Sherpas through their Rituals by Sherry B. Ortner (Columbia University, New York)
The Sherpas of the Himalayas practice Tibetan Buddhism, a variety of Mahayana Buddhism. This is a general interpretation of Sherpa culture through examining the relationship between the Sherpas' Buddhism and other aspects of their society, and a theoretical contribution to the study of ritual and religious symbolism. In analysing the symbols of Sherpa rituals, professor Ortner leads us toward the discovery of conflict, contradiction, and stress in the wider social and cultural world. Following a general ethnographic sketch, each chapter opens with a brief description of a ritual. The ritual is then dissected, and its symbolic elements are used as guides in the exploration of problematic structures, relationships, and ideas of the culture. The author uses these rituals to illuminate the interconnections between religious ideology, social structure and experience. Professor Ortner analysis of the rituals reveals both the Buddhist pull toward exaggerating the isolation of individuals, and the secular pull that attempts to overcome isolation and to reproduce the conditions for social community.