September 22, 2008

As many people who know my writing can attest, I have a strong interest in Buddhist teachings. On the other hand, my dislike of anything dogmatic or doctrinal stops me from declaring myself to be of any one faith. This authorized biography of the 14th Dalai Lama is the latest in a series of books exploring the man behind the legend of Tibet's reincarnating spiritual leader.

DALAI LAMA--MAN, MONK, MYSTIC by Mayank Chhaya (Doubleday 2007)

Although this is an ‘authorized biography,’ it reads more like a political treatise on the state of occupied Tibet. No doubt this was part of the Dalai Lama’s reasoning behind authorizing the book as he heads into his later years after nearly 50 years of exile from his homeland—more fuel for a fire threatened with extinction on his death. The few solid glimpses of Tibet’s spiritual head are welcome here, but they’re no more revealing than much of the other material by and about him. If His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama comes across as god-like, it’s more through his lack of everyday human foibles than anything else. There’s little that’s magic here, as one might hope, but that’s to be expected from a writer whose introduction all but apologizes for having an interest in a religion whose main credo centres around reincarnation. It’s typical of a leftist humanist outlook that looks to the human intellect as the highest creative force in the universe—a vast mistake, as our current world state shows. If more people cared about the Dalai Lama’s teaching and less about China-occupied Tibet, we might solve many more of our problems.

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