Freedom in Exile: The Autobiography of the Dalai Lamaby Dalai Lama
In this astonishingly frank autobiography, the Dalai Lama reveals the remarkable inner strength that allowed him to master both the mysteries of Tibetan Buddhism and the brutal realities of Chinese Communism.
- HarperCollins Publishers
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- 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.73(d)
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Holder of the White Lotus
I fled Tibet on 31 March 1959. Since then I have lived in exile in India. During the period 1949-50, the People's Republic of China sent an army to invade my country. For almost a decade I remained as political as well as spiritual leader of my people and tried to re-establish peaceful relations between our two nations. But the task proved impossible. I came to the unhappy conclusion that I could serve my people better from outside.
When I look back to the time when Tibet was still a free country, I realise that those were the best years of my life. Today I am definitely happy, but inevitably the existence I now lead is very different from the one I was brought up to. And although there is clearly no use indulging in feelings of nostalgia, still I cannot help feeling sad whenever I think of the past. It reminds me of the terrible suffering of my people. The old Tibet was not perfect. Yet, it is true to say that our way of life was something quite remarkable. Certainly there was much that was worth preserving that is now lost for ever.
I have said that the words Dalai Lama mean different things to different people, that for me they refer only to the office I hold. Actually, Dalai is a Mongolian word meaning 'ocean' and Lama is a Tibetan term corresponding to the Indian word guru, which denotes a teacher. Together, the words Dalai and Lama are sometimes loosely translated as 'Ocean of Wisdom'. But this is due to a misunderstanding I feel. Originally, Dalai was a partial translation of Sonam Gyatso, the Third Dalai Lama's name: Gyatso means ocean in Tibetan. Afurther, unfortunate misunderstanding is due to the Chinese rendering of the word lama as huo-fou, which has the connotation of a 'living Buddha'. This is wrong. Tibetan Buddhism recognises no such thing. It only accepts that certain beings, of whom the Dalai Lama is one, can choose the manner of their rebirth. Such people are called tulkus (incarnations). Of course, whilst I lived in Tibet, being Dalai Lama meant a great deal. It meant that I lived a life far removed from the toil and discomfort of the vast majority of my people. Everywhere I went, I was accompanied by a retinue of servants. I was surrounded by government ministers and advisors clad in sumptuous silk robes, men drawn from the most exalted and aristocratic families in the land. My daily companions were brilliant scholars and highly realised religious adepts. And every time I left the Potala, the magnificent, 1,000-chambered winter palace of the Dalai Lamas, I was escorted by a procession of hundreds of people.
At the head of the column came a Ngagpa, a man carrying a symbolic 'wheel of life'. He was followed by a party of tatara, horsemen dressed in colourful, traditional costumes and carrying flags. Behind them were porters carrying my songbirds in cages and my personal belongings all wrapped up in yellow silk. Next came a section of monks from Namgyal, the Dalai Lama's own monastery. Each carried a banner decorated with sacred texts. Behind them followed musicians mounted on horseback. Then followed two groups of monk officials, first a subordinate section who acted as bearers, then monks of the Tsedrung order who were members of the Government. Behind these came a posse of horses from the Dalai Lama's own stables, all nicely turned out, caparisoned and led by their grooms.
There followed another troop of horses which carried the seals of state. I myself came next, carried in a yellow palanquin, which was pulled by twenty men, all officers in the army and dressed in green cloaks with red hats. Unlike the most senior officials, who wore their hair up, these had a single, long pigtail running down their backs. The palanquin itself, which was yellow in colour (to denote monasticism), was supported by a further eight men wearing long coats of yellow silk. Alongside it rode the four members of the Kashag, the Dalai Lama's inner Cabinet, attended by the Kusun Depon, head of the Dalai Lama's bodyguard, and the Mak-chi, Commander-in-Chief of Tibet's tiny army. Both of these marched carrying their swords sternly at the salute. They wore a uniform comprised of blue trousers and yellow tunic covered with gold braid. On their heads they wore a tasselled topi. Surrounding this, the main party, there was an escort of sing gha, the monastic police. These terrifying-looking men were all at least six feet tall and wore heavy padding, which lent them an even more impressive appearance. In their hands they carried long whips, which they did not hesitate to use.
Behind my palanquin came my two Tutors, Senior and Junior (the former being the Regent of Tibet before I attained my majority). Then came my parents and other members of my family. They were followed by a large party of lay officials, both nobles and commoners, marshalled according to rank.
Invariably almost the entire population of Lhasa, the capital, came to try to catch a glimpse of me whenever I went out. There was an awed silence and often there were tears as people lowered their heads or prostrated themselves on the ground when I passed.
