Ian Baker’s articles and books emerge from a lifetime of research and exploration at the edges of the world. Click here to view Ian’s books on Amazon.
“Ian Baker’s amazing journey . . . is really a pilgrimage into our own true selves.” – Richard Gere
TIBETAN YOGA: SECRETS FROM THE SOURCE
Ian’s most recent work, Tibetan Yoga: Secrets from the Source, will be published in 2016 by Thames & Hudson U.K. An academic article on Tibetan yoga entitled ‘Embodying Enlightenment: Physical Culture in Dzogchen as revealed in Tibet’s Lukhang Murals’ is downloadable at Academia.edu.
Tibetan yoga is also the principle subject of an exhibition at London’s Wellcome Collection – ‘Tibet’s Secret Temple’ – which Ian curated.
THE HEART OF THE WORLD: A JOURNEY TO THE LAST SECRET PLACE
With an Introduction by His Holiness The Dalai Lama
“The Heart of the World is one of the most extraordinary tales of adventure and discovery ever told.”
– San Francisco Chronicle
“A heady melange of history, wilderness exploration, and Tibetan Buddhism . . . this true story of the search for the ‘hidden-land’ of Pemako, Tibet, is scholarly, entertaining and transcendent.”
– Publisher’s Weekly
“Baker binds the physical and spiritual journeys into one. Reading the book is itself a big, almost a transcendent, experience.”
– National Geographic Adventure
Acclaimed explorer Ian Baker’s long-awaited memoir of his journeys into the unexplored heart of the earth’s deepest gorge, culminating in his team’s discovery of a fabled waterfall held by Tibetans to be the gateway to a mystical paradise– the origin of the myth of Shangri-La.
The legend of Shangri-La emerged from Tibetan Buddhist beliefs in beyul, or hidden lands. According to Tibetan tradition, the more remote and inaccessible the beyul, the more illuminating the paradise it conceals. Ancient Tibetan prophecies proclaim that the greatest of all these mystical sanctuaries lies at the eastern edge of the Himalayas, veiled by a collosal waterfall at the heart of the forbidding Tsangpo gorge, the earth’s deepest and most impenetrable chasm. For generations, Tibetan pilgrims and Western explorers alike sought a route into the depths of the gorge in quest of this mythic waterfall. In 1924, after the last ill- fated
British expedition, the Royal Geographical Society declared the legendary Falls of the Tsangpo to be nothing more than a “religious myth” and a “romance of geography.”
The heart of the Tsangpo Gorge remained a blank spot on the map of world exploration until world-class climber and Buddhist scholar Ian Baker set out more than twenty years ago to learn the truth behind the ancient Tibtetan Buddhist legends. After years of interviewing lamas, deciphering cryptic Tantric texts, and making pilgrimages to the gorge, on the last of a series of harrowing expeditions, Baker and his National Geographic- sponsored team made worldwide news by reaching the bottom of the gorge and finding a magnificent 108-foot- high waterfall, the legendary grail of Western explorers and Tibetan seekers.
The Heart of the World recounts one of the most captivating stories of exploration and discovery in recent memory-an extraordinary journey into one of the wildest and most inaccessible places on earth, a meditation on our place in nature, and a pilgrimage to the heart of the Tibetan Buddhist faith.
By Ian Baker
Paintings by Romio Shrestha
With an Introduction by Deepak Chopra
A two-foot-tall collection of Tibetan mandala scroll paintings reproduced from works found in museums, galleries, and private collections worldwide. Features 39 beautifully rendered full-color illustrations.
Boldly reinterpreting an age-old Tibetan artistic tradition, this enormous album offers gorgeously detailed representations of celestial spheres, known as mandalas. Merely gazing upon them is meant to inspire heightened states of intention and clarity. In CELESTIAL GALLERY, master painter Romio Shrestha and his team of artisan monks have rendered postmodern interpretations of these enlightened Buddha realms. Made from hand-ground malachite, lapis, marigolds, and more, and painted at times with three cat-tail hairs, these multifaceted scenes of otherworldly deities are produced with hauntingly powerful detail. Depictions of White Tara, Green Tara, the Medicine Buddha, and many other celestials invite and inspire meditation and reflection.
THE DALAI LAMA’S SECRET TEMPLE: TANTRIC WALL PAINTINGS FROM TIBET
By Ian Baker
Photographs by Ian Baker and Thomas Laird
Introduction by Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama
“The book is an absolute treasure” – Antiques and Collectables
Behind Tibet’s Potala Palace—seat of the Dalai Lamas since 1649—lies a sacred pond said to be inhabited by serpentlike deities called Lu. There, on a willow-covered island in the middle of the lake, is a pagoda- roofed Khang, or temple. During the brief reign of the Sixth Dalai Lama, who built the temple in the eighteenth century, unknown artists created a series of mysterious paintings on the walls of the temple’s private chapel. Comparable in quality and ambition to the Sistine Chapel in Rome, these masterpieces of Tibetan art are reproduced for the first time in this extraordinary publication. The chapel was reserved exclusively for the Dalai Lamas as a place of meditation and spiritual retreat. For centuries the Lukhang murals, which illustrate the path to spiritual liberation, guided the Dalai Lamas in a form of mystical contemplation called Dzogchen—the most secret practice in Tibet’s Tantric tradition. Beyond their Tibetan origins, the murals display a universal spiritual vision. Merely to contemplate them, Tibetans believe, can open the mind to timeless spiritual truth. At the heart of this book are more than 150 color photographs of the murals and their temple. Ian Baker’s text, which places these remarkable works within their historical and cultural perspective, is augmented by accounts from other Tibetan sources. A special feature of the book is an introduction and quotations by Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet, as well as additional drawings from Buddhist texts. This treasure of Tibetan Buddhist spirituality is presented in a magnificent large-format edition. The vivid detail, rich color, and awe-inspiring impact of this path to spiritual liberation can at last be experienced outside the Lukhang chapel.
THE TIBETAN ART OF HEALING
By Ian Baker
Paintings by Romio Shesthra
“Ian Baker’s text lucidly evokes the depth and subtlety of Tibetan art, healing, and spirituality . . . his writing transforms the ancient wisdom of the East into prose that’s both inspiring and poetic.” – Deepak Chopra
Like an Illuminated manuscript, this extraordinarily beautiful book is both an exquisite artwork in itself and an object of profound meditation. It is based on a revered collection, long ago considered lost, of three-hundred-year-old Tibetan thangkas: elaborate paintings that portray a philosophy of healing based on Buddhist beliefs, Ayurvedic practices and ancient shamanic traditions. Rendered by Nepal’s foremost traditional artist, Romio Shrestha, using the age-old techniques of painting with rich materials such as gold and lapis lazuli, these breathtaking works reward the minutest contemplation.This important book is also a practical guide to our search for physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. With insights into such ‘contemporary’ ailments as stress, allergies and heart disease, and chapters devoted to aspects of sexual alchemy, rejuvenation and Tantric yoga, this wide-ranging study is an unprecedented journey into health and transformation, an astonishing volume as timely and revolutionary as it is sumptuous and exuberant.
TIBET: REFLECTIONS FROM THE WHEEL OF LIFE
By Ian Baker, Carroll Dunham, and Thomas Kelly
With an Introduction by H.H. The Dalai Lama
“It’s my sincere hope that the images and voices of the Tibetan people contained in this book may help to spark interest in the Tibetan way of life and the ideals to which it aspires.”
– Tenzin Gyatso, The XIV Dalai Lama
With a foreword by the Dalai Lama, this remarkable volume presents an intimate, Family of Man-like portrait of Tibet and its people. According to Tibetan belief, existence is an endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, and in this exquisitely illustrated volume authors Carroll Dunham and Ian Baker take us through the Tibetan wheel of life, from birth and childhood through adolescence and midlife to old age and death. We meet a pregnant woman who is married to four brothers. She dreams of turquoise—a sure sign that she will give birth to a boy. Ten-year-old Tulku Ralo yawns as he sits on a grand throne blessing the reverent throng who flock to him; it is not easy being a god-child. The pilgrimage of a family to Lhasa takes several years, for they cover the entire distance by prostrating the length of their bodies across the earth, surrendering to the primordial ground from which all Buddhas have arisen. Set against Tibet’s staggeringly beautiful mountain landscapes, as well as against the ongoing struggle of the Tibetans to win independence from China, Tibet: Reflections from the Wheel of Life portrays the many faces of an earthy yet devout people steeped in a rich heritage.
FRANK KINGDON WARD’S RIDDLE OF THE TSANGPO GORGES: RETRACING THE EPIC JOURNEY OF 1924-25 IN SOUTH-EAST TIBET
By Kenneth Cox, Ian Baker, and Ken Storm Jr. (editors)
“…this will go down as one of the greats of plant exploration literature…” – Roy Lancaster
Little explored and virtually inaccessible, the Tsangpo Gorge in south-east Tibet is the world’s deepest gorge. Through it twists the Yarlong Tsangpo, Tibet’s great river, emerging from below on the plains of India. This is the story of its exploration and the rich plant and animal life found there. Riddle of the Tsangpo Gorges, first published in 1926, is the fascinating account of plant-hunter and explorer Frank Kingdon Ward’s most important expedition.
Kenneth Cox, Kenneth Storm, Jr. and Ian Baker have spent the last fifteen years retracing the route of the 1924-25 expedition and have managed to reach further into this magical and only partly explored land. The book contains the original Kingdon Ward text and extensive additional material including a history of the exploration, geography and religious significance of the area and more than 250 colour photographs with detailed captions on the plants of the area, most of which are described by Kingdon Ward in the original text. A photographic essay documents for the first time in a book the ‘new’ Hidden Falls located in the portion of the gorge left unexplored by Frank Kingdon Ward and Lord Cawdor in 1924. This updated edition features additional, new material that covers The Tsangpo Gorges in the 21st Century. It incorporates not only the team’s more recent expeditions, from 2002, made into the region but also discusses its ecological future, including the highly- controversial possible construction of massive hydro-electric dams, which would involve the flooding and destruction of the area.
