which I had come in some eleven months before, I turned round to take a last look at Tsarang, and prayed in silence for the safety of the villagers and their ever-increasing faith in Buḍḍhism. Before the darkness set in I arrived at Kimiyi, and there put up for the night. The next day’s journey brought me back to Tsuk, a village on the Kālīgaṅgā, where I spent the evening in preaching at the request of the inhabitants. At my departure the following morning about twenty people came forward and asked me to give them the ‘hand-blessing,’ which they obtained with perfect willingness on my part. My instructor, Serab Gyaltsan, had left Tsarang a little time previous to my departure, but I had the good fortune to come upon him at Tsuk, and to have an opportunity of thanking him for what I owed him as a pupil of nearly a year’s standing before I bade him a most heartfelt farewell.

The close of the third day after leaving Tsarang brought me to the mountain-village of Malba and to the residence of Adam Naring, who happened, however, to be away from his home just then. But the village Chief’s father, Sonam Norbu by name, who probably had heard of me from his son, was there to welcome me, and I was given the freedom of the family chapel, which consisted of two neatly furnished apartments, the innermost of which contained a fine set of Buḍḍha images, as well as the Tibetan edition of the Sacred Text and other volumes of ecclesiastical writings, while the windows of the front room commanded a charming view of a peach orchard. I may note here that the altitude of Malba being much lower than that of Tsarang, the soil in the former place yields two different crops in the year, wheat coming first and then[65] buckwheat. Adam Naring owned a fine tract of land for these crops. Five or six hundred yards beyond his residence was the Kālīgaṅgā river, gliding serenely along with a fresh green wall of small pine-trees to set off its waters. Towering behind and above the emerald grove stood a range of snow-capped peaks, the tout ensemble making a view delightful for its primitive joys and natural beauty.

My old friend expressed his desire that I should make my stay indefinitely long, so that he might have the benefit of my reading for him the whole of the Sacred Texts; but I could only encourage him with an ambiguous reply, as I had come to Malba only to wait for the time when the snow-covered mountains should become passable. In the meantime I spent my days in reading, and making extracts from the Sacred Texts, and in so doing I could not help often recalling, with a deep sense of gratitude, the six hours a day which for nearly one year I had devoted to my study of Tibetan, under the rigid instruction of Serab Gyaltsan at Tsarang.

About a fortnight after my arrival in Malba I received a letter from Rai Saraṭ Chanḍra Ḍās, through a trader of Tukje, with whom I had become acquainted while in Tsarang, and to whom I had entrusted a letter to my friend at Darjeeling, as well as others to my folks at home, on the occasion of his going down to Calcutta on business. Along with his letter Saraṭ Chanḍra Ḍās sent me a number of the Mahāboḍhi Society’s journal, which contained an account of an unsuccessful attempt by a Buḍḍhist of my nationality to enter Tibet, and a well-meant note of his in pencil to the effect that I must not lose my life by exposing myself to too much danger. So far so good; but next something which was not so good happened. The Tukje man, my whilom messenger, had[66] apparently formed an opinion of his own about my personality, and set the quiet village of Malba astir with rumors about myself. Chanḍra Ḍās was an official of the English Government, with a salary of 600 rupees a month, and, as such, a very rare personage among Bengālīs; and it was with this person that I corresponded; ergo, the Chinese Lama (myself) must be a British agent in disguise, with some secret mission to execute. So went the rumor, and the public opinion of Malba had almost come to the conclusion that it was undesirable to permit such a suspicious stranger in the village, when Adam Naring, who by that time had come home, sought to speak to me in secret, with indescribable fear written on his face. Poor honest soul! What he said to me, when by ourselves, was of course to the effect that if there were any truth in the rumor, he and his folks would be visited with what punishment heaven only knew. I had expected this for some time past, and had made up my mind how to act as soon as Naring approached me on the subject. I turned round and, looking him squarely in the face, said: “If you promise me, under oath, that you will not divulge for three full years to come what I may tell you, I will let you into my secret; but if you do not care to do so, we can only let the rumor take care of itself, and wait for the Nepāl Government to take any steps it may deem fit to take.” I knew Adam Naring was a man of conscience, who could be trusted with a secret: he signified his willingness to take an oath, and I placed before him a copy of the sacred Scripture and obtained from him the needed promise.

Producing next my passport, given me by the Foreign Office in Japan, which had on it an English as well as other translations of the Japanese text, I showed it to my host, who understood just enough English to follow out the spelling of some words in that language, and[67] explained to him the real object of my journey into Tibet. I did more. I said to him that now that he possessed my secret, he was welcome to make of it what use he liked; but that I believed him to be a true and devoted Buḍḍhist, and that it behoved him well to assist me in my enterprise by keeping silence, for by so acting he would be promoting the cause of his own religion. In all this, I told my host nothing but truth, and truth triumphed; for he believed every word I said and approved of my adventure. Then we talked over the route I was to take, and it was arranged at the same time that I should restart on my journey in June or July.

This taking of my host into my confidence seemed to have greatly appeased his mind; withal, I did not think it right for me to tax his hospitality by prolonging my stay at his residence, and immediately after the above incident I moved into the temple of the village, where, nevertheless, I remained the object of his unswerving friendship, in that he provided for me, while there, all travelling requisites, from wearing apparel to provisions, which altogether made luggage weighing about seventy-five pounds. At my request he also secured for me a guide and carrier, who was to convey my packages as far as Khambuthang, or the ‘land of Genii,’ in the valley of Dhavalagiri, while my part of the load was to consist only of my collection of religious works. Thus equipped, I left Malba on June 12th, 1900. By taking the direct route, the North-west Steppe of Tibet may be reached from Malba in ten days, but as I was to take in my way places sacred to Buḍḍhist pilgrims, besides making other observations, I set aside twenty-three days for the journey, which I began by traversing trackless wilds for three days. At my departure I made an uta:

My roof will be the sky; my bed, the earth;
The grass my downy pillow soft at night;
Thus like the hovering clouds and wandering streams,
These lonely wilds alone I must traverse.

Once on the road, I found, however, that the sentiment of this effusion applied more to what I had come through than to what followed, for there was for days nothing but snow for my bed and rock for my pillow.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:17 am

CHAPTER XI. Tibet at Last.

After leaving Malba my route lay north-west, up a gradual ascent along the banks of the river Kālīgaṅgā. We walked, however, only two and a half miles on the day of our departure, the rain preventing our further progress. Starting at about seven o’clock on the following morning, we made a climb of about five miles up a narrow path, the bed of which consisted of pointed stones and rocks of various degrees of sharpness, and then refreshed ourselves with a light repast. On resuming our ascent the incline became very steep and, the atmosphere growing rarer and rarer, we could proceed no more than six miles or so before fatigue overcame us, and at three in the afternoon we put up in a village called Dankar, where I was obliged to stay and recuperate myself during the whole of the next day. On the 15th we faced due north, and five miles of a sharp ascent brought us to a glacier valley which we crossed, and continued a climb of still steeper incline for about four miles, after which we emerged on a somewhat wide foot-path. At 11 a. m. we stopped for a rest. Not a drop of water was obtainable thereabouts, but espying some herbs growing from under a light layer of snow in a crevice of a rock, I pulled them up by the root, and, on chewing them, found that the root tasted quite sour. With the help of this herb-root we made a little lunch of buckwheat biscuits.

It was all ascent in the afternoon, and a very tortuous task it was; now picking our foot-hold from rock to rock up a craggy precipice—Mukhala Climb, where it made my head swim to look down into the cañon a thousand feet below—now trusting my dear life to my staff, when caught[70] in a sand avalanche, if I may be allowed that expression for the places where the thaw had caused the snow and rock to slide down, leaving bare a loose sandy surface, which gave way under one’s foot. As for my guide-carrier, he hopped, and skipped, and balanced, and leaped, with the agility and sureness of a monkey, his staff playing for him the part of a boat-hook in a most skilful hand, and, in spite of his seventy-five pounds’ burden, he was so much at home on the difficult ascent, that he was ever and anon at my side to help me out of dangerous plights into which I would frequently fall, with my staff stuck fast between two rocks, or while I involuntarily acted the rôle of a ball-dancer on a loosened boulder. To add to the misery, with each step upward the air grew rarer and my breath shorter, making me feel a scorching sensation in the brain, while burning thirst was fast overcoming me—a morsel of snow, now and then taken, being utterly insufficient to quench it. Many a time I had almost fallen into a faint, and then my chronic tormentor, rheumatism, began to assert itself. I could go no further; I wanted to lie down on the snow and sleep for a long rest. But as often as I wished to do so, I had a warning from my guide that a rest then would be sure death for me, because, as he said, the air thereabouts was charged with a poisonous gas, and I would soon succumb to its effect; he was innocent of the knowledge of atmospheric rarity. I knew full well the weight of this warning, and I struggled on with what was to me at that time a superhuman effort. By the time we had finished wading across the sharp slope of the treacherous sand, and landed upon a rock-paved flat, even that effort failed me; I came to a halt in spite of myself, and also of the guide, who said that water was obtainable a little distance below. Finding me really helpless, the man went down and fetched me some water, which I took with a restorative drug. In a little while I[71] felt better, and during the rest thus obtained I liberally applied camphor-tincture over the smarting parts of my hands, which had more or less suffered from the rigorous exercise they had had in the use of the mountaineering staff. In the meantime night fell and, picking our way by the uncertain star-light and the reflexion from the snow, we made a sharp descent of some four miles, at the bottom of which we came upon Sanda, a hamlet of about ten cottages, in one of which we lodged for the night.

Sanda is a literally snow-bound little village, open to communication from the rest of the world only during the three summer months, and that through the precarious mountain path I had come over. I was profoundly astonished to find any people making a permanent abode of such a lonely secluded place, where the vegetation is so poor that the inhabitants have no staple food but tahu, which is a cereal somewhat akin to buckwheat, but much inferior in its dietetic qualities. Nevertheless I must not omit to pay a tribute to the grandeur of the natural scenery, the ever present snow-clad peaks, the gigantic heaps upon heaps of rugged rocks, the serene quietude, all inspiring the mind with awe and soul-lifting thoughts.

