DAILY PHOTO: Yiga Choeling Old Monastery, Ghoom

Taken in December of 2021 near Darjeeling

DAILY PHOTO: Dubdi Monastery, The First Gompa of Sikkim

Taken in Yuksom in May of 2022

Madman of the Empty Valley [Free Verse]

Thang Tong Gyalpo,

They called him:
Maker of Iron Bridges, 
King of the Empty Plain,
"Excellent Persistence,"
& 
Madman of the Empty Valley

You might not like your bridge-maker
sharing mind & body 
with a madman,
but some of his 15th century bridges
are still in use today.

DAILY PHOTO: Tsoka Gompa from Above

Taken in May of 2022 on the trail to Goechala

DAILY PHOTO: Druk Thupten Sangag Choeling Monastery

Taken on December 30, 2021 in Darjeeling

BOOK REVIEW: Shamans, Mystics and Doctors by Sudhir Kakar

Shamans, Mystics and Doctors: A Psychological Inquiry into India and its Healing TraditionsShamans, Mystics and Doctors: A Psychological Inquiry into India and its Healing Traditions by Sudhir Kakar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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In this book, Freudian psychoanalyst Sudhir Kakar examines a range of alternatives to mainstream psychiatry / psychotherapy that are pursued across India. They are largely traditions that predate psychiatry, and which weren’t developed primarily as a path to mental health, but rather as methods to develop mind and spirit – but which came to fill a void. Included in this exploration are a Sufi Muslim Pir, a Balaji Temple exorcist, an Oraon bhagat, Tibetan Buddhist / Bon healers, cultists, tantrics, and Ayurvedic doctors. The chapters are organized by the type of healer, and the ten chapters are split between shamans (Pt. I,) mystics (Pt. II,) and Ayurvedic healers (Pt. III.)

This book is at its best and most interesting when it’s describing the author’s visits to various temples, shaman huts, and other places where healers reside. He tells what he learned and experienced at these places, which ranges from reassuring (shamans and healers getting at least as good a result as their mainstream psychotherapeutic counterparts) to mildly horrifying (people chained to cots, or being blamed for their condition — i.e. being told their faith is inadequate.) I found many of the cases under discussion to be fascinating, and learned a lot about how mental illness is perceived by different religious and spiritual traditions.

While Kakar is trained in a Western therapeutic system, he maintains a diplomatic tone about these indigenous forms of therapy – some of which are quite pragmatic but others of which are elaborately pseudo-scientific. I found this book to be insightful about various modes of treating the mind that are practiced in India

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