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The Autobiography of a Tibetan Monk Paperback – August 4, 1998

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; 1st. Amer. Ed edition (August 4, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802135749
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802135742
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #164,493 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

If you've ever wondered what it's like to walk in the shoes of a Tibetan monk, you're in for a shocker. Palden Gyatso followed his heart into the monastery at the age of 10 to study under his uncle, also a monk. By his mid-20s, when he should have been preparing for a higher degree, he instead found himself behind the bars of a Chinese communist prison. For the next 30 years, he would endure interrogations, deprivation, starvation, beatings, and psychological torture. When he was finally released in 1992, he fled the country, managing to smuggle out not only the names of his fellow prisoners but Chinese instruments of torture to show the world.

With the help of translator Tsering Shakya, Palden Gyatso has crafted his story into a fluid yet surprisingly dispassionate account of his time in prison. Still, it is almost impossible not to be swept along on waves of pity, horror, and compassion as he suffers unspeakably at the hands of his tormentors. To understand the plight of one Tibetan monk is to step behind the eyes of an entire people. --Brian Bruya --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

To readers of this memoir, however untraveled, Tibet will never again seem remote or unfamiliar. The author embodies in his personal story the trials of his country under half a century of Communist Chinese rule. In 1992, Gyatso, a Buddhist monk then 59 years old, fled from Tibet to Dharamsala, India, where the exiled Dalai Lama encouraged him to write his autobiography. The chronicle of Gyatso's early adult years provides a window onto the ways of a Tibetan Buddhist monastery; the rest of his memoir, however, is largely about prison life. For after China invaded Tibet in 1950, claiming it for part of the People's Republic, many native monks, deemed politically reactionary, were thrown in jail. Gyatso was arrested in 1960 for refusing to accuse his teacher of spying for India. In prison he endured repeated interrogations, shacklings, and beatings at the hands of his captors. For his ability to bear up with dignity under such conditions, both Gyatso and the Dalai Lama, who wrote this book's foreword, credit his Buddhist training. But Buddhist teachings on meditation, suffering, and compassion are invoked here only tangentially. This is all the more noticeable when Gyatso himself questions the tradition: For example, he wonders why a learned monk of his acquaintance would show fear in the face of death, while a layman untrained in Buddhist philosophy can somehow manage to accept his own execution in peace. Gyatso leaves the question hanging. He refrains from asking Buddhism, which offers so many insights into individual suffering, to explain why whole nations suffer. Nor will readers find sustained reflection on the uses of Buddhist teachings to political resisters. Nevertheless, the writer gives witness to physical and mental anguish, inviting sympathy for the Tibetans while also asking for political intervention on their behalf. Gyatso reminds us that the language of suffering is universal. (11 illustrations, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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The book truly inspires.
There is also a documentary about Gyatso Palden, called Fired Under the Snow, and if you are lucky enough to see it , it is also highly recommdned.
The book is amazing and I read it in one night.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Vanessa on June 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
Having been blessed to have read this book and having met Palden-la, I can only say that he has something inside of him that is truly exceptional. He is one of the most compassionate, courageous, forgiving, strong, funny, and seriously dedicated human beings I have ever known. The book is amazing and I read it in one night. The first few chapters are written in a way that carries the reader into pre-invasion Tibet as well as Palden-la's is breathtaking. As his story unfolds, it very clearly shows how ridiculous China's claims are, from their so-called "liberation" of Tibet, to their denials of torture practices, both physical and mental, to their claim that Tibet is part of China. Sadness, nausea, and shock swept through me as I read this book, coupled by a respect and awe for Palden-la's resilience and resistance.The re-education sessions and interrogations are enough to leave one speechless, such is the horror that goes on in Tibet's Chinese prisons--even today. One can see the serious string of grievous errors carried out by the communist regime over time in Tibet--errors which they are terrified of admitting to now and will not risk loss of face at any price. Palden-la's book is A MUST READ FOR ANYONE AND EVERYONE. And, for anyone who is interested in Tibet's Independence Struggle and China's Communist regime, it is essential.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Brian Kerecz on November 15, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a testimony to the endurance of the human spirit, able to overcome the most nefarious system perhaps the world has ever known. The fact that Palden Gyatso is able to relay his story to you and me is nothing short of a miracle after what he had to endure for years inside China's prison system undergoing "reformation." The stories of torture, starvation and freezing nights will stay with you forever and make you question how strong your own beliefs are and whether you could do what Palden Gyatso did. I do not wish to reveal too much, but will say that calling the story compelling is a vast understatement.