My exhaustion had been so great, that I was not able to resume the journey until the 18th, on which day we had again to wade over a treacherous slope, which yearly claimed, as I was told, a pilgrim or two as victims to its ‘sand avalanche’. We headed north-west, and after passing by a grand ancient forest of fir-trees, and then descending along the bank of a shooting mountain stream, we reached Tashithang (dale of brilliant illumination) at about 11 a. m. In the afternoon we proceeded in the same direction along a path which overlooked now a dangerously abrupt precipice of great depth, then a beautiful valley overgrown with flowering plants and stately trees, the home of ferocious wild animals, the least[72] pugnacious of which are the musk-deer. We passed that night under an overhanging piece of rock. Throughout the 19th we kept on facing north-west, proceeding through many similar scenes of nature, which grew, however, more fascinating in their picturesque grandeur as we came nearer to the great peak of Dhavalagiri. We had just reached the head of a slope of the great snow-clad mountain called Tashila, when—not only affected by the cold atmosphere, but as the result of general exhaustion—I became so weak that only by transferring my share of the luggage to the shoulders of my guide-carrier, in addition to his own, was I able to proceed slowly. I was thoroughly fatigued, but the sublime beauty of the scenery was so inspiring that I could not help standing still, lost in extatic admiration, and fancying that I saw in the variously shaped elevations the forms of giant deities of the Buḍḍhist mythology, sitting in solemn mid-air conclave. I was only aroused from my reverie by the warning of my guide that any further delay would kill me—because of the atmospheric conditions—and, allowing him to help me on by taking hold of one of my hands, we thence made a descent of about ten miles, and once more spent the night under a sheltering rock.

On the 20th of June we began our journey with a climb up another steep mountain, and in the valleys below I saw a species of deer, locally called nah, ruminating in herds of two or three hundred. Further up the mountain I came upon a number of wild yaks at short distances, while on the far-off mountain sides I occasionally discerned animals which, my guide told me, were snow-leopards, or changku (mountain dogs), both ferocious beasts that feed on their fellow-creatures, including man. Scattered here and there on our way I frequently noticed whitened bones of animals, most likely victims of these brutes. At some places the thawing snow revealed the bleached remains of human beings, probably frozen to death. The curious thing[73] was that the skull and the leg-bones were missing from every one of the skeletons I came across. It was explained to me that the Tibetans manufactured certain utensils, used for ritualistic purposes, from these portions of human bones; and that it was their practice to appropriate them whenever they came upon the remains of luckless wanderers! The sight and the information could not but fill me with an extremely uncomfortable feeling, mixed with one of profound sympathy, and many a time I prayed in silence for the repose of the souls of the poor neglected brethren, as we went along our way.

In due course we arrived at a village called Thorpo, situated on the other side of the mountain we had crossed. Another name of the village is Tsaka, and its inhabitants are believers in Bon, the ancient religion of Tibet. Thence we travelled on until July 1st, making an occasional stop of one or two days for recuperating purposes. On the way we passed through much the same sort of scenery, abounding in picturesque views as well as in various interesting plants and animals.

We had now come to the outer edge of the skirts of Mount Dhavalagiri. My luggage had become considerably lessened in weight, owing to the absence of what we had consumed on our way, and I now felt equal to taking over the burdens on to my own back. I turned to my guide, and told him that he could now go back, as I intended to make a lonely pilgrimage to Khambuthang—the Sacred Peach Valley—by myself. Nothing could have given him more astonishment than this intimation, for he had all along been under the impression that he was to accompany me back to Malba. He stoutly opposed my venturing on such a perilous expedition, which nobody, he said, but a living Buḍḍha, or Boḍhisaṭṭva, would dare to undertake. From the most ancient time, he continued, there had been only one or two persons who had ever come out of the[74] valley alive, and it was absolutely certain that I should be torn to pieces and devoured by the dreadful monsters that guarded its entrance and exit. But I was not to be moved, and the man went back, with hot tears of farewell, thinking no doubt that he had seen the last of me. A solitary traveller, in one of the untrodden depths of the Himālayas, and loaded with a dead weight of about sixty-five pounds, my progress thenceforward was a succession of incidents and accidents of the most dangerous nature, made doubly trying by innumerable hardships and privations.

On that first day of July, 1900, early in the morning, after watching the form of my faithful guide on his return journey until he had disappeared behind a projecting rock, I then turned round and proceeded due north. To my joy I found the pathway not so difficult as I had expected, owing to the entire absence of rugged rocks. Still, there was always enough to weigh me down with anxiety, as I had to push my way over the trackless field of deep snow, with a solitary compass and a mountain peak as my only guides. One night I slept on the snow under the sky, and another I passed in the hollow of a cliff; three days’ jogging, after parting with my carrier, brought me across to the other side of the northern peak of the Dhavalagiri. It is here that the dominion of Nepāl ends and

The Frontier of Tibet Begins.

As I stood on that high point, which commanded on the south the snow-capped heads of the Dhavalagiri family, and on the north the undulating stretch of the North-east Steppes of Tibet, interspersed here and there with shining streams of water, which appeared to flow out of and then disappear into the clouds, I felt as if my whole being had turned into a fountain of welling emotions. Toward the south, far, far away, beyond the sky-reaching Dhavalagiri, I imagined that I saw[76] Buḍḍhagayā, sacred to our beloved Lord Buḍḍha, where I had vowed my vow, and prayed for protection and mercy. That reminded me of the parting words I left behind me, when bidding adieu to my folks and friends at home. I had then said that in three years I would be able to enter Tibet. That was on the 26th of June, 1897, and here I was stepping on the soil of Tibet on the 4th of July, 1900.


How could I prevent myself from being transported with mingled feelings of joy, gratitude and hope? But I was tired and hungry. I took my luggage from my back and gently set it on a piece of rock, after brushing off the snow, and then, taking out my store of provisions, made some dough out of baked flour, snow and butter. Morsel after morsel, the mixture, with a sprinkle of powdered pepper and salt, went down my throat with unearthly sweetness, and I fancied that the Gods in Paradise could not feast on dishes more exquisitely palatable. I made away with two bowlfuls of the preparation with the greatest relish; that ended my meal for the day.

I should observe here that I have always adhered, as I adhere now, to the rule of one full meal a day, besides taking some dried fruits or something of that kind for breakfast. I may also state that the bowl of which I speak here was of a fairly large size, and two of them constituted a full good repast, especially as the wheat produced in cold latitudes seems to be richer in nutrition than that of warmer countries.

Well, I had dined grandly. The ocean of snow stretched around me and below me, far away. I was still in an extatic mood and all was interesting. But in which direction was I to proceed in resuming my journey?
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:17 am

CHAPTER XII. The World of Snow.

According to the stock of information I had gathered, I was always to head north until I came to Lake Mānasarovara, and the point I had now to decide was how I might make the shortest cut to that body of fresh water. There was nothing to guide me but my compass and a survey I took of the vast expanse of snow to a great distance before me. The best I could do was guess-work. Following the impulses of instinct more than anything else, except the general direction indicated by the compass, I decided on taking a north-westerly course in making the descent. So I restarted, with the luggage on my back.

So far my route had lain principally on the sunny side of the mountains and the snow, at the most, had not been more than five or six inches deep; but from now onward I had to proceed along the reverse side, covered over with an abundance of the crystal layers, the unguessable thickness of which furnished me with a constant source of anxiety. In some places my feet sank fourteen or fifteen inches in the snow, and in others they did not go down more than seven or eight inches. This wading in the snow was more fatiguing than I had imagined at first, and the staff again rendered me great service; once or twice I found it a difficult job to extricate myself, when my foot, after stamping through the layers of snow, wedged itself tightly between two large pieces of hard stone. This sort of trudging lasted for nearly three miles down a gradual descent, at the end of which I emerged on a snowless beach of loose pebbles and stones of different sizes. By that time my Tibetan boots had become so far worn out, that at places my feet came into direct contact with the hard[78] gravel, which tore the skin and caused blood to flow, leaving the crimson marks of my footsteps behind. During the descent I felt little of my luggage, but now it began to tell on me, as the foot-hold under me consisted of loose round pebbles, when it was not sharp angular slabs of broken rock. Five miles onward, I came upon a pair of ponds formed of melting snow, and respectively about five miles and two and a half miles in circumference. Both the ponds were thick with immense flocks of wild ducks of different sizes, brownish or reddish in color, or spotted black on a white ground. Otherwise the waters of the ponds were as clear as could be, and the scenery around was picturesque in the extreme, so much so that, though with lacerated feet and stark-stiff about my waist with rheumatic pains, I almost forgot all that discomfort as I stood gazing around. The prestige of the ponds, if they had any, was of little matter to me then, but, as I happened to chance upon them all by myself, I was destined to introduce them to the world; and I christened the larger pond, which was rectangular in shape, ‘Ekai,’ after my own name, and the smaller, which described nearly a perfect circle, ‘Jinkow,’ a name which I sometimes use for myself. A little conceit you may call it if you like, but it was only for memory’s sake that I did these things; and when a little way down I came upon a gourd-shaped pond, about a mile and a quarter in circumference, I gave it the name of ‘Hisago Ike’—calabash pond. Still holding to my north-westerly direction, after having gone some distance I saw, to the north-west of a snow-clad mountain that rose far in front of me, two or three tents pitched on the ground. The sight aroused in me a sense of intense curiosity mingled with anxiety. Suppose I went to them; what would their occupants think of a stranger, suddenly emerging upon them from pathless wilds? Once their suspicion was roused, I might in vain hope to allay it;[79] what was I to do then? I espied a declivity below me, which extended north-west in a gradual descent, far out of sight of the tents, and I saw that unless I took it, I should either come on those tents or have my progress barred by a succession of high mountains. With nothing else to help me to arrive at a decision, I then entered on what is termed ‘Danjikwan sanmai’ in Japanese-Buḍḍhist terminology, a meditative process of making up one’s mind, when neither logic nor accurate knowledge is present to draw upon for arriving at a conclusion. The process is, in short, one of abnegating self and then forming a judgment, a method which borders on divination, or an assertion of instinctive powers. The result was that I decided to take the[80] route that lay toward the tents, and by nightfall I came within hailing distance of them, when a pack of five or six ferocious-looking dogs caught sight of me and began barking furiously. They were formidable animals with long shaggy fur and very cruel looks. I had before then been told that when attacked by dogs of this kind I must not strike them, but that I should only ward them off, quietly waving a stick in front of their muzzles, and on this occasion I religiously followed that instruction, and found to my entire satisfaction that the dogs did not try to snap at me. Proceeding thus, and coming outside one of the tents, I called out to its occupants.

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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:18 am

CHAPTER XIII. A kind old Dame.

