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A Journey in Ladakh [Paperback]

Andrew Harvey
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

14 Jan 1994
High up on the remote Indian borders with Tibet, China and Pakistan, beyond the Kashmir Valley, lies Ladakh, one of the last places where a Tibetan Buddhist community survives. Andrew Harvey travelled there in 1981.


Product details

  • Paperback: 236 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; New edition edition (14 Jan 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330331841
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330331845
  • Product Dimensions: 18.8 x 13 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,154,776 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Book Description

Rider welcomes to its list Andrew Harvey's acclaimed classic of spiritual travel writing (2002-10-18) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Andrew Harvey, born in Coimbatore, South India, is a high-profile poet, writer, translator, filmmaker and teacher, and the author or editor of more than 30 books, including Hidden Journey. Educated at Oxford University, he became the youngest Fellow of All Soul's College in its history. For the last 20 years he has travelled widely, living in India, London, Paris, New York and San Francisco - teaching at university level and writing. (2002-10-18) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read 4 May 2006
Format:Paperback
I read this book some years after trekking through Ladakh and found it a beautiful reminder of the places I visited, the people I met and their buddhist religion. It is essentially a personal account of Andrew's spiritual and physical journey in the mountains of Ladakh, and would appeal to readers who enjoy travel stories and understanding how the Buddhist faith influences their culture and daily lives.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Exemplary spiritual journey 3 Jan 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I found the writing in this book to be a delight to read, not only stylish but informative and with attention to detail. The topographical sketches were as illuminating as the deepening awareness of Tibetan Buddhism, and the character sketches too were absorbing. I'm not sure why other reviewers didn't give five stars as in many ways I found this to be a model of how spirituality can form the basis for an artistic exploration of place. Ladakh and the Buddhist spirit become closely knit together during the journey of discovery, and both linger in the mind long after the book is finished.
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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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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  17 reviews
30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Buddism, spiritual discovery and a travel log - in one book. 31 July 2000
By fdoamerica - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I read this unique book while trekking through Ladakh, India - the last place where you can see something of what Tibet must have been like before the Chinese invaded. Ladakh is the highest, most remote, most sparsely populated region in India, located on the China - Indian border in what is deemed "disputed territory." Tourists were banned until 1972, and entry into this region requires a special permit.
A Journey to Ladakh is written by a professed "half - Buddhist". It is foremost a book about spiritual discovery, and secondly a travel log on one of the world's most outback religious regions. Andrew Harvey, born in southern India and educated at Oxford, England, read all he could on different Buddhist traditions but decided to leave Oxford and return to India for one year to study Buddhism in its original form. This ultimately lead him to Ladakh, one of the last places on earth "where a Tibetan Buddhist society can be experienced".
The first part of the book is Harvey's travel journal through Ladakh. A group of my fellow sojourners plowed through the first hundred pages and finally put the book down. Comments such as "I lost interest" and "dull" were mentioned, however the book's value and true worth happens in the second half, when Harvey meets the Rinpoche ("master", "realized soul", "Buddha"). It is here, when Harvey records the wisdom of the Rinpoche, that the text shines, providing universal truths about life and its spiritual component. The tenants of Buddhist philosophy can be gleaned through Harvey's discourses with the Rinpoche ("There are no Gods in Buddhism," "There is only Emptiness - Nothingness," "To be freed from a false perception of Self is the end of Buddhism,".), but it is in the practical day to day life teachings that make this book worth reading.
The journey to Ladakh is a journey to discover the laws of the spirit, and the relationship of the spirit to those laws. What Harvey has done for you in this book is to start you on a journey . . . a journey that explores the very center of being - or in Buddhist terms the journey into nothingness. Recommended
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful,pointed marred by a biting afterward 10 Oct 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Andrew Harvey is an excellent writer.his writings,even on esoterica,have a light touch, making them accessible to those of us without a first at Oxford. This book is a well written decrpitive early gem by Mr. Harvey.Ladakh is [was?]the last pristine place of tibetan buddhism left on the planet. Mr Harvey goes in search of it,and ,of course, himself. The results are surprising, and very well done. The early parts of the book deal with the travel,and it occasionally borders on poetry.The meat of the book,as it were,is Mr. Harvey's encounter with a Tibetan Rinpoche,and the subsequent effect on his life.His conversations with the rinpoche,juxtaposed with his nights drinking chang[the local brew]in a Ladakhan saloon, are wonderful, and make the text much more enjoyable, and less self inflating. After all of this, Mr. Harvey writes an afterward 20 years later[this is a reprint]and he seems to have been ahving a bad day.After stopping just short of accusing the dalai lama of homophobia[traced to some of The Dalai lamas remarks made in San Francisco, I think,}he pounds the tibetan exile community,brings up the patrichial setup of traditional tibetan life[from a feminist perspective],and generally gets more heated in 3 pages than the previous 220+. Odd way to end a lovely book.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Spiritual Journey 30 Aug 2000
By Elizabeth Green - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
After being advised to visit Ladakh by a number of people, traveller & writer Andrew Harvey finally arrives in the remote Himalayan region. His journey is more of a spiritual quest & is further propelled by his meeting of a Tibetan Rinpoche. He finds himself torn between his rational Western ego which is telling him that this Tibetan Rinpoche could be a fraud & giving up his former life to stay in Ladakh & immerse himself in Tibetan Buddhism.
Like any Westerner who visits such a remote region, he laments over the encroachment of the West to an ancient culture & wonders what will happen to Ladakh in the future. Wishing that he could help conserve Ladakh's unique identity, his hope is that this book will show an honest account of Ladakh, it's people & it's culture.
A brilliant book for anyone travelling on their spiritual journey.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars some good stuff here... 19 Jan 2006
By Alan Arcadia - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
As far as philosophy goes this book is definitely worth the read. There are some beautiful and quite moving passages about the nature of our collective struggle to be happy in a world of pain, the beauty of a discipline such as Tibetan Buddhism, and the quite common search for an understanding of it all.

