Saturday, June 04, 2005

Peaks and Lamas

Peaks and Lamas

Peaks and Lamas by Marco Pallis is a favorite of mine and one of the few books that really changed the direction of my life. I came across a hard cover version of it I believe in 1979 at the Harwood Foundation Library in Taos, NM, back when I was living at Lama Foundation.

I found it to be an awesome book, mind blowing, mind enlarging, a doorway to a different world. Obstensibly it starts out as a story of a group of Englishmen doing mountain climbing in the Indian and Sikkim Himalayas of the 1930s. Soon, aided by Marco Pallis's unique prose you find yourself climbing spiritual mountains also. The world of Tibetan Buddhism in the Himalyas of the 1930s. A world of which perhaps only pockets survive now in Ladakh, Zanskar and Bhutan. I still feel like I got to know the Abbot Hermit Lama of Lachen, and took part in an attempt to climb Mt. Kanchenjunga, the third highest peak in the world.
I first read this work 26 years ago and it still resonates within for me.
I note that a new paperback version of it is now available at You can get it for as low as $12.60. Amazing.
Here is a quote of the editorial review at

"After obtaining a copy of this out-of-print and rather elusive title, award-winning writer Wendell Berry highly recommended the reading of Marco Pallis's Peaks and Lamas. He praised the writing on travel and mountaineering, but he was especially drawn to the writing about Buddhism, and the chapters on Tibetan Art. Both Gary Snyder and Robert Aitlen joined in offering encouragement on this book. This remarkable text, unavailable for at least thirty years, is now aptly back in print. Peaks and Lamas is a one-of-a-kind classic book on mountaineering, Buddhism, and Tibet, offering rare beauty and depth for a whole new generation of readers."

This is a really great book to curl up with in the winter. A good introduction to Tibetan Buddhism, and also a thought provoker, if you are interested in the meaning of Life, or trying to discern the meaning of one's life. Also if you ever read The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen, you'll love Peaks and Lamas. My highest recommendation.
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