Sunday, October 18, 2015

Mountain ranges

I'm supposed to be coming up with an individual research agenda for the Kailash Sacred Landscape project. I think I have one. As often, it comes out of a correction of a too-simplified view I once held. The over-simplified view in this case is that in Mount Kailash the same mountain is sacred to many religious traditions - what a marvel of religious multiplicity! As someone put it, a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Bönpo, a Jain can behold the same mountain and each see something different. My research question involves how they see each other - and how that affects their understanding of the mountain.

You won't be entirely surprised by my interest in this line of questioning. My experience of the kora is profoundly shaped by the reality of people circumambulating in both directions. I'd been engaging in a perhaps too easy triangulation from this. The mountain clearly seems to be more than just what the clockwise kora people think, and just as clearly more than just what the counterclockwise kora people think; it easily accommodates both. But that's really just a particular (and probably incoherent) model of religious pluralism. The beholders of the mountain recall the old chestnut of the blind men and the elephant. (But who says it's an elephant?)

But that's me bringing my understanding of the meaning of the multiplicity of religions to the mountain (you could add: to my understanding of the meaning of mountains). It's just a sort of spin on that other old chestnut about many paths leading to the peak of the same mountain. What chestnuts do the other visitors bring?

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