Al: I certainly appreciate the opportunity to interview you, Bos. We are on the
last leg of a long trip to Lhasa. Tomorrow, we will have arrived in the holy
city. Your willingness to talk with me is very thoughtful. I gave your owner
$20 for your time and a couple of pictures. I hope that you get some extra food
for the courtesy of giving me your time.
Bos: Actually, my full name is Bos Grunniens, which is Latin. Bos means "ox." Grunniens is the Latin verb for "I grunt." You could say my name means the ox that grunts.
Al: That's a strange name.
Bos: It really isn't. Most people don't know that I can speak pretty good English. When I'm out with other yaks, I don't show off my fluency in your language. Yaks merely grunt like you swine. None of us moos at all; we just grunt.
Al: You learn something everyday.
Bos: If you ask questions and keep an open mind. What else would you like to know?
Al: How did you come to be the Tibetan national animal.
Bos: By the way, you ought to get of picture of Tinzen, my owner. He has been around
a long time. Taking his picture would make him feel important. Now,
for your question about being the national animal: we like to think that Lord
Buddha had something to do with it, but the truth is that we got that honorable
title by default.
Al: No, it is all that this animal and his wife can do to take it, and we have been taking medication for over a week.
Bos: Tibet is for Tibetans and their yaks. Even the Chinese who came to Tibet in 1951 to liberate Tibetans, as they called it, can't breathe easily here either.
Al: Tell, me about why they are here.
Bos: Come a little closer, this is a closed society since the Chinese took over. They like to say that they liberated the Tibet-from Tibetans. Go figure. We, yaks, have watched in shock what the Chinese military has done to the land and the people. Nearly all the monasteries were destroyed and over a million people died. And not to be critical of you in the West, no one helped them. The world didn't care about the sufferings of so many Tibetans. I bet, if there was oil in the Himalayas that your country and others would have responded.
Al: I remember hearing about it on the news, but it seemed so far away.
Bos: Far away, maybe, but still there was much suffering and destruction of an innocent people who merely wanted to live in peace and isolation.
Al: That's when the Dalai Lama had to leave Lhasa.
Bos: Yep, he has been gone nearly a half century. Only the Lord Buddha knows when he will return. I hear reports back from tourists that His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, has worked for peace while in exile. I think that he will be able to return to Lhasa in the not too distant future-at least that is my hope. I never saw him, but Tibetans still admire and remember him by lighting butter candles and offering prayers.
Al: True, in the West, he is admired as a leader for peace. Some day, I would like to interview him, but for now, you are my target for an interview.
Bos: Fire away then.
Al: Please tell my readers about yaks.
Al: I can see why you are proud of your contribution to Tibet and its people. However, don't you get irritated when they kill you for food? In fact, I had a yak omelet for breakfast.
Bos: Well, I can see that I need to give you a quick primer on Tibetan Buddhism. The Lord Buddha taught the four noble truths: life is suffering, suffering is caused by desires, curbing desire cures suffering, and if you work at the above truths, you will be ready to begin the Eightfold Path. If you follow this path, you will reach enlightenment or Nirvana. Do you see that desires tie you to a cycle of endless yearning. As you say in the West, "You need to get off the treadmill of wants or cravings. Only when you extinguish that burning desire will you reach enlightenment. Only when one reaches enlightenment is that person released from the endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. Death has a less ominous ring to us than it does to many in the West. Therefore, you can see how closely we are related to all life. It has generally been a profitable relationship for both the people and the yak; both parties have benefited.
Al: I need to learn more about Buddhism while on this trip, but back to you and the yaks. I noticed while driving eastward from Nepal that all the yaks I saw were black or very dark brown and only occasionally were there any patches of white. You are the only white or linen color that I have seen. Are there many white yaks?
Bos: No, I'm unique. Well, there are some around but most of them are like the ones that you saw from the road. You will only find lighter yaks among the domesticated herds. Crossbreeding with cows can get wool that is linen color. I like the linen look. Take a close look at my hair-various linen colors. The problem with crossbreeding is that the offspring males are often sterile. The crossbreeds are called "dzo." Now, mind you, I'm not sterile, but many of the lighter yaks are. I still have all my Buddha-given maleness. I think yaks look mystical regardless of the color, but I really think there is something mysterious about a white yak like me. Don't you think?
