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PEAKS AND LAMAS Marco Pallis 1995 reprint Hardcover DJ Fine 3 Copies Available
By Pallis, Marco
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Delhi, 1995 [1939], reprint. 428 pp, 95 b/w plates, 3 maps. 

Himalayan expeditions in '33 and '36 that attempted several peaks in the Garhwal and Sikkim.  Marco Pallis spent several years in the eastern Himalayan region, traveling and collecting a vast material concerning Ladakh, Sikkim and Tibet. The present book is the story of his first travels to this mysterious region along with his three companions Richard Nicholson, F.E. Hicks, C.F. Kirkus and Charles Warrien (later of Everest fame).

'The book is a major fruit of his traveling and has remained a standard book of reference and is now, after sixty years of its first appearance, reprinted is the best tribute to the competence of his travel writing and enduring nature of his observation.' Marco Pallis travels in a world inhabited by divinities, monks and Lamas, by hosts of Gods, demons and spirits who, peopling the snow-capped mountains, the wind-swept plains, the rushing rivers and broad but lonely valleys of Ladakh and Tibet, are easily annoyed by intruders. A world where nothing is devoid of meaning if one can but interpret the signs to view the reality with the eye of faith. 'The book remains one of best travelogues ever written on this part of the Himalayas.'

From Wikipedia

Marco Alexander Pallis (1895 – 5 June 1989) was a Greek-British-born author and mountaineer with close affiliations to the Traditionalist School. He wrote works on the religion and culture of Tibet.

Born in Liverpool on the 19th of June, 1895.  In 1911 he traveled to British Guiana to study insects, and in 1912, he joined the Greek campaign against the Ottoman Empire during the fist of the Balkan Wars. During the siege of Ioannina, the ancestral town of the Pallis family, he worked at a field hospital in Arta.

Following WWI, Pallis climbed and explored against doctor's orders for his injured knee. He went on expeditions to the Arctic, Switzerland, and the Dolomites, and the Snowdonia, the Peak District, and the Scottish Highlands when closer to home. In 1933 Pallis led a small mountaineering party to the area of Kinnaur, one of the Himalayan borderlands. Near the village of Nako, at the border with Tibet, Pallis and his team succeeded in making the first ascent of Leo Pargial (22,280 feet).

In 1936 Pallis returned to the Himalayas at the head of another expedition. His party traveled first to Sikkim, an “antechamber of Tibet”, where their failure to scale the summit of Simvu (22,360 feet) was, at least for Pallis, more than made up for by their encounter with the saintly abbot of Lachhen, in whom, according to Pallis, “intelligence, compassion, and initiatic authority were reflected in equal degree”.

From Sikkim Pallis had hoped to cross the border into Tibet proper, but due to political circumstances it was impossible to obtain the necessary permissions. Forced to alter his plans, he decided instead to make his way to Ladakh. He was accompanied by his close friend Richard Nicholson and one other member of their climbing party, Dr. Robert Roaf. Once in Ladakh, they discarded Western clothes in favor of the chuba, and assumed as much as possible a Tibetan manner of living. “It was our way of saying to our hosts: ‘We wish to be as one of you. Please make no unusual arrangements on our behalf. We love your tradition, and hope it will not be rashly changed. We have found means of attuning ourselves to its ways.’”

Pallis by now saw himself as a “pilgrim” of Tibetan Buddhism and in both Sikkim and Ladakh he received his religious education directly from qualified instructors within the living tradition. He dedicates his Peaks and Lamas to four teachers in particular, “the great contemplator, abbot of Lachhen, the venerable Dawa, bursar of Spituk, the venerable Konchhog Gyaltsan of P’hiyang, and the venerable Geshe Wangyal of Drepung, Lhasa who for my benefit and for the good of all creatures set in motion the Wheel of the Doctrine”.

The Second World War prevented further travels until 1947, when Pallis and Richard Nicholson were able to visit the Tibetan heartland before the coming Chinese invasion. They traveled widely throughout Tibet’s Tsang province, seeking to fulfill their shared desire to “absorb the spirit of the Tradition by direct experience”. Over the course of their stay they were able to make contact with each of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism (Gelugpa, Nyingmapa, Kagyudpa, and Sakyapa), visiting such holy sites as the ancient Pel Sakya monastery, seat of the Sakyapa and “a treasure-house of all the arts at their very best”, as well as the Tashilhunpo monastery, seat of the Panchen Lama and one of the four great monasteries of the Gelugpa.