My call was responded to by an old woman who, coming out of the tent and finding a tattered and tired wayfarer, said more to herself than to me: “Why, it is a pilgrim, poor, poor.” Seeing no reason to suppose that I appeared an object of suspicion to her, I ventured to inform her that I was from the direction of Lhasa, bound for Kang Rinpoche, Mount Kailāsa, and besought her to give me a night’s lodging in her tent, as it was unbearably cold to sleep in the open air. My request was cheerfully complied with and, inside the tent, the old dame expressed her curiosity to know how I happened to be there, as the locality was not one generally visited by pilgrims. She easily believed my explanation to the effect that I had lost my way while heading for the abode of Gelong Rinpoche, and then gave me a cup of tea out of a kettle that stood boiling over the fire; accepting it with thanks, I declined the baked flour offered immediately after. I may observe here that the tea offered me was not brewed in the same way as we take it in Japan, but it was more of the nature of a soup, the ingredients of which were powdered tea-leaves, butter and salt, forbiddingly offensive in smell, until one gets accustomed to it, when it is found to constitute a very agreeable beverage. The Tibetan custom is to serve a guest with a cup of this kind of tea first, and then to regale him with some baked flour. I excused myself for declining the hospitality of my kind hostess by informing her that I adhered strictly to the Buḍḍhist rule of fasting hours, which piece of information produced a very favorable impression on her[82] as to my personality, as she seemed to respect me all the more for it. Then, leading in the conversation that followed, she told me that Gelong Rinpoche’s abode was at a day’s distance, and that this Lama was the holiest of all the priests to be found throughout the whole Jangthang (Jangthang, as I explained, literally means ‘northern plain,’ but in Tibet itself the appellation is applied to its western steppes). Continuing, the old hostess said that a visit to the holy man always resulted in great spiritual benefit, and urged me by all means to call on him. There was a river, she said, in my way, the waters of which were too cold to be forded, and she offered me the use of one of her yaks. Her son was away just then, but she expected him back in the evening, and he could accompany me in the morning, as she wanted him too to pay a visit to the holy man. All this was very acceptable to me, but one thing that troubled me was the sorry condition to which my boots had become reduced; and I asked the dame if I could not mend them. Mending in this case meant, as I was told, patching the worn-out places with yak’s hide, which required, however, two days’ soaking in water before it became soft enough to be sewn. My hostess said that they—she and her son—were to stay only one more day in that particular spot where I had chanced upon them, and suggested that I might make a stay of two or three days at Gelong Rinpoche’s, so as to give myself the time to do some mending. She offered that I should, on the morrow, put on her son’s spare pair of boots and proceed to the holy Lama’s in them, saying that I might give them back to her son after reaching my destination. In the night, just as I was going to sleep, the son turned up, and more conversation ensued amongst us, chiefly concerning the saintly man, of whom the mother and the son knew no end of wonderful things, altogether superhuman in character.


Early the next morning, by order of the good old dame, the son busied himself in getting a yak ready for me. The yak is a bovine somewhat larger than our bull, though a little lower in height. Its hide is covered all over very thickly with long shaggy hair, and its tail terminates in a bushy tuft. The female yak is called bri in Tibetan. Its face looks very much like that of common cattle, but it has a pair of piercing eyes, which give you a rather uncomfortable feeling when turned full on you, while its horns are dangerously pointed and threateningly shaped. A better acquaintance, however, shows the animal to be a quiet and tractable one, even much more so than our cattle. I may yet have occasion to tell what an invaluable beast of burden the yak is for the Tibetan. My hostess’ son brought out three yaks, one for me to ride, another for himself, and the third to carry his presents, consisting of dried milk, butter and other things, to the holy man. As for the good old dame, she proved to be the very essence of kindness, and on my parting from her she loaded me with large quantities of baked wheat-flour, dried milk, and butter, besides a farewell cup of tea, a treatment which is considered great hospitality in Jangthang.

So equipped, we started on our trip in quest of the holy man of the plain. After a ride of about two and a half miles, involving ascent and descent of equal length towards the north-west, we were overtaken by a hail-storm, and had to make a halt of two hours until it had blown over. During the halt, we took down our luggage from the backs of the yaks, so that it might not get wet, and I utilised that interval quite profitably to myself by pumping the young man for information regarding the routes and geography of the regions I was to go through before I could reach my final destination. Resuming our ride, we soon came to a river which was sixty yards wide, and easy to ford for men riding on yaks, as we were. Crossing two more[84] rivers of the like width, and making an ascent of a little over six miles, we came in sight of a large white cliff, which, as my companion informed me, was the dwelling place of Gelong Rinpoche. Continuing the ascent and approaching nearer, I found out that what had appeared like a huge and solid piece of rock was really a hollow cliff forming a large cave, and that there was another concave cliff in front of it, which was not white but greyish in color, and was inhabited by one of Gelong Rinpoche’s disciples, as I came to discover afterwards. It was about three o’clock in the afternoon that we arrived at the entrance of the front cave, where my companion asked if he could see Gelong Rinpoche, though he knew that he was considerably behind the regular hour, setting forth the hail incident as an excuse for his delay. The answer he received was absolutely in the negative; so he took down the presents and entrusted them to the disciple, to be sent up to Gelong Rinpoche as from Pasang (his mother’s name), saying that he could not wait till the next day to see the Lama, as he was going to strike his tent and move away there and then.

Left alone with the occupant of the grey cliff, I found him to be an ordinary Lama of rather good parts. In the cave, put away in proper places, were articles of daily use for devotional practices, bedding, the kitchen utensils, etc. Having obtained the Lama’s permission to make a few days’ stay, I commenced my mending work by soaking in water a piece of yak’s hide which the kind dame Pasang had given me on parting. On my asking for information as to how I could reach Kang Rinpoche, the answer I got was very discouraging. It was to the effect that two or three days’ journey, after leaving the cave, would bring me to a region inhabited by nomads; for another two or three days I should be in the same region, and then, for the next fifteen or sixteen days, I should[85] have to go through a wilderness entirely destitute of human kind. I was very fortunate, said my host, in that I had chanced upon that ‘kind old dame,’ who was noted for her charity; otherwise I should have had little possibility of obtaining even lodging accommodation, still less of securing a companion to the cliff; and it was out of the question for me to secure anything like a guide for my onward journey; human beings were too scarce in those parts for such a luxury. Furthermore he assured me that I should be pounced upon by robbers as soon as I should reach the inhabited parts, as I seemed to be loaded with luggage worth taking. I had nothing to fear on that score, I told my host, because all I should do would be to hand over all I had. My host then told me that he had been to Kang Rinpoche two or three times himself, and gave me a minute description of the route I was to take for that destination. After a meditation exercise, in which my host joined, we both went to sleep at about midnight.

When I re-opened my eyes, I saw the Lama already making a fire outside the cave. It should be remembered that I passed myself off as a pilgrim from Lhasa, here as elsewhere, and I had to be ‘Lhasan’ in all I did. That morning, therefore, I got up and set about reading the Sacred Text without rinsing my mouth. How foul I felt in the mouth then! but then it was ‘Lhasan,’ you see! When the usual tea, butter, and salt soup was ready, my host gave me a bowlful of it, and then we breakfasted on the regulation diet of baked flour, salt and pepper, all with uncleansed mouths! After that, we whiled away the morning in religious talk until eleven o’clock, when the hour for being presented to Gelong Rinpoche had arrived.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:18 am

CHAPTER XIV. A holy Cave-Dweller.

“Gelong lobzang gonpo la kyabs su chio.” This is, as I was told and as I observed myself, what the followers of the dweller in the white cave—and that included natives living within a hundred-mile radius of the cliff—said three times, accompanied by as many bowings in the direction of the cave, every night before going to bed, and it means: “I take my refuge in the Gelong, named noble-minded Savior.” This shows in what high esteem the holy man to whom I was about to be introduced was held by the local people. There had now gathered about twenty people in front of the grey cave, waiting to be taken to the white one. During my stay I noticed that a similar scene took place every morning, the visitors passing the night before in their tents, pitched at the foot of the mountain, on the top of which the caves are situated. Outside the hours I mentioned before, the Lama was under no circumstance whatever to be seen.

Shortly before noon I walked up to the white cave, together with the waiting crowd. I found the entrance to the cave barred by a fence and a closed gate. Soon after, a grey-haired old priest, of seventy years of age, made his appearance, and, unlocking the gate, walked out to where were the expectant devotees, each of whom gave an offering or offerings, either of money or in kind, as his or her turn came to receive maṇi. The maṇi is a formula pronounced by the aged Lama, who spoke the sacred words: “Om maṇi padme hum,” the recipient repeating them. The maṇi came after a brief sermon. Then followed the imparting by the Lama of various instructive precepts to the audience; but just previous to that, each person individually went up to a table, on the[87] other side of which sat their venerable teacher. After three bows, they proceeded with bent body and the tongue stuck out—the mark of profound obeisance—and, stopping in front of the table, held their heads close to the Lama. The latter, with the palm of his right hand, gently touched their heads by way of blessing, in acknowledgment of their courtesy. In the case of an individual of social position, the Lama used both hands in administering the blessing. I may explain here the Tibetan mode of blessing. Tibetan Lamas use four kinds of blessing, according to the rank of the person to whom it is administered. These orders of blessing, which are at the same time those of greeting, which they call chakwang in Tibet, are first the ‘head to head blessing,’ which consists in touching the other’s head with one’s own forehead; second the ‘double-handed blessing;’ third, the ‘single-handed blessing;’ both of which are self-explanatory. The fourth is resorted to by a Lama of the highest order toward his inferiors and laymen, and consists in touching the head of the recipient with the tufted end of a stick, which constitutes a special article used in Buḍḍhist ritual. This last ceremony is performed only by the Dalai Lama in Lhasa, and Paṇchen Rinpoche in Shigatse. Gelong Rinpoche received me with the double-handed blessing. I found in him a stoutly built, strikingly-featured, grey-haired old man of noble bearing, who, because of his well-preserved physique, did not at first glance look like a person who had passed the best part of his life in religious meditation. But closer observation of what he did and said convinced me that he was a man of true charity, dearly loving his fellow-creatures, and I approached him with a feeling of profound respect. The first thing he said to me was that I was not a man to wander about in a dreary wilderness, and he asked me what had brought me to him. The dialogue that then followed[88] between Gelong Rinpoche and myself was substantially as below:

“I am a travelling priest making a pilgrimage through different countries in quest of Buḍḍhist truths. I have heard of your fame, and have come to be taught one thing.”

“What can that be, friend?”

“You are saving the souls of the multitude, and I wish to learn the grand secret which serves so well for your purpose.”

“Friend, you know that well enough yourself. All Buḍḍhism is in you, and you have nothing to learn from me.”

“True, all Buḍḍhism is in the Self, but in ancient days Jenzai Dōji travelled far and wide in search of fifty-three wise men, and we, the Buḍḍhists, are all taught to derive lessons from the great hardships then undergone by him. I am far from being a Jenzai Dōji, and yet I am privileged to imitate him: it is thus that I have called on you.”

“Good! I have but one means to guide me in saving souls, and the ‘Grand Gospel of Salvation’ is that guide of mine.”

“May I have the pleasure of seeing that Gospel?”

