Saturday, 24 February 2007

A Cultural Vulture?

Being a claimed 'Master of Tibetan Medicine' can be a rewarding business and one wonders how much profit Christopher Hansard makes, from what appears his contemptuous misrepresentation of the Tibetan Bon tradition. A not inconsiderable 'empire' has been built upon the fantastic and bogus foundations surrounding Mr.Hansard. Apart from a number of workshops, which can cost the 'seeker of inner peace and harmony' several hundred dollars, he is director of a 'medical' center in a prestigious part of London, where one presumes he dispenses his so-called Tibetan medical skills for further profit?

He has also produced a number of books which, appealing to a certain demographic, feature the marketable term 'Tibet' or 'Bon' in their titles. These have been widely promoted by the publishers, who presumably are either ignorant of Hansard's questionnable claims or too busy making money to care? Reviews of his 'works' appear on various internet sites such as Amazon where, curiously, the syntax used to praise his 'teachings' all possess a worrying similarity. Could it be Mr. Hansard is engaged in a duplicitous form of self-promotion? His books have also received the fascinating endorsement of two exotic individuals who apparently state:

"I have read the Tibetan Art of Living; it is a rare treasure, a distillation by the author who has real understanding and spiritual achievement. It is a book shown to me by a professor at an American university and it is the real thing, I will encourage all students of differing types of Tibetan wisdom to learn from the new and emerging spiritual master." Tsevegar Rimpoche, Dharamsala

"Christopher Hansard has obviously been taught by learned people and his spiritual realization is obvious. The west is fortunate to have such a treasure; I look closely to what the future may bring for him and his work." Dorjong Rimpoche, Tajit Bon Retreat, The Kingdom of Mustang

Curious about the identity of the 'authors' (note the coincidental enthusiasm of both reviewers for the word 'treasure') and having many contacts in Dharamsala India I have thus far been singularly unable to identify 'Tsevegar Rimpoche',. A surprising disappointment, not least because of the small size of that Tibetan settlement and given all Rimpoches are known by the community. Furthermore, the name itself is rather curious, unlike any Tibetan name I have come across, more like Mongolian or Kazakh! Yet another of Mr.Hansard's mystery supporters!

Equally puzzling is the name of the second reviewer, 'Dorjong', another strange variation. What of the phrase 'Tajit'? This appears to have Turkic origins, yet this monastery is supposedly based in Mustang, a remote ethnically Tibetan region of Western Nepal that borders Tibet. How a Tibetan Bon monastery has acquired such a title is extremely baffling. Significantly, although challenged to furnish contact details of these individuals, Mr.Hansard has thus far declined to do so. Meanwhile the genuine Tibetan Bon community has never heard of this monastery!

Whatever the facts behind such smoke and mirrors Mr.Hansard has developed quite a career upon the back of Tibet and its Bon culture. and seems to be unconcerned by what many would consider a parasitic and cynical exploitation.