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Presidential Dinner with Ian Baker

The Geography of Paradise

Hidden Lands in Himalayan Myth and History

‘Hidden-Lands’, or beyul in Tibetan, refer to remote regions of the Himalayas designated as places of spiritual accomplishment and cultural renewal. This ancient textual and oral tradition entered Western imagination as the legend of Shangri-La, but the coordinates of these elusive sanctuaries have directed Himalayan Buddhists on the path of enlightenment for more than a millennium and they continue to actively inform environmental policy in India, Bhutan, and Nepal.

In this illustrated talk with video clips and photographs, author and anthropologist Ian Baker will share perspectives on the role of hidden-lands in both Eastern and Western imagination with a focus on Beyul Pemako, the ‘Hidden-Land Arrayed like Lotuses’, in the Tsangpo Gorge region of southern Tibet. Apart from its importance to Tibetan Buddhists as an envisioned paradise, this biologically and geologically dynamic region at the eastern edge of the Himalayan range was the focus of Royal Geographical Society efforts in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to locate the fabled ‘Falls of the Tsangpo’.

The reality, and nature, of this waterfall remained an unresolved geographical riddle until 1998 when Ian Baker reached the base of the falls in the depths of the Tsangpo Gorge – an area that had been, until then, a blank spot on the map of world exploration. Ian’s series of expeditions exploring the myth and reality of Tibet’s 'hidden-lands', and their significance today, are chronicled in his book The Heart of the World: A Journey to the Last Secret Place (Penguin Press, 2003), copies of which will be available at this talk. Ian will also speak about his current work in Beyul Pemako, adapting indigenous cultural practices and environmental narratives into locally sustainable ecological policies.

Ian Baker is an anthropologist, Tibetan scholar, and curator who has written seven books on Himalayan cultural history, environment, art, and medicine including The Heart of the World: A Journey to the Last Secret Place, The Dalai Lamas Secret Temple: Tantric Wall Paintings from Tibet, The Tibetan Art of Healing, Buddhas of the Celestial Gallery, Tibetan Yoga: Secrets from the Source, and the forthcoming Secret River: Journeys in the Hidden Land of Pemako.

He has also written and photographed for National Geographic Magazine who named him in 2000 as one of seven ‘Explorers for the Millennium’ for his ground-breaking field research in the Tsangpo gorges and discovery of a waterfall that had been "the source of mystery and geographical speculation for more than a century”. In 2015 – 2016, Ian served as lead curator for the London Wellcome Trust’s exhibition entitled ‘Tibet’s Secret Temple: Body, Mind and Meditation in Tantric Buddhism’. He is an advisory board member of the International Association of Bhutan Studies and works internationally in support of cultural and environmental preservation.

Date: October 27, 2016

Time: 6:00 pm Reception, 7:00 pm Dinner, 8:00 pm Presentation

Location: Club Headquarters, 46 East 70th Street, New York, NY, 10021

Member Ticket Price: $70

Guest Ticket Price: $80

Reservation Notes:

Click here to purchase tickets online

Reservations must be procured in advance for a catered dinner, and payment must accompany reservation. There will be no cancellations allowed after Friday, October 21st, 2016. Non-members may attend as nominal guests of Daryl Hawk MR’98.

To secure a reservation, please call us at 212.628.8383 or email us at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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