GREAT OCEAN: The Dalai Lama by Roger & Ngakpa Chogyam Hicks

GREAT OCEAN: The Dalai Lama

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First published in Britain in 1984, this biography of the Dalai Lama by two ardent supporters includes a new foreword by the exiled Tibetan leader, winner of the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize. Hicks, a British expert on Tibet, and Chogyam, a Tibetan teacher of Buddhism, compress the complex history of Tibetan Buddhism and the ascendency of the Dalai Lamas--the allegedly reincarnated, political and spiritual leaders of Tibet--into a few opening chapters. In 1391, we learn, the first Dalai Lama was born; through various occult signs (including a hovering crow), he was soon recognized as a spiritually unique being. His second incarnation, the authors explain, was named Gyatso, or ""Ocean,"" while the third earned the title ""Dalai""--a garbling of the Mongol word for Ocean--from warrior Mongols who protected him from imperialistic Chinese. Such arcane bits of Tibetan lore--including a sketchy recounting of the magical process used for discovering the current Dalai Lama--soon give way to the authors' detailing of the devastation of Tibet by the Chinese, and the efforts of the young Fourteenth Dalai Lama to rally his war-shocked people to reconstruct their culture and their religion in exile. The most intriguing sections, however, describe the contemporary daily activities of the Dalai Lama--e.g., as he sits at lunch, air pistol by his plate, waiting until he sees a wasp try to drag another insect's babies out of their nest: Bang! the alleged living embodiment of compassion shoots the wasp, killing one being to stop the suffering of many. A respectable if adulatory introduction--but John Avedon's In Exile From the Land of the Snows (1984) remains the definitive and most powerful account of Tibet and its god-king.

Pub Date: May 8th, 1990
Publisher: Penguin