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 4:22 am

CHAPTER XIX. The largest River of Tibet.

On the day I left Karma’s, about three o’clock in the afternoon I was overtaken by a party of men, the leader of whom happened to be, as I afterwards found, the chief of the district of Hor-tosho, through which I was then travelling. They accosted me. I saw in the glint of the chief’s eyes something that told me that he had half a mind to suspect me. I perceived at once the danger I might be in, and managed to bring the conversation round to the subject of Gelong Rinpoche. As good luck would have it, the chief happened to be a great believer in Gelong Rinpoche. Had I met the holy man? Yes! And more—I had been taught to study the mysteries of Boḍhi-saṭṭva and Mahā-saṭṭva, besides having been given many valuable presents by the saintly Teacher. All these incidents, of which I gave full particulars, had the effect of completely melting away the suspicion which had almost formed in the chief’s mind. He then invited me to come to his house-tent the next day and read the Sacred Books for him. His name was Wangdak.

On the following day Wangdak lent me a horse and caused his men to look after my luggage. A ride of something over ten miles brought me to the chief’s habitation, where I found his worldly possessions quite equal to the weighty position he held as a district chief. All went well. The next day Wangdak caused one of his men and a horse to accompany me for a distance of about six miles, at the end of which the servant with the horse took leave of me, after informing me that one night’s bivouac and some walking on a comparatively easy road would bring me to another nomad station.

In due time I reached this station, where I found four tents, on approaching which I was, as usual, met by a welcome-party of dogs. I shall say no more of the canine welcome, which is an invariable thing on arriving at a nomad’s tent. At one day’s distance from the station I was to come to Tamchok Khanbab, which forms the upper course of the Brahmapuṭra, and is the greatest of Tibetan rivers, and I needed a guide, without whom I could not think of any attempt to cross it. Unfortunately I found no one willing to become my guide, although I made liberal offers of money and other things of value. I was almost on the verge of despair, when a sickly looking old woman came to me. She said that she was very ill and begged me to examine her, and to tell her when she would die; a pleasant request, indeed! But I took pity on her, for I could see that hers was a case of consumption in its advanced stage. I granted her request, to please her, and also gave her some harmless medicine to ease her mind, besides telling her how to take care of herself, and other things such as a good doctor would say when he knows his patient to be in a hopeless condition, but not likely to die immediately. The old dame was gratified beyond measure, and wished to give me something in return, and she implored me to say what that something should be. Here was my chance. I told her the plight I was in, and asked her to secure, if possible, a couple of men and some horses—say three—to take me to, and help me to cross, the river on the morrow. Nothing could be easier; she was only too glad to be able to oblige so holy a Lama. When the morrow came all was done as I had requested. It is a general thing for a Tibetan pack-horse to carry on its back its driver and thirty pounds more or less of baggage. In my case the horses had an easier time of it, because my luggage was distributed on three of them. We started at five o’clock in the morning, and having covered about[110] seventeen miles by eleven o’clock, we arrived on the banks of the Tamchok Khanbab. Here I prepared my noon-meal in the usual manner, and took it before crossing the river.

This river was a mountain stream of considerable breadth, with extensive sand-beaches on either side. The width of the beach alone on the eastern side was about two and a half miles, and that on the opposite side about half as much; the width of the stream itself, when I crossed it, was not more than a little over a mile. It was at the water’s edge that we took our meal. When all was ready for crossing, I once more felt the necessity of anointing my body, but at the same time I also felt the undesirability of letting my guides see what I was doing. Under a certain pretext, therefore, I walked away from them, and when out of their sight I quickly finished the operation. Then we plunged into the water. The condition of the stream with its cuttingly cold water was much the same as that of the Kyang-chu (except for the greater width to be forded) and the water in some places was not more than seven or eight inches deep; but the sand was so treacherous that we often sank in it right up to our hips. In this case, as in the other, my guides took my luggage on their backs, leaving the horses behind, and also helped my sheep to cross. Upon terra firma on the other side, my men pointed to a gorge between two mountains rising to the north-west, and told me that I was to go through the gorge, and thence to Lake Mānasarovara, after traversing an uninhabited region for fifteen or sixteen days; the road would take me to Mānasarovara first and then to Kang Rinpoche. I thanked my guides for their trouble and information, and gave them each a Kata. A kata is a small piece of thin white silk, which Tibetans present as a compliment. It generally accompanies a present, but is also given away by itself. The men, after[111] advising me to recite the Sacred Text from time to time, in order that I might not be set upon and devoured by snow-leopards, bowed their farewell and were gone, recrossing the river.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:23 am

CHAPTER XX. Dangers begin in Earnest.

After leaving the sandy beach of the Brahmapuṭra behind, about a quarter of a mile’s trudging brought me to the outer edge of another expanse of undulating plain, the elevations here and there assuming the height of hills. Following the upper course of the river to the north-west, I saw the titanic heights of the Himālayas, rising one above another. Here I had to pasture my sheep, and, while taking a rest myself, I drank deep and full of the grandeur of the scenery. The sight here obtainable of the mighty peaks covered with glittering snow from the top to the bottom was sublime in the extreme, incomparably more so than what one sees from Darjeeling or Nepāl. As for the Brahmapuṭra, it looked like a shining streamer hung out from the bosom of a great mountain, and waving down and across an immense plain, till the eyes could follow it no more. The sight gave me an uta:

The distant clouds about the snowy range
Pour forth the mighty Brahmaputra stream,
That darts into the farthest skies which meet
The far horizon of the distant lands.
The river in its pride majestic seems
The waving standard of the Buddha, named
Vairochana, all Nature’s Brilliant Lord.

Like all the others of my production, this may not be worth the name of uta. Call it a silly conceit of imagination, if you like; but when I made these lines, I was feeling so jubilant that I could not help giving vent to my emotion; for, conceit or no conceit, the imagination would have been impossible to me, had I not succeeded in penetrating into the untrodden wilderness of Tibet.

The sheep had now finished grazing, and dividing the burden of my luggage among the three—myself and the two sheep—I started making easy progress onward. I found the country around full of pools of water, varying in size all the way from a hundred yards to a mile or so in circumference, and I gave it the name of Chi-ike-ga Hara—Plain of a thousand Ponds. About four o’clock in the afternoon I finished the day’s journey by encamping near a good-sized pond. I then went about to collect the usual fuel, but found none, except the dung of the wild horse, and I concluded that the neighborhood was never visited even by yaks. The night was extremely cold, so much so that I could not sleep at all, and the following is an uta that occurred to me in the midst of shivering:

On these high plateaux here no sound is heard
Of man or beast, no crickets sing their tunes,
The moon above, and I, her friend, below.

The following day I made about twelve miles before noon, over a country much the same in topography. Proceeding north-west in the afternoon, I came to the base of a huge mountain of snow, which I could not think of crossing. For a while I went into meditation, and then wended my way in a direction which fortunately proved to be the right one for my purpose, as I found out afterwards. Right in the direction, but all wrong in other respects, as what I have to tell will show.

As I pushed onwards, I soon came upon a region which was quite the opposite of the country I had traversed in its entire absence of water supply; neither a pool nor a brook was to be seen within the eye’s range. I continued my progress until about seven o’clock in the evening—I had walked about twenty-seven miles, all told, that day—but not a drop of water could I find, and I felt as withered up as could be. As for my sheep, there was some green grass growing for them to graze on.[114] I had no tea—in fact could not have any—that evening before I went to sleep. It is wonderful how one gets accustomed even to hardships; I slept well that night.


Before sunrise the next morning, on resuming my journey, I thought I espied a stream of water coursing through a sandy country at a distance which I judged to be about seven miles in the direction of my progress. Not having had a drop of water, or anything whatever in liquid form, since the afternoon of the previous day, I was of course thirsty; but now I had prospect at least of obtaining some quenching draught, and allaying the thirst with a pinch of hotan, now and then, I made good headway. On reaching the supposed river, what was my disappointment and dismay! Instead of a stream of[115] water, I found there the dry bed of a river, strewn with white pebbles glittering in the sun! Then I could not help imagining myself to be a mere shadow, wandering in mad quest of a soothing draught in the hot region of the nether world, where all water turned into fire when brought to the mouth. Once more I stood me unto my full length, and looked round for water; but none could be seen, nothing but some blades of grass growing here and there to the height of about five or six inches. I could do nothing but endure the thirst, and wend my way on in the direction I had chosen—north-west. After proceeding for some distance, I once more thought that I perceived a body of water in the midst of another desert of sand, but on coming to the spot the glittering specks of sand once more disillusioned me only to intensify my thirst.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:24 am

CHAPTER XXI. Overtaken by a Sand-Storm.

