Ultimate Journey, 2001

Ultimate Journey, 2001

Richard Bernstein's Ultimate Journey retraces the path of Hsuan Tsang crossing Asia in search of enlightenment

Staff Writer
July 25 , 2014
Less than 1 Min Read
In the seventh century a Chinese monk named Hsuan Tsang wanted answers to questions which, the Buddhist texts told him, could only be found in the distant, mythical land now called India. Fourteen centuries later, a bored, restless, middle-aged New York Times book critic named Richard Bernstein needed to find some answers of his own. 

Fascinated by Hsuan Tsang’s story, he retraced the monk’s journey, visited Lumbini and Sarnath, saw the imposing ruins of Nalanda’s great Buddhist university and, in Bodhgaya — where the Buddha found enlightenment and Bernstein struggled with the rigorous metaphysics of the Diamond Sutra — spotted banners reading “Coca-Cola Welcomes His Holiness The Dalai Lama”. 

The monk took home ideas about the attainment of serenity that would affect China profoundly, and Bernstein a reverence for the Buddhist civilisation of the seventh century—and also notes for a travel book that, for me, ranks with Robert Byron’s 1937 classic Road to Oxiana.

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