“Most certainly.” The Lama here went into his cave, and, fetching out a volume, kindly lent it to me. On asking what was the gist of the Gospel of Salvation, I was told that it resolved itself into teaching that the three yānas (vehicles) were but one yāna. I then withdrew and went back to the grey cave, taking with me the borrowed volume, and I spent the rest of the day in reading through the Gospel, which I found to be a compilation, resembling in its tenets the Hoke-kyo—the Sūṭra Saḍḍharma Puṇdarīka—and in some places it even read like extracts from the last mentioned Gospel. The next day I turned cobbler, and mended my boots. On the morning following, I revisited Gelong Rinpoche and returned the Gospel. In so doing, the Lama and I had quite an argument, which, in short, was an exchange of views, based[89] on the Tibetan school of Buḍḍhism on the part of the Lama, and on Japanese and Chinese schools on mine.

On the 7th of July I made a parting call on the holy dweller of the white cliff, when the good man presented me with considerable quantities of baked flour, butter, and raisins, saying that without a full and good supply of them I might die on the journey. This was all very nice, but it increased my load by twenty pounds, an addition which always counts a great deal to a solitary peddler, going a long distance over difficult roads, as I was to do. Back in the grey cave, I once more set myself to repairing my boots, but the work was new to me, and I was more successful in sticking the needle into my finger than in progressing with the job. The upshot was that the occupant of the cave, taking pity on me, kindly did the greater part of the work for me. Early on the 8th I bade good-bye to the kind-hearted disciple of Gelong Rinpoche, and relaunched myself on my journey, with eighty-five solid pounds on my back, which in no time began to ache under the weight.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:19 am

CHAPTER XV. In helpless Plight.

Some hours after leaving the grey cliff I reached a river about 180 yards wide. Before plunging into it to wade across, I took my noon-meal of baked flour: it was then about eleven o’clock. The river was the one of which I had been informed, and I knew it could be forded. After the repast I took off my boots and trousers, and having also tucked up the other portions of my dress, went down into the river. Oh! that plunge! it nearly killed me; the water was bitingly cold, and I saw at once that I could never survive the crossing of it. I at once turned round and crawled up the bank, but the contact with the water had already chilled me, and produced in me a sort of convulsion. What was to be done? I happened to think of ointment as a remedy, as well as a preventive, under the circumstances. I took out a bottle of clove oil I had with me, and smeared it in abundance all over my body. What with the sun shining and my giving myself a good rubbing all over, I felt better. Then, equipped as before, I made a second plunge. The water was cold, indeed cold enough to make my feet quite insensible before I had gone half-way across, and the rest of the fording I managed simply by the help of my two staves. The river was about hip-deep and the stream quite rapid, and when I reached the opposite bank I found myself almost a frigid body, stiff and numb in every part.

The next thing to be done was, of course, to recover the circulation of blood in the almost frozen limbs; but I discovered this to be no easy task, for my hands were too stiff to do anything, and it took full two hours to put myself in shape to resume the journey. As it was, when I[91] started out at about two o’clock, my legs were so flabby that I felt as if they were going to drop off. And my increased luggage weighed so heavily on my back, that I was now compelled to take it down and devise some new way of carrying it. This I did by dividing the baggage into two equal parts and, tying one to each end of my two staves (which I had tied together), I slung them across my shoulder. But two rough round sticks grinding against the untrained flesh of the shoulder, with eighty pounds of pressure, were not much of relief for a novice at this method of carrying burdens, and at every hundred or two hundred yards of my progress, which was tardy enough, I had to alter my mode of conveyance. In the two hours which followed, I made an ascent of half a mile and then a descent of about a mile, and when I had arrived at the bank of a river at about four o’clock, exhaustion made further progress impossible for me for the day.


Settled down for a bivouac, I set about making a fire to get tea ready. In Tibetan wilds the only kind of fuel accessible to travellers (except of course dead leaves of trees for kindling purposes) is the dry dung of the yak (these animals being set loose to graze for themselves) and the kyang, a species of native wild horse. I gathered some of these lumps, and built them up into a sort of partially hollow cone, with a broad base and low elevation, and then three pieces of nearly equal size placed tripod-like around this cone completed my arrangement for putting my tea-pot over the fire. But the fire was still to be made, and I may say that making a fire of this description is not a very easy performance until one acquires the knack of the thing; even a pair of hand-bellows is of little help, especially when the fuel is not sufficiently dry. Matches being unknown in those regions, I had to resort to the old-fashioned method of obtaining sparks of fire by striking a stone against a piece of iron, and it is again a matter of[93] art to make those sparks kindle the tinder. The tea-pot I carried with me then was one large enough to hold a quart and a half of water. In those high regions water boils very quickly, owing to the diminished atmospheric pressure, and as soon as it began to boil I would throw into it a handful of Chinese brick tea; but I had to let the mixture stand boiling for at least two hours before I could obtain a liquor of the right color and flavor. I should add that it is the usual practice with Tibetans, which I followed, to put some natural soda (which is found in Tibet) into the water when the tea is thrown in. When enough boiling had been done, I would put in some butter and salt, and after a little stirring all was ready to be served. It was this tedious process that I went through on that river bank. After that, I went about gathering all the dung I could find, and then, returning, piled it up all over the fire to make it last the whole night—a precaution which was necessary to keep off snow-leopards, which often prove to be dangerous nocturnal enemies of man in these parts.

To keep a fire burning brightly through the night was, however, to court a still greater danger, for it might attract marauding robbers, on the look out from far-off hill and mountain tops. Of the two dangers, that of robbers was the worst, for whereas a snow-leopard will sometimes leave a sleeping man alone, even with no fire, robbers will never leave him alone. Under these circumstances I left my fire smouldering, with a well-pressed layer of sandy soil over it, so that it would last till the morning, giving me at the same time enough warmth to keep me alive. When the moon rose that night I saw it was nearly full. Its pale light silvered the waters of the river before me. All was quiet, save for the occasional roars of wild animals. With all its dreary wildness, the scenery around was not without its charms that appealed to the soul.

When rising slow among the mountain heights,
The moon I see in those Tibetan wilds,
My fancy views that orb as Sovereign Lord
Of that Celestial Land, my country dear,
Those islands smiling in the far-off East.

The night was extremely cold, and I could not sleep. I sat up and fell to meditation; and while I was wandering over the borderland, half-awake and half-asleep, the morning came. With a start I got up, and on going to the river’s edge I found its waters frozen. I then stirred up the fire, and after due preparations made a hearty breakfast. When ready to start on the day’s journey, I could not recall the instruction given me before—whether to follow the river up its course, which would lead up to a high peak, or to proceed down stream. Here was a dilemma! but I felt sure of one thing, and that was that, weak and exhausted, I could not survive the ascent of the steep peak. By necessity, then, I proceeded down the stream, but I failed to come upon a rock upon which, as I had been informed, I should find an image of Buḍḍha carved. No wonder! for I took the wrong direction, as I afterwards found out. Proceeding above five miles, I emerged upon an extensive plain, which I judged must be seventeen or eighteen miles by eight or nine, with the river flowing through it.

On consulting the compass I found that, in order to proceed towards the north-west, I should have to cross the river, a prospect particularly unpleasant just then, as I thought of the chilling effects of the icy waters. As I stood taking a survey of the river in an undecided frame of mind, I noticed a bonze wading across the stream towards me. As he landed on the bank, I hailed him, and eventually found him to be a pilgrim from Kham, bound for Gelong Rinpoche’s cave. Then I negotiated with him to assist me across the river, after having astonished him with my generosity in giving him a comparatively large quantity of dried peaches and flour, articles particularly[95] precious for a lonely traveller through those regions. I made him understand that I was ill and weak, and not equal to the task of crossing the river, heavily burdened with luggage as I was. Whatever was the effect of this piece of information, my liberality soon won him over to my help, and, taking all my luggage on his back and leading me by the hand, he assisted me to ford the stream. Having landed me and my luggage safely on the other side, and having also told me that, following the course he pointed out, I should come to an inhabited place after two days’ journey, he bade me good-bye and once more crossed the river. I, for my part, started forthwith, heading in the direction prescribed for me.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:20 am

CHAPTER XVI. A Foretaste of distressing Experiences.

After parting with the Kham bonze, I had not proceeded far before I began to feel a shortness of breath which increased in intensity as I went along, and was followed by nausea of an acute type. I made a halt, took down my luggage (which, by the way, had by this time produced very painful bruises on my back) and then took a dose of hotan—a soothing restorative. The result was that I brought up a good mouthful of blood. Not being subject to heart disease, I concluded that I had been affected by the rarity of the atmosphere. I think, as I thought then, that our lung-capacity is only about one-half of that of the native Tibetan. Be this as it may, I felt considerable alarm at this, my first experience of internal hemorrhage, and thought it would be ill-advised to continue my journey that day. I had made only eight miles, five up and three down, over undulating land; but I was so greatly fatigued that, without courage enough to go and search for yak-dung, I fell fast asleep the moment I laid me down for a rest. I do not know how long I had slept, when something pattering on my face awoke me. As soon as I realised that I was lying under a heavy shower of large-sized hail-stones, I tried to rise, but I could not; for my body literally cracked and ached all over, as if I had been prostrated with a severe attack of rheumatism. With a great effort I raised myself to a sitting posture and endeavored to calm myself. After a while my pulse became nearly normal and my breathing easier, and I knew that I was not yet to die. But the general aching of the body did not abate at all, and it was out of the question for me to resume the journey then, or to[97] go dung-gathering. Apparently there were some hours of night yet left, so I went into the ‘meditation exercise,’ sitting upon a piece of sheep’s hide and wrapped up in the tuk-tuk, a sort of native bed-quilt weighing about twenty-five pounds, and made of thick sail-cloth lined with sheep’s wool. Sleep was no more possible. As I looked up and around, I saw the bright moon high above me, the uncertain shapes of distant lofty peaks forming a most weird back-ground against the vast sea of undulating plain. Alone upon one of the highest places in the world, surrounded by mysterious uncertainty, made doubly so by the paleness of the moonlight, both the scene and the situation would have furnished me with enough matter for my soul’s musings, but, alas! for my bodily pains. Yet the wild weirdness of the view was not altogether lost on me, and I was gradually entering into the state of spiritual conquest over bodily ailment, when I recalled the celebrated uta of that ancient divine of Japan, Daito Kokushi:

On Shijyo Gojyo Bridge, a thoroughfare,
I sit in silence holy undisturbed,
The passing crowds of men and damsels fair,
I look upon as waving sylvan trees.

In reply to this I composed the following:

On grass among those lofty plains on earth,
I enter meditation deep and wide,
I choose, nor such secluded mountain-trees,
Nor passing crowds of men and damsels fair.

I was almost in an extatic state, forgetful of all my pain, when another uta rose to my mind:

O Mind! By Dharma’s genial light and warmth
The pain-inflicting snows are melted fast,
And flow in rushing streams that sweep away
Delusive Ego and Non-Ego both.