The tormenting thirst which I experienced after my second disappointment simply beggars description. To say that I felt as if my entire internal system were becoming parched is only to put it mildly. But, however excruciating the torture might be, there was no help for it after all but to move on in the hope of finding some water; even the hope itself was now almost deserting me. I really felt that I should die of thirst if I should fail to get some moisture during the rest of the day, and were to pass another night waterless. I had been constantly taking some hotan; but even that cooling fragrance seemed to increase the distressing dryness. Thank heaven! about eleven o’clock I came within sight of a declivity, and somehow I felt sure that I should find some water at its bottom. Buḍḍha be praised! I was right: there was some water. But alas! such water! To take the luggage off my back, get out a wooden bowl, and run down into the hollow was the work of an instant. But when I fetched out a bowlful of the water, lo and behold! it was vermilion red, thick and (what was worse) alive with myriads of little creatures! In short, it was a stagnant pool of water, which for all I knew might have been becoming putrid for years. Imagine how I then felt! I was dying with thirst, but the very look of the water was forbidding. Then my religious scruples disallowed my swallowing any water with living things in it. It was not long, however, before I remembered a teaching of the Blessed Buḍḍha, in which the Lord telleth that when water which is to be drunk contains living things, it should be strained through a piece of woven stuff. I went[118] through the process; but the water remained red. There were no more moving things in it, however, and I took a good long draught of the vermilion liquid. That quenching draught, how delicious it was! I imagine God’s nectar could not be sweeter. But a second bowlful—no, I could not take it. In the usual manner, then, I built a fire and went about boiling the filtered water. It was well-nigh twelve o’clock, however, before the kettle began to boil, and it being against my rule, as already told, to take any meal after noon, I prepared baked flour with the red lukewarm water. And the lunch I then took was one of the most enjoyable I ever had in Tibet.


I had proceeded over the sandy desert for about two and a half miles, after that memorable lunch, and it was now past three o’clock in the afternoon, when a terrific sand-storm arose. A sand-storm is something which one can never experience, or form any idea of, in Japan. As strong gust after gust of wind arose, the loose sand actually surged into big billows, tossing, dashing, tumbling, and sweeping, like the angry waves of the mighty ocean. The wind burrowed deep into the ground here and built high hills of sand there, filling the air with blinding particles, which rested in heaps on the luggage, penetrated down the neck, and made impossible any progress forward, while to stand still was to risk being buried alive. Not knowing what else to do, I kept moving just to shake off the sand, and to avoid being inhumed, while reciting in silence some passages of the Holy Text.

Fortunately the storm lasted for only about an hour, and it subsided with the same suddenness with which it arose. Then I resumed my advance, and by about five o’clock I reached a place grown over with creeping grass, and low thorny bush, the leaves of which were not green but dark to almost blackness, owing probably to the cold climate. There I bivouacked for the night, and I had an[119] abundance of fuel with which to make a fire, and afterwards thoroughly enjoyed my sleep, as I had not done for many a night.

The next morning, after traversing the bush-land, I came to the foot of a mountain which I had to climb. When half way up the slope I saw a mountain stream flowing across my road, and it presented a rather curious sight. For the river, at a very short distance, broadened into a lake, and almost described a right angle when flowing out of this and into another basin. Afterwards I ascertained the name of this river to be Chema-yungdung-gi-chu, and that its waters flowed into the Brahmapuṭra. I shuddered at the thought of having once more to cross an icy mountain stream, but there was no help.

It was only nine o’clock in the morning when I reached the Chema-yungdung-gi-chu, and I found ice quite thick still along its banks. I waited till the ice began to melt, and I finished the noon-meal before making a plunge into the water, not forgetting of course the anointing process. My intention was to make my sheep carry their shares of the luggage across the river; but to this proposal they strenuously objected, probably knowing instinctively the depth of the water. In the end I gave in, relieved the animals of their burden, and, leaving the luggage behind, I led them into the water by their ropes. I tucked up my clothes high, but the water proved to be much deeper than I had judged; it came up to my shoulders, and all the clothing I had on became wet through. The sheep proved good swimmers, and we managed to get to the other side without any accident; of course they might have been washed down and drowned, but for the assistance I gave them by means of the ropes. Once on the bank, I tied one end of the ropes to a large boulder, and after taking off all my clothing to get dry I, stark naked, made a second plunge and returned for my luggage. The second crossing was comparatively[120] easy. After a rest of about half an hour, and a thorough anointing for the second time, I made all my baggage into one bundle to be balanced on my head. With that acrobatic equipment, I entered the stream for a third time. All went well, until, in mid-stream, I lost my foothold, treading on a slippery stone in the bottom, and, what with the weight of the luggage on my head, and more or less exhaustion after the repeated wadings, I fell down into the water, while the bundle slid off my head. I had no time even to bring my staff into service; all I could do was to take firm hold of my luggage, and try to swim with one hand; for I was being fast carried down into deep waters. The thought then occurred to me that, if I tried to save my luggage, I might lose my life. But a second thought made it plain to me that to lose my luggage would mean surer death, because my route lay for ten days, at least, over an uninhabited tract of wilderness, and thus it was wiser to cling to it while life lasted. And cling to my luggage I did, but I was rapidly losing the power of moving my free swimming arm, and, in only one hundred yards down the swift stream, I should be washed into one of the lakes, whence I might never be able to get to dry land. I should have said that the river, at the point where I was crossing it, was a hundred and eighty yards wide, more or less. I had now had quite a course of ice and water—all involuntarily certainly—and a feeling of numbness was quickly coming over me. I began to think that it might be just as well to be drowned then as to die of starvation afterwards. In fact, I had spoken my last desire: “O ye! All the Buḍḍhas of the ten quarters, as well as the highest Teacher of this world, Buḍḍha Shākyamuni! I am not able to accomplish my desires and to return the kindness of my parents, friends, followers and specially the favors of all the Buḍḍhas, in this life; but I desire that I be born again, in order to requite the favors[121] which I have already received from all.” At that moment, with a thrill, I felt that the end of one of my staves had touched something hard. In an instant courage returned to me, and on trying to stand up I found that the water was only up to my breast. I was at that time about forty yards from the bank I had started for. Feeble as I was, with recovered strength I finally managed to reach the “shore of salvation”. As for the luggage, heavy with the soaking water, it was impossible for me to rebalance it on my head, and I pulled it along after me in the water; but when I at last got upon the bank, it taxed all my remaining energy to drag it out after me. Arrived on the bank, I found that I had been carried more than two hundred and fifty yards down the stream from the point whence I started to cross it, and I saw my sheep leisurely grazing, perfectly unconscious of their master’s sad plight. I had no strength, then, even to crawl up to where my sheep were. My fingers were stiff and immovable, and I rubbed the[122] regions over my heart and lungs with closed fists. After an hour’s exercise of this kind, I more or less recovered the circulation of blood in my limbs, and I was just able partially to undo my baggage and to take out hotan—hotan, my life-saving hotan, which Mrs. Ichibei Watanabe of Osaka gave me, when bidding me farewell. A dose of hotan sent me into a fit of convulsions, which lasted for nearly three hours. It was now past five o’clock, and the sun was going down. The convulsions had almost left me. I then made two bundles of my luggage, and in two crawling trips I carried them to where I had left my sheep grazing. It was then that I thought of an ancient method of torture, called Oi-ishi, which consisted in making a suspect carry on his back an extremely heavy load—so rackingly heavy I then felt to be the weight of my divided luggage. That evening I had neither courage nor energy to make any fire, and I passed the night wrapped up in my half-wet tuk-tuk. The luggage having been done up in hides and skins, the water had not penetrated much into it, and I was thus able to go to sleep dressed, and protected in partially dry apparel.

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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:25 am

CHAPTER XXII. 22,650 Feet above Sea-level.

The sun shone out brightly the next morning, and I dried my clothing and the collection I then had of the sacred Scriptures. The latter I still have in my possession, and every time I take them out, I cannot help wondering how my life was spared when those things got wet. By one o’clock in the afternoon I was ready to proceed, although I had not half recovered from the effect of my experience of the day before, and my things were far from being dry. Consequently even my own share of the luggage proved heavier than before, while circumstances compelled me to relieve my sheep of a part of theirs. To make things worse, I had managed to get a painful cut on one of my feet during my last effort to cross the Chema-yungdung-gi-chu, and altogether it was an inauspicious start which I made on that afternoon. After all, however, a step forward meant a step nearer to my destination, and with that philosophical reasoning I dragged myself onward. In that way I had proceeded for about five miles, when, to increase my difficulties, snow began to fall thick and fast. When I had arrived near a small pond and stopped to bivouac for the night, fire and tea were entirely out of the question, for the elements were now engaged in a fearful strife—the dazzling lightning, the deafening thunder, the shrieking wind and the blinding blizzard were at war all at once. That which I had managed to dry tolerably the day before became thoroughly wet again, and the whole of the following morning was spent in repeating the process of the preceding morning. No fire was obtainable even then, and consequently no tea; so I allayed my hunger with some raisins before resuming my journey[124] shortly after noon. And little I dreamt of the danger that was in store for me that afternoon and the day following.

