We all know the cause of ill-health: germs and viruses; and, of course, genetic propensity. To these we should add: the ripening of recent or ancient karma; predatory demons and witches; adverse astrological configurations; the retaliation of earth-gods angered by humans' callous treatment of the environment; spilling milk on the stove. The afflictions resulting from these various pathogens manifest in physical, mental and social disorders of commensurate diversity and complexity. The treatment is also well known: allopathic care, whether Western, Tibetan or Ayurvedic; or the accumulation of merit to dissipate the burden of karma; or the shamanic hunt for lost souls; or violent exorcism; or any number of remedial techniques that have their home in the expanse of the Himalayan and Tibetan region. These techniques, and the world-views that underpin them, have in turn spawned a vast wealth of art, literature and performance, and no single disciplinary approach can possibly hope to do justice to such an extraordinary range of forms. Accepting that this state of affairs is best addressed not by an attempt at synthesis but a celebration of diversity, sixty specialists of Tibet and the Himalaya were given free rein to write about any aspect of healing in the region, and this book is the result. In addition to offering detailed studies of some of the therapeutic traditions of the region, the collection as a whole opens a window onto the heart of the civilisation that generated or inherited these beliefs and practices, and continues to cherish them.
"This anthology fills a lacuna so large that one can only wonder why on earth it had not been filled before. With its breathtaking range of contributions, this remarkable collection-a worthy offering to its larger-than-life dedicatee-is a mine of primary information for the specialist as much as it is an ideal introduction for newcomers to the field of Tibetan and Himalayan Studies."
There is a well-known story about Lord Byron-"Mad, bad and dangerous to know" -and his publisher John Murray, a devout and morally upstanding Presbyterian. The two did not get on, and so Murray was pleasantly surprised when, one day, Byron presented him with a Bible. Touched by this gesture of conciliation, Murray kept the Bible in his living room where visitors could leaf through it for their edification. All went well until one day, a visitor happened to open the book at the eighteenth chapter of the Gospel of St John, the passage in which Pilate, by custom, reprieves a condemned man at the feast of the Passover. The crowd were told to decide between the two namesakes: Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus bar Abbas; and the crowd, as we know, rejected the first ("not this man") and clamoured instead for the release of Barabbas. By way of an introduction to Barabbas, the villain who was chosen, the Bible helpfully informs us that he was a robber. John Murray's visitor was discomfited to see that the text at this point had been altered by an unknown hand, and she showed the emendation to her host. Murray saw that Byron had deleted the word "robber" and written in its place "publisher". The gift had been a Trojan horse.
Everyone comes out of this story badly: Byron, of course, because (to compound his more famous peccadilloes) he had insulted the good John Murray and betrayed his confidence; Barabbas, because he was a robber; robbers, because Barabbas was one of them, but far worse than any honest robber through vicarious guilt for the crucifixion of our Lord; Murray, who is made to look like a bigoted fool; and publishers, not just because Murray was one but because we cannot, having read the line, get rid of the suspicion that there may have been some truth in Byron's claim. The configuration is a sort of miniature pratttyasamutpada, the chain of dependent origination that lies at the heart of Buddhist teaching: the especial badness of each of the links in this story derives from its association with the others: they are locked into a mutually reinforcing hoop of malice for which there seems to be no cure.
Charles Ramble is Directeur d'etudes at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris. From 2000 to 2010 he held the position of Lecturer in Tibetan and Himalayan Studies at the University of Oxford.
Ulrike Roesler is Associate Professor of Tibetan and Himalayan Studies at the University of Oxford. From 2005 to 2007 she was Numata Lecturer in Buddhist Studies at the University of Oxford, and in 2007-2010 held a replacement professorship in Indian Studies at the University of Freiburg.
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