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Books > Art and Architecture > History > Kailash and Guge- Land of the Tantric Mountain
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Kailash and Guge- Land of the Tantric Mountain
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Kailash and Guge- Land of the Tantric Mountain
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Description
Preface

Holy places never had any beginning. They have been holy from the time they were discovered, strongly alive because of the invisible presence breathing through them. Man is amazed or fearful as he feels the vibrations of invisible power in the air.

We've spent much of our lives in the mountains of the world, in particular the Alps and the Himalayas of Nepal, as well as the endless empty spaces of the Sahara desert in Africa. All these vast places have a special spiritual attraction, making one feel tiny and insignificant in comparison with the greater forces of nature. Clearly we would eventually be drawn to perhaps the most mysterious mountain of them all, Mt. Kailash.

The Land of the Tantric Mountain is a book about the ancient region in Western Tibet known as Shangshung, and beyond to parts of Spiti, Kinnaur, Zanskar and Ladakh. Although Shangshung no longer constitutes a geographical entity, it lives on in spirit in the shadow of Mount Kailash. Ancient Shangshung later encompassed the Guge Kingdom, which also spread across the Himalayas into India, to Spiti. Here the tumultuous waters of the River Sutlej carved a way through the great mountain range. Tenuously linked to Tibet by high passes, the high windswept valleys of Spiti remained culturally attached to the Guge capital of Tsaparang and the monastic centre of Toling until the 17th century.

Tantra was introduced to Tibet in the 8th century by Padma Sambhava. It was integrated into Tibetan Buddhism and was later encompassed by the different sects to varying degrees. Padma Sambhava meditated in many places, including a cave in the western valley of Kailash, and his influence remains strong in Tibet. The Tibetan culture of the 1 1 th century reached as far north as Ladakh, and we have given relevant background details of this.

Before Buddhism gained a foothold in Tibet, another equally mysterious faith, Bon or Bonpo, was observed by the people. The Bon also practised forms of shamanism and demonic cult worship. Some scholars believe that Tantra predates Hindu and Buddhist ideas, and is descended from more ancient mediaeval cults involving worship of the mother goddesses. Whether Tantra predates Bon has never been established.

In Land of the Tantric Mountain we explore aspects of Mount Kailash and the Valley of the Khyung, which is central to the culture of the Bon and the lost Kingdom of Guge, whose riches have been slowly absorbed by the elements. The whole of the Tibetan plateau region has a sacred feel to it; the people are deeply religious and indeed the powers of nature here are so overwhelming that one cannot fail to be moved. This book is a cultural guide to the vast mystical region of western Tibet at the foot of the sacred mountain; the Tantric lands of Kailash. It is basically divided into three parts, the Kailash region itself, greater Guge in Tibet and the peripheral areas of Spiti, Kinnaur and Ladakh We have also included some practical information about getting to the regions, trekking around Kailash and exploring `greater' Guge.

In the dust-filled valleys and low plains of our daily existence we have forgotten our connections with stars and suns; and therefore we need the presence of these mighty signposts and milestones to shake us up and arouse us from the slumber of self-complacency.

About the Author

We apologise for any factual errors within the text. Many of the special rocks and stones along the trek are indistinguishable to most visitors, and rely on a vivid imagination plus a strong religious belief.

Many of the monasteries move their idols around from temple to temple, sometimes during renovations or for other unknown reasons. Some of the temples have been renamed over the past few years, some no longer exist, and others are completely new. With regard to the strange and unpronounceable names of some of the idols, sometimes even the monks are not sure of the correct name, let alone transliteration. It would appear that statues, images and idols are periodically moved around within a chapel, or even to a different chapel, so this may also cause confusion.

We have included detailed maps and diagrams to aid identification of the numerous deities. By way of background we have also included details about many other monasteries of interest in Ladakh and Spiti. Some of these we have visited in the past and some as recently as March 2006; some however we have not. Having first visited Tibet in 1985, we have seen many changes. Our most recent visit to Tibet was in October 2005. The people in the countryside have not changed much, and neither have the toilets! Please do let us know if you discover any more hidden gems which we should include in future editions.

