The Dalai Lama’s July birthday often prompts publishers to highlight the scores of books by or about him this month or announce new works coming up about His Holiness, the Nobel Prize-winning monk, Tibetan leader in exile, and the world’s best-known Tibetan Buddhism teacher. This year, a major Buddhism publisher has his books on sale, and a another publisher known for culture and art books unveiled the cover of a lavish upcoming biography.
Shambhala and its imprint Snow Lion – one of the largest English language publisher on Tibetan Buddhism with more than 600 titles – put their two dozen books by the Dalai Lama on a 30% off sale through July 31. “We do something every year for his birthday but we wanted to step it up this year for his 85th birthday,” said Shambhala president and Snow Lion publisher Nikko Odiseos. Snow Lion is also adding more titles this year to its list of reissued classic by the Dalai Lama to bring them back into the spotlight.
“People talk about him as a Nobel winner, a leader of Tibet in exile and the world’s most visible Buddhist figure. But one thing I think is overshadowed is that he is as sophisticated and powerful a thinker and philosopher as you will find. His omnivorous curiosity has led him into many fields other than his own such as neuroscience. Readers know about his popular works on compassion but very few people are exposed to his deep, incisive Buddhist works where his mind really shines. It would be nice if more people were exposed to these,” Odiseos said.
Odiseos suggested titles key to the Dalai Lama’s work and influence, which Snow Lion is systematically reissuing as part of a classics series:
— Introduction to Buddhism. Under its original title, Lighting the Way, (2005) the book, which encapsulates three short works “for the Buddhist-curious” sold a handful of copies annually. But since it was reissued with a new title in July 2018, the Dalai Lama’s 83rd birthday month, it’s sold around 15,000 copies, he said.
— Kindness, Clarity and Insight (1984). Odiseos described this anthology as His Holiness’ first general interest major book.
— Where Buddhism Meets Neuroscience (1999). “The Dalai Lama spends so much time in conversation with scientists and westerners and this book explores where the two meet,” Odiseos said.
— From Here to Enlightenment. This book, published by Snow Lion in 2014, is his distillation of the fundamental teachings of a 14th Century scholar and major figure in Tibetan history. It encapsulates the essentials of Buddhism that formed the Dalai Lama’s life, Odiseos explained.
There are countless biographies of the Dalai Lama, but Michel Moushabeck, founder and publisher of Interlink, said he felt compelled to add one more and chose this month to unveil the cover image for His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama: An Illustrated Biography and launch a pre-order campaign.
The author is Tenzin Geyche Tethong, the Dalai Lama’s personal aide for over 40 years, and features an introduction by His Holiness’ younger brother, Ngari Rinpoche Tenzin Choegyal, plus 400 photos. Moushabeck describes it as a narrative history infused with Tethong’s observations and experiences as the Dalai Lama established his office in exile and rallied his people. It features “ a treasure trove of photos, documents and anecdotes never before published. His Holiness totally approves of the project. He gives it his blessings and instructed his office to cooperate with publishing it,” Moushabeck said.
“It is a project that is close to my heart. It is precisely during times like these—amid great social, political and economic uncertainty—when we most need His Holiness’s wisdom to soothe our souls, lift our spirits, and remind us of our humanity as we wait for this virus to pass," Moushabeck continued. "Now, more than ever we need his spiritual leadership, compassion, and universal secular ethics to remain present in our lives as we battle the dual virus of Covid-19 and Donald Trump.”
Politics aside, the viral pandemic did impact the title’s publication. Moushabeck originally planned on 50,000 copies, but realizing that bookstores may still be shuttered for months, he said he cut back to 25,000 for the November 23 release. He also announced a pre-order campaign for the $35 title to raise money for aggressive marketing “including ads in PW, The New Yorker, New York Times, Booklist, Library Journal, and a number of Buddhist publications.”