Searching For Shangri-La
By Peter Wowkowych
This series of photographs provide a glimpse into various auspicious aspects of Tibetan culture, from the rigor of Philosophical Debate, to the daily ritual of Attending Temple, to the cleansing of the sacred Tibetan Buddhist Manuscripts.
“Our ancient experience confirms at every point that everything is linked together, everything is inseparable.”
― Dalai Lama XIV
Peter Wowkowych, an artist and architect living in Southern California, has always had a Western fascination with Tibet, starting in early childhood, after reading James Hilton’s novel “Lost Horizon”, followed by viewing Frank Capra’s movie of the same name, and at the age of ten, singing along to the lyrics in Burt Bacharach’s musical, also called “Lost Horizon.”
“Have you ever dreamed of a place
Far away from it all
Where the air you breathe is soft and clean
And children play in fields of green
And the sound of guns
Doesn’t pound in your ears (anymore) …”
– Lyrics from Lost Horizon, by Burt Bacharach. 1973
Many decades later, while working with Restoration Works International to help restore a 300 year old Tibetan Buddhist Monastery in the Mustang region of a Nepal, Peter finally connected with Tibetan culture, and made it to the forbidden kingdom of Tibet. These trips to Tibet and Mustang, throughout his 12+ year involvement with restoring a Tibetan Buddhist monastery, deeply connected him to the culture, the people, the architecture, and the sacred teachings of ancient Tibet.
“We have reason. It is the entire meaning and purpose of Shangri-La. It came to me in a vision long, long ago. This vision was so vivid and so moving that I determined to gather together all things of beauty and culture that I could and preserve them here against the doom toward which the world is rushing. Look at the world today. Is there anything more pitiful? What madness there is! What blindness! A scurrying mass of bewildered humanity crashing headlong against each other. The time must come, my friend, when brutality and the lust for power must perish by its own sword. For when that day comes, the world must begin to look for a new life. And it is our hope that they may find it here.”
― James Hilton, Lost Horizon