Project : Tibet 2000
After a summary exploration of what Mount Kailash represents and symbolizes, the author describes the double challenge with which the Tibet 2000 Project presented him. In the first part, as a tour guide, the author attempted to create the best possible trajectory in order to guide fifteen academics to the most remote area in all of Asia. Starting from Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, he set up a team comprising a guide, cooks, drivers and sherpas. As well, all the material needed for the expedition : tents, food, kerosene, oxygen, etc., was transported from Nepal. In a second part, as a film-maker, he produced a documentary film. This is a particularly dangerous exploit as without the proper permission from the Chinese authorities, the author had to surreptitiously transport all the video equipment at the Zhangmu border in China. It resulted in more than 30 hours of video images. A unique testimony of this adventure in the high Himalayan plains.
Forbidden Journeys to Tibet :
Peregrinations of Four Occidental Women, 1889-1924
An exhaustive bibliographical research allowed the possibility to catalogue, since the beginning of the 19th century, an important number of testimonies from men and women of different nationalities, who have recounted the different stages of their journeys to Tibet or their efforts to reach Lhassa, " the Roof of the World ". Four testimonies have been selected for the present study ; they are the product of four women, two English, one Canadian, and one French, all contemporaries of the turn of the century and who, without knowing each other, followed routes that echo one another : Isabella Bird Bishop, Alexandra David-Néel, Annie R. Taylor and Susie Carson Rijnhart. The selection was initially guided by the accessibility of certain texts but, little by little, it centerd itself around a curiosity and a questioning about the circumstances that led these daring women to travel alone in Tibet.
Mendicant of the Infinite (extracts)
These pages are a collection of fragments culled from &endash; and subsequently polished &endash; a travel diary kept during an expedition to the high West Tibetan plateau and the circumambulation of Mount Kailash. It is mainly focused on the captivating beauty of the high desert-like plateau of Ngari, the encounter with the Nomads and the Tibetan pilgrims, with the spiritual charge of Mount Kailash and the trial of walking in high altitude. The author, from an exotopic point of view, imposed to himself the task of trying to understand the relationship between the foreign visitor and the Nomad encountered in his own land, the curious circumambulator and the true pilgrim, and the mountain trekker and the landscape. He puzzles over the joy of the traveller of desert and hill as well as the tension of hope that ravages the mendicant of the infinite waiting to arrive somewhere What wells up from these fragments is a passion for wandering paths, places that can be called intermediate, apparently sterile waiting and the tyranny of details observed either directly or from books, and their connections.
Light and Lucidity
This text presents itself as a narrative of what the author would call, not without a certain hesitation, his " pilgrimage " to Mount Kailash. Being neither Buddhist nor Hindu &endash; although he recognizes feeling some kind of connivance with both traditions &endash; he does not, nonetheless, share the same beliefs surrounding the significance of the sites. However, he maintains a desire to honour in these sites that which makes them so propitious for such beliefs : the distance, the nudity, the light, the beauty In this narrative, he has chosen to alternate facts &endash; almost like quotes in a travel diary &endash; with the impressions that are evoked in him today by the memory of these sites. Moreover, he wanted to start this narrative at the frontier between Nepal and Tibet. Why ? Because, in his opinion, it is here that the basics are found ; because the funeral pyres, for example, to which he was a witness in Nepal and in India, added nothing to his experience " which was not already contained in the distance and the wind of Tibet ".
Kailash &emdash; La Route du ciel (The Path of the Sky)
This text is the source for the narration of a documentary, La route du ciel, which relates the experiences of an interdisciplinary group of professors from the University of Quebec in Montreal during their expedition to Mount Kailash in Western Tibet, one of the most venerated Buddhist pilgrimage sites. Throughout the duration of this narration, we follow in the footsteps of one of the participants from her arrival in Kathmandu, Nepal, to her circumambulation of the kora, which is the sacred perimeter of Mount Kailash.
" Letter to My Brother Who Will Never See Kailash "
Through this letter, the author, speaking in retrospect to a brother who is a believer &endash; but already too close to his own death to ever be able to accomplish such a pilgrimage &endash;, mentally relives the moment when she finally shared her decision with him to leave on the pilgrimage and the pact that was then signed between them : he would await her return from Mount Kailash before accomplishing his own impermanence.
" It is to have failed to be alive "
&emdash; Or the Invention of a Book of the Dead
This article is about the Bardo Thödol or the Tibetan Book of the Dead. We shall begin by examining how it has been recuperated in our Western society since its first English translation in 1927 by Walter Evans-Wentz. We will then describe the contents of the book, which is comprised of instructions to be transmitted to the dying and the deceased, so as to permit them to go through the different stages of the bardo. We will look at what precise type of imagery of the End the Bardo Thödol presents us. In what terms does it describe death ? It will be demonstrated that there is here an imagery of the End of a particular style, such a reconfiguration that certain essential dimensions of our own rapport with death in the Western world are neutralized. In such a way, in fact, that the very idea of a " Book of the Dead ", as it has been translated, is not a compromise solution but rather an endeavour to appropriate a radically different imagery.
