12 July 2005

Book Review: A Journey in Ladakh, by Andrew Harvey, ***

High up in the remote mountain passes on the Indian border with Tibet, China and Pakistan, Ladakh has been a centre for Buddhist meditation since three centuries before Christ and is one of the last places on earth where a Tibetan Buddhist community still survives. Arriving by rickety bus, Andrew Harvey was unprepared for the breathtaking splendour, colour and silence of the landscape, and was entranced by the simple way of life of its people, for whom the sacred and everyday merge into one. Frustrated by the spiritual poverty of his sophisticated, western, intellectual lifestyle, Andrew Harvey finds peace, hope and freedom in the Buddhist teachings of Thuksey Rinpoche at Shey monastery, and discovers spiritual strength.

This is an interesting travelogue by a writer who is very well versed in his subject matter. His approach is very down to earth, and he takes the reader by the hand through his journey. One does get a detailed experience from reading this book, not quite as good as being there but close. At times the book is captivating.

On the down side, I found the narrative a bit convoluted. His English is quite rich and very articulate but somehow fails to excite the reader. At times, it was down right boring. I had to put the book down a few times and pick it up again before I got through with it.

Also, his analyses, where he attempts to propose any, are a bit superficial. Besides providing an account of his travels, Harvey tries to propose to the reader a discussion of Buddhism as he learns it from the rimpoches he meets. Here he inevitably becomes anecdotal.

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