So Close To Heaven : The Vanishing Buddhist Kingdoms of the Himalayas
So Close To Heaven The Vanishing Buddhist Kingdoms of the Himalayas Author:Barbara Crossette Tantric Buddhism, with its complex and fascinating rites, rose to its highest levels on the trans-Himalayan Tibetan plateau, where it had flowered since the eighth century. But now the small kingdoms -- Sikkim and Ladakh among them -- where the teachings and miracles of the great lamas were revered have been gobbled up by bigger powers. The stor... more »y of that loss is a prelude to Barbara Crossette's richly evocative journey into the historical past and courageous present of Bhutan, where the Buddhist world can still be seen intact, peaceful, harmonious -- and threatened.
We enter a landscape of frozen peaks, high windy flatlands, and deep verdant valleys where, until the 1960s, the Bhutanese lived a medieval existence -- where temples and monasteries, monks and lamas, provided not only spiritual but legal and even medical sustenance. We move through farmlands, villages, and towns whose clusters of painted ornamental buildings and wooden half-timberings might be illustrations for old fairy tales, where thanks to Bhutan's devoted rulers change has thus far been gradual; where the tolerance, good humor, generosity -- and gorgeous ritual -- of Himalayan Buddhism continues to shine through.
Into this setting creep the tensions, deep and destructive, that threaten to wound Bhutan despite its best efforts to ward off the outside world. We see how open borders and recent air links have led to high-stakes smuggling of temple treasures and gold, as well as the ravages of AIDS; how tourism is importing dollars, distance from village roots, and a new urban phenomenon -- burglary.
Westerners tend to take from the Buddhist world only what seems at the moment relevant to them: today it is meditation and elements of oriental medicine. The Buddhist way of life that this book reveals is much more -- a rich amalgam of theology spiced by legend, superstition, astrological interpretation, and the worship of natural phenomena; a religion that binds each man and woman to the cosmos and to the gods while it prescribes the earthly rituals that ease the human passage from birth to death.
A splendorous culture is under siege. In this book we have a rare and memorable portrait of a corner of the world where it can still be experienced.« less