I was still heading for the north-west, and in order to adhere to that course I must now climb a snow-clad peak towering into the sky; I saw no way of avoiding the task, and encouraged by an uncertain hope—still a hope—of emerging upon or near Kang Rinpoche, or in the neighborhood of Mount Kailāsa, I began the ascent of that great hill, which I afterward ascertained to be a peak called Kon Gyu-i Kangri, that rises twenty-two thousand six hundred and fifty feet above sea-level. By five o’clock in the afternoon I had made an ascent of about ten miles, and then it began to snow and to blow a gale. I thought it dangerous to continue my ascent under these conditions, and turning first north and then east, I essayed to make a rapid descent. The sun had now gone down, and snow was falling faster than ever. But I had not yet found a shelter and so continued my descent, having made up my mind to go on until I found a hospitable shelving cliff, or some such haven. It was, however, nothing but snow, snow, everywhere and all around—and presently there were twelve inches on the ground. By and by my sheep refused to proceed further, whether owing to hunger or not I could not tell, though it was plain that they had not fed the whole afternoon, because of the snow. At first I succeeded in getting them to move on a little as the result of some physical reasoning, but presently even that process of pleading failed. But the prospect of being frozen to death prevented me from yielding to their not unreasonable obstinacy, and putting all my strength into the ropes I dragged them onward. The poor animals reluctantly obeyed me and walked on for about a hundred yards, at the end of which, however, they came to a dead stop and began to breathe heavily. Thereupon I felt[126] no little alarm, thinking that the animals might die that night. But what could I do? I knew that I was many a days’ journey at least from the nearest human habitation. A few more miles either way would not make much difference: so let fate decide. Once in that frame of mind, I took out my night-coverings and wrapped myself up and, protecting my head with a water-proof coat, I sat myself down between my two sheep, with the determination to pass the night in religious meditation.


My poor sheep! They crept close to me and lay there in the snow, emitting occasionally their gentle cry, which I thought had never sounded sadder. Nor had I ever felt so lonely as I did then. Wrapped up in the clumsy manner that I have described, I still managed to smear over my body the clove-oil, which seemed to prevent to some extent the radiation of the heat of the body, and I began to feel considerably warmer than I had been before. For all that, the cold increased in intensity after midnight, and I began to feel that my power of sensation was gradually deserting me. I seemed to be in a trance, and vaguely thought that that must be the feeling of a man on the point of death.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:26 am

CHAPTER XXIII. I survive a Sleep in the Snow.

I was now wandering in a dream-land, if I may so describe the mental condition of a man half-way on the road of being frozen to death. Regret, resignation, and the hope of re-birth took turns in my mind, and then all became a blank. During that blankness I no doubt looked exactly like a dead person. Suddenly I awoke, fancying that somebody, something, was stirring about me or near me. I opened my eyes, and saw the two sheep shaking themselves; they were shaking snow off their bodies. That was strange, I dreamily thought. I saw the sheep finish shaking off the snow, and I wanted to shake it off too. But I could not. I was rigid all over. Mechanically I next endeavored to recover the use of my limbs. Presently I became more myself mentally, and I saw the skies still presenting a dismal and threatening appearance, the immense patches of black, black cloud still fleeing or pursuing, and the sun struggling to force his life-giving rays between the intervals of the hurrying vapors. On taking out my watch I found that it was then half past ten—of what morning I could not tell. Had I slept only one night, or two in the snow? The question was more than I could just then solve. Nor did I feel that there was any necessity for its instant solution. My immediate desire was for nourishment, and I took some baked flour, helping it down with snow. I gave some also to my sheep, which, by that time, had learnt to feed themselves on flour when green grass was lacking.

I felt that the condition of my health was not equal to the task of making a second attempt to climb over the[128] Kon Gyu-i Kangri, and I continued the descent when I resumed my journey, with the intention of taking a long rest at the foot of the mountain. After going down more than five miles I came to another mountain stream, and at the same time down again came the snow. I almost trembled at a prospect of spending another perilous night in the snow. Just at that juncture I heard some clear, ringing sounds, as of a bird’s cry. Turning round, I saw seven or eight cranes stalking along majestically in the shallow part of the river. Never before had I seen a sight so poetically picturesque, so representative of antique serenity. Some little time afterwards I composed an uta in memory of that enchanting scene:

Like feathers white the snows fall down and lie
There on the mountain-river’s sandy banks;
Ko-kow, Ko-kow! sounds strange—a melody
I hear—I search around for this strange cry.
In quiet majesty those mountain cranes
I find, are proudly strutting—singing thus.

The river was about one hundred and twenty yards wide, and crossing it, I still proceeded down the incline. I had now come to the bottom of a valley, and I saw at a distance what I took for a herd of yaks. But I had before been deceived quite often by exposed boulders and rocks which I had taken for yaks, and I was doubtful of my vision on that occasion. But presently I saw the dark objects moving about, and I was sure that they were yaks. The discovery, wholly unexpected as it was, was delightful, for their presence implied that of some fellow-creatures in the neighborhood. Coming up to the spot, I found that the herd consisted of about sixty yaks, attended by some herdsmen. On my questioning the men, they informed me that they had arrived at the spot the evening before, and that a little further on I should come upon a little camp of four tents. Towards these I forthwith directed my steps.

My arrival in front of one of the tents was, as usual, hailed by a pack of barking dogs. I begged the occupants of the first tent for a night’s lodging, but met with a flat refusal. Probably my appearance was against me: I had not shaved for two months, and my unkempt hair and beard no doubt made me look wild, while under-feeding and general exhaustion cannot have improved my features. Still I pleaded for charity, but in vain. Dejectedly I moved to a second tent, but there too I received no better treatment. In fact the treatment was worse: for my urgent pleading, with a detailed account of my sufferings during the previous eight days or so, only seemed to make the master of the tent turn colder, even to the extent of finally charging me with an intention to rob him. That was enough. I turned away, and a great sadness came over me as I stood in the snow. My sheep bleated pitifully, and I felt like crying myself. A third tent stood near, but I could not muster courage enough to repeat my request there. The sight of my sheep was melancholy in the extreme, and with an effort I made an appeal at the fourth and last tent. To my great joy, I met a ready welcome. I was utterly tired out, but a quiet rest near a comfortable fire made me imagine the joys of paradise, and this I was allowed to enjoy all that evening and through the next day. During that stay I occupied my time in writing down the twenty-six desires which I had formulated, with the hope of their accomplishment proving helpful to the spiritual need of others as well as myself.

At five o’clock on the second morning I thanked my host for his hospitality and left him. I now proceeded due north and, after trudging over snow for nearly ten miles, I came out upon a more or less grass-covered plain. By noon I had arrived near a pond, and there took my midday meal. A survey from that point showed me that I had[130] to cross a sandy desert, which appeared to be larger in extent than the one I had traversed after crossing the Chema Yungdung. The thought of another sand-storm gave me new energy, born of fear, and I made no halt until I had walked quite out of the desert.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:27 am

CHAPTER XXIV. ‘Bon’ and ‘Kyang.’

I walked about five miles over the sand and then reached a piece of grass-land. Beyond this I came to a plain of stones of curious shapes, in the centre of which a solitary mountain rose to a considerable height. I subsequently learned that the mountain was the sacred abode of the deities of the Bon religion. Bonism is an ancient religion of Tibet, which commanded considerable influence before the introduction of Buḍḍhism into that country. It has still some adherents, but it continues to exist only for its name’s sake. Originally Bonism very much resembled Hinḍuism; but now, in theory, it is almost Buḍḍhism. This similarity is explained in this way. When it was superseded by Buḍḍhism, a certain Bon priest recast his religion after the pattern of Buḍḍhism, and called the revised product the New Bonism. Without attempting to give any special particulars of its doctrines, I may say that the New Bonism, when shorn of its sacrifices, its toleration of marriage and of the use of intoxicants, is only Buḍḍhism under another name. The Bon deities have no shrines or temples dedicated to them, and are believed to inhabit some particular mountain, or snowy peak, or pond, or lake. And it was upon one of these divine abodes that I had chanced, but lacking at the time all knowledge of Bonism, my attention was soon diverted by coming in sight of a couple of kyangs.

The Bon-pos founded a number of monasteries in the Buddhist fashion for the residence of the monks "who lived according to rules of an order along the lines of the Buddhist Order, and went in for philosophy, mysticism and new fashioned magic, religious festivals and the carrying around the sacred objects in procession".1 [The Religions of Tibet, pp. 97, 98] The Bon-pos used the holy objects in the opposite direction, instead of clockwise direction, as in Buddhism. Their Swastika, the mystic cross called in Tibetan Gyung-drung "and did not turn dextrously as that of Lamaism do, but symmetrically, to left instead of right.' They used to chant the famous formula, 'Om Matri Muye Sale du' in place of the sacred Avalokitesvara formula of the Lamas 'Om Mani Padme hum.' Rockhill writes2 [The Life of Buddha, p. 206] that "the Buddhist influence is so manifest in it (Bon) that is impossible to consider it as giving us very correct ideas of what this religion was before it came to contact with Buddhism."