I particularly liked the part on page 104 where he writes "It takes a great courage when you are suffering to see beyond your suffering to the clear relations between things, to the laws that cause and govern your suffering; it takes great courage to be ruthless with one's griefs."

That being said, I don't think this is a perfect book. There were several things that I found increasingly troubling as I read. One was the issue of language. Harvey mentions periodically that this or that character spoke good English, but there is no cogent explanation of just how communications between all of these divergent characters worked. I found it very hard to believe that all these people spoke english as well as they appear to in the book. In fact, everyone in the book spoke english more fluently than most people I know, i.e. native english speakers. Which brings me to my second issue. Harvey appears in the book to have the ability to travel to a very foreign culture and almost instantaneously forge deep and intensely personal bonds with everyone he meets. I'm not saying this is impossible. Just unlikely. It's almost never happened to me even in my own culture. That could be because I'm a curmudgeonly and cynical guy, granted. But still it didn't seem very likely to me. I question how much of the dialogue was accurate and how much was the result of Harvey's idealized memories of his journey. It reminded me, unfortunately, of "Mutant Message Down Under", though nowhere NEAR as bad, I hasten to add. That book was dreadful. At least the first half was; that's as far as I got. Harvey's book is infinitely better, but does have a hint of the same idealization of the "spiritual, untarnished, third world wise man" in it. I've met so many people who have visited Nepal and surrounding areas who say the same thing that I guess there must be an element of truth to it. It just seems a bit simplistic.

The last thing that bugged me was how the Rinpoche was said to be so dedicated to his people that he was always exhausted from helping them, yet seemed to have all the time in the world for the author. What's so special about him? I don't know, maybe he's a tulku or something. The Rinpoche would know better than me. It just seemed to fit into a cultural pattern that I've seen too many times.

For a refreshingly different account you should read 'Amazon Beaming' by Petru Popescu, about a guy who gets stranded in the Amazon with the Mayoruna tribe. The only way he makes it with these people, the only role that's available to him in their culture, is that of a total buffoon who can't do anything for himself. Which was accurate, of course, within their context. If Harvey's experience in Ladakh was different, isn't that in itself a symptom of the Westernization which he and everyone else decries? In a culture totally unfamiliar with Western ways, someone whose life consisted of computers, cars, working for money, investing money, and travelling to distant lands on airplanes for no particular reason, would seem pretty bizarre. What role would there be for us if we hadn't created one?

But I digress.

It didn't help any to search Andrew Harvey on the Internet and discover that he's now offering tours of South India at a cost of $3700.00 for two weeks (not including airfare). Sure, I'm a naysayer and a devil's advocate, but that's my burden, not yours.

Read this book and enjoy the good parts. I definitely enjoyed it, I just thought I should mention some reservations in order to counter the all too common, five star, "ooh, unbelievable, changed my life" reviews which are a little too common these days, like standing ovations for non-spectacular performances. Well, what can you do? We live in a world where The Celestine Prophecies has sold 10,000,000,000,000 copies. Have you read that? DON'T!

ps - I really dig my "real name" attribution. That means I'm a source you can trust. I feel almost like a corporation.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Travelogue turns pilgrimage then vision quest 6 April 2011
By John L Murphy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Not a journey "to," but "in" this Buddhist enclave, before or as it succumbs to the rest of the world's ways, Harvey's quest takes in his own spiritual and existential condition as much, if not more, than his travels. While you gain a sense of how this barren, golden, light-bright landscape looks, Harvey shifts to the appeal of its monastic traditions, as he falls hard for Thuksey Rinpoche, a Tibetan refugee lama. Harvey meets Dilip & Moneesha, two delightfully drawn characters, up from Delhi, who introduce him. Gradually, Harvey's defenses erode and he learns what moves him.