Impermanence of the Work of Art
This article questions the Western interpretation of Tibetan art objects and the exclusively religious orientation that we normally ascribe to them. In light of a few examples collected during the course of the journey to Mount Kailash, the author attempts to show that the status of Tibetan art objects is far more complex than we could have initially imagined. The spiritual function of the objects does not evacuate other functions such as its aesthetic, decorative or simply utilitarian functions. Beyond their multiple uses, the main conceptual difficulty with Tibetan art objects is due to the absence of authenticity of the material object. The object is a support for the work of art and not the work of art itself. In this sense, the way in which objects of the Tibetan plastic arts exist seems to resemble the way in which musical and literary works exist in Western culture.
" Once upon a time when Brahmadatta reigned in Benares... "
Reflections on the Jataka Tales with Special Attention
to the Portrayal of Women
The Jataka tales, a collection of 547 stories recounting previous reincarnations of the Bodhisatta, undoubtedly represent one of the most important documents of Buddhist literature. Their existence as didactic tales of Theravada Buddhism can, in parts, be traced back to the time of King Asoka in the 3rd century. We can assume, however, that a great number of the tales are much older Indian folktales adapted to their purpose. Preachers used the Jatakas to convey norms of ethical, social and religious behaviour in an accessible format. This paper deals with two points concerning the Jatakas : the reception of the tales in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century and the portrayal of women in these texts. The tales were translated into German between 1907 and 1922. At the time Germans were fascinated with Buddhism and equally with their " Indo-Germanic " or " Aryan " roots. Surprisingly, the Jatakas, as important documents for the practice of lay Buddhists, do not see much value in women and family life. Monastic life is the ideal.
In Search of a Model of Representation
of the Pilgrimage Phenomenon
Having always been intrigued by pilgrimages as well as by the motives and convictions of pilgrims, the author decided to participate in the Tibet 2000 Project with the hope of obtaining a better understanding of this phenomenon. In this article, he sets out to examine the origin and the reasons for pilgrimages and tries to extract the characteristics which are common to a certain number of religions. Concurrently, the author's computer training will be used to try and group the characteristics thus identified with the desire to extract a model of representation which could be used in the computer field of artificial intelligence. This entails a succinct presentation of knowledge-based systems, the logic of first order and their application to the definition of a model of pilgrimages. The difficulties encountered will demonstrate the complexity of the proposed task.
Meditation and Meta-Cognition :
Attentive Meditation as a Meta-Cognitive Strategy
In the field of the " cognitive sciences ", certain authors (Francisco J. Varela, Evan Thompson and Eleanor Rosch, 1993) have come to propose Buddhist meditation centered on attention as a method for exploring mental phenomena. It is this proposition which has motivated the author of this article to examine in particular the vipassana, a Buddhist method of meditation, in the hope of finding strategies and techniques which might be effective in the development of meta-cognitive abilities. The objective is to explore the methods suggested by Buddhist psychology to help individuals become aware of their own mental processes. More specifically, it is an attempt to identify those elements in Buddhist psychology which could inspire learning and teaching strategies, thus facilitating, for the students, the development of a self-awareness of their mental processes.
Bloody Sacrifices, The Gladiators and the First Christians
This article tackles the way in which pagans and the first Christians perceived bloody sacrifices and gladiator fighting. It is known that all the spectacles as well as the sacrifices were, in the Roman Empire, under the protection of the gods and were accompanied by a certain number of rituals. In late Antiquity it is estimated that about two hundred days a year were consecrated to such festivals. It was at once a civic and a religious duty to participate as often as possible. Only the first Christians were demonstrably hostile to these practices. The author explains why they regarded these festivals as one of the main consequences of Original Sin. They were forbidden to attend with the threat of chastisement or excommunication. The public entertainments, it was claimed, were incompatible with " the real religion and the real submission to God ". Amidst all the feasts and ceremonies, gladiator fighting was considered by the first Christians as the most blasphemous and most " satanic " of all the rituals.
Sacrifice in Ancient India, From Orgiasm to Asceticism
The notion of sacrifice in ancient India encompasses extremes : that of the bloody royal sacrifices and that of yoga, all of these modalities uniting under the Sanskrit term yajña. This article argues the necessity of the presence of some kind of violence in all sorts of sacrifice and thus attempts to demonstrate the underlying unity of its diverse forms (while borrowing from Georges Bataille's theory on religion). The apparent anomaly of the royal horse sacrifice proves the acting out of what is otherwise implicit in all outward manifestations of sacrifice : the violent rupture in the order of things through transgression and the use of Dionysian and consuming actions and symbolism. The paper then attempts to show how that scheme translates itself in the case of interiorized sacrifice, while highlighting its specifics.
Holy Orders. Tarikats and Politics in Republican Turkey
This article is concerned with the relations between the Tarikats (Sufi Orders) and the political life in Turkey since 1923, the founding date of the Republic. Five aspects of these relations are examined : the situation of the Tarikats in the last decades of the Ottoman Empire, the overt manifestations of opposition to the Republic (in the twenties and thirties), the Kemalist attitude towards the Tarikats (characterized by varying degrees of repression), the relations between the Tarikats and the exterior world and the most recent developments. In analysing these different aspects, the author concludes that though the situation of the different Tarikats is far from uniform, the general tendency is oriented towards an increased importance for the " political " rather than the " mystical ", the organisational structure remaining the most important element in the relations between the Tarikats and politics.