The bon-po religion has repeatedly been said to be the same as that of the Tao-sse and it is remarkable that these two religions have drawn so largely from Buddhist ideas that they have nearly identified themselves with it. "The Bon-pos had no literature of their own. They took over the Buddhist excerpts and symbols on a vast scale, thereby creating a literature and an iconography very similar to those of the Buddhists as to be almost indistinguishable to casual observers."

In the G-Zer-myig is given a broad survey of the world of gods, i.e., the pantheon of the Bon-pos. The pantheon of the bon-pos has been very much enlarged like that of Lamaism. Hoffman writes3 [The Religions of Tibet, p. 101] that" ... in addition to the pantheon of the later Bon religion created primarily in Zhang-zhung under Western Asiatic and Buddhist influence, the old, so to speak anonymous gods of the animist, shamanist era have remained alive in the minds of the common people. The highest principle of this religion and at the same time the transcendental Urguru from which all enlightened understanding comes, and which in type is similar to the 'Adibuddha of many of the Vajrayana system is called Kun0tu-bzang-po, in Sanskrit Samantabhadra, in other words, it bears the same name as the Adibuddha of Padmaism, to which, of course, the syncretic bon religion bears a close resemblance. Philosophically considered, this Samantabhadra represents the ultimate absolute, the Dharmakaya, called here the Bon substance (Bon-sku) a concept which despite many positive characteristics (conscious bliss) seems to be largely the same as the Mahayana 'Voidness.'"

In the Bon pantheon Bon-sku-kun-tu-bzang-po is the supreme deity and Bon-skyong (Dharmapala), a guardian deity, a nine headed enormity,1 [S.C. Das, J.B.T.S., 1, iii. appendix 1, 1881), p. 197] as his sister Srid-pai's rgyal-mo who has three eyes and six arms is taken to be Sri devi (Tara) of Lamaism. There are numerous dreadful gods with human or animal heads. There are further other gods with heads of various animals, such as, pigs, horses, bulls and tigers. Those apart, there is a special group of gods dwelling on the tops of the sacred mountain Kailasa.2 [Hoffmann, The Religions of Tibet, p. 104]

It is interesting to note in this connection that in the Bon-pantheon, goddesses take precedence over the gods and the female priests are regarded superior to the male priests in this religion.3 [J.B.T.S. 1, iii, appendix 1, and Journal of the Asiatic Society, 1881, 197n] Lastly, the Bon-pos have monasteries of their own in which there are many images of gods, saints and demons like those of Lamaism, but with different names thereof.

Sacrifices of animals and even human beings and such other practices were openly indulged in and they formed an important part in the religious observances of the Bon.4 [Cf. J.A.S.B. 1881, 198n] A fair idea about the original character of the Bon-po rituals can be had from the ancient manuscripts (9th or 10th cent. A.D.) where the Tibetan rites are described.5 [R.A. Stein, Tibetan Civilization, p. 25] "The officers are assembled once every year for the lesser oath of fealty. They sacrifice sheep, dogs, and monkeys, first breaking their legs and then killing them, afterwards exposing their intestines and cutting them into pieces. The sorcerers having been summoned, they call on the gods of heaven and earth, of the mountains and rivers, of the sun, moon, stars, and planets, saying: "should your hearts become changed, and your thoughts disloyal, the gods will see clearly and make you like these sheep and dogs." Every three years there is a grand ceremony during which all are assembled in the middle of the night on a raised altar, on which are spread savoury meat. The victims sacrificed as men, horses, oxen and asses, and prayers are offered in this form: "Do you all with one heart and united strength cherish our native country. The gods of heaven, and the spirit of the earth will both know your thoughts and if you break this oath they will cause your bodies to be cut into pieces like unto these victims."1 [The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1880, p. 441]

As already observed, the offering up of the animal sacrifices was the most important feature of the old Bon religion. When Buddhism became the state religion the Bon-pos were prohibited to indulge further in such practices. But this form of sacrifice could not be entirely eradicated because of the deep conviction of the people. Substitutes for living animals were sacrificed instead, representations of yaks and sheep, and wooden carving of deer heads.

We have further from the gZer-myig2 [Hoffmann, The Religions of tibet, p. 22, c/Albert Tafel, Meine Tibetreise, Vol. II, pp. 153, 198, Notes 2, 232, 236] the description of a human sacrifice for the recovery of a sick prince. It writes: 'the soothsayer seized the man by the feet whilst the Bon-po took his hands. The black Han-dha then cut open the life orifice and tore out the heart. The two, the soothsayer and the Bon-po, then scattered out the blood and flesh of the victim to the four corners of the heaven.' It should be mentioned that with the light of Indian civilization introduced by Buddhism the adherents of Bon were obliged to give up their human and animal sacrifices, and instead use little statue made of dough containing barley-flower butter and water. "Bonpos were now prohibited making human and other bloody sacrifice as was their wont; and hence is said to have arisen the practice of offering images of men and animals made of dough." Its mythology is exceedingly complicated. It enumerates an endless number of spirits or divinities, all hostile to man and it is necessary to propitiate them by continual sacrifices. Even down to the present day some Bon practices still exist in parts of Eastern and South-Eastern Tibet; the most populous part of the country. Dr. Hoffmann1 [The Religions of Tibet, p. 22] writes 'that followers of Bon religion are still using the blood of cocks to conjure peace.'....

Thus we know very little about the original nature of the Bon religion because of dearth of positive evidence. Our knowledge of its actual nature is rather vague and fragmentary. Hoffmann2 [The Religions of Tibet, p. 15] writes: "What the original Bon religion was like before it came into contact with Buddhism, but this is made difficult by the great dearth of authentic documentary evidence. In fact, actual documents from those early days are unknown, and they can hardly have existed in any case, because it was not until the first half of the seventh century that, under Buddhist influence, Tibet received a written language and a literature." "The Buddhist influence," observe Rockhill, "is so manifest in it [Bon] that it is impossible to consider it as giving us very correct ideas of what this religion was before it came in contact with Buddhism."3 [The Life of Buddha, p. 206] Furthermore, F.A. Stein4 [Tibetan Civilization, p. 229] says: "The history and characteristics of this religion [Bon] are still subject to considerable uncertainty at least as far as the early period is concerned."...

In fine, from the sense of the Tibetan word, it may be said that Bon was originally an aspect of Tantra cult. It was amalgamated into the Buddhist esoteric faith later on. Several other reformed Tibetan sects were further brought forth thereon.

-- Bon, The Primitive Religion of Tibet, by Prof. Anukul Chandra Banerjee, Gangtok


As I have already said, kyang is the name given by the Tibetans to the wild horse of their northern steppes. More accurately it is a species of ass, quite as large in size as a large Japanese horse. In color it is reddish brown, with black hair on the ridge of the back and black mane[133] and with the belly white. To all appearance it is an ordinary horse, except for its tufted tail. It is a powerful animal, and is extraordinarily fleet. It is never seen singly, but always in twos or threes, if not in a herd of sixty or seventy. Its scientific name is Equus hemionis, but it is for the most part called by its Tibetan name, which is usually spelt kyang in English. It has a curious habit of turning round and round, when it comes within seeing distance of a man. Even a mile and a quarter away, it will commence this turning round at every short stage of its approach, and after each turn it will stop for a while, to look at the man over its own back, like a fox. Ultimately it comes up quite close. When quite near it will look scared, and at the slightest thing will wheel round and dash away, but only to stop and look back. When one thinks that it has run far away, it will be found that it has circled back quite near, to take, as it were, a silent survey of the stranger from behind. Altogether it is an animal of very queer habits.

But to come back to my story: my two sheep, apparently frightened by the approach of the rotating horses, made a dash for freedom with such suddenness and simultaneity that I lost my hold of the two ropes; I then proceeded to run a race with them, in a frantic effort to recapture them. And a ludicrous race it was, in which I finally fell panting and giddy. While it lasted the horses seemed thoroughly to enjoy it, and getting into the spirit of the thing they galloped with me, but only to chase my sheep further away from me. When I lay prostrate, the sheep stopped running and began quietly to graze. The horses also stopped, and appeared quite astonished at the whole performance. I then perceived my blunder. On rising, I quietly walked up to my sheep, and without a movement they allowed me to regain their ropes.

All is well that ends well. But on that occasion one thing was not quite satisfactory, for I soon discovered that one of my sheep had lost a part of my luggage from its back, no doubt during that memorable race. I then set out to hunt after the lost bundle; but it was all useless, for we had not run the race over any regular course, and it was impossible to follow our footsteps. One may as well look for a parcel lost in the sea, as try to hunt up a small bundle, lying hidden under grass and leaves, somewhere in an immense plain. Besides, I argued with myself thus: the missing bundle contained some fifty rupees in cash, my watch and compass, and an assortment of western trinkets; it would have been better not to lose the money, certainly, but it was, after all, a small portion of what I had with me, and I could do well without it. It was hard to part with the watch and the compass, and the trinkets would have been of service in making friends with the simple natives; but, looked at from another point of view, the possession of these things might arouse the suspicion of the more intelligent Tibetans, and it was most likely that the Lord Buḍḍha, in His wisdom and mercy, had caused me to be rid of them. Arriving at this conclusion, I gave up my search in a spirit of meek resignation.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:27 am

CHAPTER XXV. The Power of Buddhism.

I had now walked about six miles to the north-west after the singular proceedings which I described in the last chapter, and I emerged upon a well-trodden road, which on consulting my store of information I was able to identify as the path that, deviating from the Tibetan national high-way, led to lake Mānasarovara. The discovery was as unexpected as it was pleasing, for I was now within a pilgrim-frequented zone. A few more steps, indeed, brought me in sight of a dark tent, standing on the banks of a large river, named Gaṅgā by the Tibetans, where my appeal for a night’s lodging was cheerfully granted. I found the occupants of the tent to consist of three men and two women, the men being brothers, one of the women the wife of the eldest brother, and the other a daughter of another of the brothers. My first inclination on being received into the tent was to feel easy in mind, for I had been told that parties comprising women, even in Tibetan wilds, seldom commit murder. But when I was informed that these people were from Dam Gya-sho, I thought I was rather hasty in feeling so secure, for that country, like the neighboring one of Kham, is noted for its production of professional robbers and murderers. I had heard before that they had even such a saying in that country as: “No murder, no food; no pilgrimage, no absolution. On! onward on your pilgrimage, killing men and visiting temples, killing men and visiting temples!” Even women of that country, I had been told, think no more of committing homicide than of killing a sheep. These reflexions did not bring much cheer to my heart; but what could I do, since I was now[136] in their hands? I could only bide my time. Fortunately, they did not butcher me that night.

Early on August 3rd, that is to say, on the morning of the following day, I proceeded in a north-westerly direction along the great stream, with my newly-made companions, for such had the occupants of the tent become, as they were heading for the same temporary destination as myself. This river, I ascertained, had its rise in one of the snowy peaks that I saw to the south-east, and emptied its waters into Lake Mānasarovara. I judged it to be about two hundred and fifty yards wide and fairly deep. Following the stream for about three and three-quarters miles and then making an ascent, we came to a clear, bubbling spring, which went by the name of Chumik Gaṅgā or the source of the Gaṅgā, and we drank deep of the sacred water. Then we continued our climb, now facing north, and arrived at another spring, which was welling up in a most picturesque way from under an immense slab of white marble. The natives call it Chumik thong-ga Rangchung, or the fountain of joy, and it really made one’s heart glad to look at the crystal-like water gushing up in all its purity. Both these springs are regarded by the Hinḍūs, as by the Tibetans, as forming the sources of the sacred Gaṅgā, and are both looked up to with religious reverence.

After leaving the springs, we proceeded north-west again, and came once more to the river Gaṅgā, which we forded at the point where it was at its broadest in that vicinity, and passed the night on its banks. We had travelled only about nine miles that day. From the place of our bivouac I saw to the north-west a great snow-clad mountain: it was the Kang Rinpoche of Tibet, the Mount Kailāsa of the Hinḍū. Its ancient name was Kang Tise. As far as my knowledge goes, it is the most ideal of the snow-peaks of all the Himālayas. It inspired me with the profoundest[137] feelings of pure reverence, and I looked up to it as a ‘natural maṇdala,’ the mansion of a Buḍḍha and Boḍhisaṭṭvas. Filled with soul-stirring thoughts and fancies I addressed myself to this sacred pillar of nature, confessed my sins, and performed to it the obeisance of one hundred and eight bows. I also took out the manuscript of my ‘twenty-six desires,’ and pledged their accomplishment to the Buḍḍha. I then considered myself the luckiest of men, to have thus been enabled to worship such a holy emblem of Buḍḍha’s power, and to vow such vows in its sacred presence, and I mused:

Whate’er my sufferings here and dangers dire,
Whate’er befalls me on my onward march,
All, all, I feel, is for the common good
For others treading on Salvation’s path.

The sight of my performance of these devotional practices must have been a matter of wonder and mystery to my companions. They had been watching me like gaping and astonished children, and were all intensely curious to know why I had bowed so many times, and read out such strange Chinese sentences. I was glad to explain to them the general meaning of my conduct and they seemed to be deeply struck with its significance. They said that they had never known that the Chinese Lamas were men of such Boḍhisaṭṭvic mind! The upshot was that they asked me to preach to them that night, a request to which I was very glad to accede. The preaching which followed, which I purposely made as simple and as appealing to the heart as possible, seemed to affect them profoundly, and to make the best possible impression on them; so much so that they even shed tears of joy. The preaching over, they said in all sincerity that they were glad of my companionship, and even offered to regard me as their guest during the two months which they intended to spend in pilgrimage to and round the Kang Rinpoche. They thought that their[138] pilgrimage over such holy ground, while serving such a holy man as I now was to them, would absolve them completely from their sins. Imagine the state of my mind then! These were of the people who took other men’s lives with the same equanimity with which they cut their vegetables; yet, touched now by the light of Buḍḍhism, their minds had softened. I blessed the power of Buḍḍhism more than ever, and could not hold back my tears as my companions shed theirs.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:28 am

CHAPTER XXVI. Sacred Manasarovara and its Legends.

It was now August 4th. After proceeding about ten miles over an undulating range of mountains we came in sight of Man-ri, a peak of perpetual snow, which has an altitude of 25,600 feet above the sea-level. The view of Man-ri, rising majestically high above the surrounding mountains (themselves of great elevation) was sublimely grand. While standing absorbed in the severe magnificence of the scenery, I was treated to another experience, which was as soul-stirring as any earthly phenomenon could be. A magical change in the weather was heralded by a sudden flash of lightning, followed by another, yet another and another, new accompanied by rolling thunder. Heavy pelting hail-stones then joined in the war of elements, which literally shook the mighty mountains to their very foundations, and filled the air with the utmost confusion of terrific noises and lurid tongues of fire. Standing almost alone upon a great height, I saw black clouds with fearful suddenness envelope the world of vision in frightful darkness, made doubly dark by the contrasts produced by the momentary glare of pale, penetrating lightning, which, in the same instant, revealed the glittering snow on the grand peaks of the Himālayas, and the deepest chasms, thousands of fathoms below!

The awe-inspiring scene lasted for about an hour, and then, with equally wondrous suddenness, the sky became blue and the sun shone forth, serene and calm, with not a whisper of wind to remind one of the mighty commotions of the moment before. We did but little walking after this wonderful sight, and, coming to the edge of a marsh-like pond, we pitched[140] our tent there for the night. I was now the guest of my companions, and I was not sorry that I had nothing to do with gathering the yak dung, or fetching water, and building the fire. I was given the seat of honor in the tent, and nothing was exacted of me but to sit down like a good priest, read the Sacred Text and then preach in the evening.

On the 6th of August we had to go up a great slope of extremely sharp inclination, and I was offered a ride on one of my companions’ yaks, an offer which I readily accepted with entire satisfaction. Furthermore, all my share of the luggage, as well as part of the burdens of my sheep, was transferred to the back of one of my fellow-pilgrims, and both myself and my original companions had altogether an easy time of it, as was the case through the weeks that followed.


About thirteen miles onwards a view opened before us which I shall never forget, so exquisitely grand was the scenery. In short, we were now in the presence of the[141] sacred Lake Mānasarovara. A huge octagon in shape, with marvellously symmetrical indentations, Lake Mānasarovara, with its clear placid waters, and the mighty Mount Kailāsa guarding its north-western corner, form a picture which is at once unique and sublime, and well worthy of its dignified surroundings—calm, dustless and rugged. Mount Kailāsa itself towers so majestically above the peaks around, that I fancied I saw in it the image of our mighty Lord Buḍḍha, calmly addressing His five hundred disciples. Verily, verily, it was a natural maṇdala. The hunger and thirst, the perils of dashing stream and freezing blizzard, the pain of writhing under heavy burdens, the anxiety of wandering over trackless wilds, the exhaustion and the lacerations, all the troubles and sufferings I had just come through, seemed like dust, which was washed away and purified by the spiritual waters of the lake; and thus I attained to the spiritual plane of Non-Ego, together with this scenery showing Its-own-Reality.

