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  • Eating People Isn’t Wrong (in Tibet) November 7, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern , trackback

    A crisis of sorts tonight in the Beachcombing household. Mrs B is leaving the family home to go and organise an academic conference in the heart of darkness (aka Brussels). This means that Beach – a better husband than a father – and the Beachcombing’s au pair are being left on their own to look after little Miss B and tiny Miss B for three days. As Kurtz put it: ‘the darkness, the darkness’ ,which in blogging terms means that service may be spotty for the next 72 hours.

    In these difficult times Beach thought that he would offer up a peculiar Tibetan version of cannibalism that he recently stumbled upon: regular readers will know that this blog has, after all, sometimes examined questions of homophagy.

    Now one evening this same Choga Tsang [a drunk lama, a kind of Tibetan rasputin] unexpectedly called up one of his trapas. ‘Saddle two horses, we are going’, he ordered him. The monk remonstrated with the Lama saying that it was already late and that it would be better to wait the next morning. ‘Do not answer back’, said Choga Tsang laconically, ‘let us go’. They start, ride in the night and arrive at some spot near a river. There they alight from their horses and walk toward the river bank. Though the sky is completely dark a spot on the water is ‘lighted by sun rays’, and in that illuminated place a corpse is floating up-stream, moving against the current. After a while it comes within reach of the two men. ‘Take your knife, cut a piece of flesh and eat it,’ commands Choga Tsang to his companion. And he adds ‘I have a friend in India who sends me a meal every year at this date. Then he himself began to cut and to eat. The attendant is struck with terror, he endeavours to imitate his master but does not dare to put the morsel into his mouth and hides it in his ambag [breast pocket]. Both return to the monastery where they arrive at dawn. The lama says to the monk. ‘I wished you to share the favour and the most excellent fruits of this mystic meal, but you are not worthy of it. That is why you have not dared to eat the piece which you have cut off and hidden under your dress.’ Hearing these words the monk repents of his lack of courage and puts his hand into his ambag to ake his share of the corpse, but the piece of flesh is not longer there.’

    This appears in an early twentieth century work on Tibet and almost as interesting as the flesh-eating is the Blavatsky-style blather about it. Never has eating human flesh been made to seem so civilised. Think Hannibal Lecter in tails and a top hat:

    ‘There exist, so they said, certain human beings who have attained such a high degree of spiritual perfection that the original material substance of their bodies has become transmuted into a more subtle one which possesses special qualities. Few people can discern the change which has come over these exceptional men. A morsel of their transformed flesh, when eaten, will produce a special kind of ecstasy and bestow knowledge  and supernormal powers upon the person partaking of it.’

    So there you are.

    All said and done Beach prefers reading John Cassian and the Desert Fathers. However, he is always interested in cannibal stories: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com