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7 Years in Tibet

Essay by   •  May 25, 2016  •  Book/Movie Report  •  1,045 Words (5 Pages)  •  428 Views

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Gestures in the movie Seven Years in Tibet include kowtowing to the Dalai Lama, sticking out the tongue for greeting, giving someone a picture of the Dalai Lama for protection, pouring tea for a departing friend, and offering scarves to travelers. At one point in Tibet’s history, there was a terrible ruler with a black tongue. Since Tibetans believe in reincarnation, they were afraid that this ruler would be reborn, and so they would stick out their tongues to show they were free of evil deeds and not incarnations of that king. Tibetans give travelers a picture of the Dalai Lama because to the Tibetans, the Dalai Lama is more than just someone to learn from: he is their holy figure, and so they believe that the picture can protect the travelers. It is also why Tibetans will kowtow to the Dalai Lama when meeting him in person. We see the tea-pouring near the end of the movie, where Aufschnaiter does so for Harrer, saying that the tea was to be left untouched, waiting for the friend’s return. Scarves are given to travelers, priests, etc. rather than flowers due to Tibet’s harsh weather.

Tibetan taboos include returning gifts, stepping on religious artifacts, harming living creatures, sitting with your legs out in front of you, and being loud on a mountaintop. As mentioned by Ngawang Jigme in the movie, returning gifts is an unforgivable insult. Stepping on religious artifacts, not sitting cross-legged, and being loud are considered signs of disrespect. As for harming living creatures, Tibetans believe that they could be reincarnations of deceased loved ones, so they won’t harm them. It is especially bad to harm any living creature in the presence of a religious leader or near a monastery.

Some cultural differences between the western world and Tibet are differences in religious devotion, behavior in the presence of a religious leader, political following, spiritual journeys, and belief in rebirth. Tibetans are very devout, and therefore act accordingly in the presence of their religious leaders. In Tibetan culture, the Dalai Lama, a religious leader, eventually gains a political majority. Tibetans also take long pilgrimages to holy places; they believe that the longer and harder the journey, the more thoroughly you are purified and cleansed.

Heinrich Harrer’s acceptance of Tibetan culture made his time in the country easier in numerous ways. When he and Aufschnaiter first try to enter Tibet, instead of trying to reason with the Tibetans the way Aufschnaiter did, he simply tried to run past the Tibetans and didn’t listen to what they were saying. We also see that at the market where they escape the guards, Harrer is very selfish and cons Aufschnaiter into giving away a watch given to him by his father, when in reality Harrer had three less valuable watches that he could have sold. As time goes on, Harrer slowly begins to see how selfish and insensitive he is being, and eventually even finds the watch he’d forced Aufschnaiter to sell, giving it back to him as a gift and

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