This book is as important now as ever. China has the 2008 Olympic games and yet these brutalities continue to occur. Not to mention the fact that China is now relocating Chinese into the Tibetan region, threatening forever one of the world's great cultures through dilution of the society and culture.

Buy this book and see both the horrors of mankind and also his greatness in what he can overcome. If you like this book, I would also recommend Ama Adhe's book from a woman's perspective in the same system. We often hear the word hero, but rarely is it so appropriate as it is in describing these amazing individuals.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A. Hogan VINE VOICE on October 13, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ven. Palden Gyatso was the longest held prisoner in Chinese camps since the occupation of Tibet. This memoir,told in clean,plain prose{a kudo to the translator]is horrifying in its matter-of-fact detailing of the horrors of Tibetan prisons.The graphic descriptions of the tortures that Ven. Gyataso endured left me queasy,and yet a thread of hope continue throughout the book. From group re-education to starvation to penal camp labor and extreme torture[one of which lest him,unconscious for an indeterminate time,in a pool of blood,urine,feces and 20 of his teeth],Ven. Palden Gyatso somehow emerged from this,then escaped to Dharmasala,India the home of the Dalai lama{the story of his meeting the Dalai lama and the frontpiece poem are lovely].I was left with the feeling of awe, actual awe at this man,and how he emerged WITHOUT BITTERNESS.Astonishing. Read this book.Give it to another.It, like its author, is extraordinary
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 3, 1999
Format: Paperback
i couldn't put this book down. palden gyatso's story of human suffering and strength affected me like so few stories have. someday i hope to be in the audience when this courageous men speaks. i feel as if i know him after reading this book. i recently visited a beastie boys site (perhaps a milarepa fund site) and found a statement by palden gyatso there. it gave me great happiness to know that he is educating the public on the plight of the tibetans.also, i recently read in the new york times of the communist movement to enforce the practice of athiesm amongst the tibetan people (a privelage once reserved for the members of the communist party alone) in hopes that the tibetans will completely abandon their beliefs in the "old ways". it is such a relief to know that by telling their stories, people like palden gyatso are fighting to keep the level of awareness of the suffering of the tibetans high and that their people will never forget their "old ways" and will someday enjoy the freedom they once had.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Kate on April 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book literally brought tears to my eyes. What else can be said? I am disgusted that in the name of advancement, a single neighbouring country can wipe out centuries of culture; attempt assimilate an entire country to fit the mold of another. Whats more, it was a country which practiced non violence and compassion, that had a definite cultural and religious indentity, far from in need of reform.
I think books like this should be compulsory reading in schools. To often we dismiss our Western ways as the norm, and come to believe that the rest of the world basks in the same luxuries as we. Who could ever believe that in a modern Western world, which prides itself on it's liberal nature, we can turn our head to our Eastern neighbour, to their plight, to the years of jail so many suffer, for absolutely no reason. This book is not even available in Australia. I laughed at one former viewer's insightful comment, 'the only thing he didn't do well is write it. Compared to Steinbeck.' What an absurd comment. He is a simple Tibetan monk telling the tale of his fight against oppression, not writing a novel for you to marvel over his exceptional literary skills. You obviously missed the point, its shouldn't be how he wrote it, but what he wrote.
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