Lake Mānasarovara is generally recognised as the highest body of fresh water in the world, its elevation above the sea-level being something over fifteen thousand five hundred feet. In Tibetan it is called Mapham Yum-tso. It is the Anavaṭapṭa of Samskṛṭ (the lake without heat or trouble) and in it centre many of the Buḍḍhistic legends. It is this Anavaṭapṭa which forms the subject of the famous poetical passage in the Gospel of Kegon, named in Japanese and in Samskṛṭ Ārya-Buḍḍha-Araṭan-saka-nāma Mahāvaipulya-Sūṭra. The passage gives the name of South Zenbu to a certain continent of the world. Zenbu is a deflection of jamb, a phonetic translation of the sound produced by anything of weight falling into placid water. Now the legend has it that in the centre of the Anavaṭapṭa is a tree which bears fruits that are omnipotent in healing all human ills, and are conse[142]quently much sought after both by Gods and men. When one of these fruits falls into the pond it produces the sound jamb. Further, it is said that the lake has four outlets for its waters, which are respectively called Mabcha Khanbab (flowing out of a peacock’s mouth), Langchen Khanbab (flowing out of a bull’s mouth), Tamchok Khanbab (flowing out of a horse’s mouth), and Senge Khanbab (flowing out of a lion’s mouth), which respectively form the sources of the four sacred rivers of India. It is from these notions that the sacredness of the Anavaṭapṭa is evolved, the name of Zenbu derived, and the religious relations between Tibet and India established. As regards these four rivers, the legend says: “The sands of silver are in the south river; the sands of gold are in the west river; the sands of diamond are in the north river, and the sands of emerald are in the east river.” These rivers are further said each to circle seven times round the lake and then to take the several directions indicated. It is said also that giant lotus flowers bloom in the lake, the size of which is as large as those of the paradise of the Buḍḍha Amitābha, and the Buḍḍha and Boḍhisaṭṭvas are seen there sitting on those flowers, while in the surrounding mountains are found the ‘hundred herbs,’ and also the birds of paradise singing their celestial melodies. In short, Anavaṭapṭa is described to be the only real paradise on earth, with a living Buḍḍha and five hundred saints inhabiting Mount Kailāsa on its north-west, and five hundred immortals making their home on Man-ri, that rises on its southern shore, all enjoying eternal beatitude.

Reading that magnificent description, I believe that anybody would desire to see the spot; but the things mentioned in the Scriptures cannot be seen with our mortal eyes. The real thing is the region in its wonderfully inspiring character, and an unutterably holy elevation is to be felt there. On that night the brilliant[143] moon was shining in the sky and was reflected on the lake, and Mount Kailāsa appeared dimly on the opposite bank. These impelled me to compose an uta:

Among these mountains high here sleeps the lake
Serene—“Devoid of seething cares”—so named
By native bards; its broad expanse appears
Like the octagonal mirror of Japan.
The grand Kailas’ majestic capped with snow,
The Moon o’erhanging from the skies above,
Bestow their grateful shadows on the lake.
Its watery brilliant sheen illumines me;
All pangs of pain and sorrow washed away.
With these my mind besoothed now wanders far
E’en to Akashi in Japan, my home,
A seashore known for moonlight splendors fair.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:28 am

CHAPTER XXVII. Bartering in Tibet.

The origin of the four rivers is given in the story just as I have related it; but in reality there is not one of them that actually flows directly out of the Lake. They have their sources in the mountains which surround it, and the stories about the so-called ‘Horse’s’ and ‘Lion’s’ mouths are only legends, incapable of verification. The head-waters of the Langchen Khanbab flow in a westerly direction; those of the Mabcha Khanbab to the south; the sources of the Senge Khanbab may be ascertained with tolerable accuracy; but those of the Tamchok Khanbab have hitherto defied investigation. In India, the river that flows from the Lake in an easterly direction is known as the Brahmapuṭra, while the one that issues towards the south is the Gaṅgā. The Sutlej flows away to the west, and the Siṭā, or Inḍus, towards the north. It is, of course, possible that actual surveys of Lake Mānasarovara have been made by European travellers, but in all the maps that I have seen it is represented as being far smaller than it actually is. It is, in truth, a very large body of fresh water, and has a circumference of some eighty ri, or about two hundred miles. The shape of the lake also, as it appears in the maps, is misleading. It is in reality a fairly regular octagon with various indentations, very much resembling a lotus-flower in shape. All the western maps, as far as I know, give the student an idea of the Lake which is in many respects misleading.

I arrived that night at a Buḍḍhist Temple known as Tse-ko-lo, on the shores of Lake Mānasarovara, and in the evening heard from my host, the superior of the[145] Temple, a story which surprised me greatly. This Lama, I should say, was a man of about fifty-five years of age; he was extremely ignorant, but did not seem to be a man who would lie for the mere pleasure of lying. He was very anxious to hear about the state of Buḍḍhism in China (the reader will remember that I was supposed to be a Chinese, Lama) and the readiness with which I answered his questions warmed his heart and encouraged him to treat me to the following story. He did not know, he said, how it might be with the priests in China, but for himself he could not help feeling at times thoroughly disgusted with his brethren in Tibet. In the immediate vicinity, for instance, an ordinary priest might, he said, indulge himself in all manner of excesses with impunity, and without attracting much attention, and from time to time cases would arise of extreme depravity in a Lama. For instance, there was the case of Alchu Tulku, a Lama supposed to be an incarnation of Alchu, who had at one time been in charge of a well-known temple in the vicinity of Lake Mānasarovara. This Lama became so infatuated with a beautiful woman whom he took to himself as his wife that he was betrayed into transferring the greater part of the temple property as a gift to her father; and not content with that crime he afterwards absconded from the temple, taking with him his wife, and everything that he could carry away that was left of value in the temple. He had heard rumors that this recreant priest was living openly with his wife at Hor-tosho, and he asked me if I had not heard anything about him when I was passing through the place.

The reader will be able to appreciate my astonishment when I tell him that this absconding, dishonest priest was none other than he who had induced the belle of the place to treat me with so much kindness! Truly men are not always what they seem to be.

I did not conceal my astonishment from my host, but related to him all the circumstances that had brought me within the reach of their kind hospitalities, but he only smiled at what I told him.

“Ah! to be sure,” he said, “that’s just like the man; gentle and lovable in outward demeanor, but at heart an arch-sinner, a very devil incarnate, destroyer of the faith.”

It was a sad revelation to me. I had had every reason to be grateful to the man and his wife for their hospitalities and I could have wept to think that hypocrites of so black a dye should be found amongst the followers of Buḍḍha. It was at least a comfort to think that things in Japan were brighter than this.

The next morning I took a walk along the Lake, lost in admiration of the magnificent mountain scenery that surrounded me on all sides, and presently came across some Hinḍūs and Nepālese, apparently Brāhmaṇa devotees, who had plunged into the Lake—it was about ten o’clock—and were engaged in the performance of their religious ceremonies. To the followers of the Hinḍū religion, Lake Mānasarovara is a sacred sheet of water, and they worship Mount Kailāsa, which rises sky-high above the lake, as being a material manifestation of the sacred Body of Mahā-Shiva, one of the deities of the Indian Trinity. When they saw me, they considered me to be a holy Buḍḍhist Lama, and pressed me to accept from them presents consisting of many kinds of dried fruits.

I spent the next night at the same temple, and on the following morning made my way to the range of mountains that stands like a great wall to the north-west of the Lake. A zigzag climb of ten miles or so brought me within view of Lake Lakgal-tso, in Tibetan, or, as it is more commonly called, Rakas-tal. It is in shape something like a long calabash, and in area smaller than Mānasarovara. Another[147] seven and a half miles brought me to a spot whence I could see the whole of its surface, and here I made a further discovery. A mountain, some two and a half miles round at the base, stands like a wall of partition between the two lakes, and where this mountain slopes into a ravine it looks, for all the world, as though there were a channel of communication for the water from one lake to the other. I found, however, that there was actually no such channel, but I discovered that the level of Lake Lakgal is higher than that of Mānasarovara, and I was subsequently told that, on rare occasions, every ten or fifteen years, after phenomenally heavy rains, the waters of the two lakes do actually become connected, and that at such times Lake Lakgal flows into Mānasarovara. Hence arises the Tibetan legend that every fifteen years or so Lakgal, the bridegroom, goes to visit Mānasarovara, the bride. This will account for the statements of the guide-books to Kang Tise and Mount Kailāsa that the relations between the two lakes are those of husband and wife.

Keeping Lake Lakgal in view, I now proceeded easily down hill for some thirteen miles or so, until I arrived at a plain through which I found a large river flowing. The river was over sixty feet wide, and was known as the Mabcha Khanbab, one of the tributary sources of the Gaṅgā. It is this river that, further south, flows through the city of Purang on the borders of India and Tibet, and then, after winding through many a defile and cañon of the Himālayas, eventually joins the main stream of the Gaṅgā flowing from Haldahal. Modern Hinḍūs revere the Haldahal branch as being the main stream of their sacred River, but in ancient times it was mostly this Mabcha Khanbab that was considered to be the principal source.

On the banks of this river we pitched our tent for the night. In the neighborhood I found four or five similar encampments, occupied by traders from Purang. Great[148] numbers of nomads and pilgrims come to this place in July and August of every year, and at these times, a very brisk trade takes place which presents many curious and interesting features.

