Saturday, September 04, 2010


I've read Osamu Tezuka's 8 volume biography of the Buddha, leaving it on the shelf hoping my wife or kids would read it. So when I got Tetsu Saiwai's The 14th Dali Lama in the mail to review, I was quite happy. I like graphic novels, and in this case a biography.

Of course Seven Years in Tibet, Little Buddha and Kundun are interesting movies.

I've even seen a more modern movie that portrays Tibetan culture in exile.

I've even read Palden Gyatso's memoir.

I don't know why the Dali Lama is seen as the spokesperson for Buddhism, when he's a teacher in of one of 6 Tibetan Buddhism schools. His life story is compelling and he seems like an awesome guy. I've read a few of his books, seen him in movies.

I like it when he was asked about Tiger Woods, he didn't know who he was. And when he was explained, he said he thought any spiritual tradition would have about the same thing to say about him. I have read his memoir.

Just read Dharma Punx and Noah Levine says he was influenced by his talks, and meeting him a few times, briefly.

I lean more towards Stephen Batchelor's rejection of reincarnation dogma, and I'm working within the context of the TBC.

Nevertheless, it's quite a story of finding the Dali Lama's reincarnation, and is deeply embedded in the culture of Tibet. What was it like for a little boy? It must be pretty overwhelming, and before you know it, you just accept the role. In many ways it must be like winning the lottery. But then at 15 to be thrust in as leader is absurd, to see the invasion of China with all it's confusions.

In a way, the invasion of Tibet has brought Tibet into world consciousness. Do we talk about Sikkim or Nepal? It has taken him out of his safe place, and challenged him. It is only to his credit that he has responded and become a world leader. Maybe he does deserve to be a world religious leader. As far as I know, he's consistently chosen non-violence, which is an amazing choice and focus considering what has happened.

The drawings are wonderful and they tell this compelling story well. I still get upset when I think about China's invasion. The mystery novels of Eliot Pattison further helps me to imagine what has happened.

I guess the USA only step in if they found oil there. Another symptom of our skewed priorities.

I think there's a temptation to idealize Tibetans, me not knowing any personally. Before China's invasion one out of five people were monastics. What a wonderful commitment to spirituality! Imagine if the USA were like that.

Sangharakshita, in his memoirs, suggests Tibetans are practical people. He was in Kalingpong and Tibetans were fleeing, he got to know quite a few.

The Dali Lama is a world figure and I'm hoping my children will read this book when they get a little older. I do like all things Buddhism, Tibetan culture and world history, so this is an important book, well executed. I can't really judge the historical accuracy of the book, it has to be said, but it was an enjoyable experience to read and look at it.

Here's an article on the book.

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