Dalai Lama: Man, Monk, Mystic

Mayank Chhaya, Author . Doubleday $23.95 (342p) ISBN 978-0-385-51945-8

This is an authorized biography by an Indian journalist who did his research homework and had access to the Dalai Lama. The author also brings a familiarity with Asian politics, an essential frame of reference for understanding the complex situation of the Tibetan spiritual and political leader who has spent close to 50 years in exile in India. The end product is balanced—neither debunking nor hagiographic, but taking a Buddhist-style Middle Way toward its subject, even though the author is not himself a Buddhist. Particularly fascinating and demystifying is the account of the Dalai Lama's earliest years. Llamo Thondup, the Dalai Lama's birth name, was identified as the reincarnation of Tibet's top leader when he was just three years old. Scene-setting detail makes this chapter of the leader's life especially well told. By contrast, the end of the book feels a bit padded with speculation about the future of Tibet. This geopolitical assessment backgrounds the person of the Dalai Lama, a letdown in a biography. Less political analysis and more portraiture would have made a more successful and revealing life story. But this book provides valuable information about a man whose human character is not nearly as well known as his exotic spiritual image. (Mar. 13)

Reviewed on: 11/13/2006
Release date: 03/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
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