Tibet is still in the barter stage, and very little money is used in trade. The people from the interior bring butter, marsh-salt, wool, sheep, goats, and yaks’ tails, which they exchange for corn, cotton, sugar and cloth, which are imported from India by Nepālese and Tibetans, living in the region of perennial snow on the Indian frontier. But sometimes, especially in selling wool and butter, they will take money, generally Indian currency, the reckoning of which is a great mystery to them. Ignorant of arithmetic and possessing no abacus to count with, they have to do all their reckoning with the beads of a rosary. In order to add five and two, they count first five and then two beads on the string, and then count the whole number thus produced to make sure that the total is really seven. It is a very tedious process, but they are incapable of anything better. They cannot do calculations without their beads, and they seem to be too dense to grasp the simplest sum in arithmetic. Thus business is always slow: when it comes to larger deals, involving several kinds of goods and varying prices, it is almost distractingly complicated.

For such calculations they arm themselves with all sorts of aids, black pebbles, white pebbles, bamboo sticks, and white shells. Each white pebble represents a unit of one; when they have counted ten of these they take them away, and substitute a black pebble, which means ten. Ten black pebbles are equivalent to one bamboo stick, ten bamboo sticks to one shell, ten shells to the Tibetan silver coin. But there is no multiplication or division; everything is done by the extremely slow process of adding one at a time, so that it will take a Tibetan three days to do what a Japanese could do in half an hour. This is no exaggera[149]tion. I stayed on the banks of this river for three whole days and watched the traders doing their business, and I saw the whole painful tediousness of the transaction.

These three days were memorable for another reason. The pilgrims who had come with me became such warm admirers of my supposed virtues and sang my praises with so much fervor that a pilgrim girl fell in love with me.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:30 am

CHAPTER XXVIII. A Himalayan Romance.

I was still in the company of the party of pilgrims I have already referred to. It appeared that some of the party had come to form a rather high opinion of me as a person of reverend qualities. Among them was a young damsel who, it was not difficult to perceive, had conceived a passion for me. The moment the thought dawned on me, I said to myself: “It may be; it is nothing uncommon, rather is it quite usual for women to cherish vain thoughts. She must have heard her elders talking well of me, and have taken a fancy to me.” I at once set about raising a barrier between us, which was none other than the teaching of our common Buḍḍhism. When occasion allowed, I explained to her all about the vows with which all true priests bind themselves and why they do so. I depicted to her the horrors of hell that sinners create for themselves even in this world, and which follow them into eternity as the price they pay for momentary pleasures. These things I taught, not only to the girl but to the whole party. For all that, I could not help pitying the little innocent thing. A maiden of nineteen, with few or no restraints on her romantic fancies, she must have thought it a grand thing to be able to go back to her folk with a bride-groom of whom all spoke so well. She was not beautiful, and yet not ugly: a comely little thing was she. But I, though not old, had had my own experiences in these matters in my younger days, and I was able to conquer temptations.


Here I may stop to observe that the country through which we were travelling is called Ngari in Tibetan and Āri in Chinese. The region is an extensive one, and includes Ladak and Khunu.

Purang, of which mention has been made more than once, is its central mart and enjoys great prosperity, though located rather to the south. Purang also forms a mid-Himālayan post of great religious importance as a sacred spot for Buḍḍhist pilgrims. The town boasts, or rather boasted, of its possession of three Buḍḍhist images of great renown—those of the Boḍhisaṭṭva Mahāsaṭṭvas Manjushrī, Avalokiteshvara and Vajrapāni. According to tradition these were brought thither from Ceylon in olden times. Unfortunately about six months prior to my arrival in Ngari a big fire broke out and destroyed two of these idols, the image of Manjushrī alone being saved. Much as I wished to visit Purang, I was apprehensive of many dangers to my impersonation if I went thither,[152] as the Tibetan Government maintains there a challenge gate. My companions went there, however, leaving me behind, and I spent the days of their absence in religious meditation. Joining them again on their return, I continued my travels westwards, coming out in due time to the north of Lake Lakgal. We next took our way along the lake towards the north-west. Facing west and looking over the lake, I saw islands spread out on its surface like the legs of a gotoku, or tripod. So I gave them the name of Gotoku jimu, or Tripod islands. Several days afterwards we arrived at a barter port called Gya-nima; it was the 17th of August, 1900.

At Gya-nima barter is carried on only for two months in the year, that is to say from the 15th of July to the 15th of September. The traders chiefly come from the Indian part of the Himālaya mountains and meet their Tibetan customers there. I was just in good time to see brisk transactions going on. I saw no less than one hundred and fifty white tents covering the otherwise barren wilderness, and some five or six hundred people rushing about to sell and buy in their own fashion.

The Tibetan articles offered for sale here were wool, butter, yaks’ tails, and the like, while the purchases consisted of about the same category of goods as I gave when speaking of the Mabcha Khanbab mart. I stayed over night and spent the whole of the next day at the fair, making a few small purchases. On the day following we went back to Gya-karko, another barter port. Gya-nima was the most north-western point I reached in my Tibetan journey. So far as reaching my destination was concerned, I had hitherto been proceeding in an exactly opposite direction to it, steadily going north-west instead of towards Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. But from that point—Gya-nima—onwards, each step I walked brought me nearer to the main road into Tibet, as also to its capital. In Gya-karko[153] I stayed for three or four days. Here there were about one hundred and fifty tents, trade being carried on even more vigorously than at Gya-nima. Gya-karko is a trading port for people coming from the north-west plains of Tibet on the one hand and the Hinḍūs inhabiting the Indian Himālayas on the other, who are allowed by the Tibetan Government to come as far as this place.

Here I saw many merchants from the towns and villages of the Himālayas. Among them was one from Milum, who spoke English. This man invited me to dinner on the quiet, so to say. I accepted his invitation, but the moment I had entered his tent I at once saw that he took me for an English emissary. When left to ourselves he immediately addressed me thus: “As I live under the government of your country, I shall never make myself inconvenient to you. In return I wish you would do what you can to help my business when you go back to India.” I thought that these were very strange words to speak to me. On interrogating him, I found out that he had conjectured that I was engaged in exploring Tibet at the behest of the British Government. When I told him that I was a Chinaman, he said: “If you are Chinese, you can no doubt speak Chinese?” I answered him boldly in the affirmative. Then he brought in a man who claimed to understand Chinese. I was not a little embarrassed at this turn of affairs, but as I had had a similar experience with Gya Lama in Nepāl it took me no time to recover sufficient equanimity to answer him, and I felt much re-assured when I found that he could not speak Chinese so well as I had anticipated. Then I wrote a number of Chinese characters and wanted him to say if he knew them. The man looked at me and seemed to say: “There you have me.” Finally he broke into laughter and said: “I give up; let us talk in Tibetan.” Then my host was greatly astonished and said: “Then you are indeed a Chinaman! What can be better? China is a vast country.[154] My father, who is now living in my native country, was once in China. If there is any business to be done with China I wish you would kindly put me on the track;” and he gave me his address written in English. His manner showed that he was in earnest, and that he was a man to be trusted. So seeing that this man was going back to India, I thought it would be a good idea to ask him to take with him my letters and deliver them for me in India. It would have been imprudent for me to write things in detail, but I scribbled just a few lines to my friend and teacher, Rai Saraṭ Chanḍra Dās, informing him that I had penetrated the interior of Tibet as far as Gya-karko, besides asking him to post some letters for Japan which I enclosed, addressed to Mr. Hige Tokujuso and Ito Ichiso of Sakai. A few coins put into the hand of the Milum man secured a ready response to my request. The man proved the honest fellow I took him for; for after my return to Japan I found that my letters had been duly received by both Mr. Hige and Mr. Ito.

To return to my romance. We were still staying at Gya-karko, and I was much embarrassed to find that little Dawa—for that was my little maiden’s name—had by no means given up her affection for me. Dawa, I may perhaps mention here, though I shall have occasion to refer to the matter at greater length in another chapter, is a Tibetan name meaning moon, given to persons born on a Monday; those born on a Friday being named Pasang, and those on a Sunday, Nyima.

Well, my little Dawa proved herself to be an adept in the art of love-making. It is wonderful how a little spark of passion, when once kindled, burns up and fashions daring schemes and alluring pictures. The maiden was always at my side, and spoke only of the good things she would make mine, if I would only accompany her to her native country. She said her mother was a lady[155] of an exceedingly kind heart; that her father owned about one hundred and sixty yaks and four hundred sheep; that therefore her family was very rich and their life one perpetual chachang pemma or round of pleasures. She added that she was their only daughter, and that she had not yet come across a man to her heart, save one. I may perhaps explain that chachang pemma means drinking tea and intoxicants alternately, and that in Tibet one is considered to have attained the highest pinnacle of happiness when he is able to indulge in a perpetual symposium—drinking, in turns, tea with butter in it and then a spirit brewed from wheat. Only rich persons can enjoy the luxury: but the mass of Tibetans consider this to be the main object of life. Consequently chachang pemma is generally used in the sense of earthly beatitude. By the way, the method of manufacturing the butter-tea is very curious: butter, boiled juice of tea and salt are first thrown together into a nearly cylindrical tub of three feet in height; then a piston, if I may so call it, with a disc large enough to fit the cask exactly, is worked up and down, to obtain a thorough mixing of the ingredients. This pump-like action of the piston is carried on by sheer force of hands and arms, and, as may be imagined, requires a large amount of strength. The motion of the piston transforms the mixture into a new beverage which the Tibetans call solcha. It is said that these people can tell whether the solcha, or butter-tea, will prove good or bad by listening to the sound produced by the piston as it works up and down.

