Tuesday, January 24, 2006

25 General Questions - India & Dharamsala

The Student Facilitator who's working with my field study group asked us a few days ago to put together a quick list of 25 questions we have about our time in India, and to turn them in tomorrow. Here are mine. Please, if you've got some feedback or any answers, send me an email.

1 - How hard can Tibetan be? (ha ha)

2 – How in the world do I manage to build a relationship with a family that permits my filming them?

3 – If I do focus on a parental-filial relationship, how would Tibetans and other local residents take it if I have women as my subjects? Would any kind of taboo prevent me from creating the friend relationships with women that I would need to be able to film them comfortably?

4 – I’m hoping to find a family that has some recognition in the community, but I don’t necessarily mean money or power. Maybe musicians, artists, or anything else that might be common between generations of men or women. Is the Tibetan community one in which that kind of “recognition phenomenon” exists?

5 – I found a place in Delhi where I can get language materials cheap – like a $20 book here is around $6 there. But there’s no online checkout option, and I’m not sure how to place an order and get them the money the way an Indian would expect it. I’m also not sure about shipping costs and delays in arrival. Should I just order it stateside?

6 – How open are monasteries to those who are genuinely interested?

7 – How do we hold Church sacrament meetings there?

8 – How much will an Internet cafĂ© cost me when I need it?

9 – What shots will I need to take before leaving?

10 – (One of my really burning questions) I’ve been reading Born in Lhasa, and I can’t help but wonder about the similarities and differences between the actual homes I’ll see in Dharamsala/McLeod Ganj and those in Lhasa I’m reading about. I guess that’s not a question.

11 – What’s the significance of butter? Butter tea, butter sculptures, butter lamps… are these just arts and technologies because of the available livestock in Tibet? Even if they are due to local resources, do they hold any cultural and/or religious significance?

12 – How are prayer flags a part of (Tibetan) Buddhism? What about the several colors - does each carry a meaning, or are they all equal?

13 – Born in Lhasa’s author talks a lot about female deities. Is Buddhism polytheistic, and if so to what point is it?

14 – For that matter, was Buddha a prophet, a messenger, a deity, or something else? I hate to sound ignorant, but in this case I am.

15 – What is Buddhist scripture? Is there one sacred book, are there many, is there a canon?

16 – Where does Buddhist scripture come from?

17 – What is a Lama?

18 – How does reincarnation fit into Buddhist theology?

19 – How much difference is there between sects of Buddhism? Does “Tibetan Buddhism” have a more official name?

20 – Where do the several sects of Buddhism come from?

21 – Why do Buddhist monks wear the same burgundy robes?

22 – What purpose does circumambulation serve?

23 – How much ritual is there to prostrations? Are there certain times for them like in Muslim prayers? Is there a certain way to do prostrations?

24 – What are the houses in Dharamsala/McLeod Ganj constructed of? (Pictures on blogs seem to indicate cement, much like the construction I’m used to from my mission to northern Brazil, but it’s COLD up there in the winter, so I don’t know!)

25 – What kinds of things do they eat in the region?

I imagine all of these have answers I can find myself, but that's really okay. Getting them into vision, actually seeing the words, that gives me all the more reason and motivation to answer them.

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