Thus in meditation I sat out the night, and when the morning came I breakfasted on some dried grapes. I felt much refreshed both in mind and body, and made good progress on my journey that morning.

Coming to a small clear stream, I went through the process of fire-making and tea-preparing, and then took a meal of baked flour. Crossing the stream and then mounting an elevation, I saw far in front of me one white and several black tents pitched in the plain. The sight of a white tent puzzled me a good deal. Tibetan tent-cloth is almost always dark in color, the natives weaving the stuff with yak’s hair, which they first take between their teeth, draw out and twist into a yarn between their fingers, putting it on to the loom when a sufficient quantity of coarse thread has thus been obtained. I could not solve the mystery; but it mattered little after all to me then; I only wanted to reach the tents as quickly as possible, and to be allowed a few days’ rest there. I had walked about five miles, and the last mile or so brought back on me the now chronic trouble, the pain of fatigue and shortness of breath. When, somehow, I had managed to drag myself along to the threshold of the largest of the tents, the welcome I received was in the shape of five or six ferocious-looking native dogs, and it was a right hot reception, to appreciate which I had to put all my remaining energy into the gentle warning of my staff.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:21 am

CHAPTER XVII. A Beautiful Rescuer.

While I was engaged in the pleasant work of warding off the dogs, a woman, apparently roused by the loud barking of the animals, put her head out of the tent. Hers was a beautiful face, so beautiful that I was surprised to see it in such a wilderness. For a while the woman stood staring at me, and then, coming out of the tent, she scolded the dogs. One word from her was enough, and the beasts all ran away crest-fallen and with tails down, so that I could not help smiling at them. And, smiling, I asked the beauty of the wilderness for a night’s lodging. Her answer was that she must first obtain the permission of “her Lama,” and, so saying, she disappeared within the tent. At her second appearance I was admitted into the tent, and a very hospitable man “her Lama” proved to be. It was a great relief to me. That afternoon and evening I spent in pleasant conversation with my host and his wife. For two days more I was allowed to recuperate myself in their tent, and in the interval I learned a good deal about my future route. Among other things I was told that at half a day’s distance on horseback there was a river called Kyang-chu (wild horse river), a large tributary of the Brahmapuṭra, which I had to cross, but that it admitted of fording only by those well acquainted with its shallows. The necessity which thus arose of having a qualified companion compelled me to prolong my stay with my kind host till the 13th of July. It was on the night of the 12th that, at the invitation of my host, the occupants of the other tents, numbering about thirty men and women, came to his tent to hear my preaching, as they had been told by my host that I was a holy priest.[101] My sermon to the assembly procured for me various offerings in kind. Among the audience was a young girl who insisted on my accepting from her a neck ornament, consisting of seven coral beads and a gem. I took it from her hand for a moment, but with sincere thanks I returned it her, as I really had no use for it. But she, with the support of her companions, insisted on my accepting it, and I was finally persuaded to take the gem alone, which even now I keep, valuing it as a memento of a dear little girl of the Tibetan wilds. The next day the owner of the white tent came to my host and gave him some raisins, dried peaches and dates, taking in exchange sheep’s wool, butter and other local products. This man proved to be a trader from Ladak and spoke but little Tibetan. Apparently a devoted Buḍḍhist, he asked me a great many things about my religion, and seemed to be highly pleased with all my replies; so much so that he begged me to come to his tent and dine with him. So at noon I went to his tent, where he regaled me with delicacies considered to be costly in those parts. It was this Ladak trader who was to start on the day following, and to be my guide in crossing the Kyang-chu.


As for my host the Lama, I learned that he was really a man of the order belonging to the new sect of Tibetan Buḍḍhism, which by the way strictly enjoins celibacy and abstinence on all its priests, so I was considerably perplexed at seeing him living with a wife. He called himself Alchu Tulku, which means ‘incarnation of Alchu’—the name of a place on the plateau. His wife was exceedingly beautiful, as I have already hinted. But it was none of my business to pry into the matter any further. It was enough for me that, after all my distressing experiences, he received me with open arms, treated me with the utmost kindness, and behaved in a manner bespeaking a large heart and deeply charitable[102] mind. I noticed that he owned about sixty yaks in addition to two hundred sheep, and that he was very well circumstanced, though he might not perhaps be called a very rich man. Besides, his charming wife appeared to be thoroughly devoted to him, and he seemed in every respect the master of a very happy home. What more could I wish for them?

But I was much surprised at a discovery which I made on coming back to them from a visit to the white tent. When in the evening I approached the Lama’s tent, I heard noises inside which suggested a fearful quarrel at its height. On entering, I saw that a wonderful metamorphosis had come over the erstwhile beauty. Her face was burning red and undergoing the most disagreeable contortions I had ever seen, as she went on calling her husband names and otherwise insulting him in the vilest language imaginable. It was all about “another woman” and also about the husband’s partiality for his own relatives. A man of quiet disposition as the Lama was, he heroically maintained his self-composure and silence until she dared to call him “beast,” when he rose and feigned to beat her. He probably did so because he was irritated at my appearance on the scene just at that juncture. But that was a blundering move on his part, for the moment he raised his fist, the now thoroughly maddened termagant threw herself at his feet, and, with eyes shut, shouted, shrieked and howled, daring him to kill and eat her!

The “tantric female sacrifice”

But are we really justified in speaking of a “tantric female sacrifice”? We shall attempt to find an answer to this difficult question. Fundamentally, the Buddhist tantric distinguishes three types of sacrifice: the outer, the inner and the secret. The “outer sacrifice” consists of the offering to a divinity, the Buddhas, or the guru, of food, incense, butter lamps, perfume, and so on. For instance in the so-called “mandala sacrifice” the whole universe can be presented to the teacher, in the form of a miniature model, whilst the pupil says the following. “I sacrifice all the components of the universe in their totality to you, O noble, kind, and holy lama!” (Bleichsteiner, 1937, p. 192)

In the “inner sacrifice” the pupil (Sadhaka) gives his guru, usually in a symbolic act, his five senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch), his states of consciousness, and his feelings, or he offers himself as an individual up to be sacrificed. Whatever the master demands of him will be done — even if the sadhaka must cut the flesh from his own limbs, like the tantric adept Naropa.

Behind the “secret sacrifice” hides, finally, a particular ritual event which attracts our especial interest, since it is here that the location of the “tantric female sacrifice” is to be suspected. It concerns — as can be read in a modern commentary upon the Kalachakra Tantra — “the spiritual sacrifice of a dakini to the lama” (Henss, 1985, p. 56). Such symbolic sacrifices of goddesses are all but stereotypical of tantric ceremonies. “The exquisite bejeweled woman ... is offered to the Buddhas” (Gäng, 1988, p. 151), as the Guhyasamaja Tantra puts it. Often eight, sometimes sixteen, occasionally countless “wisdom girls” are offered up in “the holy most secret of offerings” (quoted by Beyer, 1978, p. 162)

The sacrifice of samsara:

A sacrifice of the feminine need not be first sought in Tantrism, however; rather it may be found in the logic of the entire Buddhist doctrine. Woman per se– as Buddha Shakyamuni repeatedly emphasized in many of his statements — functions as the first and greatest cause of illusion (maya), but likewise as the force which generates the phenomenal world (samsara). It is the fundamental goal of every Buddhist to overcome this deceptive samsara. This world of appearances experienced as feminine, presents him with his greatest challenge. “A woman”, Nancy Auer Falk writes, “was the veritable image of becoming and of all the forces of blind growth and productivity which Buddhism knew as Samsara. As such she too was the enemy — not only on a personal level, as an individual source of temptation, but also on a cosmic level” (Gross, 1993, p. 48). In this misogynist logic, it is only after the ritual destruction of the feminine that the illusory world (maya) can be surmounted and transcended.

Is it for this reason that maya (illusion), the mother of the historical Buddha, had to die directly after giving birth? In her early death we can recognize the original event which stands at the beginning of the fundamentally misogynist attitude of all Buddhist schools. Maya both conceived and gave birth to the Sublime One in a supernatural manner. It was not a sexual act but an elephant which, in a dream, occasioned the conception, and Buddha Shakyamuni did not leave his mother’s body through the birth canal, but rather through her hip. But these transfeminine birth myths were not enough for the tellers of legends. Maya as earthly mother had, on the path to enlightenment of a religion which seeks to free humanity from the endless chain of reincarnation, to be proclaimed an “illusion” (maya) and destroyed. She receives no higher accolade in the school of Buddha, since the woman — as mother and as lover — is the curse which fetters us to our illusory existence.

Already in Mahayana Buddhism, the naked corpse of a woman was considered as the most provocative and effective meditation object an initiand could use to free himself from the net of Samsara. Inscribed in the iconography of her body were all the vanities of this world. For this reason, he who sank bowed over a decaying female body could achieve enlightenment in his current life. To increase the intensity of the macabre observation, it was usual in several Indian monastic orders to dismember the corpse. Ears, nose, hands, feet, and breasts were chopped off and the disfigured trunk became the object of contemplation. “In Buddhist context, the spectacle of the mutilated woman serves to display the power of the Buddha, the king of the Truth (Dharma) over Mara, the lord of the Realm of Desire.”, writes Elizabeth Wilson in a discussion of such practices, “By erasing the sexual messages conveyed by the bodies of attractive women through the horrific spectacle of mutilation, the superior power of the king of Dharma is made manifest to the citizens of the realm of desire.” (Wilson, 1995, p. 80).

In Vajrayana, the Shunyata doctrine (among others) of the nonexistence of all being, is employed to conduct a symbolic sacrifice of the feminine principle. Only once this has evaporated into a “nothing” can the world and we humans be rescued from the curse of maya (illusion). This may also be a reason why the “emptiness” (shunyata), which actually by definition cannot possess any characteristics, is hypostasized as feminine in the tantras. This becomes especially clear in the Hevajra Tantra. In staging of the ritual we encounter at the outset a real yogini (karma mudra) or at least an imagined goddess (inana mudra), whom the yogi transforms in the course of events into a “nothing” using magic techniques. By the end the tantric master has completely robbed her of her independent existence, that is, to put it bluntly, she no longer exists. “She is the Yogini without a Self” (Farrow and Menon, 1992, pp. 218–219). Thus her name, Nairatmya, literally means ‘one who has no self, that is, non-substantial’ (Farrow and Menon, 1992, p. 219). The same concept is at work when, in another tantra, the “ultimate dakini” is visualized as a “zero-point” and experienced as “indivisible pleasure and emptiness” (Dowman, 1985, p. 74). Chögyam Trungpa sings of the highest “lady without being” in the following verses:

Always present, you do not exist ...
Without body, shapeless, divinity of the true.
-- Trungpa, 1990, p. 40

Only her bodilessness, her existential sacrifice and her dissolution into nothing allow the karma mudra to transmute into the maha mudra and gynergy to be distilled out of the yogini in order to construct the feminine ego of the adept with this “stuff”. “Relinquishing her form [as] a woman, she would assume that of her Lord” the Hevajra Tantra establishes at another point (Snellgrove, 1959, p. 91).