It was a life very different from the one I had known as a small boy. I was born on 6 July 1935 and named Lhamo Thondup. This means, literally, 'Wish-Fulfilling Goddess'. Tibetan names of people, places and things are often picturesque in translation. For example, Tsang-po, the name of one of Tibet's most important rivers--and source of India's mighty Brahmaputra--means 'The Purifier'. The name of our village was Taktser: Roaring Tiger. It was a small and poor settlement which stood on a hill overlooking a broad valley. Its pastures had not been settled...
Meet the Author
His Holiness The Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the spiritual leader of Tibet and head of their government-in-exile. Since 1959, His Holiness has received over eighty-four awards and honorary doctorates, including the Nobel Peace Prize and the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of his message of peace, nonviolence, interreligious understanding, and compassion.
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The Dalai Lama takes the reader into his heart and his mind by simply revealing himself as an ordinary person with an extraordinary purpose in life. You will see history through the eyes of a gentle, determined, truly compassionate man.
With out question, one of the most moving autobiographies I have read in a long time. I Encourage anyone who is interested in his holiness the Dalai Lama to get this book !!!. If your looking for a point by point detailed description of the events surounding the Dalai Lama, this book may not be for you. Instead, this book gives you an understanding of how the Dalai Lama perceived the events and people that changed the country of Tibet and his life. This is not to say that the book does not contain good historical detail, infact it can be quite detailed at times. In my opinion, it is his decriptions of his emotional and spiritual understanding of the people and events that provides the most impact to the reader. It is a personal and compassionate work that basicly says tells you how he felt during his life in Tibet. I encourage anyone who is interested in his holiness the Dalai Lama to get this book with out question !!!.
I am a sophomore in high school and i chose to read this book for a research project. This autobiography was very interesting. He gives insight on his childhood and the struggles of his country Tibet. From being chosen as the incarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama at the age of three, to fighting for the freedom of Tibet. Unlike other leaders, Dalai Lama fought as hard as he could for his country. Because of his compassion and faith toward his country he became on of the most well-known leaders in society today. His hard work and dedication rewarded him in the end with many awards such as the Nobel Peace Prize. His message of peace,nonviolence, and inter-religious understanding helped the world believe that we are all one. His writings how how all humans share the desire to be happy and that we all have the right to achieve this goal. By the end of the autobiography, learned much more of the history of Tibet and who Dalai Lama was as a child and how his struggles shaped him to be the man who he is today.
When Lhamo Thondup was just two years old, a search party sent to find the new incarnation of the Dalai Lama arrived at his house. After spending a short time there, they concluded that Lhamo Thondup was the new Dalai Lama. Re-incarnation is a crucial component of Tibetan Buddhism. When a person dies, it is believed that his/her person continues to live in another body or living creature. The purpose of re-incarnation is so that the person can continue to strive for the end of suffering for all sentient beings. If it is most advantageous for the person to be re-incarnated as an insect, then that person will be re-incarnated as an insect and if it is most advantageous for the person to be re-incarnated as a monk, then so be it. After a monk dies, the following year or so other monks will try to find the re-incarnate. The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in March of 1959 for Dharamsala, India when the People¿s Liberation Army invaded Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, claiming that they were saving Tibet from imperialists. The Dalai Lama still lives in Dharamsala where he has set up the Tibetan Government in exhile. Over the years, the Chinese forces have committed many human rights¿ violations in Tibet and continue to occupy Tibet today. As the Chinese forces greatly inhibit or even prohibit the spiritual activities of Tibetan monastics, and many Chinese migrate to Tibet, the Tibetan people and culture are being overwhelmed. In the foreword, along with explaining what the phrase ¿Dalai Lama¿ means, the Dalai Lama states that his autobiography is not primarily a book about Buddhism, but rather about himself and the historical events of his life. In my interpretation, he means to expose the truth about the situation in Tibet in order to overcome the lies of Chinese propaganda that have been promulgated over the years. The truth is that the actions of the Chinese in Tibet seem very much like genocide. The beauty and the goodness of the Dalai Lama¿s soul truly shine through his words in Freedom in Exhile. Because of his spiritual condition, the Dalai Lama really experiences freedom in exhile: freedom from fear and freedom from anger. He continues to love the Chinese people even the authorities, despite what they have done in Tibet, recognizing they they are people just like him. It is not them but their actions that have caused harm. Throughout the autobiography and in other speeches that he has made and books he has written, the Dalai Lama stresses that all human beings share the desire to be happy and not suffer. In addition, all human beings have the same right to achieve this goal. All other differences between people are superficial. Upon completing Freedom in Exhile, I want to do all that I can to help Tibet. I even want to visit Tibet, though I recognize that due to Chinese invasion, it is sadly no longer the same Tibet that the Dalai Lama grew up in. Furthermore, I might not be allowed to visit Tibet. I would need to investigate Chinese policy on that matter. Finally, I am totally inspired to maintain my spiritual condition. Though the Dalai Lama expressly stated that the book is not about Buddhism, he does write about his daily practice and includes many spiritual tips that I hope to include in my own practice.