Friday, August 19, 2005

Freedom in Exile : An autobiography of Dalai Lama of Tibet


I often wonder why Buddhism doesn’t profess vegetarianism when this religion is ingrained with the belief of non-violence and killing.

While reading ‘Freedom in Exile” an autobiography, I realized that Dalai Lama too faced the same dilemma when he experienced the pain of chicken while being slaughtered. He abandoned eating non vegetarian food with great resolve. My question seems to have been addressed. However after few pages, the very same Dalai Lama- after recuperating from Hepatitis – started eating non vegetarian food – albeit at the advice of doctors. A rude shock must be for those who are reading this review. But not for those, who have read this book and understood Dalai Lama as a person.

Dalai Lama was not chosen by virtue of his religious or spiritual erudite, political lineage or his hold over masses. In fact, he was just picked up by search party at the age of two from farming family in far flung rural areas of Tibet, who proclaimed him as a reincarnation of previous Dalai Lama. This autobiography begins from the life of ordinary peasant family life in 1935 to his Noble Prize acceptance in 1989 and subsequent changing global scenario of post 2000. All along he lived like an ordinary person observing, assimilating and debating everything that has been around despite a staunch belief of his own followers that he was an ordained spiritual master. He is candid enough to confess his simplicity all through his narration.

Writing an autobiography is always a tough task. More so, when people revere you as religious and spiritual leader. Dalai Lama presents his life story in simple manner eschewing pedantic discourses and sermons. His spiritual magnanimity is evident when he espouses the intrinsic human quality more important than any religious beliefs in fact goes even to an extent of analyzing atheists. So are his views, apt and balanced- when he compares influence of western capitalism with Russian socialism and their combined effect on human mind and behavior. For those, who are not familiar with Tibetan traditions, this book reveals legacy of Tantric traditions, Kalchakra invocations. He has delved at great length ; monastic regimens, life of lamas, rigors of their training and austerity of their lifestyle, remarkably woven with his own emotional turmoil as he was taken away from his family at tender age.

Dalai Lama portrays at ease his interaction with Chau En Lau, Mao, Nehru and other world leaders .This gives readers a great insight of the political equations existed during that period .One can empathize the helplessness of Indian rulers who were touched by Tibetan atrocities yet didn’t have courage to do anything substantial for fear of their motherland’s security compulsions. It’s interesting to observe Nehru’s not so revealed behavioral approach, vividly illustrated by Dalai Lama in his shrewd astuteness. Equally interesting is the way Chinese have gone about annexing Tibet. What if India were to do in same manner for Kashmir?

In today’s era, violence and terror often are effective means to spell demands; Dalai Lama’s struggle of securing freedom for Tibet through non violence is admirable. But one wonders if his efforts would yield anything as economic might of China has already transformed the character of Tibet dramatically.

This book is soothing for those who enjoy understanding nuances of Tibet’s history, culture, Buddhist religion and spirituality. It is also enjoyable for those who have curiosity to peep into mind of great leaders who have embarked upon a path with conviction yet full of humility.

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