The maha mudra has, it is said, an “empty body” (Dalai Lama I, 1985, p. 170). What can be understood by this contradictory metaphor? In his commentary on the Kalachakra Tantra, Ngawang Dhargyey describes how the “empty body” can only be produced through the destruction of all the “material” elements of a physical, natural “body of appearance”. In contrast to such, “their bodies are composed simply of energy and consciousness” (Dhargyey, 1985, p. 131). The physical world, sensuality, matter and nature — considered feminine in not just Buddhism — thus become pure spirit in an irreconcilable opposition. But they are not completely destroyed in the process of their violent spiritualization, but rather “sublated” in the Hegelian sense, namely “negated” and “conserved” at the same time; they are — to make use of one of the favorite terms of the Buddhist evolutionary theorist, Ken Wilber — “integrated”. This guarantees that the creative feminine energies are not lost following the material “dissolution” of their bearers, and instead are available solely to the yogi as a precious elixir. A sacrifice of the feminine as an autonomous principle must therefore be regarded as the sine qua non for the universal power of the tantric master. These days this feminine sacrifice may only be performed entirely in the imagination. But this need not have always been the case.

“Eating” the gynergy:

But Vajrayana is concerned with more than the performance of a cosmic drama in which the feminine and its qualities are destroyed for metaphysical reasons. The tantric recognizes a majority of the feminine properties as extremely powerful. He therefore has not the slightest intention of destroying them as such. In contrast, he wishes to make the feminine forces his own. What he wants to destroy is solely the physical and mental bearer of gynergy — the real woman. For this reason, the “tantric female sacrifice” is of a different character to the cosmogonic sacrifice of the feminine of early Buddhism. It is based upon the ancient paradigm in which the energies of a creature are transferred to its killer. The maker of the sacrifice wants to absorb the vital substance of the offering, in many cases by consuming it after it has been slaughtered. Through this he not only “integrates” the qualities of the killed, but also believes he may outwit death, by feeding upon the body and soul of the sacrificial victim.

In this connection the observation that world wide the sacred sacrifice is contextually linked with food and eating, is of some interest. It is necessary to kill plants and animals in order to nourish oneself. The things killed are subsequently consumed and thus appear as a necessary condition for the maintenance and propagation of life. Eating increases strength, therefore it was important to literally incorporate the enemy. In cannibalism, the eater integrates the energies of those he has slaughtered. Since ancient humans made no basic distinction between physical, mental or spiritual processes, the same logic applied to the “eating” of nonbodily forces. One also ate souls, or prana, or the élan vital.

In the Vedas, this general “devouring logic” led to the conception that the gods nourished themselves from the life fluids of ritually slaughtered humans, just as mortals consume the bodies of animals for energy and nourishment. Thus, a critical-rational section of the Upanishads advises against such human sacrifices, since they do not advance individual enlightenment, but rather benefit only the blood-hungry supernatural beings.

Life and death imply one another in this logic, the one being a condition for the other. The whole circle of life was therefore a huge sacrificial feast, consisting of the mutual theft and absorption of energies, a great cosmic dog-eat-dog. Although early Buddhism gave vent to keen criticism of the Vedic rites, especially the slaughter of people and animals, the ancient sacrificial mindset resurfaces in tantric ritual life. The “devouring logic” of the Vedas also controls the Tantrayana. Incidentally, the word tantra is first found in the context of the Vedic sacrificial gnosis, where it means ‘sacrificial framework’ (Smith, 1989, p. 128).

Sacred cannibalism was always communion, holy union with the Spirit and the souls of the dead. It becomes Eucharistic communion when the sacrifice is a slaughtered god, whose followers eat of him at a supper. God and man are first one when the man or woman has eaten of the holy body and drunk the holy blood of his or her god. The same applies in the relation to the goddess. The tantric yogi unites with her not just in the sexual act, but above all through consuming her holy gynergy, the magical force of maya. Sometimes, as we shall see, he therefore drinks his partner’s menstrual blood. Only when the feminine blood also pulses in his own veins will he be complete, an androgyne, a lord of both sexes.

To gain the “gynergy” for himself, the yogi must “kill” the possessor of the vital feminine substances and then “incorporate” her. Such an act of violence does not necessarily imply the real murder of his mudra, it can also be performed symbolically. But a real ritual murder of a woman is by like measure not precluded, and it is not surprising that occasional references can be found in the Vajrayana texts which blatantly and unscrupulously demand the actual killing of a woman. In a commentary on the Hevajra Tantra, at a point where a lower-caste wisdom consort (dombi) is being addressed, states bluntly, “I kill you, O Dombi, I take your life!” (Snellgrove, 1987, vol. 1, p. 159).

Sati or the sacred inaugural sacrifice:

In any case, in all the rituals of the Highest Tantra initiations a symbolic female sacrifice is set in scene. From numerous case studies in cultural and religious history we are aware that an “archaic first event”, an “inaugural sacred murder” may be hiding behind such symbolic stagings. This “original event”, in which a real wisdom consort was ritually killed, need in no sense be consciously acknowledged by the following generations and cult participants who only perform the sacrifice in their imaginations or as holy theater. As the French anthropologist René Girard convincingly argues in his essay on Violence and the Sacred, the original murderous deed is normally no longer fully recalled during later symbolic performances. But it can also not become totally forgotten. It is important that the violent origin of their sacrificial rite be shrouded in mystery for the cult participant. “To maintain its structural force, the inaugural violence must not make an appearance”, claims Girard (Girard, 1987, p. 458). Only thus can the participants experience that particular emotionally laden and ambivalent mixture of crime and mercy, guilt and atonement, violence and satisfaction, shuddering and repression which first lends the numinous aura of holiness to the cult events.

It thus seems appropriate to examine Tantric Buddhism for signs of such an “inaugural sacrifice”. In this connection, we would like to draw attention to a Shiva myth, which has nonetheless had an influence on the history of the Buddhist tantras.

In the mythical past, Sati was the consort of the god Shiva. When her father Daksa was planning a great sacrificial feast, he failed to invite his daughter and son-in-law. Unbidden, Sati nonetheless attended the feast and was deeply insulted by Daksa. Filled with shame and anger she threw herself upon the burning sacrificial altar and died. (In another version of the story she alone was invited and cremated herself when she heard that her spouse was barred from the feast.) Shiva, informed of the death of his wife, hurried at once to the scene of the tragedy and decapitated Daksa. He then took the body of his beloved Sati, laid her across his shoulders and began a funeral procession across all India. The other gods wanted to free him from the corpse and set about dismembering it, piece by piece, without Shiva noticing what they were doing.

The places where the fragments fell were destined to become holy sites known as Shakta pithas. There where Sati’s vulva came to land the most sacred location was established. In some texts there is talk of 24, in others of 108 pithas, the latter being the holy number of Buddhism. At Sati’s numerous graves cemeteries were set up forthwith, at which the people cremated their dead. Around these locations developed a many-sided, and as we shall see, extremely macabre death culture, which was nurtured by Tantrics of all schools (including the Buddhist variety).

In yet another version of the Sati legend, the corpse of Shiva’s wife contained a “small cog — a symbol of manifest time -, [which] destroyed the body of the goddess from the inside out. ... [It] was then dismembered into 84 fragments which fell to earth at the various holy sites of India” (Hutin, 1971, p. 67). This is indeed a remarkable variant on the story, since the number of famous Maha Siddhas (Grand Sorcerers), who in both the Buddhist and Hindu tradition introduced Tantrism to India as a new religious practice, is 84. These first Tantrics chose the Shakta pithas as the central locations for their rituals. Some of them, the Nath Siddhas, claimed Sati had sacrificed herself for them and had given them her blood. For this reason they clothed themselves in red robes (White, 1996, p. 195). Likewise, one of the many Indian cemetery legends tells how five of the Maha Siddhas emerged from the cremated corpse of a goddess named Adinatha (White, 1996, p. 296). It can be assumed that this is also a further variation on the Sati legend.

It is not clear from the tale whether the goddess committed a sacrificial suicide or whether she was the victim of a cruel murder. Sati’s voluntary leap into the flames seems to indicate the former; her systematic dismemberment the latter. A “criminological” investigation of the case on the basis of the story alone, i.e., without reference to other considerations, is impossible, since the Sati legend must itself be regarded as an expression of the mystifying ambivalence which, according to René Girard, veils every inaugural sacrifice. All that is certain is that all of the originally Buddhist (!) Vajrayana’s significant cult locations were dedicated to the dismembered Hindu Sati.

Earlier, however, claims the Indologist D. C. Sircar, famous relics of the “great goddess” were said to be found at the Shakta pithas. At the heart of her cult stood the worship of her yoni (‘vagina’) (Sircar, 1973, p. 8). We can only concur with this opinion, yet we must also point out that the majority of the matriarchal cults of which we are aware also exhibited a phallic orientation. Here the phallus did not signalize a symbol of male dominance, but was instead a toy of the “great goddess”, with which she could sexual-magically manipulate men and herself obtain pleasure.

We also think it important to note that the practices of Indian gynocentric cults were in no way exempt from sacrificial obsession. In contrast, there is a comprehensive literature which reports the horrible rites performed at the Shakta pithas in honor of the goddess Kali. Her followers bowed down before her as the “consumer of raw meat”, who was constantly hungry for human sacrifices. The individuals dedicated to her were first fed up until they were sufficiently plump to satisfy the goddess’s palate. On particular feast days the victims were decapitated in her copper temple (Sircar, 1973, p. 16).

Naturally we can only speculate that the “dismemberment of the goddess” in the Sati myth might be a masculine reaction to the original fragmentation of the masculine god by the gynocentric Kali. But this murderous reciprocity must not be seen purely as an act of revenge. In both cases it is a matter of the increased life energy which is to be achieved by the sacrifice of the opposite sex. In so doing, the “revolutionary” androcentric yogis made use of a similar ritual praxis and symbolism to the aggressive female followers of the earlier matriarchy, but with reversed premises. For example, the number 108, so central to Buddhism, is a reminder of the 108 names under which the great goddess was worshipped (Sircar, 1973, p. 25).

The fire sacrifice of the dakini:

The special feature of Greek sacrificial rites lay in the combination of burning and eating, of blood rite and fire altar. In pre-Buddhist, Vedic India rituals involving fire were also the most common form of sacrifice. Humans, animals, and plants were offered up to the gods on the altar of flame. Since every sacrifice was supposed to simulate among other things the dismemberment of the first human, Prajapati, it always concerned a “symbolic human sacrifice”, even when animal or plant substitutes were used.