Introduction

Even amongst the mightiest (mountains) there are some of such outstanding character and position that they become symbols of the highest aspirations of humanity, as expressed in ancient civilisations and religions, milestones of the eternal quest for perfection and ultimate realisation, signposts that point beyond our earthly concerns towards the infinity of a universe from which we have originated and to which we belong.

Western Tibet is a remote and harsh land, hemmed in by the world's highest mountains and cut off from other civilisations over the centuries by equally barren and inhospitable lands to the north and east. Bordering on Ladakh in the west, where range after range of rugged peaks block the way, Western Tibet has gained a reputation as a lost world, a hidden Shangri-La, a land of mystery. In aiming to unlock a door into this forbidding region, we journey across high plains, over passes that reach for the sky, and plunge down into unfathomable, unbelievable canyons, in search of this lost world of old Shangshung. This is a cultural journey to Kailash and Guge, into the Land of the Tantric Mountain.

Kailash is a mysterious and mythical mountain. Its exact location remained a mystery for centuries, for it lay hidden and isolated behind the virtually impenetrable barrier of the Himalayas. Kailash is famed as the centre of the universe; by others it is considered the navel of the earth, or a resting place for the gods. For more than a thousand years it has been a pilgrimage place for many of the world's major religions, and for these pilgrims, it is considered to be the spiritual centre of the universe. Lying just northwest of the western Nepalese, Indian and Tibetan border, Mount Kailash is 6,714m (22,028ft) high. Shiva, the god of destruction, sits on its icy summit, making it sacred to Hindus.

As Kang Rinpoche, Buddhists revere it as 'the Jewel of the Snows'; like a vast chorten of nature. For Buddhists, the mountain can remove all sins of past and present lives. To the Jains, a smaller sect from India, Kailash is the sacred peak of Asthapada or Padma Harada. This is where the first Jain prophet or Tirthankar, Adinath Rsabhadeva, first gained enlightenment. As Yungdrung Gutse, or the nine-storied Swastika Mountain, it is revered by the indigenous Bonpo, the first religious people of Tibet. Their beliefs have been much assimilated by Buddhism, yet the Bon faith still retains a considerable following.

Their first spiritual guru, Tonpa Shenrab, is said to have come from heaven to earth by way of Kailash. For the casual visitor, Kailash is a mountain to seek out for its unashamed beauty and entrancing vistas. It is a place of inspirational beauty, one of the wonders of the world. The adventurous traveller or trekker will be captivated by its magnificence. No one can fail to be enthralled by its majestic countenance. A visit to Mount Kailash will incite sheer excitement into the spirit. The thin high-altitude air will take one's breath away, making each upward step a huge effort.

The buttresses of Kailash will lure and overwhelm its cast of pilgrims and hikers. Even the most unbelieving, atheistic of souls may find solace below its peak for a few short days. The grandeur of nature is never hidden for long from those who venture on to the Tibetan plateau, the land of the snows. The Kingdom Guge, west of Kailash, is an equally astonishing region, where nature has carved her ultimate fairyland. The canyons and valleys of the upper Sutlej cannot be imagined, for it is an arid wasteland of gullies, pinnacles, crenellated sandstone spires and deep impenetrable crevasses in mud/stone conglomerates. It is a geographer's paradise, a Shangri7La for explorers and adventurers, and it holds the some of the world's most remarkable religious artwork. Barely accessible even to this day, it is not surprising that few outsiders have cast their eyes over this unworldly landscape. But Guge was not confined to Tibet; it extended to an equally remote part of India.

Today, with the opening of the India-Tibet highway along the River Sutlej from 'Shimla, it is just possible to access the western reaches of the former Guge Kingdom in Spiti. The monasteries of Spiti and Tibet share a common theme; on each side of the border the great artwork of Guge can be seen. In Spiti, Tabo monastery hosts paintings the equal of Toling and Tsaparang. To the north, Ladakh too has its remnants of the same dynamic artistry at Alchi. And what is the common thread that links these great seats of Buddhist learning? Our exploration of Tibet, Spiti and Ladakh is absorbing and rewarding as we seek to unlock the secrets and spells of the Land of the Tantric Mountain.

