In its most concrete level, this study aims to explore, understand and conceptualise the praxis of a group of Western individuals in Dharamsala who, in the course of their journey, learn to regard their travel as a process of self-development. While travelling, they encounter new ideas about life and living, and try to acquire new life-improving techniques (which are popularly regarded as 'exotic'), such as meditation, Yoga and alternative medicine.
One of my objectives is to place this journey in a broader cultural context. Departing from the hermeneutic-phenomenological assumption that no learning may start 'at scratch', I consider the Dharamsala journey a contingent development of modern Western culture. My argument is that the travellers' active search for life-improving techniques cannot be fully grasped in abstraction from Western ideas of individuality and of self-realisation. I maintain that the travellers are 'initiated' into this project from within their own (Western) culture. Thus, rather than regarding their praxis as a simple adoption, I regard it as a complex process of adaptation. In other words, the analysis emphasises continuity and change, socio-cultural preconditions and individual creativity alike.
Thus, on a more theoretical level, this study is an attempt to inquire into the issues of cultural innovation, meaning creation and the internalisation of culture.
My analysis of the internalisation of culture, as well as of the dynamic aspect of culture, draws on the contemporary embodiment perspective in anthropology that places an analytical focus on the body as an irreducible meaningful mode of Being-in-the-world. I attempt to examine the analytical possibilities encompassed in the embodiment perspective, and in this respect, the thesis has a somewhat 'experimental' sense to it.
The actual journey - the travellers' experiences, actions and interactions in Dharamsala, is approached as a complex interplay between the experiential and conceptual dimensions of learning, between private experiences and the social discourse. The fragments of processes of meaning creation 'along the journey' are analysed in terms of a threefold model that depicts learning as an interplay between three ideal 'modes' in which meaning is created: interaction, introspection and practice. This model is developed and employed throughout this thesis, as a conceptual framework for the analysis of the journey.
By the end of the thesis, I advocate a fractal view of culture, and try to suggest how the threefold model of meaning creation, viewed as a fractal, may illuminate the broader context of the journey, and how it may be employed in the analysis of other complex cultural phenomena modern anthropology faces in our times.