Images on the Path of Tibet
Please Note: My Gallery Images are Off-line to conserve
space while I upload and download large files related to the courses I am
teaching Fall, 2003.
Willard Uncapher Profile (Eminds)
There is a logic and a story behind each of these images, and a logic
that connects one with the other. Trouble is, these are only a slim selection
of a longer itinerary (I have 100s of slide portraits of Tibet, India and
Nepal). Each slide is usually the product of a negotiation between me and
the 'subject.' That is, I got permission to take these images. Usually
I exchanged something for the possibility, such as another picture. The
images were taken during a 4 month journey mid 1986, during which I met
with teachers, meditated, got sick, recovered, and stormed over the mountains
like a cloud full of rain.
Since time has passed, there is dust on some of the originals. The originals
still look better as slides since the darker areas often reveal additional
detail when they projected with light coming from within, I mean from behind
the picture. Also, I have excluded a number of portraits from India which
really should be part of this set. These days I am quite busy, and to paraphrase
Goethe, my duties are the claims of the day. So without support, I can
only intimate this journey, and limn what its telling might sound like.
It is the sound of cyberspace, perhaps.
The images here are jpgs, with the originals stored as psd's. And since a psd
weighs in at 800-1000K, I'm not about to clutter the Actlab server with something
like that for more than a day or two. It takes long enough to download a 150K
jpg. With the exception of topos01, an illustration included here for the eminds
article, all the slides were taken by me, and the originals
should be credited as such. You must ask my permission if you wish to redistribute
them in any shape or form.
Currently, some of the pictures have been taken off-line for the month of Feb,
2003 for up-keeping. They will be returned in the near future.
A self-portrait- in case any of you wanted to know just what I looked during
all of this. This slide was taken on top of a bus while entering into the
Himalayas (I would have to hitch hike the final miles). A lot of time had
already been spent in India, particularly in Varanasi (Benares). The object
of my pilgrimage to Tibet was not Lhasa, per se, but Samye monastery. Samye
was the site of the great debate between the proponents of the two potential
forms of Buddhism for Tibet, the short path (Ch'an/Zen) from China, and
the gradual path (Scholastic Tantra) from India. The king of the time decided
in favor of the gradual path, thinking that it would encourage the most
people to practice the Dharma, and so he began to invite scholars from
India. Samye monastery is located in tiny town, reached only by small,
hired boat when I visited. The town is itself in the shape of a mandala,
a 'cosmogram' surrounded by circular walls. The monastery is at one key
central points, each of the four cardinal points marked by 'houses' and
two additional points are marked for the sun and the moon. To visit the
town is to walk the cosmogram. Since most of the town has been trashed
by the Chinese, I would have to use frescoes on the monastery walls to
find where these actual buildings were. The frescoes at the monastery had
often been burned and defaced. The Chinese authorities were rehabilitating
some places elsewhere in Tibet, such as Shigatse (which became a giant
depository of relics taken from other, destroyed monasteries), hoping for
some tourist dollars eventually. Samye had not been 'resurrected,' and
its walls still showed evidence of the destruction in evidence all over
Tibet. All the same, what is there is remarkable.
The main street of Gyantse. I might point out that the enclosed area at
the end of the street, a rather vast area, was once a monastery. All of
it has been demolished, except for the famous stupa, a granary, and one
other administrative building. In another set of slides, I visit several
sites near by. I was waiting for the mid-summer festival to begin. Gyantse
of course was a far north as the British were allowed to come. Lhasa, at
that time was a forbidden city, and the British had had to fight to even
get this far.
This is a portrait of a monk overseeing the Shigatse 3 day summer festival.
Behind me were long lines of pilgrims awaiting to get the darshan of the
special images- the Buddha of the past (Dipankara), of the present (Gautama),
and of the future (Maitreya). The giant images are unrolled only for a
brief period, one each day. Then people line up. For this festival, people
came from miles around, in horse drawn carts, on foot, by bus.
A devout man next to a giant incense burner (hence the ash).
Waiting for things with an attitude! I never did a portrait without asking
(except once by mistake when I asked the husband, and the wife got into
the picture without my thinking). This is that picture.
Ok. This is an image of the back of the Potala, one of the most striking
sights and sites in Central Asia, the center of this once Forbidden City,
the administrative center of the Dalai Lama, built over a period of years.
Like the Kremlin, the inside has many chapels, medical centers, drawing
rooms, and so on.
The Potala taken across the river from the front. The image avoids the
radio tower that stands atop of the famous medical college on Iron Mountain,
Chagkpori that the Chinese demolished.
A man at a temple prayer wheel in the most holy Jokhang, in central Lhasa.
The Jokhang is now the real spiritual center of Lhasa. All day, people
circumnambulate the Barkhor circuit outside the Jokhang temple. This has
also been the site of much resistance to the Chinese, and many people who
began their protests near here are still in jail or exile.
The abbot of the Drepung-Loseling Monastery. The exiled monks of the Indian
version of this erudite monastery visit Austin, Tx now and then. in fact,
I had lunch with the Tulku over at Martin Brothers.
An interesting picture, eh, of an illiterate Tibetan gentleman looking
at a guide to Tibet. I took the picture for the multiple referentiality.
Since the book had just been published (in Hong Kong- I got an underground
copy before the book even made its way to the publishers in Berkeley),
people I met often knew people in the illustrations personally.
Mani Stones near Drepung. A nice photo.
The Mosque of Lhasa. No self respecting major town in Central Asia would
be caught without a Mosque. I include this here since I simply had never
seen a picture of the Mosque of Lhasa before. The Buddhists have no problem
with other religions, although the same can't always be said the other
Geshe's debating at the Nechung Monastery, site of the state Oracle. The
oracle sanctuary is part shamanic, part Buddhist. In the temple is a living
tree, with marks on the side representing the ascent of the Shaman through
the 7 planes. There is always drumming nearby, and in the entrance to the
darkened sanctuary, snakes are painted writhing up the columns and rafters.
- Samye, eh. Well, if you haven't already been there, you'll have to
wait another day.
Again, these are only a small sample.
This slide is from Lisa Tamiris Becker's Multi Media Installation at Topos
Art Space, Austin Tx, 1994, called the "Well of Desire." Lisa
wrote the poem "The Well of Desire" that the piece explores.
The Well looks like the well of terrestrial gravity, among other connotations.
Lisa also took the slide.
Here I monkey with the previous slide.
Here I monkey with willard1.jpg..