**Sample Pages**















Kailash and Guge- Land of the Tantric Mountain

Item Code:
NAY212
Cover:
PAPERBACK
Edition:
2006
ISBN:
9798177694894
Language:
English
Size:
7.50 X 5.00 inch
Pages:
254 (Throughout Color Illustrations)
Other Details:
Weight of the Book: 0.25 Kg
Price:
$25.00   Shipping Free
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Preface

Holy places never had any beginning. They have been holy from the time they were discovered, strongly alive because of the invisible presence breathing through them. Man is amazed or fearful as he feels the vibrations of invisible power in the air.

We've spent much of our lives in the mountains of the world, in particular the Alps and the Himalayas of Nepal, as well as the endless empty spaces of the Sahara desert in Africa. All these vast places have a special spiritual attraction, making one feel tiny and insignificant in comparison with the greater forces of nature. Clearly we would eventually be drawn to perhaps the most mysterious mountain of them all, Mt. Kailash.

The Land of the Tantric Mountain is a book about the ancient region in Western Tibet known as Shangshung, and beyond to parts of Spiti, Kinnaur, Zanskar and Ladakh. Although Shangshung no longer constitutes a geographical entity, it lives on in spirit in the shadow of Mount Kailash. Ancient Shangshung later encompassed the Guge Kingdom, which also spread across the Himalayas into India, to Spiti. Here the tumultuous waters of the River Sutlej carved a way through the great mountain range. Tenuously linked to Tibet by high passes, the high windswept valleys of Spiti remained culturally attached to the Guge capital of Tsaparang and the monastic centre of Toling until the 17th century.

Tantra was introduced to Tibet in the 8th century by Padma Sambhava. It was integrated into Tibetan Buddhism and was later encompassed by the different sects to varying degrees. Padma Sambhava meditated in many places, including a cave in the western valley of Kailash, and his influence remains strong in Tibet. The Tibetan culture of the 1 1 th century reached as far north as Ladakh, and we have given relevant background details of this.

Before Buddhism gained a foothold in Tibet, another equally mysterious faith, Bon or Bonpo, was observed by the people. The Bon also practised forms of shamanism and demonic cult worship. Some scholars believe that Tantra predates Hindu and Buddhist ideas, and is descended from more ancient mediaeval cults involving worship of the mother goddesses. Whether Tantra predates Bon has never been established.

In Land of the Tantric Mountain we explore aspects of Mount Kailash and the Valley of the Khyung, which is central to the culture of the Bon and the lost Kingdom of Guge, whose riches have been slowly absorbed by the elements. The whole of the Tibetan plateau region has a sacred feel to it; the people are deeply religious and indeed the powers of nature here are so overwhelming that one cannot fail to be moved. This book is a cultural guide to the vast mystical region of western Tibet at the foot of the sacred mountain; the Tantric lands of Kailash. It is basically divided into three parts, the Kailash region itself, greater Guge in Tibet and the peripheral areas of Spiti, Kinnaur and Ladakh We have also included some practical information about getting to the regions, trekking around Kailash and exploring `greater' Guge.

In the dust-filled valleys and low plains of our daily existence we have forgotten our connections with stars and suns; and therefore we need the presence of these mighty signposts and milestones to shake us up and arouse us from the slumber of self-complacency.

About the Author

We apologise for any factual errors within the text. Many of the special rocks and stones along the trek are indistinguishable to most visitors, and rely on a vivid imagination plus a strong religious belief.

Many of the monasteries move their idols around from temple to temple, sometimes during renovations or for other unknown reasons. Some of the temples have been renamed over the past few years, some no longer exist, and others are completely new. With regard to the strange and unpronounceable names of some of the idols, sometimes even the monks are not sure of the correct name, let alone transliteration. It would appear that statues, images and idols are periodically moved around within a chapel, or even to a different chapel, so this may also cause confusion.

We have included detailed maps and diagrams to aid identification of the numerous deities. By way of background we have also included details about many other monasteries of interest in Ladakh and Spiti. Some of these we have visited in the past and some as recently as March 2006; some however we have not. Having first visited Tibet in 1985, we have seen many changes. Our most recent visit to Tibet was in October 2005. The people in the countryside have not changed much, and neither have the toilets! Please do let us know if you discover any more hidden gems which we should include in future editions.

