French film writer Carriäre (The Return of Martin Guerre, etc.) does most of the talking in this set of conversations with Tibet's world-acclaimed religious leader. Contemporary issues, rather than the finer points of Tantric doctrine and practice, are the subject of these interviews, which took place near Dharamsala in northern India in February 1993. In response to Carriäre's promptings, the Dalai Lama speaks on such themes as the environment, nonretaliation, and how the Buddhist doctrines of interdependence and compassion harmonize with the findings of quantum theory. The Dalai Lama explains his Five Point Peace Plan for an autonomous, if not independent, Tibet, and he endorses birth control in the Third World as a necessity on account of the population explosion, while maintaining that it is ``pernicious'' on the individual level because of the supreme worth of human life in the cycle of rebirth. We are urged to find the inner nature of our minds: The view of the world as essentially competitive is false and ``eliminates any descent into the self, any meditation, and any reflection.'' Carriäre offers some useful background information on Buddhism, but he allows his personality and preoccupations to dominate and tends to railroad the Dalai Lama's profoundly dialectical outlook into his own issues: for example, his facile dismissal of Judaism and Christianity and his open contempt for John Paul II. When he cannot do this, Carriäre is not above patronizing his host, e.g., for holding unenlightened views on sexuality (``On that point he has nothing new to offer us'') and believing in reincarnation. Admirers of the Dalai Lama should not feel they have to add this to their collection.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-385-47960-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1995



This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955


A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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