Nature takes up much of the first portion of this carefully composed, often understated narrative. Compared to Peter Mathiessen's "The Snow Leopard" (see my review of this and the overlapping Japanese-oriented "Nine-Headed Dragon River") which takes place over the Himalayas around this same time, sometime in the 1970s, in another monastery also called Shey, "A Journey in Ladakh" does not give as much attention to the mountains climbed. One shortcoming for readers may be this relative attention to the conversations he has (he speaks many languages) and the thoughts he shares. The book turns more inward as it develops, mirroring the shift Harvey makes as his journey turns vision-quest.

Harvey's settled more in a few places and not as much a trekker as he is a pilgrim. Unlike Mathiessen, who comes to these mountains already a Zen practitioner, Harvey's a Cambridge-educated poet with a secular or disenchanted, detached perspective. His erudition's evident, if worn rather lightly, thankfully.

But as his friends and teachers here note, he wants to change from his English-educated, somewhat distant attitude towards the spirit, even if he does not realize it at first. He signals this subtle change as he walks to see a monastery, but he never gets there. Instead he stays in the lovely scenery on the way. "I have no choice but to be alive to this landscape and this light: I must let this light do to my spirit and my words what it has to." (66)

He knows the folly of his mission. Hans, a visiting professor, tells him that by his own academic fieldwork there as well as Harvey's presence, they attest to the erosion of what they seek to document and preserve in Ladakh. If Harvey "bears witness," a last testament for his readers to what's vanishing, Hans reckons: "aren't you inviting them to a rather corrupt party? 'Another moving study of a doomed culture'?" (96) With the Rinpoche, Harvey wonders what Hans'd say about his transformation as he seems to enter his teacher's mind. "In this old man from another, unknowable world the writer has found the perfect way to aggrandise himself, advertise his spirituality." (150) This self-aware skepticism about his own struggle to let go, in the Buddhist sense, enriches this study for the outsider, such as Harvey still is.

Even skeptical Hans and cautious Harvey admit they're moved by the generosity of their hosts. Drukchen, another lama, tells Harvey how the teachings represent the loss of illusion, of the end of "false hope or consolation," as Tibet falls and its teachings spread abroad through its exiled adherents. "Buddhism will flourish in the West," Druckchen predicts, for the West "is coming of age; it is becoming adult, able to bear the radical clarity of the Buddha, hungry for" the wisdom that brings "a practical, severe analysis of things as they are, of the mind as it is," (180) free of salvation unless it comes from within the seeker. Compassion, wisdom, and a hard look at reality's own constructs accompany this vision of absolute change, for those unable to believe in Christ as a god anymore, but only as a man.

A Swiss student, Charles, annoys but then appeals to Harvey's own search: not to use it "as an anaesthetic," to cling to "a great wall of experiences and meditative ecstasies and learning between me and the world," as Charles had done in vain. Instead, hang on to "no insight, no experience, no learning--it is to be simple and unprotected. It is to be practical, in the highest sense, with everything that is around you, with all the energies, good or bad, of the present." (191)

This is a difficult story of inner entry and outer adventure to control, but Harvey succeeds. He tells of a out-of-body experience as he watches a Tantric ceremony, and as he forgets "all my fear and self hatred in those moments," he sees insubstantiality surround him, all "a transitory fiction." (205) Later, Drukchen tells him of his confidence that Harvey must return to the West. The lama warns that "the East is not a large convalescent home for the West," a place to "play at being spiritual," but "it is a place of power, of new power, a new kind of strength which must be used in the world." If Harvey's sincere, he will succeed in sharing his discovery with his audience: "If what you have learnt is true, it will hold." (226)

Finally, as he prepares to leave, he visits the Rinpoche. He takes the Bodhissatva vow not to enter Nirvana until all sentient beings he can assist will precede him there, and he's a Buddhist instead of an "almost" one as his friends had noticed before. He is told: "The true journey is toward the enlightened self, and you are that already. You came, across your life, across Ladakh, to this room, to this morning, to me, and now another journey is beginning, the journey which you have travelled here to begin." (233)

I read this again after two decades, and like "The Snow Leopard," it sustains its energy and compels the reader to follow an outsider's struggle within these mountains to find beauty, meaning, and truth. Harvey's voice controls this compelling, yet modest, presentation of his own nuanced self-awareness. He conveys deftly his own evolution into a wiser, humbler pilgrim who returns with quite a story to tell us. (I reviewed the original 1983 edition; an unread by me 2000 version adds an afterword criticizing some sacred cows which some felt gored by, as Harvey since became a New Age-ish popular author and speaker.)
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