Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Discussion on Mimpa

I could not pass up Palkyi la's urge to do a summary of our discussion and also this is in appreciation of Gyaltso la's recommendation of the book. How incomplete and unpolished it might be, all responsibility is mine only.

The reading of Mipam, refreshes one's understanding of Tibetan customs and culture in its finest or crudest form. The opening of the novel piques readers interest with lots of drama, suspense, and thrill at a fast paced. As the plot thicken and character revealed, the reader would have a bitter and sweet taste of every fabric of Tibetan's rustic cultural practices.

The novel has the three typical elements of a Hollywood blockbuster; whereby a love is formed, that led to an altercation, and a chase followed, with a happy or unhappy ending.

Our moderator Tenzin Woedbum Ggt leads the discussion with a succinct summary of the story; that paves the way for everyone's self-reflective thinking and critical inquiry. Amidst so much curiosity and questions, our discussion on Mimpa revolves around several important issues or themes that the readers could identify:

Those main points are summed up by the moderator as follows:
 "It is a struggle between grasping Buddhist ideals within a materially driven and competitive world; the pros and cons of reincarnation; impact on society of religious divination; the decisions Mipam makes to encounter his struggle between love and religious enlightenment; the subtle implications of his spiritual relationship with his mother; and more."

We also believe the story highlight the significance of fulfilling mother's wishes, recognition of Tibetan's business acumen, the norm and practice of polygamy, and infusion of the supernatural element in the practice of Tibetan Buddhism and also the folly and foibles of particular ritual supplications.

The main protagonist of the story, is Mimpa, the prodigious son of Phuntsok and Changpal. The title of the novel is also derived from his name. Historically Mimpa Rinchen (The Lama of five Wisdoms, Yeshes Nga den) was a disciple of Jowo Atisha. This novel might be a recreation of a semi-biography of a renowned spiritual master.

Now on the question of fulfilling mother's wishes, we can see how the story unfolds with the earnest desire of Mipam 's parents for the recognition of his son as reincarnation. When the parent's wishes for the son did not materialize, still the mother, Changpal perceives extraordinary qualities in his son. As the story ends, Mimpa has realized certain spiritual prowess, which he contributed in fulfilling his mother's wishes.

Through the success story of Mimpa's business dealings In China. The story compliment Tibetan man's business acumen. Becoming prosperous from doing trade was also way for Mimpa to be self-reliant and independent in asking for the hand of her love, Dolma. The social status of a person would be determined by the size of his caravan. Later we learn his love, and trade served as detractors from his earlier spiritual realization.

Another main point of the story is that polygamy exists in Tibet, and Mimpa's father Phuntsok has willingly adopted it with two spouses. This harmony's existence of such relationship underpins the social norms of the time. While polyandry is also socially accepted norms in eastern Tibet, Mimpa refuses it when it comes to the proposal of sharing his darling Dolma as a wife with his brother Topgyal. An outsider in a conversation with Mimpa condemns such a proposal: "Only savages could think of giving several husbands to the same wife. It is putting things upside down. It is logical on the other hand, for a man to have several wives".

While this has been the tradition, which I believe have grossly discriminated women, it is also pointed out in our discussion that what has been the practice in the past, can not be projected in today's contemporary Tibetan society.

On the themes of infusing occult power in Tibetan Buddhism. The story marvels at such manifestation of supernatural power through various forms and shapes. While the belief in such a phenomena is deeply rooted in the conscious of every Tibetan at the time, it has also opened the door for abuses and malpractice by impostors who claims to possess such power.

In the story, at one instance, a family in distress invited a sorcerer, the later's supplication of a ritual involves animal sacrifice:

"Asking for a pig, he slew it as he murmured secret formula over it. Then, cutting up the carcass, he laid the joints and a bed of leaves and offered them up to his tutelary deity..." the sorcerer, after a mere pretense of sacrificial offerings, carried off, as part of his fee, the best portions of the animal. Such is the practice of the country..." (p.17) The anecdote illustrates that certain Tibetan ritual practice is very primitive.

The book discussion and intelligent questions raised helps the reader to gain new insights from critical reflections. The author's portrayal of old Tibetan society is brutally honest.

The climax of the story had philosophical and psychological overtones but shrouded in mystery and mysticism is the least a reader would expect for an ending in a contemporary love story. A comment from one of our reader gives some sense in unraveling this mysticism through his eloquent expression: "Unconsummated love can be the most poignant and beautiful because of the insurmountable obstacles, obstructions, and ultimately Karma itself. They call for yet another lifetime to pursue. Poor Mipham and his love". I think this view has hit the nail on the head probably.  As a matter of fact, there was so much heat but no light produced.

 Our book discussion enabled readers to deduce that story has a significant spiritual dimension. A real understanding of the essence of Tibetan Buddhism is that you are your enemy, and you are your savior. Reincarnation should not have depended on others endorsement, and reincarnation should be realized through study and contemplation and practice.

Finally, huge thanks to our book discussion host, Woedbum and others for their warm hospitality, the food, snacks, tea, beer and the conversation keeps us at the edge of our seat, and we are so reluctant to leave even in late night.

D.C Tibetan book club memebers at their monthly book discussion

No comments: