Picks and Pans Review: A Journey in Ladakh

updated 08/29/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/29/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Andrew Harvey

The author, an Oxford-educated Englishman born in India, has published six books of poetry. He became interested in Buddhism in the early 1970s, read all he could on it, and in 1981 went to Ladakh, the tiny, impoverished Indian province that, he says, is "one of the last places on earth where a Tibetan Buddhist society can be experienced." The result is this beautiful book about a cliché: an unhappy poet setting out on a trip that becomes a quest for self-understanding. Harvey makes immediate friends, including a former monk who is married to an American woman, an old woman who sells chang (the local ale), and a brilliant interpreter for an aged head lama, or rinpoche, an important Tibetan spiritual leader. The author witnesses ancient rites, but is saddened by the realization that the beauty of life in Ladakh is dying even as he finds it. A young rinpoche, educated in the West and aware of growing Occidental interest in Buddhism, tells Harvey, "Perhaps it is in the West...that Buddhism will find another life." It is almost impossible to reconcile the simple Ladakh ways with anything we know, but Harvey's search is fascinating, thought-provoking and full of unexpected insights about the nature of goodness and of man at his primitive best. (Houghton Mifflin, $13.95)

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