Before setting out on his journey to Mount Kailas in Tibet, the most sacred of the world’s mountains, holy to one-fifth of the earth’s people, Colin Thubron meets a monk named Tashi in Kathmandu who instructs him to dedicate his pilgrimage ‘to those who have died’ so that ‘they will accrue merit’.
‘They will?’ Thubron asks doubtfully. ‘Can you help the dead?’ His residual Anglicanism, he notes, offers no intercession or opportunity of consolation for those who have passed. ‘The dead were beyond reach or comfort.’
But Tashi is nonplussed by his scepticism: ‘Yes, dedicate good deeds to them. If you go on such a journey with nothing in your mind, it will be empty.’
The imprecation is particularly apt, for this was a journey, Thubron tells us, made ‘on account of the