This was a book that I picked up in a Tibetan shop in Santa Fe. Whenever I’m in town, I make a point of stopping there and have walked away with a variety of religious objects and more than a few books. I think this is the first to get a review here.
Let me state right up front that the most difficult part of the book is getting used to the long names of people and places. The book is related to the pair of mountains and lake dieties nGam mtsho and nGyan chen thang lha, and Dang ra g.yu mtsho and rTa rgo rin po che. I gave up trying to remember any of the other names and came to know the above by the first few characters.
One does not normally think of Tibet as having lakes, rather we (or I) think of high altitudes and mountains. But, there are numerous large lakes at the base of the mountains. If you picture the reflection of the mountain in the face of the calm lake, you can quickly understand why the 2 would be paired. Given the diverse impact of both on anyone or anything in the vicinity, it comes easy to relate to them as dieties. I found the concept rather comfortable. The mountain is male and the lake is female.
The author has travelled extensively in the region and provides a well written description of the path a foot traveler will follow on the traditional pilgrimage thru the area. He also make clear that the destruction caused by the Chinese is extensive, has gone on a very long time and has been catastrophic in many ways. I went looking for maps of the area and was shocked to see that Google has removed all the traditional names from the region and has left only a very few place names, all in Chinese. Pure suck up bastards. These people get more scary by the day.
He describes in great detail the knowlwdge and myths related to each of the Gods and how their relationships to humans have changed over time. Tracing from prehistory thru the Bon culture into Buddist shows a somewhat familiar path as a new set of beliefs gradually replaces another. In this case, there seems to have been less violence that in most other cases I have studied. There are some traces still around that point back to an older matriarchical spiritual system.
Some of the particularly striking things in the book are related to the descriptions of the cave drawings. It is amazing how the form of the animals is so similar to that used by the cave drawers in Neolithic France and Africa. In some cases, they are so alike as to be a bit unnerving. The age of the drawings is impossible to pin down at all as there is no reliable method available to determine age and the areas have been in too much common use to be effective sources for the standard dating techniques.
There is also an area of standing stones that is quite spectacular.
While the author does not delve deeply into the spiritual conceps of any of the religions, enough is noted to gain an impression of the general viewpoint. I found this to be pleasing and admirable.