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Seven Years In Tibet

Seven Years in Tibet is the account of Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer's time in Tibet during World War II. While trying to avoid capture by the British he managed to learn quite a bit about Tibetan culture and was involved to an extent never equalled by any other Westerner. The account provides few short passages making a point, but I think the following sums things up nicely.

Before the cathedral is a terrace of flagstones, polished like mirrors and hollowed out by the prostrations of worshippers over a thousand years. When one looks at these hollows and recognizes the expression of deep devotion on the faces of the worshippers, one understands why a Christian mission could never succeed in Lhasa. A Lama from the Drebung on a visit to Rome to convert the Catholics would recognise the futility of his mission when he saw the steps of the holy staircase worn down by the knees of countless pilgrims, and would leave the Vatican with resignation. Christianity and Buddhism have much in common. They are both founded on the belief in happiness in another world and both preach humility in this life. But there is a difference as things are today. In Tibet one is not hunted from morning till night by the calls of "civilisation." Here one has time to occupy oneself with religion and to call one's soul one's own. Here it is religion which takes up most room in the life of the individual, as it did in the olden days in the West.1

1Heinrich Harrer, Seven Years in Tibet, translated by Richard Graves, introduction by Peter Flemming, (London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1953), 232-233.

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