“Perhaps the most important lesson of Ladakh has to do with happiness. Only after many years of peeling away layers of preconceptions did I begin to see the joy and laughter of the Ladakhis for what it really was: a genuine and unhindered appreciation of life itself. In Ladakh I have known a people who regard peace of mind and joie de vivre as their unquestioned birthright. I have seen that community and a close relationship to the land can enrich human life beyond all comparison with material wealth or technological sophistication.”
– Helena Norberg-Hodge, Ancient Futures
Learning from Ladakh
One example of the social consequences of Official Culture meeting pathology-free communities is from the thousand year-old Buddhist people of Ladakh situated in the desert of the Western Himalayas known as : “little Tibet.” There is no romantic gilding here, theirs is a story of survival, endurance and physical hardship set against a harsh environment. The essence and principles of their continued existence and the coming of Western “development” places in sharp relief the kind of values necessary to create a community and to see it function and thrive. Yet, the deep spiritual resource that the Ladakhis embodied and which pervaded every facet of their lives was a lesson in ancient humility and reverence for a sacredness that we have lost – to our absolute detriment. Simplicity, yes, raw nature, indeed. But the Ladakhis appeared to have a spiritual health that was far in advance of our own. Like many indigenous cultures, it is not so hard to see why. For all our intellectual feats of daring-do, our Western populations in particular, remain desperately unhappy and dangerously lost.
So, what does that mean? That we all give up our i-pads and urban lifestyles and go and live in yurts and commune with nature?