Sunday, January 07, 2007

Mongolia | Ulaan Baaatar | Silk Road Restaurant

Moving on quickly from Turpan to Ulaan Baatar but staying on the Silk Road theme I sauntered into the Silk Road Restaurant near the Choijin Lama Museum for dinner. Restauranteur extraordinaire Ankha, proprietor of the Silk Road Restaurant, in his trademark Atalas Silk shirt beside a reproduction of the Three Uighur Noblemen from the Bezeklik Grottos near Turpan in Xinjiang. The original of this artwork is now in the Indian Art Museum in Berlin, Germany. At least I think that’s the original. Knowing Ankha, he might have the original here and the one in Berlin might be a fake.
Copy (?) of Two Uighur Ladies from Bezeklik: The original (?) is in Berlin
Map of the Silk Road in the Dining Room of the Silk Road Restaurant
Detail of Silk Road Map
Nice wine selection at the Silk Road Restaurant
Around the table were translator, publisher, and gadfly Batbold, the inimitable American Red Hat monk Konchok Norbu, Mongolian monk Nyamochir, an Indian guy who lives in New York City, and a young American guy who also lives in New York City. These latter two are in town for a couple of weeks scanning old sutras in the National Library, where Nyamochir works, for inclusion in a vast digital library of Buddhist texts being prepared by Asian Classics. Batbold is in the final throes of giving birth to a translation into Mongolian of Alan Wallace’s latest tome, The Attention Revolution: Unlocking the Power of the Focused Mind. Alan Wallace’s better half is Vesna Wallace, author of The Inner Kalacakratantra: A Buddhist Tantric View of the Individual and Kalacakratantra: The Chapter On The Individual Together With The Vimalaprabha. Vesna is a regular summer migrant to Mongolia but is wisely spending the winter in California, where she teaches.
Batbold in his passive mode
Conversation was wide-ranging, to say the least. The Indian guy (sorry, I didn’t catch his name and neither him nor the American guy had business cards; are we living in a post-business card era?) gave a concise explanation of karma from the Mind-Only School point of view. Batbold expressed his decidedly idiosyncratic views on the current Dalai Lama. His main beef seems to be the Dalai Lama’s flirtation with the scientific method. Science can only measure the three-dimensional world. Only “direct yogic perception” can ascertain the higher levels of reality, according to Batbold. Nyamochir gave a fascinating justification of the use of alcohol from a tantric point of view. Konchog was kept on his toes nimbly sparring with both Batbold and Nyamochir. The lamb kebabs weren’t bad either.
Batbold in his manic mode