The practice of shamans invoking spirits/protectors to ward off evil and cure disease has been a significant feature of Tibetan social life for over a millennium. Considered an inborn faculty that needs only awakening, and channeling, the shaman’s art survives through his son or daughter.
Pao Wangchuk, 78, is the thirteenth in an unbroken line of spiritual mediums, living and practicing his craft this side of the Himalaya in the Tibetan camp in Pokhara, Nepal. The source of the old man’s despair is Karma, his eldest son and heir-to-be, who may not be able to continue the family calling. Karma, like many youth of today, is given to drinking and easy life, and can’t live up to the demands of being a spiritual healer. Also that this extraordinary vocation, by today’s gauge, seems an altogether alien track for Karma. In the conflict between the father and son, Pao constantly complains that Karma is wasting away his life, and is worried that family lineage will die. But Karma doesn’t care. He resents, and is frustrated by, his father’s constant complaining and mistrust. His frustration even led him to a suicide attempt once.