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There are different kinds of hermits in Tibet: the book hermit, whose object in secluding himself is to attain knowledge; the "good works" hermit, who seeks the goal by diligence in good works and who may be either a lama or a layman; and two other kinds, both of whom aim at acquiring peculiar powers. The book hermit is a lama who shuts himself in a cave in the mountains or in a cell in the lamasery for a term of nine years, nine months, and nine days for the purpose of prayer and study [The length of time may vary, but is now most commonly three years, three months, and three days--Ed.]. He may engage in conversation twice a day--once in the morning and once in the evening--but he does not show himself. His visitors are friends and relatives or, if he is wealthy, businessmen seek instructions about his property. When he is prepared to talk, he rings a bell. He has generally two meals, but sometimes only one. When he has completed his exact term he comes out and thereafter enjoys great repute as a lama of great knowledge and one whom the gods are likely to favour. The good works hermit relies on deeds rather than on knowledge and remains a hermit until he dies. Good works are manifested through six different agencies, namely: through the eyes, by regarding Chojong, lamas' holy mountains; through the ears, by listening to lamas' talks and to the scriptures; through the mouth, by reciting scriptures, by praying, and by good talk; through the body, by fasting and making prostrations; through the hands, by turning prayer-wheels and making prayer-flags; and through the feet, by circumambulating holy mountains and making pilgrimages to the holy places. But it is the mind that matters. If this mind is bad, it is like a lake of poison; if the eyes are bad, they are like pools of blood; if the mouth is bad, it is like the flames of fire; if the hands are bad, they are like swords; and if the feet are bad, they are like lightning, that is to say, as deadly to man's soul as his feet are to innumerable insects. The good works hermit rises three hours after midnight and rings a bell to let the gods know that he is about to pray. All the day is occupied in reading prayer books, praying, and doing good works through the six different agencies; and he has only one meal daily, at mid-day. His method of praying in the evening is as follows: facing the West, he stands with palms together, supposedly enclosing a jewel, and touches, successively, first his forehead, then his lips, then his breast. In touching the forehead, he invokes the body of Buddha, who resides in the crown of the head. In touching the mouth, he invokes Buddha's laws. And in touching the breast, he invokes Buddha's mind. He then kneels down with palms flat on the ground and makes a single kowtow. These two performances are repeated, one after the other, many hundred times; if the lama's physique is very strong, he may repeat this thousands of times. Each day is the same until he dies. He may live thus for thirty years.


-- Notebooks Category 15: The Orient > Chapter 3: China, Japan, Tibet > # 205






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