It was a place unknown to the world beyond its mountain walls for nearly a millennium. Exotic tales abounded about these unearthly people on the vast plateau embraced by the mountains. But it was not a land to be entered abruptly by outsiders.
Inaccessible and remote,
Tibet remained a mysterious figment in western imagination.
They were images that provoked fantastic tales,
even more it seemed westerners wanted to believe in
the mythical Shangri-La,
a temperate Asian land sheltered from the outside, governed by a philosophy
of compassion and non-violence, free from hardship or strife.
Life on Earth's highest plateau was one of harsh contrast, a place where natural riches were matched by unimaginable rigors. Its first inhabitants were nomads who slowly adapted to high altitude extremities. Even for these rugged people at 15,000 feet their eyes could literally dry up from the brutal intensity of the sun.
A sudden hailstorm could destroy a season's work
or scatter herds in seconds. Their early history was marked by fierce wars
among tribes and outsiders. Life expectancy was brief. They were people with
an acute sense of life's impermanence and suffering.
He invited a charismatic leader from India, Padmasambhava, to bring Buddhism to his land.
The people came to embrace the Buddhist way of
life as a continuous stream of death and reincarnation, a cycle in which
human birth represents a precious opportunity to make the moral choices that
will determine one's destiny in the next life.