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Land of Pure Vision

Land of Pure Vision: The Sacred Geography of Tibet and the Himalaya

David Zurick
Foreword by Éric Valli
Map by Holly Troyer
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 136
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  • Book Info
    Land of Pure Vision
    Book Description:

    The landscapes of Tibet, Nepal, and Bhutan are filled with holy places. Some are of natural origin -- summits, rivers and lakes, caves, or forest sanctuaries. Others are consecrated by religious practice -- shrines, temples, monasteries, or burial grounds. The holy sites of the Himalaya unite faith and geography to produce some of the most sublime places on Earth.

    In Land of Pure Vision, David Zurick draws from his thirty-five years of experience as a geographer, photographer, and explorer of the Himalaya, combining scholarship and art to capture divine landscapes undergoing profound change. The stunning photographs featured in this volume cover the full geographical reach of the region, from the high plateaus of the western Himalaya to the rugged gorges of Tibet's eastern borderlands, from the icy summits of the north to the subtropical southern foothills. Some sites exist in isolation, with intact natural environments and cultural monuments. Others display the tension between the ancient, sacred character of a place and the indifferent course of the modern world.

    Land of Pure Vision explores how the religious practices of Tibetan Buddhism, Hinduism, and shamanism interweave holy sites into a cohesive landscape of transcendent beauty and inspiration. It portrays a world of mystery, magic, and beauty, where the human spirit is in synchronicity with natural forces. Beyond elegy, this beautifully illustrated book is a visual ethnography of people and place.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4559-4
    Subjects: Religion, Population Studies, Art & Art History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-ix)
    Éric Valli

    It’s often my search for hidden lands—beyul, as the Tibetans call them—that triggers my most beautiful and wild adventures. That’s why David Zurick’s quest in the Himalaya for what he calls sacred architectures interested me straightaway. Imagine a several years’ journey crisscrossing by all imaginable means the most mysterious places in the world. Indeed, as I am writing these lines, he is preparing to go back for the last picture, carrying his large-format camera, in order to capture somehow the magic that connects human beings to these mythical places.

    Although we have different backgrounds and approaches—David’s those...

    (pp. xi-1)

    In 2004 I began traveling in the Himalaya and Tibet with a large-format camera and sheet film to make black-and-white photographs of sacred places in the region: monasteries, shrines, and temples; scriptural carvings on rocks; prayer flags; the sources or confluences of holy rivers; revered mountains; forest sanctuaries and hidden treasure valleys; and numerous other consecrated elements in the landscape. These spiritual features populate the rugged terrain and are among its most remarkable cultural imprints. I was interested in how they might illuminate a particular way ofseeingthe world. It is customary for scientists and others to understand natural...

    (pp. 3-27)

    Geographers refer to mountains as high-energy environments due to the restless powers of tectonic uplift, gravity, and erosion. Working together in a geological cycle, these forces give rise in Tibet and the Himalaya to some of the planet’s grandest architectures—a vast tableau of crystalline peaks, valleys, and sedimentary plateaus. The soaring topography blocks moist air circulating from the tropical ocean to produce seasonally intense precipitation along the southern flanks of the Himalaya, causing landslides and floods that threaten human life but also producing fertile farms at the low elevations and vast glaciers in the highlands. The varied terrain and...

    (pp. 29-57)

    The geographer Yi Fu Tuan employed the termtopophiliato describe the affinity a person may have for a place. He suggested that such affinity comes from a sense of both love and fear: love in the way that place-based experience and emotion create a flourishing and even devotional relationship to a particular spot on Earth, and fear in the perception of real and present dangers in the world—floods, famine, earthquakes, and disease. Both emotions are present in the sacred landscapes of Tibet and the Himalaya. The all-encompassing divine love that undergirds much of religious devotion is magnetic when...

    (pp. 59-77)

    The places that appear in a sacred geography of Tibet and the Himalaya do not exist in isolation but rather are interwoven within a spatial grid of pilgrimage routes, ceremonial grounds, scriptural transmissions, and trailside markers, all made cohesive by religious practice. On a purely cosmological level, such connectivity may be perceived as a divine energy flowing across a landscape and through the heart of a person. This may be the case, for example, for Buddhists who view the plateau of Tibet as a pure land of enlightenment offering personal salvation from the endless cycles of karmic rebirth. It may...

    (pp. 79-99)

    Change and dissolution are among the hallmarks of religious thought in Tibet and the Himalaya. From its inception, Tibetan Buddhism has stressed impermanence as essential to spiritual liberation—all attempts to cling to the past will result only in future suffering. The Hindu concept ofsamsaraexplains all existence as a continual cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth. Karmic theory embraces the transmigration of a person’s soul. Even death will not stop change. The Shamanic traditions of the region are founded upon the ideas of altered states of consciousness and the interlocution of reality and the supernatural. It stands...

    (pp. 101-102)
    (pp. 103-104)
    David Zurick
    (pp. 105-118)
    (pp. 119-122)