At first the early Buddhists adopted a highly critical attitude towards such Vedic practices and rejected them outright, in stark opposition to Vajrayana later, in which they were to regain central significance. Even today, fire pujas are among the most frequent rituals of Tantric Buddhism. The origin of these Buddhist “flame masses” from the Vedas becomes obvious when it is noted that the Vedic fire god Agni appears in the Buddhist tantras as the “Consumer of Offerings”. This is even true of the Tibetans. In this connection, Helmut von Glasenapp describes one of the final scenes from the large-scale Kalachakra ritual, which the Panchen Lama performed in Beijing 1932: A “woodpile was set alight and the fire god invited to take his place in the eight-leafed lotus which stood in the middle of the fireplace. Once he had been offered abundant sacrifices, Kalachakra was invited to come hither from his mandala and to become one with the fire god” (von Glasenapp, 1940, p. 142). Thus the time god and the fire unite.

Burning Dakinis

The symbolic burning of “sacrificial goddesses” is found in nearly every tantra. It represents every possible characteristic, from the human senses to various states of consciousness. The elements (fire, water, etc.) and individual bodily features are also imagined in the form of “sacrificial goddesses”. With the pronouncement of a powerful magic formula they all perish in the fire. In what is known as the Vajrayogini ritual, the pupil sacrifices several inana mudras to a red fire god who rides a goat. The chief goddess, Vajrayogini, appears here with “a red-colored body which shines with a brilliance like that of the fire of the aeon” (Gyatso, 1991, p. 443). In the Guhyasamaya Tantra the goddesses even fuse together in a fiery ball of light in order to then serve as a sacrifice to the Supreme Buddha. Here the adept also renders malignant women harmless through fire: “One makes the burnt offerings within a triangle. ... If one has done this three days long, concentrating upon the target of the women, then one can thus ward them off, even for the infinity of three eons” (Gäng, 1988, p. 225). A “burning woman” by the name of Candali plays such a significant role in the Kalachakra initiations that we devote an entire chapter to later. In this context we also examine the “ignition of feminine energy”, a central event along the sexual magic initiation path of Tantrism.

In Buddhist iconography, the tantric initiation goddesses, the dakinis are represented dancing within a fiery circle of flame. These are supernatural female beings encountered by the yogi on his initiatory journey who assist him in his spiritual development, but with whom he can also fall into serious conflict. Translated, dakini means “sky-going one” or “woman who flies” or “sky dancer”. (Herrmann-Pfand, 1996, pp. 68, 38). In Buddhism the name appeared around 400 C.E.

The German Tibetologist Albert Grünwedel was his whole life obsessed with the idea that the “heaven/sky walkers” were once human “wisdom companions”, who, after they had been killed in a fire ritual, continued to function in the service of the tantric teachings as female spirit beings (genies). He saw in the dakinis the “souls of murdered mudras” banished by magic, and believed that after their sacrificial death they took to haunting as Buddhist ghosts (Grünwedel, 1933, p. 5). Why, he asked, do the dakinis always hold skull cups and cleavers in their hands in visual representations? Obviously, as can be read everywhere, to warn the initiands against the transient and deceptive world of samsara and to cut them off from it. But Grünwedel sees this in a completely different light: For him, just as the saints display the instruments of their martyrdom in Christian iconography, so too the tantric goddesses demonstrate their mortal passing with knives and skulls; like their European sisters, the witches, with whom they have so much in common, they are to be burnt at the stake (Grünwedel, Kalacakra III, p. 41) Grünwedel traces the origin of this female sacrifice back to the marked misogyny of the early phase of Buddhism: “The insults [thrown at] the woman sound dreadful. ... The body of the woman is a veritable cauldron of hell, the woman a magical form of the demons of destruction” (Grünwedel, 1924, vol. 2, p. 29).

One could well shrug at the speculations of this German Tibetologist and Asian researcher. As far as they are understood symbolically, they do not contradict tantric orthodoxy in the slightest, which even teaches the destruction of the “external” feminine as an article of faith. As we have seen, the sacrificial goddesses are burnt symbolically. Some tantras even explicitly confirm Grünwedel’s thesis that the dakinis were once “women of flesh and blood”, who were later transformed into “spirit beings” (Bhattacharyya, 1982, p. 121). Thus she was sacrificed as a karma mudra, a human woman in order to then be transformed into an inana mudra, an imaginary woman. But the process did not end here, then the inana mudra still had an existence external to the adept. She also needed to be “sacrificed” in order to create the “inner woman”, the maha mudra. A passage from the Candamaharosana Tantra thus plainly urges the adept: “Threaten, threaten, kill, kill, slay slay all Dakinis!” (quoted by George, 1974, p. 64)

But what is the intent behind a fiery dakini sacrifice? The same as that behind all the other tantric rituals, namely the absorption of gynergy upon which to found the yogi’s omnipotence. Here the longed-for feminine elixir has its own specific names. The adept calls it the “heart blood of the dakini”, the “essence of the dakini’s heart”, the “life-heart of the dakini” (Herrmann-Pfand, 1992, p. 342). “Via the ‘conversion’ the Dakinis become protectors of the religion, once they have surrendered their ‘life-heart’ to their conqueror”, a tantra text records (Herrmann-Pfand, 1992, p. 204).

This “surrender of the heart” can often be brutal. For example, a Tibetan story tells of how the yogini Magcig declares that she is willing for her breast to be slit open with a knife — whether in reality or just imagination remains unclear. Her heart was then taken out, “and whilst the red blood — drip, drip — flowed out”, laid in a skull bowl. Then the organ was consumed by five dakinis who were present. Following this dreadful heart operation Magcig had transformed herself into a dakini (Herrmann-Pfand, 1992, p. 164). As macabre as this story is, on the other hand it shows that the tantric female sacrifice need not necessarily be carried out against the will of woman to be sacrificed. In contrast, the yogini often surrenders her heart-blood voluntarily because she loves her master. Like Christ, she lets herself be crucified for love. But her guru may never let this love run free. He has a sacred duty to control the feelings of the heart, and the power to manipulate them.

In the dakini’s heart lies the secret of enlightenment and thus of universal power. She is the “Queen of Hearts”, who — like Diana, Princess of Wales — must undergo a violent “sacrificial death” in order to then shine as the pure ideal of the monarchy (the “autocratic rule” of the yogis). Lama Govinda also makes reference to a fiery sacrificial apotheosis of the dakini when he proclaims in a vision that all feminine forces are concentrated in the sky walkers, “until focused on a point as if through a lens they kindle to a supreme heat and become the holy flame of inspiration which leads to perfect enlightenment” (Govinda, 1991, p. 231). It need not be said that here the inspiration and enlightenment of the male tantra master alone is meant and not that of his female sacrifice.


The “tantric female sacrifice” has found a sublime and many-layered expression in what is known as the “Vajrayogini rite”, which we would like to examine briefly because of its broad distribution among the Tibetan lamas. Vajrayogini is the most important female divine figure in the highest yogic practices of Tibetan Buddhism. The goddess is worshipped as, among other things, “Mistress of the World”, the “Mother of all Buddhas”, “Queen of the Dakinis”, and a “Powerful Possessor of Knowledge”. Her reverential cult is so unique in androcentric Lamaism that a closer examination has much to recommend it. In so doing we draw upon a document on Vajrayogini praxis by the Tibetan lama Kelsang Gyatso.

This tantric ritual, centered upon a principal female figure, begins like all others, with the pupil’s adoration of the guru. Seated upon two cushions which represent the sun and moon, the master holds a vajra and a bell in his hands, thus emphasizing his androgyny and transsexual power.

Vajra Yogini in the burning circle

External, internal, and secret sacrifices are made to him and his lineage. Above all this concerns many imagined “sacrificial goddesses” which emanate from the pupil’s breast and from there enter the teacher’s heart. Among these are the goddesses of beauty, music, flowers, and light. With the “secret sacrifices” the sadhaka pronounces the following: “And I offer most attractive illusory mudras, a host of messengers born from places, born from mantra, and spontaneously born, with tender bodies, skilled in the 64 arts of love” (Gyatso, 1991, p. 250).

In the Vajrayogini praxis a total of three types of symbolic female sacrifice are distinguished. Two of these consist in the offering of inana mudras, that is of “spirit women”, who are drawn from the pupil’s imagination. In the third sacrificial offering he presents his teacher with a real sexual partner (karma mudra) (Gyatso, 1991, p. 88).

Once all the women have been presented to the guru and he has absorbed their energies, the image of the Vajrayogini arises in his heart. Her body appears in red and glows like the “apocalyptic fire”. In her right hand she holds a knife with a vajra-shaped handle, in her left a skull bowl filled with blood. She carries a magic wand across her shoulders, the tip of which is adorned with three tiny human heads. She wears a crown formed out of five skulls. A further fifty severed heads are linked in a chain which swings around her neck. Beneath her feet the Hindu divinity Shiva and the red Kalarati crouch in pain.

Thereupon her image penetrates the pupil, and takes possession of him, transforming him into itself via an internalized iconographic dramaturgy. That the sadhaka now represents the female divinity is considered a great mystery. Thus the master now whispers into his ear, “Now you are entering into the lineage of all yoginis. You should not mention these holy secrets of all the yoginis to those who have not entered the mandala of all the yoginis or those who have no faith” (Gyatso, 1991, p. 355). With divine pride the pupil replies, “I am the Enjoyment Body of Vajrayogini!” (Gyatso, 1991, p. 57) or simply and directly says, “I am Vajrayogini!” (Gyatso, 1991, p. 57). Then, as a newly arisen goddess he comes to sit face-to-face with his guru. Whether the latter now enjoys sexual union with the sadhaka as Vajrayogini cannot be determined from the available texts.

At any rate we must regard this artificial goddess as a female mask, behind which hides the male sadhaka who has assumed her form. He can of course set this mask aside again. It is impressive just how vivid and unadorned the description of this reverse transformation of the “Vajrayogini pupil” into his original form is: “With the clarity of Vajrayogini”, he says in one ritual text, “I give up my breasts and develop a penis. In the perfect place in the center of my vagina the two walls transform into bell-like testicles and the stamen into the penis itself” (Gyatso, 1991, p. 293).

Other sex-change transfigurations are also known from Vajrayogini praxis. Thus, for example, the teacher can play the role of the goddess and let his pupil take on the male role . He can also divide himself into a dozen goddesses — yet it is always men (the guru or his pupils) who play the female roles.