HIMALAYA: PERSONAL STORIES OF GRANDEUR, CHALLENGE, AND HOPE
By Brot Coburn (editor)
Chapter entitled ‘The Secret Heart of Shangri-La’ by Ian Baker
Both a magnificent celebration and a call for compassion, Himalaya is a panorama of the unique history and uncertain future of the world’s highest region and its colorful inhabitants. The awesome beauty of these lofty peaks, including Everest, Kanchenjunga, and Annapurna, is brought to life by gifted photographers like Steve McCurry, Art Wolfe, and many more, while such notable contributors as Jimmy Carter, the Dalai Lama, Sir Edmund Hillary, Tenzing Norgay, and over two dozen others share vivid personal tales of Himalayan life, recount their efforts to encourage hope and opportunity, and emphasize the urgent need to preserve the vibrant variety of these ancient landscapes and cultures as they face the mixed blessings of the modern world.
The book begins by introducing the region: its astonishing biodiversity, its mountaineering history, its rich ethnic heritage, and the interplay between two major religions, Hinduism and Buddhism. Himalaya addresses challenges to these mountainous domains: political turmoil, population growth, touristic demands, and ecological stresses. Finally, a compelling conclusion comes in the stories of doctors, conservationists, environmentalists, and volunteers of every kind, whose efforts provide a global model for practical results and lasting relief, still respecting, honoring, and protecting the magic of a place unlike any other on Earth.
TRAVELERS’ TALES NEPAL
By Rajendra S. Khadka (editor)
Chapter entitled ‘The Jewel of the Nagas’ by Ian Baker
Nepal has always been magical and mysterious. Ever since it shed its Shangri-la style isolation and finally admitted Western tourists in the early 1950s, it has stirred the longings and fantasies of travelers of every stripe — monks and mystics, hippies and yuppies. Nepal, “a yam between two boulders,” is at the crossroads where the Gangetic-lowland Hindu India literally collided into the Himalayan-highland Buddhist
Tibet, producing a harmonious blend of cultures and traditions that remains maddeningly elusive, but quintessentially Nepali. Nepal is renowned for its temples, shrines, palaces, amazing mountains and jungles — and especially its riotous, colorful festivals. To the devotees, every day of the year is an auspicious day; one day they honor Shiva, the next day, the Buddha. The foreign spiritual seeker soon discovers that there are more temples, gompas, gurus, sadhus, and rinpoches to choose from than cereal brands in an American supermarket. Some of the many notable authors you will find in Travelers’ Tales Nepal include Peter Matthiessen, Jan Morris, Jimmy Carter, Ian Baker, and Jeff Greenwald.
‘Tibetan Yoga: Somatic Practice in Vajrayāna Buddhism and Dzogchen’, in Yoga in Transformation: History and Contemporary Perspectives on a Global Phenomenon, University of Vienna Press, forthcoming 2016
‘The Secret Key to the Heart of Yoga: Revelations from Orgyen Pema Lingpa’s Compendium of Enlightened Spontaneity (Rdzogs chen kun bzang dgongs ’dus)’, forthcoming 2016
‘The Lukhang Temple and Tibetan Buddhism’, Wellcome Collection Publications (London), 2015
‘Embodying Enlightenment: Physical Culture in Dzogchen as revealed in Tibet’s Lukhang Murals’, in Asian Medicine: Tradition and Modernity, Volume 7, ‘Cultivating Perfection and Longevity’, Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2012
‘The Secret River: Plants, Alchemy, and Immortality in Tibet’s Hidden Land of Pemako’, National Geographic Adventure, 2010
‘The Thousand-Petalled Lotus: Tibetan Visions of the Tsangpo Gorges’, in Frank Kingdon Ward’s Riddle of the Tsangpo Gorge: Retracing the Epic Journey of 1924 – 25 in South-East Tibet, Kenneth Cox, Kenneth Storm, Jr., and Ian Baker (editors), Woodbridge: Antique Collectors Club, 2001 and 2008
‘The Secret Heart of Shangri-La’, in Himalaya: Personal Stories of Grandeur, Challenge, and Hope, Brougton Coburn (ed.), National Geographic Press, 2006
‘Das Herz der Welt: Eine Reise zu einem der unzuganglichsten Orte der Erde’, in Aerzzliches Journal, September 2006
‘The Heart of Shangri-La’, in The Independent (London), March 2005 ‘High Holy Days: A Journey to Tibet’s Mount Kailash’, in National
Geographic Adventure, March 2004
‘Black Snow Falling’, in National Geographic Adventure, October 2001
‘The Jewel of the Nagas’, in Nepal: True Stories of Life on the Road, Rajendra S. Khadka (editor), Travelers’ Tales Guides, 2000
‘The Tibetan New Year Observed’, in National Geographic Magazine, January 2000 ‘Pemako: Tibet’s Celestial Realm on Earth’, in The Explorer’s Journal, November 1997