After his departure from the Tibetan plateau, Pallis lived in Kalimpong, India for nearly four years before returning to England in 1951. Kalimpong was then a center of literary and cultural activity, as well as a refuge for many of those who were being forced to leave Tibet. Pallis formed many lasting relationships during this time, including an acquaintance with the then queen of Bhutan and her family, whom he later visited in England, and with the Dalai Lama’s former tutor Heinrich Harrer, with whom Pallis later collaborated in exposing the fraudulent writer Cyril Hoskin, alias “Lobsang Rampa”. While in Kalimpong, Pallis also met with the Dalai Lama’s Great Royal Mother, and he developed a close relationship with the abbot of the nearby Tharpa Choling monastery.

After the political upheavals in Tibet in the 1950s, Pallis became active in the affairs of the Tibetan Society, the first Western support group created for the Tibetan people. Pallis also was able to house members of the Tibetan diaspora in his London flat. Pallis also formed a relationship with the young Chögyam Trungpa, who had just arrived in England. Trungpa asked Pallis to write the foreword to Trungpa’s first, autobiographical book, Born in Tibet. In his acknowledgment, Trungpa offers Pallis his “grateful thanks” for the “great help” that Pallis provided in bringing the book to completion. He goes on to say that “Mr. Pallis when consenting to write the foreword, devoted many weeks to the work of finally putting the book in order”.

Writings on Buddhism and Tradition

Pallis described 'tradition' as being the leitmotif of his writing. He wrote from the perspective of what has come to be called the traditionalist or perennialist school of comparative religion founded by René Guénon, Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, and Frithjof Schuon, each of whom he knew personally. As a traditionalist, Pallis assumed the 'transcendent unity of religions' (the title of Schuon's landmark 1948 book) and it was in part this understanding that gave Pallis insight into the innermost nature of the spiritual tradition of Tibet, his chosen love. He was a frequent contributor to the journal Studies in Comparative Religion (along with Schuon, Guénon, and Coomaraswamy), writings on both the topics of Tibetan culture and religious practice as well as the Perennialist philosophy.

Pallis published three books over a span of almost forty years. His first, Peaks and Lamas (1939), mentioned previously, tells the story “of how access was gained, across the varying episodes of Himalayan travel, to a traditional world, still complete and vigorous, that of Buddhism in its Tibetan branch”.This was followed by The Way and the Mountain (1960) and by A Buddhist Spectrum (1980), both collections of essays that attempt to deal “with a number of Buddhist themes of prime importance in such a fashion as to make up . . . a coherent view of the world and of a human destiny realizable in this world as seen through Buddhist eyes”] Several of Pallis’ essays were also included in Jacob Needleman’s The Sword of Gnosis.  After his final journey to Tibet, while living in Kalimpong, Pallis wrote a short book in the Tibetan language addressing the dangers posed to Tibet by the encroachment of modern culture. In addition to penning his own writings, Pallis translated Buddhist texts into Greek, and translated works of fellow traditionalist writers René Guénon and Frithjof Schuon from French into English. Some of Pallis’ own works have also been translated into Italian, French, Spanish, and Turkish.

Since the publication of his first book, sixty-six years ago, generations of scholars and students have turned to Pallis for insight into Buddhism and Tibet. His work is cited by such writers as Heinrich Harrer, Heinrich Zimmer, Joseph Campbell, Thomas Merton, Robert Aitken, and Huston Smith. Despite such scholarly acclaim, it is also true, as Harry Oldmeadow states, that “Pallis had no interest in research for its own sake, nor in any purely theoretical understanding of doctrine: his work was always attuned to the demands of the spiritual life itself. [His essays] should be of interest not only to those on the Buddhist path but to all spiritual wayfarers.” Huston Smith expresses a similar judgment when he declares: “Though Pallis respects scholarship, he doesn’t consider himself a Buddhist scholar. . . . What he does is focus on key Buddhist teachings and mine their essential and existential meaning. In the course of this project he regularly refers to other traditions, especially Christianity. . . . The result is completely satisfying. For insight, and the beauty insight requires if it is to be effective, I find no writer on Buddhism surpassing him.” Wendell Berry, Gary Snyder, and Robert Aitken gave encouragement to the reprinting of Pallis’ classic Peaks and Lamas, which Wendell Berry has called, “The best book, in my limited reading, in connecting a form of Buddhism with its sustaining culture. [It is] useful to anybody interested in what a traditional culture is or might be, and how such a culture might preserve itself.”

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