[BOOK REVIEW] Freedom in Exile: The Autobiography of the Dalai Lama

51b2TjcrtxL._SX312_BO1,204,203,200_The book was first published a quarter century ago (edition I read was the 1998 one with a new foreword) and much has happened since.

Over the last few months I have been reading several books on Buddhist philosophies, and to my surprise this one impressed me the least.

Maybe it’s in the telling, more than the teller, but there were contradictions that even on the premise of the ‘middle path’ seems too strong to ignore.

On the one hand The Dalai Lama believes that politics and religion go hand in hand, and expects (rightfully) that the world pulls up China on its b***s**t. On the other, he distances himself from global politics that beg reprimand. After all, he is not just a religious leader, but the head of state, albeit in exile.

Or maybe because I expected to know more about his journey as a Buddhist, not just his journey. Clearly this reader was seeking philosophical answers, not political discourse.

What I enjoyed most about the book are the stories from his childhood. The escapades of the little boy – newly-discovered reincarnation of the the 13th Dalai Lama – in a monastery full of ageing men.

Once his political journey begins, with the Chinese and then away from them, into India, the story lost me.  His, in comparison to his compatriots, has been a privileged life, and he acknowledges it quite openly. Because there just isn’t enough depth to that part of the story, and enough insights into Buddhism when things are toughest, I felt a little cheated.

It’s probably time to read the other books the Dalai Lama has since written, and as a compendium his story and philosophy would make a greater impact.

 

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