Al: For those from America, everything in Tibet is mystical and mysterious. I love what I have seen so far of Tibet. I can't wait to arrive at our final destination, Lhasa. I've wanted be in the capital city every since I was a very young boy. I think that most Westerners view Tibet as the farthest away place that they could visit-not just mileage, but it is like a country relatively untouched by modern technology and Western ways.
Bos: Well, that's true. But much of Lhasa has been changed-not by the West but by China. The Chinese has changed much of the old ways, culture, religion, and the Tibetan way of life intentionally.
Al: What do you mean?
Bos: They have resettled thousands of Chinese in Tibet and forced their ways upon the Tibetans. Many Tibetans are fearful that in a short time little will remain that is pure.
Al: I have seen some of the modernization of some of the small cities that we travel through to get here. The Chinese architecture is rather plain and sterile in comparison with the Tibetan way of building.
Bos: Absolutely. It is too bad for them. We can escape to the mountains to stay away from the influence of the Chinese, but the Tibetans can't.
Al: Bos, is there a big difference between the size of the wild yak and the domesticated ones?
Bos: Very much so. When we become domesticated, it seems that we lose a great deal of weight and overall size. A wild yak could stand six feet at the shoulder hump and nearly twelve feet in length. Wild male yaks tend to run over 1200 pounds. If you think that is amazing, the horns of a wild male could grow to forty inches.
Al: Well, you even seem large and foreboding; I couldn't imagine running into a male yak in the wild.
Bos: With our size and the thick coat of hair, we might look menacing. However, not to worry we are docile even in the wild...unless provoked.
Al: Speaking of your coat, I'm sure that it
keeps you warm in the winters, but don't you get cold? I'm
wearing a sweatshirt while interviewing, and its August. I can't imagine what
the winters are like in the Himalayas.
Al: Mother Nature has surely taken care of you; hasn't she?
Bos: Actually, we like to think of the Lord Buddha taking care of us, but I know what you meant. We are most fortunate, because we take care of our environment. For example, our tongues are extremely rough and are able to rub off the tops of the grasses that grow on the mountainsides without digging them up like sheep do. After we scrape the vegetation and get the nutrients, we leave the rest of the plant in tack. That allows for the plant to grow and that allows for us to have food again in the future. This part of the world is a tough environment for man or beast. The yaks and the people need to do all they can to conserve the natural resources of the region. Both the Tibetan people and the Tibetan yak have had many millennia to adjust and adapt to life on the rooftop of the world-a very cold rooftop I might add.
Al: Speaking of the often-severe climate, in the West, we have heard a great deal about the
Abominable Snowman that allegedly stalks the Himalayas. If it exists, yaks
would probably be the ones that would see it since you share the same habitat.
Al: I don't have time on this trip. The Chinese only allow you to enter and exit Tibet on certain days, and we still have to see Lhasa. What can you tell me about the capital city of Lhasa? What should I not miss while there?
Bos: Well, Lhasa is perhaps the most mystical and remote city in the world. Not until a century ago were there more than a handful of Westerners that visited the holy city. You will still be among the elite of world travelers to set foot in Lhasa. You and your wife are most fortunate; a visit to Lhasa is most auspicious. As you drive into Lhasa, you can't miss the Potalla. It sits atop a large hill. It is painted in either red or white. The red section housed at one time the religious headquarters of the Dalai Lama and the white portion once housed the governmental offices. However, when the Chinese occupied Tibet, the Dalai Lama went into exile and now the Potalla is basically a tourist site without much active work going on inside. The religious center for all Tibetan Buddhists is the Jokhang Temple. There is no other place like it in all of Tibet. I have only seen it once from the outside. You will see incense burners in front and hundred of Buddhists circling the building with their prayer wheels.
Al: What are prayer wheels anyway? I've see
people carrying them around as they walk. But I
can't figure out how they work or what they are designed to do.
Al: Tashe Delek!