A SIMPLE MONK: Writings on His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Tom Morgan, Editor, Alison Wright, Photographer, Robert Thurman, Introduction by , with photographs by Alison Wright. New World Library $35 (144p) ISBN 978-1-57731-175-1

This "visual biography" of His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama blends gorgeous photography with text that is surprisingly sharp. Photographer Wright (The Spirit of Tibet), who has lived in India for the last decade chronicling the experiences of the Tibetan community in exile, relies heavily on vibrant colors such as red, orange and monastic saffron to bring these images to life. She offers illuminating portraits of the Dalai Lama himself, as well as cinema verité–style photographs of ordinary Tibetans at play and worship. Mercifully, she omits hackneyed images of His Holiness posing with this or that Hollywood celebrity. This restrained attitude toward the Buddha-loving glitterati is wittily reinforced in Orville Schell's essay, "Searching for the Dalai Lama: Dispirited Stars Find Absolution in Buddhism." Schell discusses Richard Gere's two decades as a Buddhist practitioner and then gives the slip to other stars such as Steven Seagal, who apparently sees Buddhism as just another vehicle for self-aggrandizement. As a whole, the book demonstrates a refreshing lack of awe for His Holiness, although it is always deeply respectful. An early chapter from Diki Tsering's book Dalai Lama, My Son presents a mother's surprisingly matter-of-fact, unsentimental reminiscences of the Tibetan leader's infancy and boyhood, while Columbia University professor Robert Thurman takes the Dalai Lama's mission into the next age with "Hope for the Third Millennium," excerpted from his Inner Revolution. For coffee-table fare, this is intelligent stuff. (Oct. 30)

Forecast:Stunning full-color photography and well-chosen text make this 10" × 10" book stand out among the many titles about the Dalai Lama. Advertising in Buddhist and New Age publications should help move the book's 50,000-copy print run. It is a main selection of the One Spirit Book Club.

Reviewed on: 07/30/2001
Release date: 10/01/2001
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