Parabola, Fall 2012: “The Unknown”

“Sought, it will not be found; watched, it is not seen.”  —  Longchenpa

According to the article in Parabola, “Longchenpa is one of the great exemplars of Tibetan esoteric mysticism . . .  His writing grounds the reader in the here and now as the field of mystery that cannot be explained, but only inhabited.”  He was a sage who practiced “the Great Perfection tradition known as Dzogchen.”

In August 2011, the writer of the article, J. M. White, traveled to Tibet and visited a monastery associated with Longchenpa, the Jokhang temple in Lhasa, in an area of the city called the Barkhor.  Here are a few of his observations:

  • “In Lhasa, and in many of the major cities of Tibet, the Chinese outnumber the Tibetans five to one.”
  • The Jokhang temple houses a statue called Jowo Sakyamuni, “the most famous and most revered statue in Tibet.  The building has been destroyed and rebuilt at least five times, but there are parts of the interior and the foundation that are believed to date back to the seventh century.  It was seriously desecrated by the Chinese in the 1960s, when for a while they used it as a pigsty.”
  • “The most famous statement in Tibetan Buddhism” is this one, which Longchenpa claims to have “heard in a vision:  All form is void, all void is form.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

P. 1, India’s DAILY POST, Monday 6 February 2012/ P. 1, New York Times, Sunday 12 February 2012

Page 1 of India’s Daily Post of 6 February 2012 bore this headline:

3 More Tibetans Set Themselves on Fire

Three Tibetans set themselves on fire on February 3 in the under-siege town of Serthar in Eastern Tibet.  Since Tapey’s self-immolation in 2009, 19 Tibetans have set themselves on fire demanding the return of the Dalai Lama and protesting China’s occupation of their country.  A Tibetan in exile with contacts in the region said on Sunday that two Tibetans survived the self-immolation but one is feared dead.

“The three Tibetans called for the unity of the people and protested against the Chinese government,” the Tibetan who didn’t want to be named, said.  The two who have reportedly survived have been identified as Tsering, around 60 years of age and Kyari, around 30.

And here are two items that were on the front page of The New York Times today:

War’s Risks Shift to Contractors

by Rod Nordland

More civilian contractors working for American companies than American soldiers died in Afghanistan last year for the first time during the war.

American employers here are under no obligation to publicly report the deaths of their employees and frequently do not.  While the military announces the names of all its war dead, private companies routinely notify only family members.  Most of the contractors die unheralded and uncounted —  and in some cases, leave their survivors uncompensated.

And, self is still unspeakably sad about Whitney Houston.  Her death, too, was on p. 1, in an article written by Jon Pareles and Adam Nagourney:

Whitney Houston, R & B Superstar, Dies at 48

Whitney Houston, the multi-million-selling singer who emerged in the 1980s as one of her generation’s greatest R & B voices, only to deteriorate through years of cocaine use and an abusive marriage, died on Saturday in Los Angeles.  Her death was confirmed by her publicist, Kristen Foster.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Self’s Favorite Reads of 2009

Even though self figures she can probably still squeeze in five or six books before the end of 2009 (The one she’s reading now, Dickens’ Great Expectations, is astonishing, grrreat, but she’s only a fourth of the way through), she’s already looking back to what the year meant in terms of reading.

This was the year when self finally got around to reading the novel that made Curtis Sittenfeld: Prep.  The year when self discovered Sebastian Barry.  And John Burdett. And Elena Ferrante. And Jim Harrison. And San San Tin. And George Saunders. And Ruth Rendell! Most of these authors were writers she had been hearing about for years. Years. But because of teaching (not to mention laundry), self never had the time or the wherewithal to read any of their books. So self was happy about 2009. This was the year when she finally got to expand her literary selections, considerably.

She read about Tibet (Sky Burial: An Epic Love Story of Tibet, a book that grew on her gradually), and the deserts of Arabia (Arabian Sands) and about the fascinating city of Bombay (in Suketu Mehta’s Maximum City). She discovered a mysterious and wonderful place, Jim Harrison’s U.P. (Upper Michigan). She lived through the Holocaust (A Life in Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Missing Agents of World War II) and through the German occupation of Paris (Suite Francaise). She read what it was like to be a Filipino Poet in Exile (Zack’s The Filipino Poet in Exile Channels Montgomery Clift)

Without further ado, self’s favorite reads of the year:

The Vera Atkins book shattered self so much that even now she has a hard time pushing the images away. Same with Sebastian Barry’s World War I novel. No, in fact all of the aforementioned shattered her. In different ways.

Thank you, short-listed authors! Thank you for enlarging self’s emotions and imagination with your writerly skill!

Stay tuned.

A Servant Named Tiananmen

Self not even halfway through Sky Burial:  An Epic Love Story of Tibet, and already so many things have happened, dear blog readers.

The narrator’s husband, a medic attached to a unit of the Chinese army stationed in Tibet, disappears and is declared dead.  His wife, suspecting Read the rest of this entry »

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