Prisoners of Shangri-La: Tibetan Buddhism and the West

Donald S. Lopez, Author, Donald S. Lopez Jr, Author University of Chicago Press $28 (294p) ISBN 978-0-226-49310-7
Lopez lifts the veil on America's romantic vision of Tibet to reveal a country and a spiritual history more complex and less ideal that popular perceptions allow. Lopez examines the ways that Tibet was named and defined by non-Tibetans, and he contends that successive translations of The Tibetan Book of the Dead over the past 70 years have reflected the ideas and contexts of the translators as much as they have reflected Buddhist thought. Over the years, Lopez demonstrates, Tibet has fallen in and out of fashion, alternately seen as a paradise that can lead the world or as a debauched society that has perverted true Buddhism. In art, for example, Tibetan works have been lauded as windows to enlightenment and, conversely, as creations preoccupied with ghoulishness. In the West, Lopez argues, Tibetan Buddhism is often so colored by Western preconceptions and misunderstandings that little of the true meaning of Tibetan Buddhism shines through the fog of myth. Lively and engaging, Lopez's book raises important questions about how Eastern religions are often co-opted, assimilated and misunderstood by Western culture. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/25/1998
Release date: 05/01/1998
Genre: Religion
Paperback - 294 pages - 978-0-226-49311-4
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