Love and Honor in the Himalayas: Coming to Know Another Culture

Love and Honor in the Himalayas: Coming to Know Another Culture

Love and Honor in the Himalayas: Coming to Know Another Culture

Love and Honor in the Himalayas: Coming to Know Another Culture

Synopsis

"A stunning, emotionally charged, intellectually stimulating, and aesthetically crafted fieldwork memoir. This is a book I will teach often, recommend to colleagues, and share with family and friends for its multifaceted delights."--Kirin Narayan, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Excerpt

The Gurung people live in the foothills of the Annapurna mountains, a range of the Himalayas in Nepal. Their villages, tightly clustered like medieval towns, dot the slopes, surrounded by cascades of terraced fields. I lived in one of those villages for a number of years, and this is the story of what I learned there. I cannot describe the story in a few sentences, nor could I convey the sense of it through analysis. It is about a complex world and the people who inhabited it. It is about possibility and place, and what people make of their places and their lives. It is about fragmentation and loss, imagination and affection.

The people with whom I lived sometimes mentioned that though their lives were full of toil and hardship, they were fortunate to live in a place with ramro hawa-pani, literally “good wind and water,” which in Nepali means a wholesome or pleasant climate. This phrase evokes not just a sense of good weather, but of a landscape that is kind and bountiful and creates propitious conditions for life. Although people in the village spoke of how loss and misfortune were inevitable in existence, a view shared by most Buddhists, what they stressed above all was the importance of living with grace, kindness, and generosity in the midst of suffering, and of cultivating appreciation and equanimity (a good climate, as it were) in one’s own being, regardless of circumstances. The climate in the village was largely one of graciousness and good-humor, with the sorrows of life making its joys more poignant and amplifying the value of human connection.

My involvement with the Himalayas began when I was an undergraduate, in a research project that was directed toward understanding the relationship between ritual, social life, and personal experience. I developed this project under the direction of Gregory Bateson, with whom I worked . . .

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