The dreadful Chinnamunda (Chinnamastra) ritual also refers to a “tantric female sacrifice”. At the center of this ritual drama we find a goddess (Chinnamunda) who decapitates herself. Iconographically, she is depicted as follows: Chinnamunda stands upright with the cleaver with which she has just decapitated herself clenched in her right hand. On her left, raised palm she holds her own head. Three thick streams of blood spurt up from the stump of her neck. The middle one curves in an arc into the mouth of her severed head, the other two flow into the mouths of two further smaller goddesses who flank Chinnamunda. She usually tramples upon one or more pairs of lovers. This bloody cult is distributed in both Tantric Buddhism and Hinduism.

According to one pious tale of origin, Chinnamunda severs her own head because her two servants complain of a great hunger which she is unable to assuage. The decapitation was thus motivated by great compassion with two suffering beings. It nevertheless appears grotesque that an individual like Chinnamunda, in possession of such extraordinary magical powers, would be forced to feed her companions with her own blood, instead of conjuring up an opulent meal for them with a spell. According to another, metaphysical interpretation, the goddess wanted to draw attention to the unreality of all being with her self-destructive deed. Yet even this philosophical platitude can barely explain the horrible scenario, although one is accustomed to quite a deal from the tantras. Is it not therefore reasonable to see a merciless representation of a “tantric female sacrifice” in the Chinnamunda myth? Or are we here dealing with an ancient matriarchal cult in which the goddess gives a demonstration of her triune nature and her indestructibility via an in the end “ineffectual” act of self-destruction?

This gynocentric thesis is reminiscent of an analysis of the ritual by Elisabeth Anne Benard, in which she explains Chinnamunda and her two companions to be an emanation of the triune goddess (Benard, 1994, p. 75). [1]

Chinnamunda is in no sense the sole victim in this macabre horror story; rather, she also extracts her life energies from out of the erotic love between the two sexes, just like a Buddhist tantra master. Indeed, in her canonized iconographic form she dances about upon one or two pairs of lovers, who in some depictions are engaged in sexual congress. The Indologist David Kinsley thus sums up the events in a concise and revealing equation: “Chinnamasta [Chinnamunda] takes life and vigor from the copulating couple, then gives it away lavishly by cutting off her own head to feed her devotees” (Kinsley, 1986, p. 175). Thus, a “sacrificial couple” and the theft of their love energy are to be found at the outset of this so difficult to interpret blood rite.

A Kangra painting (c. 1800 CE) of Chhinnamasta.

Yet the mystery remains as to why this particular drama, with its three female protagonists, was adopted into Tantric Buddhist meditative practices. We can see only two possible explanations for this. Firstly, that it represents an attempt by Vajrayana to incorporate within its own system every sacrificial magic element, regardless how bizarre, and even if it originated among the followers of a matriarchal cult. By appropriating the absolutely foreign, the yogi all the more conspicuously demonstrates his omnipotence. Since he is convinced of his ability to — in the final instance — play all gender roles himself and since he also believes himself a lord over life and death, he thus also regards himself as the master of this Chinnamunda “female ritual”. The second possibility is that the self-sacrifice of the goddess functions as a veiled reference to the “tantric female sacrifice” performed by the yogi, which is nonetheless capable of being understood by the initiated. [2]


The broad distribution of human sacrifice in nearly all cultures of the world has for years occasioned a many-sided discussion among anthropologists and psychologist of the most varied persuasions as to the social function and meaning of the “sacrificium humanum”. In this, reference has repeatedly been made to the double-meaning of the sacrificial act, which simultaneously performs both a destructive and a regulative function in the social order. The classic example for this is the sacrifice of the so-called “scapegoat”. In this case, the members of a community make use of magical gestures and spells to transfer all of their faults and impurities onto one particular person who is then killed. Through the destruction of the victim the negative features of the society are also obliterated. The psychologist Otto Rank sees the motivation for such a transference magic in, finally, the individual’s fear of death. (quoted by Wilber, 1990, p. 176).

Another sacrificial gnosis, particularly predominant in matriarchal cults presupposes that fertility can be generated through subjecting a person to a violent death or bleeding them to death. Processes from the world of vegetative nature, in which plants die back every year in order to return in spring, are simulated. In this view, death and life stand in a necessary relation to one another; death brings forth life.

A relation between fertility and human sacrifice is also formed in the ancient Indian culture of the Vedas. The earth and the life it supports, the entire universe in fact, were formed, according to the Vedic myth of origin, by the independent self-dismemberment of the holy adamic figure Prajapati. His various limbs and organs formed the building blocks of our world. But these lay unlinked and randomly scattered until the priests (the Brahmans) came and wisely recombined them through the constant performance of sacrificial rites. Via the sacrifices, the Brahmans guaranteed that the cosmos remained stable, and that gave them enormous social power.

All these aspects may, at least in general, contribute to the “tantric female sacrifice”, but the central factors are the two elements already mentioned:

The destruction of the feminine as a symbol of the highest illusion (Hinayana and Mahayana Buddhism)

The sacrifice of the woman in order to absorb her gynergy (Tantrayana).

Let us close this chapter by once again summing up why the female sacrifice is essential for the tantric rite: Everything which opposes a detachment from this world, which is characterized by suffering and death, all the obscuring of Maya, the entire deception of samsara is the shameful work of woman. Her liquidation as an autonomous entity brings to nothing this world of appearances of ours. In the tantric logic of inversion, only transcending the feminine can lead to enlightenment and liberation from the hell of rebirth. It alone promises eternal life. The yogi may thus call himself a “hero” (vira), because he had the courage and the high arts needed to absorb the most destructive and most base being in the universe within himself, in order not just to render it harmless but to also transform it into positive energy for the benefit of all beings.

This “superhuman” victory over the “female disaster” convinced the Tantrics that the seed for a radical inversion into the positive is also hidden in all other negative deeds, substances, and individuals. The impure, the evil, and the criminal are thus the raw material from which the Vajra master tries to distill the pure, the good, and the holy.

-- The Shadow of the Dalai Lama: Sexuality, Magic and Politics in Tibetan Buddhism, by Victor and Victoria Trimondi

What could I do? I played the part of a peace-maker, and it was lucky that I succeeded in the office. I got the woman to go to bed on the one hand, and persuaded the Lama to spend the night with the Ladak trader, to whose tent I accompanied him. And so the last night I spent with my kind host brought me a rude awakening, which caused me to shed tears of deep sympathy, not necessarily for Alchu Tulku only, but for all my brethren of the Order, whose moral[103] weakness had betrayed them into breaking their vows of celibacy, and who in consequence were forced to go through scenes as I have described.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:21 am

CHAPTER XVIII. The Lighter Side of the Experiences.

On the 14th of July I bade adieu to Alchu Lama, and, riding on a horse he lent to me and in the company of the Ladak trader, I resumed my journey, now heading due north. My luggage was taken care of by my companion, who had six men under him and some ponies. First, we went through an undulating land where snow remained here and there, and grasses were struggling to grow. A ride of about fourteen miles brought us to the river Kyang-chu, whence, about fifty miles to the north-west, I saw a great snow-covered mountain. It was in that mountain that the river had its rise, and, following its course with my eye, I saw it flow into and disappear in the upper part of another elevation on the south-east. The Kyang-chu was about four hundred and fifty yards wide at places, while it narrowed to sixty yards or so at others, where its waters shot between walls of huge rocks. Before crossing the river we took our noon-meal. I was now a guest of my companion, and the latter’s men went about gathering fuel and getting things ready, while I sat down and read the Scriptures, and I had altogether an easy time of it. Before our parting, Alchu Lama had given me about five go, or about the fiftieth part of a peck of rice. I had this cooked, and invited my companion and all his men to partake of it. It was a grand treat; I had not tasted rice for a long time. Rice, by the way, comes to these regions from Nepāl, and costs about seventy sen per sho, or ten go.

The river had a sandy bed of considerable depth, and it was judged dangerous to make the ponies wade across it laden. All the baggage was therefore taken from their[105] backs, and carried across the stream piece by piece by the men, who had stripped themselves naked. My companion and I also divested ourselves of all our clothing, and began to cross the icy stream. Where we forded it, the breadth must have been more than four hundred yards. The depth of the water was from three to four feet, and another danger was from the blocks of ice floating down from the upper reaches, which we had to take good care to escape, for fear of receiving serious cuts. After hard efforts we reached the opposite shore, where, in the warm sun, I had time enough to recover myself from the effects of the cold water while the men repacked the baggage on the ponies.

Once more in the saddle, we turned north-west along the river, and after a jog of about fifteen miles we came upon a nomad station, where seven or eight tents were visible. We were lodged in the largest tent, the owner of which was an elderly man named Karma. The intimation that I had come from Alchu Lama at once secured me most hospitable treatment from Karma. In the Karma family I observed a very singular type of married life, almost unique even in the wondrous land of Tibet, where (as I will tell more in detail later on) nothing is more common than three or five brothers with one communal wife. In Karma’s case it was quite the opposite, for he was about fifty years old and had three wives, all living. The eldest Mrs. Karma was about forty-seven years of age, and blind; the next about thirty-five, and the third about twenty-five. Mr. Karma had a single child by his youngest wife. Polygamy is only very rarely practised in Tibet, though there are instances of two or three sisters taking, or marrying, one common husband for economy’s sake. Karma’s was the only instance I came across in Tibet in which one man deliberately indulged in the luxury of three wives.

Mr. Karma asked me to read the Sacred Books for his family, and I readily consented, for a couple of days’ rest was not disagreeable to me. While staying with him I bought an extra pair of boots, a precaution which I had foolishly omitted to take before, to my great inconvenience. I also purchased a sheep, to make it a beast of burden for me.

On July 18th I left Karma’s, with about fifty pounds of luggage on my back and twenty-five more on that of the sheep. I led the sheep with a yak’s tail rope tied to its neck. The animal proved docile enough for a couple of hundred yards, but not further. It wanted to go home, and tried to assert its right to do so with tremendous force. For my part, I stood on my own right, and there ensued a tug of war between the sheep and its master, and a very lively one it was. I argued with the animal, adducing various proofs of my determination, among which I may mention a rather free use of one of my staves. But the sheep showed that he had a stronger determination than mine, and I began to be dragged backward. My severe exertions even threatened to cause me some serious injury, and I finally gave in and allowed myself to be led back to Karma’s, as I had a mind to find out the best way of managing the animal. On my second call on him, Karma expressed his opinion that my sheep was not yet broken sufficiently for travelling purposes, and that the purchase of a better-trained one as its companion might induce the refractory animal to obey my will. I followed the suggestion and paid one yen twenty-five sen for an additional sheep; seventy sen would have bought me a younger one, but I wanted a fully grown and fully broken one, and I was obliged to stay there that night, for all his sheep had gone to the plains. On that very evening I bought another, and tried putting on his back one half of my share of the burden[107] of the morning; this one proved to be a very good companion to my first sheep, and things went splendidly on the trial.
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