RE-ENCHANTMENT: Tibetan Buddhism Comes to the West

Jeffery Paine, Author, Jeffrey Paine, Author . Norton $24.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-393-01968-1

Memorable anecdotes, great storytelling and keen observations mark this cogent exploration of the explosive growth of Tibetan Buddhism in the West. Paine offers chapters on many famous Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama (who, refreshingly, doesn't appear until nearly the end of the book), the pioneering Lama Yeshe, who first taught Westerners, and the controversial rogue playboy Chögyam Trungpa, Yeshe's character foil. Other chapters profile Westerners who discovered Tibetan Buddhism, like Tenzin Palmo (formerly a Cockney London girl named Diane Perry), who meditated alone for 12 years in an Indian cave and American lama Jetsunma (Catherine Burroughs), a much-married "tough bird from Brooklyn" who was the first Western woman to be recognized as a tulku (reincarnated Buddhist figure). Of course, there's a chapter on Hollywood, but Paine eschews a superficial chronicle of Tibetan Buddhism's sudden popularity among the glitterati in favor of a compelling analysis of why a Buddhist concept of reality might make sense to people whose lives revolve around the creation of impermanent "realities" like films. Throughout, Paine explores how Tibetan Buddhism has changed the American religious landscape, but also how it has been changed by America: in Tibet, for example, meditation was traditionally a very advanced practice, but in practical-minded America, practitioners "dive straight into meditation immediately." A final chapter introduces the only Tibetan Buddhist on death row; in a fascinating observation, Paine notes that famed Tibetan saint Milarepa was in fact a reformed criminal. (Jan.)

Forecast: Advance praise from the likes of Harvey Cox, Huston Smith and Jan Willis (who, we learn in the book, was one of Lama Yeshe's first American students) will help propel sales.

Reviewed on: 11/10/2003
Release date: 01/01/2004
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