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So Close to Heaven:The Vanishing Buddhist Kingdoms of the Himalayas

EXCERPTS:
“The Tibetan Plateau was once truly a place close to heaven. Legend says that until a careless king cut down a miraculous rope, there was a stairway to the immortals somewhere on this moonscape terrain. In Tibet and all along the Himalayas, there are peaks still regarded as sacred. In their shadows, spirituality survives, even in poverty and dislocation”

Crossette writes that Bhutan “has wandered without a map into that psychological territory where a magical innocence is lost and there are no signposts to what lies ahead. In Buddhist terms, the Bhutanese are collectively in some kind of bardo, the place between cycles of death and rebirth, waiting to see if they will enter the next life as a nation selectively modernized for the common good but otherwise unaltered, or as another small third-world country rent with social and ethnic divisions and vulnerable to corruption, violence and political opportunism. One way or another, change is coming. This is not Brigadoon.”

REVIEWS:
In The Washington Post Book World, Gabrielle Burton said that “any traveler to Asia, actual or armchair, would have a significantly richer experience after reading this book. And for anyone with a serious interest in Buddhism, it’s essential reading.”

Orville Schell, writing in The New York Times, called the book “a marvelously informative, gracefully written and sweetly sympathetic account of a few of the last places on earth where the classical religious culture of Tibetan Buddhism is still a vibrant part of everyday life.”

Lonely Planet recommends the book to travelers in the Himalayas as “an excellent account of Bhutan’s history and culture.”