But to return to my story: Dawa never tired of telling me that her family was prosperous; that even Lamas were allowed to marry in her country; that it was really an excellent thing for every Lama to live happily with a wife in this world; that it would be wise for me to do so, and so on. Seeing that all her words were only wasted on me, she[156] seemed to imply that I was an incorrigible fool. Wiles of temptation now came thick and fast upon me: but in such moments I happily remembered the triumph of our Lord Shākyamuni at Buḍḍhagayā. The wise One was about to attain to the state of Absolute Perfection. The king of all that is evil was very much afraid of this, and sent his three daughters to tempt him. The women tried all manner of allurements to secure the fall of the Enlightened One, but in vain. When all had failed the daughters of the King of Devils sang thus:

How like a tender graceful flower am I,
With all the lovely fragrance of my mouth,
And its melodious music soft and sweet!
Am I not mistress of all mirth and joys?
Even Heav’nly bliss is naught to him who lives
In amorous dalliance, dearly loved, with me.
If thou rejectest me, there’s none so dull
And stupid in the world compared with thee.

So sang the Sirens, but even they were powerless to conquer the Lord. My Dawa could not of course approach the charms of the arch-devil’s daughters, but her plaintive pleadings were there. And I—a common mortal struggling on, but far from the gate of emancipation—I could not but pity the poor little creature, though I strengthened myself by saying: “Let it be so—a fool let me be.” I composed an uta then:

You call me stupid; that am I, I grant;
But yet in love-affairs being wiser grown,
’Tis safe for me to be more stupid still.

It is true that women never let their mouths be the doors to their mind; but they know a language unspoken, which is far more telling, appealing and enticing, than that which mere sound and articulation can convey. And my Dawa had never yet said in so many words what she yearned to say. It happened, however, that Dawa’s father and brothers were out shopping one day, and that the girl and I remained alone in the tent. She thought[157] probably that she could not get a better opportunity for her purposes and she tried to make the most of it. Just then I was mending my boots, and she almost frightened me with her boldness. I am neither a block of wood, nor a piece of stone, and I should have been supernatural if I had not felt the power of temptation. But to yield to such a folly would be against my own profession. Moreover I remembered with awe the omnipresence of our Lord Buḍḍha, and was thus enabled to keep my heart under control. I said to the maiden: “I have no doubt that all is excellent at your home; but do you know whether your mother is still living or dead?” The question was unexpected and almost stunned her, put as it was at a moment when she had allowed her mind to wander so far away from her dear mother. She was just able to say: “I do not know whether my mother is living or dead. I have been on a pilgrimage with my father for one year and perhaps more. My mother is a weak woman, and I parted with her in tears, asking her to take the best care of herself, so that she might be preserved. I do not know how she is faring now.” Here was my chance—a chance of diverting the girl’s attention from me. “H’m! you don’t know that?” said I; “only now you were telling me of the bliss of your home, and yet you don’t know how your mother is faring now?” Poor little maiden, her mind became disturbed. I almost scolded her, pleaded with her, warned her. She, who claimed to be a good daughter, to be so intent in the pursuit after ephemeral pleasures as to let her thoughts wander away from her dear, good mother; could it be possible? This somewhat highly colored statement of mine seemed to cool down her passion and change it into fear and apprehension. Nor was it extraordinary that she should have become so affected. For in Tibet nothing is supposed to be too great for the Lama; he possesses superhuman powers and can work miracles.[158] Instead of an object of love, I had now become an awe-inspiring Lama to my little Dawa. As such, I counselled her with a good deal of earnestness, and finally succeeded in subduing her passion and conquering the temptation.

We prolonged our stay at Gya-karko for several days more, and on the 26th of August I started again with the pilgrims. As we travelled on in a north-easterly direction we came to a marshy plain interspersed with pools of water. Farther on the marsh became deeper. I tried to probe its depth with my stick, but the solid bottom was beyond my reach. Knowing then that the marsh could not be forded, we retraced our steps for about three miles and proceeded thence due east. Further on we found that the waters flowing out of the marsh formed themselves into three streams. We waded across them, and about ten miles further on the marsh came to an end and we found ourselves among mountains, and encamped for the night. Here there were many merchants on their way to Gya-nima and Gya-karko, and many were the tents they had pitched all round. While there I went on a begging tour amongst the tent occupants—a practice which I put into execution whenever possible, in pursuance of the Buḍḍha’s teaching. A day’s round, besides, generally earned me enough to carry me through the next day. I may add that the evening, whether after a day of journeying or of begging, I used to spend in preaching among my travelling companions. I had my own reasons for being painstaking in these preachings. I knew that religious talks always softened the hearts of my companions, and this was very necessary, as I might otherwise have been killed by them. I do not mean to say that my life was in any immediate danger then, for there were numbers of people always about, and besides, the region we were going through was a country sacred to Buḍḍhism, and, once within the holy zone, even the most[159] wicked would not dare to commit either robbery or murder. But it was necessary for me to take precautions in anticipation of dangers that might befall me as soon as I should be out of this sacred region. Such were the reasons why I did so much preaching, and fortunately my sermons were well received by my companions.

On the 28th of August we travelled about twenty miles over an undulating country. Throughout that distance we could not get a drop of water, and I had nothing to drink except a cup of tea which I took in the morning just before starting. We were of course all terribly thirsty; yet to me the suffering was not half so great as that I had felt during the former distressing experiences already narrated. Towards the evening we came upon the upper course of the Langchen Khanbab. This is the river called Sutlej in English. It is the head-water of a river which flows westward into India, and, after meeting with the Sitā, forms the great Indus that empties itself into the Arabian Sea. My companions volunteered to tell me that this river started from Lake Mānasarovara. When I pointed out to them that the Lake Mānasarovara was surrounded by mountains on all sides and had no outlet, they replied: “True, but the river has its source in a spring to be found under a great rock, east of the monastery named Chugo Gonpa (the monastery of the source of the river), in a gorge on the north-western side of Mount Kailāsa. That spring is fed by the waters of Lake Mānasarovara that travel thither underground. Hence it may be said with equal truth that the river flows out of the lake.” This was indeed an ingenious way of accounting for the popular belief. But judging from the position of the river, it seemed to me that it must take its origin on a higher level than that of Lake Mānasarovara and I was not (nor am I now) ready to admit the correctness of the native contention. On arriving at the bank of the river we pitched our tents as[160] usual and passed the night. On the following day, we visited a sacred place of great fame in that neighborhood, called Reta-puri in Tibetan pronunciation, but originally in Samskṛṭ Preṭapurī. Having left our baggage, tents and other things with two men to take care of them, I went on the journey thither with Dawa, her father and another woman, four of us in all. As we proceeded westwards along the Langchen Khanbab, we saw large boulders of rock making a walled avenue for a distance of about 400 yards. Out of the rock region, we came upon a river flowing down from the north to the Langchen Khanbab. There were two others running parallel and at a short distance from one another. They are called Tokpo Rabsum, which in Tibetan means three friendly streams. We forded one of them and went up a hill for about a hundred and twenty yards, when an extensive plain lay spread before our view. I noticed that the plain was thickly covered with low bush-growths of some thorny family, and the sight reminded me of our tea-plantations of Uji. About a mile and a quarter further on we came to another stream, the name of which is identical with that of the one we had already crossed. Both these rivers were loin-deep and exceedingly cold, with small ice-blocks floating in them. In fording the river I was much benumbed, and on reaching the opposite banks I found that I had almost lost my power of locomotion. So I told my companions to go on while I rested a few minutes, and applied burning moxa to my benumbed limbs in order to recover their use. Off they went, after telling me that nothing could go wrong with me if I would only take the road in the direction they pointed out to me. Tibetans are strong and healthy, and extremely swift-footed into the bargain. I was no match for them in this respect, especially with half-frozen feet and that was why I told them not to wait for me. The smouldering moxa had its effect on my legs. I felt then more[161] alive, and after an hour’s rest I proceeded westwards for five miles to a place where the plain came to an end. Thence I walked down stream along a river until the temple for which I was heading rose into view. The sight was a grand one, with its maṇi-steps of stone which looked, at a distance, like a long train of railway cars. Nor was this the only place where the maṇi steps could be found. Many of them are to be seen in the Himālayas. I should add that in that mighty range of sky-reaching mountains there lives a species of strange birds, whose note is exactly like the whistle of a railway engine. The maṇi-steps looking like a train before me made me think of the whistle of those birds, and I felt as if I had arrived once more in a civilised country!
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