Cover image for Sleeping in caves : a sixties Himalayan memoir
Sleeping in caves : a sixties Himalayan memoir
Stablein, Marilyn.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Rhinebeck, New York : Monkfish Book Publishing, [2003]

Physical Description:
xvi, 198 : illustrations, maps ; 22 cm.
Subject Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DS485.H6 S72 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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"The author's eye is wide open, and her writing is fresh, funny, and exhilarating." - Peter Matthiessen

"Marilyn Stablein's wry voice tells how it was, calmly and clearly, unadorned. . . . whether on the ground with sadhus and chapatis or in the sky with diamonds, these wry prose poems evoke a last epiphany of the best of East and West." - Keith Dowman, author of The Power Places of Tibet

In 1965, Stablein drops out of Berkeley and travels to India and Nepal with her lover. Their brief getaway turns into a seven-year stay. "There are times when I ask myself," Stablein writes, "What am I am doing here? My answer: to paint, to study a culture; to uncover its secrets; to listen to the whisperings, the sacred oral traditions; to learn by heart the names and faces of deities so I can capture their images on paper and strive to imbue each image with the greatness of its namesake, its spiritual essence. Art is my muse and practice. The world is my palette, artists my teachers; art lives and breathes in the people I meet."

In the heyday of the '60s Stablein encounters luminaries of the American counterculture like Ram Dass whom she accompanies to interview HH, the Dalai Lama, on the spiritual value of LSD. Later, when the Indian police come to arrest Stablein for having an expired visa, Kalu Rinpoche quips "The Buddha never had visas," and orders her to hide in a closet next to his tantric human bone costumes.

Includes photos and recipes.

Marilyn Stablein, writer, artist, and performer, is the author of seven books and a frequent performer of her work. Her art has been widely exhibited. She lives in the Hudson Valley and co-directs, with her husband, Alternative Books and The Uptown: A Performance Space in Kingston, NY.

Author Notes

Marilyn Stablein is the author of several works of fiction, non-fiction, essays and poetry and is also a visual and performance artist. Her work has appeared in Tricycle, The Sun and Sage Woman. She has received a number of awards and honors including a New York State Council on the Arts grant, a Yaddo residency, a Brazos Fiction Award and a Seattle Arts Commission Literary Artist Award. She lives in the Hudson Valley

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

In 1965, Stablein (The Census Taker), then an 18-year-old Berkeley art student, set out on a summer jaunt to Paris. Her European tour became a seven-year wander through India and Nepal. Stablein roamed the subcontinent as a sort of spiritual tourist: moving with the seasons, cooking local dishes, imbibing local hallucinogens and making pilgrimages to holy caves, rivers and, with Richard Alpert (aka Ram Dass), to see the Dalai Lama. Her travelogue is strikingly self-absorbed: her musings on chai (Asian spiced tea), dung beetles, leeches and an ice lingam are detailed and sometimes intriguing and humorous, but there's a paucity of information about the people she encounters. Even Stablein's boyfriend, with whom she lived throughout, remains a blank, except for a short reminiscence as Stablein prepares to leave him. The effect is claustrophobic and meandering, although the book briefly coalesces in the chapter "Turning the Wheel," where the author writes, "My path circles, fans out like ripples from a stone tossed into a pond." The book ends rather abruptly when Stablein is deported from India, moves to Nepal, marries an American, gives birth to two children, decides Katmandu is too dirty for infants and flies back to San Francisco. In her preface, Stablein writes, "There are times when I ask myself, What am I doing here?" Her immediate answer is that she's there for art, culture and spirituality. But she provides a more convincing (though indirect) reason after giving birth to her son: "Mother is home... I don't need to travel any more. I'm already home." (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

A writer, artist, and performer, Stablein recounts the seven years that she spent as a young woman in India and Tibet studying her crafts. Her detailed observations of cultural and religious rituals have scholarly merit, while her anecdotes on such topics as tea-making, meditation in caves, and innovative survival skills offer light and enjoyable entertainment. Affectionately called Lhamo Saykey (Goddess of Happy Life) by the Tibetans, the author provides personal insight and introduction to these cultures and teachings. Through her reflections, readers are drawn back to a time when the wanderlust of young people in the 1960s was epitomized by spontaneity, experimentation, and freedom. Stablein concludes with a useful glossary of place names, religious titles, terms, and definitions. This book, a travelog, spiritual journey, and cultural study all in one, is appropriate for public libraries.-Jo-Anne Mary Benson, Osgoode, Ont. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

List of photographs & illustrationsp. ix
Prefacep. xi
Part I.

p. 1

1 Chaip. 3
2 Cave Monasteriesp. 8
3 Rituals of Curryp. 14
4 Shoppingp. 20
5 Mandala Dreamsp. 26
6 Sleeping in Cavesp. 31
Part II.

p. 37

7 Dung Beetles of Orissap. 39
8 Yab-Yum Nightsp. 45
9 Sacred Watersp. 50
10 Ritual Threadsp. 58
11 Buddha in the Palm of my Handp. 63
Part III.

p. 69

12 Rituals of Intoxicationp. 71
13 Turning the Wheelp. 76
14 Sujata's Giftp. 80
15 Darshan With His Holinessp. 87
16 The Ice Cave of Lord Shivap. 91
17 Foul-Mouthed Smoke Loversp. 95
18 The Bardo of Listening Soulsp. 102
Part IV.

p. 109

19 The Yum Khorp. 111
20 The Buddha Never Had Visasp. 117
21 The Leech Hall of Famep. 123
22 A Sand Mandalap. 128
23 Monsoonp. 133
24 Poste Restantep. 138
25 The Place of the Dorjep. 144
Part V.

p. 149

26 The Asura Cavep. 151
27 The Mahakala Wallahp. 158
28 One Wedding in the Forest, Another on the Monastery Roofp. 162
29 A Quilt for the Babyp. 169
30 Birth and a Wet Nursep. 175
31 The Last Monsoonp. 181
32 The Iron Birdp. 187
Acknowledgmentsp. 191
Glossaryp. 193