Wisdom of the Mountains is a giant book, much bigger than I expected when I ordered it.
At over six hundred pages, with numerous pictures and diagrams, it’s probably the most detailed book on Tibetan style Buddhism that I’ve seen.
It’s author, Colin Stump, has traveled extensively in the Himalayan region and it’s pretty obvious in the book that he knows what he’s talking about.
It starts off with basic teachings about Buddhism and then delves deeply into the specifics regarding the way it has affected the cultures in the Himalayan region. I think the target audience for this book fits into one of two categories that might also intersect.
On the one hand, if you’re really interested in the history of Tibetan Buddhism and those things that make it unique, like deities, complex rituals, and the way this tradition has been shaped over the years, this is a good book for you. There are detailed descriptions of deities and rituals, along with pictures. (the fact that this book had color photos really surprised me!) About the pictures: there’s a lot of art in this book. Tibetan art and iconography is explored in great details.
There’s also plenty of detail about what Buddhism was like right before it entered Tibet, and the way it was shaped as a result of mixing with Tibetan culture, along with a detailed description of the schools of Buddhism that have emerged in Tibet: Nyingma, Kadam, Sakya, Kagyu, Geluk, and minor schools too. Often understanding and remembering the differences between these schools has been difficult for me. The author does a good job of elucidating the differences, even the subtle ones.
On the other hand, this book also works as a travel guide. If I wanted to travel to the Himalayas, this book could serve as a travel guide. There’s a great exploration of the people and places that are important to Buddhism in the region, from India through Nepal and Bhutan, into Tibet.
This is a wonderful book for people who are interested in delving deeply into Tibetan Buddhism, either for scholarly, spiritual, or adventure based interest.
I’m going to keep this giant book on my bookshelf and turn to it whenever I need to write about some nuanced aspect of Tibetan Buddhism.
if you’re interested, learn more here.