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Modern Tibet, Ancient Culture in Transition

By Sherry Brooks
July 5, 2012
File under: Spirituality, Sustainability, Travel

Tibetan prayer flags flutter in the wind outside the 7th Century Potala Palace.

Hardy Tibetans have lived a simple, cost-effective and sustainable lifestyle for centuries. Sadly, this peaceful, planet-friendly way of life is giving way to the occupation of a modern and militaristic China.

This growing world power has a strong need for Tibet’s timber, coal, sparsely populated large land mass and jobs that pay three times the wages that the Chinese can earn in China.

Chinese soldiers were a constant presence on almost every corner.

It is unfortunate that this modernized China does not tolerate religious practice, fearing that it may get in the way of productivity.

It appears that I got into Tibet just in time because China has just banned tourists indefinitely from what they refer to as their ‘Autonomous Region of Tibet.’

Nuns enjoying a mid-morning bowl of warm yak butter tea.

The Tibetans have solved many of the problems that we grapple with and have the whole healthcare and child care thing wired!

Parents both work until retirement at age fifty, while grandparents care for their children.

Employees making prayer flags in a small 2-person “factory”

Families are very close and teenagers love to visit grandparents on weekends or drop in on their daily Kora, a clock-wise walking pilgrimage around a holy site for up to two and a half hours.

Handheld prayer wheels spin with a chanted prayer to end suffering and world disasters, even for yaks and cows . . . for all living beings.

The elders often have toddlers with their little bottom cheeks showing out of their split long pants (no diapers here) strapped to their backs and are in wonderful shape, vital and trim into their twilight years.

Tibetans climb the steps of the Dalai Lamas’ Potala Palace.

The smiles on their wholesome faces attest to the daily socialization they have with countless friends also performing the Kora.

They don’t have bridge, golf games or health clubs, but with the daily Kora, they have friendship, fitness and faith under sunny blue skies filled with the whitest clouds ever.

Clouds seem so close you could almost touch them from the ground in Tibet.

Often, religious retirees prostrate themselves in whole body, voice and heart reverence to Buddha hundreds of times during their pilgrimages or when at holy sites.

It was amazing to see eighty year old Tibetans do a sort of downward dog pose, drop to their knees, slide forward until prone and then come up in reverse order, to begin the next prostration.

Faithful  prostrating at the wall of the seventh century shrine of a thousand carved Buddhas

There are even those who do this for miles and months at a time while traveling from remote villages to a monastery for blessings.

If these healthy habits are squelched, Is the Chinese government ready to bear the cost of obesity, depression and other chronic diseases that overwhelm western culture?

Fast food, Tibetan style. A tiny restaurant and kitchen on a Lhasa, Tibet sidewalk.

Perhaps it is time to learn about sustainable retirement, childcare and healthy aging from the Tibetans before it is too late.

Theirs is an astonishingly stunning Shangri-La at the top of the world that was without crime and still has few brands and no fast food.

Tibetans feel “it is nice to be human” and say “Enjoy your life and your friends; have a picnic and enjoy nature.”

Prayer flags strung over a parking lot, in the middle of Lhasa, Tibet.

Their colorful prayer flags flutter in the wind sending off prayers to alleviate suffering all over the world.

I am feeling very fortunate to have experienced three state-run countries, China, Tibet and Cuba this past spring, before the whims of their governments change the citizens’ evaporating, ancient and ecologically sustainable ways of life.

The author spinning prayer wheels at the Sangghye Dhunghor Stupa.

Sherry Brooks is a healthy, happy and trim “Frugalista” living the lean and green life near Malibu in sunny southern California. Follow Sherry on Twitter

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