Book Reviews

Kailash: Tibet's Holy Mountain.

 

The Preetorius Foundation for Asian Art and Culture (Munich, Germany)

"The sudden revving of the engine jolted me awake." So begins Bruno Baumann's newest book On Spirit Grounds - Kailash: Tibet's Sacred Mountain, and so begins the reader's journey into an exclusive world of spirit and beauty otherwise foreclosed to all but the most adventurous of souls. On Spirit Grounds is a masterful resume of more than a dozen of the Austrian writer-adventurer Bruno Baumann's expeditions into the wilds of western Tibet, showcasing the region's natural beauty and rich cultural heritage...

In addition to illustrating the different religious practices of the local cultures, the book conveys a real sense of the spiritual significance of Mount Kailash, which is only reinforced by Baumann's sobering accounts of his own arduous expeditions there…Bruno Baumann is an adventurer and an explorer in the very best sense of the word. He approaches the world with curiosity, energy, passion, and ambition, moving from one challenge to the next, and writing about his experiences along the way…A superb journalist, Baumann's book is brilliantly researched and loaded with information. The text is exceptionally well written, making for an entertaining and absorbing read from start to finish...

Baumann mounted expeditions to each of the four greatest rivers in Asia and to their sources near Mount Kailash, the precious snow jewel of the Himalayas. He describes the matchless beauty of the landscape in every detail, writes about his personal encounters, and at the same time describes the day-to-day rigors he and his team faced exploring the isolated and often perilous terrain along the upper courses of the Indus, Sutlej, Karnali, and the Brahmaputra Rivers…In addition to Mount Kailash itself, the book describes other important cultural sites in western Tibet, such as Tholing, Purang, Tirthapuri and the great Barka plain; it also offers an informative account of his travels to the two sacred lakes, Raksas Tal and Manasarovar, where he completed the lesser-known, but no less arduous, ritual circuit around Manasarovar Lake...

It took Bruno Baumann nearly two decades to complete the 13 outer ritual circuits (kora) of Mount Kailash required by sacred tradition to gain entry to the "inner kora", the pilgrim route leading to the mountain's innermost sanctum. Running along the base of the south face of Mount Kailash, where the Vajra scepter rises up as a symbol of the indestructible marking the center of the natural mandala, the inner kora is the holiest of all pilgrim trails. Because most lay pilgrims are too in awe of the sanctity of these grounds, the inner kora is a road rarely traveled except by the most experienced adepts and Buddhist practitioners. Baumann's work represents the first and only written account in existence of this ultimate pilgrim route, and for this fact alone is a must-read....

mb, April 2003

 

March 6, 2003 - ”At the origin of the Indus, the Tsangpo-Brahmaputra, the Sutlej & the Karnali, the incredible wonder of this region of the world opened to him, where four great rivers spring forth & flow to the four corners of the earth from a single mountain. Kailash itself, this ‘natural m&ala’, had been worth enough to him to complete the 13 arduous circumambulations, which Tibetan religious powers require before a pilgrim may gain entrance into the inner circle (‘inner Kora’). Yet even with his goal in sight, an overwhelming respect & awe for the holiness of that innermost realm prompted him to turn back at the foot of Mount N&i. The geographical & cultural experience takes center stage in this book, but Baumann also knows how to showcase with due respect those who accompanied him along the way – the pilgrim woman from Amdo, walking with her child across the cold of Western Tibet, the ascetic French woman traveling with a group of pilgrims like a living reincarnation of Alex&ra David-Neel, or the ‘Milk-Baba’ from Kathm&u. These are just a few of the players on the great stage of Kailash, from which visitors from a “disenchanted” western world can share in the magic. Bruno Baumann’s ability to reach into the soul of the reader with his words & convey his own personal feelings about this spiritual wonder of nature is just one of the amazing things about this book…that it also presents the texture, colors & images of this far-off corner of the world in almost 200 magnificent photos is more than anyone should be allowed to expect from a travel book.”

 

Globetrotter Awards Prize for the Best Travel Book... 2002

An all-star Jury, made up of survival expert & human rights activist Rüdiger Nehberg, German magazine STERN reporter Peter Sandmeyer, & Globetrotter Magazine's founder, Klaus Denart, selected Bruno Baumann's newest book: KAILAS: TIBET'S HOLY MOUNTAIN as the winner of the "BEST TRAVEL BOOK 2002".

"Kailash - Tibet's Holy Mountain" is the result of Bruno Baumann's many years of exploring the Tran Himalayas. In this book, he makes his advance toward the mountain from which the four greatest rivers of Asia spring & flow to the four corners of the Earth - geographically, historically, mythologically, & with almost religious photography. Bruno Baumann is one of the foremost experts on Tibet. With this book, he's published a work that not only impresses with its solid, in-depth research, but which also gives insight into the soul of the author. "Walk on, walk on!" was the message Buddha passed on to his pupils. Perhaps that is the message Kailash holds for us as well, that is, to view life as one long pilgrimage, a never-ending search for that which is holy, in us & around us.

 

Wrage Buchhandlung (Gabriele Mariel Pauls)

"At 28,582 feet, Mount Kailash is the snow jewel crowning the roof of the world. It is the source of the four major rivers of Asia - the Indus, Brahmaputra, Karnali und Sutlej. Like the spokes of a wheel, they flow to the north, east, south & west, making Kailash the center of a m&ala created by nature. Since time immemorial, pilgrims from all parts of Tibet, India & Nepal have made their way to Kailash, for the headwaters of the four rivers are also considered to be sacred. 'He who sees it, his sins shall evaporate like the dew in the morning sun.' These words apply for four different religions. Hindus, Buddhists, Jains und Bons all worship Kailash as the highest pilgrim's goal.

Bruno Baumann, author, photographer & filmmaker, followed the pilgrim's route. He spent over 10 years exploring the entire region of this natural m&ala & trekked to the sources of the four great rivers. Over thous&s of miles, much of it on foot, he followed the courses of the Indus und the Brahmaputra, the Karnali & the Sutlej. Along the way, he encountered many men & women, & questioned them about their religious rituals & the holy sites in the region surrounding Kailash. He broadened his geographic underst&ing of the region to include a 'map of faith', which charted the sacred sites of the pilgrims. Baumann wanted to know what it was about Mount Kailash that made it the center of worship for four different world religions. To find the answer, the widely traveled adventurer completed 13 ritual circumambulations in accordance with ancient pilgrim tradition, thus gaining entry into the most sacred inner circle, the 'inner Kora' of Kailash.

The almost 200 photos in Bruno Baumann's book about Tibet's holiest mountain convey to those who have never traveled to Tibet something of the atmosphere of Kailash & the pilgrim spirit. It is clear in reading Baumann's accounts of his travels that this was not just some adventurer getting his kicks out of strolling the pilgrims' trail because it's 'cool', but rather a man who is there for his own very private purpose. With thoughtful sensitivity, Bruno Baumann describes the changes taking place in Tibet, which continues to suffer under the oppression of Chinese occupation, & tells of the battle, especially that of the Buddhist monks, for their cultural & religious freedom."

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