When I visited Nepal in the 1980s it became clear that Tibet as I conceived it was no longer a real world. Tibet was a storybook land where one deposited dreams of exotic miracles and hopes. Tibetan customs and religion lived as echoes in neighboring countries. Tibet was part of China.
Now I read the Chinese are not letting foreigners into the physical land of Tibet. Too many fiery immolations by buddhists who have learned the truth — they are yearning for a mythical kingdom that won’t return except in legends and dreams.
When I was a little girl I used to wish I would one day walk the trails of the Himalayas and find those villages where people knew the Truths of life that were larger than words to describe them. I can’t forget the ecstasy of actually seeing those mountains that were shrouded in blowing snows in the bright heat of summer. I also can’t forget the truths that modernity took Shangri-la away from the people there. Tanks and soldiers with guns and the smell of gasoline sucked the purity out of one’s vision.
I still have the joy of having seen the prayer flags blow wishes to the immortals and felt the prayer wheels circle about the great buddhist shrines in Katmandu with the ever watchful eyes. I felt in an airplane level with that giant mountain range where avenues of eternity were carpeted in frosts that did not melt. It did not compare to my childhood version, but it took away my grownup breath. I did not want to take a match to myself like the nuns and monks. I wanted to live forever and learn more about Tibet the reality — to help those there — and Tibet the mythical country — to feed my soul.