A JOURNEY IN LADAKH by Andrew Harvey


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A tender-minded pilgrimage to fabled Shambhala--or as close as one can get these days. Ladakh is a remote, stunningly beautiful mountain region in East Kashmir near the Chinese border. Though most of its population is now Muslim, it still has strong ties to Buddhism (especially in the monasteries and holy men whom Harvey went looking for) and Tibet (to which it once belonged). Harvey is a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, a published poet, and a fledgling Buddhist. In this lyrical, often rhapsodic memoir he recounts his adventures as a truth-seeker (and tourist), culminating in a series of audiences with Thuksey Rinpoche, a kindly, saintly monk who guided the young Englishman to the edge of enlightenment, if not quite over. Harvey describes both the inner and outer phases of his journey in Ladakh with engaging warmth and color. He has a delicate but keen-eyed sensibility--dewy but not drippy. He also has, at times, a fine ear for dialogue. (Here is Ahmed, Harvey's indefatigable cicerone in the city of Leh: ""Breakfast? Best place Pamposh. Muslim brothers. To left of main street, wooden. Eggs, chapatis, coffee. All Europeans are going there. Some of them very funny people, sir. You cannot say girl or boy."") And the present steady trickle of foreign visitors might well swell from Harvey's spirited scene-painting of its spectacular landscapes and vanishing folkways. On the other hand, Harvey's many religious dialogues, whether with the two Rinpoches he meets or with other westerners, have a certain predictability about them: ""You must enter in this last stage into the Sunyata that is the mother of all projections, the Emptiness from which all forms are born, yours, mine, and all the imaginations of our minds and hearts,"" etc. But, apart from a little stiffness here and there, this is a freshly written piece of work: delicate, soulful, and spontaneous.

Pub Date: July 14th, 1983
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin