There are many cultural vultures feeding off the corpse of Tibet, all happily exploiting the name, mythology, and glamor that has been associated with Tibet and exerted such a hold on the popular imagination, Having lost Atlantis, Avalon, and Tir Na Nog http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T%C3%ADr_na_n%C3%93g it seemed western culture discovered a new spiritual paradise when 19th Century European esotericists came back with incredible tales of the hidden land of Shambala http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shambhala with its exotic monastaries, and accounts of demons and magic.
Once the pens of Madame Blavatsky http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helena_Blavatsky and Alexandra David Neel http://www.mysteriouspeople.com/Alex_David-Neel.htm had scratched details of their personal phantoms and invisible ‘masters’ into their notebooks, Tibet was consigned to the realm of myth. It subsequently attracted all sort of fantastic attention and became the spiritual location for a number of fanciful ideologies.
Since the smoke-and-mirror esoterics of that time the appetite for the mythical alternative has lurked in the background of the western mind, intimidated by the cold logic of scientific reasoning, but never completely subjugated. Western understanding of Tibetan culture carries such baggage, the view obscured by a prism that divides Tibet’s light into an exotic array of esoteric and occult fascination. Clearly there is some perceived need being satisfied here, and it seems we do not mind, if the very culture we are bewitched by, is exploited and distorted, as long as it supports our chosen mythology.
Take for example the curious case of the so-called Tibetan Singing Bowl an item which has become firmly associated with Tibet, thanks largely to the unlimited reaches of the Internet and the claims of self-professed healers and diviners who capitalized on the hunger for all things Tibetan. These first appeared in the West around the late 1980s, having been bought in the Bazaars of Kathmandu where, ever keen to drain money from credulous tourists, Nepali traders had long been fabricating and selling items as ‘Tibetan’.
Yet these metal resonators, which appear in the Shinto http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suzu and Buddhist tradition of Japan, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rin_gong_at_Kiyomizu-dera,_Kyoto.JPG are not featured in Tibetan religious ritual, as revealed by the singular lack of any reference to their useage, in either Tibetan Buddhist or Bon sources. However, never let the facts obstruct a good business opportunity and the marketable value of these alloyed interlopers soon made themselves apparent not only to Nepali traders, but Tibetans too, who in selling such bowls sustained the fiction, and unwittingly credited them as being a genuine part of Tibetan culture. So the seed was planted.
Nourished by a Western hunger for the exotic, it has flourished into a veritable industry, a full-blown therapy with accredited courses and qualifications. Transformed into a tool for meditation, healing and self -discovery these bowls are now manufactured in crystal (as if the original metal-alloy was not sacred enough) and carry the stamps of Buddhist icons and Tibetan scripts to add some sense of authenticity. At a prestigious cultural exhibition that was displaying never-before-seen Tibetan artifacts, one practitioner was charging $100 to cleanse people of ‘negative energies’ by performing a so-called traditional singing-bowl ceremony. The client lay on the floor with a number of varying-sized bowls placed on Chakra points, while listening to the multi-toned whine of a nearby bowl.
All very colorful, and no doubt the person felt much better for the experience, yet it has absolutely nothing to do with Tibet, but that does not raise any concern with those seeking to profit from what they choose to believe is a Tibetan tradition, nor anyone else who cares more for the illusion than for Tibet’s genuine, yet eroding culture.
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