Introduction

Even amongst the mightiest (mountains) there are some of such outstanding character and position that they become symbols of the highest aspirations of humanity, as expressed in ancient civilisations and religions, milestones of the eternal quest for perfection and ultimate realisation, signposts that point beyond our earthly concerns towards the infinity of a universe from which we have originated and to which we belong.

Western Tibet is a remote and harsh land, hemmed in by the world's highest mountains and cut off from other civilisations over the centuries by equally barren and inhospitable lands to the north and east. Bordering on Ladakh in the west, where range after range of rugged peaks block the way, Western Tibet has gained a reputation as a lost world, a hidden Shangri-La, a land of mystery. In aiming to unlock a door into this forbidding region, we journey across high plains, over passes that reach for the sky, and plunge down into unfathomable, unbelievable canyons, in search of this lost world of old Shangshung. This is a cultural journey to Kailash and Guge, into the Land of the Tantric Mountain.

Kailash is a mysterious and mythical mountain. Its exact location remained a mystery for centuries, for it lay hidden and isolated behind the virtually impenetrable barrier of the Himalayas. Kailash is famed as the centre of the universe; by others it is considered the navel of the earth, or a resting place for the gods. For more than a thousand years it has been a pilgrimage place for many of the world's major religions, and for these pilgrims, it is considered to be the spiritual centre of the universe. Lying just northwest of the western Nepalese, Indian and Tibetan border, Mount Kailash is 6,714m (22,028ft) high. Shiva, the god of destruction, sits on its icy summit, making it sacred to Hindus.

As Kang Rinpoche, Buddhists revere it as 'the Jewel of the Snows'; like a vast chorten of nature. For Buddhists, the mountain can remove all sins of past and present lives. To the Jains, a smaller sect from India, Kailash is the sacred peak of Asthapada or Padma Harada. This is where the first Jain prophet or Tirthankar, Adinath Rsabhadeva, first gained enlightenment. As Yungdrung Gutse, or the nine-storied Swastika Mountain, it is revered by the indigenous Bonpo, the first religious people of Tibet. Their beliefs have been much assimilated by Buddhism, yet the Bon faith still retains a considerable following.

Their first spiritual guru, Tonpa Shenrab, is said to have come from heaven to earth by way of Kailash. For the casual visitor, Kailash is a mountain to seek out for its unashamed beauty and entrancing vistas. It is a place of inspirational beauty, one of the wonders of the world. The adventurous traveller or trekker will be captivated by its magnificence. No one can fail to be enthralled by its majestic countenance. A visit to Mount Kailash will incite sheer excitement into the spirit. The thin high-altitude air will take one's breath away, making each upward step a huge effort.

The buttresses of Kailash will lure and overwhelm its cast of pilgrims and hikers. Even the most unbelieving, atheistic of souls may find solace below its peak for a few short days. The grandeur of nature is never hidden for long from those who venture on to the Tibetan plateau, the land of the snows. The Kingdom Guge, west of Kailash, is an equally astonishing region, where nature has carved her ultimate fairyland. The canyons and valleys of the upper Sutlej cannot be imagined, for it is an arid wasteland of gullies, pinnacles, crenellated sandstone spires and deep impenetrable crevasses in mud/stone conglomerates. It is a geographer's paradise, a Shangri7La for explorers and adventurers, and it holds the some of the world's most remarkable religious artwork. Barely accessible even to this day, it is not surprising that few outsiders have cast their eyes over this unworldly landscape. But Guge was not confined to Tibet; it extended to an equally remote part of India.

Today, with the opening of the India-Tibet highway along the River Sutlej from 'Shimla, it is just possible to access the western reaches of the former Guge Kingdom in Spiti. The monasteries of Spiti and Tibet share a common theme; on each side of the border the great artwork of Guge can be seen. In Spiti, Tabo monastery hosts paintings the equal of Toling and Tsaparang. To the north, Ladakh too has its remnants of the same dynamic artistry at Alchi. And what is the common thread that links these great seats of Buddhist learning? Our exploration of Tibet, Spiti and Ladakh is absorbing and rewarding as we seek to unlock the secrets and spells of the Land of the Tantric Mountain.

**Sample Pages**















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