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Buddha's Not Smiling : Uncovering Corruption at the Heart of Tibetan Buddhism Today Paperback – March 10, 2006

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 348 pages
  • Publisher: Alaya Press (March 10, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0977225305
  • ISBN-13: 978-0977225309
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,039,638 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1981, the 16th Karmapa—leading lama of the Karma Kagyu branch of Tibetan Buddhism—died. In a highly biased but fascinating account, first-time author Curren describes the controversy over the Karmapa's succession that still rages today. After the 16th Karmapa's death, two different factions arose, each naming a different boy the 17th Karmapa: Ogyen Trinley, supported by several Karma Kagyu leaders and the Dalai Lama, and Trinley Thaye, whom the second-ranking Kama Kagyu lama, Shamar Rinpoche, believes to be the true Karmapa. While most previous accounts of the controversy have favored Ogyen Trinley, Curren—who acknowledges early on that he is a student of Shamar Rinpoche—believes Ogyen Trinley to be a fraud. Curren is quite critical of the Dalai Lama, suggesting that His Holiness should never have gotten involved in the dispute to begin with. The bulk of the book lays out the power struggles and court battles that have marked the succession controversy. Unfortunately, Curren's journalistic account is not only highly partial but often badly written, filled with melodrama and purple prose. It will please Trinley Thaye and Shamar Rinpoche's partisans, but it is too one-sided to truly illuminate the Karmapa controversy. (Dec.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Curren's examination of the dispute is unsullied by bias, and his concern - the health of Tibetan Buddhism - feels genuine..." --Kirkus

...untangles a sordid tale of hypocrisy, bribery, intimidation, and violence...an eye opener for Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike. --Michael Parenti, author of The Culture Struggle and The Assasination of Julius Caesar

A must-read for any student of this unfortunate business. --Alex Shoumatoff, author and publisher

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By applewood on April 30, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was a bit skeptical of this book at first because of the nature of this partisan controversy, and the investigative reporter style of writing, yet pretty quickly I was taken in and fully absorbed. I'm a long time student of Tibetan Buddhism, but am not much interested or involved in the Kagyu Lineage, yet by the end of this book I was feeling both well informed and passionate about the subject (I really look forward to being able to meet Thaye Dorje Karmapa some day).

This book appears to be well researched and documented (lots of fascinating historical details and insider accounts), as well as including some helpful pictures, appendices, chronology of events and glossary, and it reads like a leCarre' novel at times - engrossing, convoluted, outrageous and impossible to put down. This is a side of Tibetan culture most Western devotees and outsiders are unaware of, yet this autocratic approach is at the root of how and why Tibet fell to the communists in '59.

My reading experience alternated between disgust, fascination, delight and sadness; sadness for everyone involved, delight that the wizard's curtain was finally being pulled back, fascination to see the utter petty humanness of it all, and disgust to learn of a few so-called "high" Lamas who's debased motives and involvement have led to such a split in the religious community. And this isn't simple political power grabbing, it involves high crimes of treason (to the Kagyu lineage), theft, assault (beatings, killings, & assasinations), forgery, bribery and deceit....

This book appears to be the most unbiased and informative account written so far about this controversy (On further study I discover a couple of the more horrible/outrageous aspects of the story were left out, probably for liability reasons.).
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28 of 34 people found the following review helpful By D. Perkins on July 10, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have been reading dispassionately all of the books regarding the controversy surrounding the Karmapas. I am not a Buddhist so I don't have a predetermined opinion about any of them. I have a couple more books on this issue to read but so far this book is the most comprehensive look at the controversy despite the author's admitted bias for one of the Karmapas. He still tries to address all of the angles and be as fair as possible. I couldn't put this book down it had so much relevant information that so far is not discussed in the others I have read. He also looks at the books already written since his was released in 2006 so it provides another look at other books and where they might disagree or agree.

He has done extensive interviews with various parties and he attempted to include others on the other side who apparently refused (or couldn't work it in their schedule) to discuss the issues. I was impressed with what "Karmapa" Trinlay Thaye Dorje had to say about this entire controversy at the end of the book. He sounds like he is level headed and certainly ready to reach out to the modern world in which he finds himself. He also is interested in talking with "Karmapa" Orgyen Trinley Rinpoche and seeing if they can resolve this issue in some reasonable way. But, in any case, Trinlay Thaye Dorje doesn't seem caught up in the "tradition" but more interested in spreading the message of Buddhism rather than the fanfare. This should be interesting to watch. But---A great book! Thanks Mr. Curren!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By S. Hutton on October 18, 2011
Format: Paperback
The Teaching (a/k/a Dharma) is of vastly greater importance than the person who transmits it, however "high" they may be.

That notion somehow shines for me through this book, although it forces me to realize that the "smell" of some transmissions may be clerical twaddle rather than IT.

Read this book if you like shining your flashlight where others think it does not belong.

Be a lamp unto yourself. Don't let the twaddle discourage you.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Willy Richardson on December 30, 2010
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I found some of the other Karmapa controversy books a little too innocent about Tibetan politics and history. Curren is not blinded by the Shangri-La fantasy Westerners tend to have for Tibetans and Tibetan Lamas. His source material extends well beyond any borders.

It is a page turner, and I found myself unable to put the book down.

The subject matter gets a little weighed down by lengthy details about court cases in Sikkim and other boring incidents, but it also shows he did his research well.

An other great book for Buddhists who want to dig into layers of misconceptions about Tibetan Buddhism is Donald Lopez', "Prisoners of Shangri-LA".

I personally think these reads are great for people like me who intend to have a daily practice for the rest of their lives.

I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 because I think the title is silly, and doesn't reflect the intelligence of its contents.
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17 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Claus Hetting on April 23, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book is a detailed account of the so-called "Karmapa controversy" where seemingly competing factions of the Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism each claimed to have found the reincarnation of one of Tibetan Buddhism's highest lamas - H.H. the Gyalwa Karmapa.

The book brings to light a sequence of events which to say the least makes for eye-opening reading. Some of the violent activities perpetrated under the leadership of supposedly high ranking and enlightened Tibetan lamas rank close to the level of atrocities. This can be hard to come to terms with given the rather wholesome view of Tibetan Buddhism prevalent in the West today.The author does a good job of pulling in parallels from the historical Tibet and the frequent strife between Buddhist sects and the political battles between individual lamas - facts that are not well known in the West and yet form an indisputable part of the interplay between politics and religion in Tibet.

The book is relatively well researched although hardly water-tight from a journalistic point of view. The author is a student of H.H. Kunzig Sharmapa - the protagonist of the story, who almost single-handedly waged a court battle against the advocates of the "other" Karmapa, Urgyen Trinlay. There is much circumstantial evidence to suggest that Urgyen Trinlay was indeed "found" and instituted as the Karmapa as a result of a political deal between a number of parties including the Chinese and H.H. the Dalai Lama. It is my belief, however, that H.H. the Dalai Lama probably was ill-advised rather than purposely tried to pull some sort of coup against the Kagyu lineage.

The most shocking part of the book is the account of the various attacks on H.H.
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