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Dalai Lama, My Son: A Mother's Autobiography Hardcover – May 1, 2000


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The Dalai Lama's mother was illiterate but was a natural storyteller. When her granddaughter asked her to talk about her life, the stories began to roll out. She told of her wedding at the age of 16, her state of virtual servitude as a married woman, murderous ghosts, and her two dead sons left for the birds. Then, after a three-year drought and other strange events preceding the birth of her fifth child, the lamas came from Lhasa, and her Cinderella future was cinched. With her son the Dalai Lama ensconced in his palace, this nondescript peasant woman whose 16 children yielded three incarnate lamas, strolled her garden estate and hobnobbed with the aristocracy. And yet the intrigue, the perils of domestic and international politics, would soon take her husband's life, drive her remaining children into exile, and have her yearning for the quiet drudgery of her former life. Diki Tsering speaks with the unadorned simplicity of an ordinary country girl about a life that was anything but ordinary. --Brian Bruya

From Publishers Weekly

This spare, fascinating autobiography by the Dalai Lama's mama addresses issues as diverse as faith, political intrigue and the harsh demands of rural life. Born at the turn of the century to a hardworking peasant family in a frontier region of Tibet, Diki Tsering (her married name) entered an arranged marriage at 16 and found herself entirely under the thumb of a brutal, sometimes violent mother-in-law. She bore 16 children, but only seven survived their toddlerhoods (four of these deaths were blamed on a malevolent family ghost). One of her sons, of course, was recognized at age four as the incarnation of the Dalai Lama, the highest religious and political leader in Tibet. Diki Tsering followed him to urban Lhasa, where she traded her dawn-to-dusk working life for the leisured, and sometimes bewildering, social role as Tibet's "Mother of Compassion." She accompanied the youthful lama on his travels to India and on a year-long expedition to China, where officials attempted to coax the Tibetan entourage into capitulating to Chinese leadership. When the party arrived home, however, they discovered that the Chinese had already infiltrated Tibet, taking over Diki Tsering's homeland and other areas. The family managed to escape to India in 1959, sneaking out at night dressed as soldiers. The story is enthralling, although the writing (edited from taped interviews with Diki Tsering before her death in 1980) is choppy and the narrative sometimes confusing. (May)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 189 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult (May 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670889059
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670889051
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #617,004 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Please buy and read the book.
Bill Butler
She tells stories of her life as a child, explaining the special relationship she had with her grandparents, and describing the festivals in great detail.
Erika Mitchell
In addition, I recommend the breath-taking video "Kandu"; also about the upbringing of the Dalai Lama.
smartnurse123

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 21, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Dalai Lama, My Son is the autobiography of his late mother, Diki Tsering. It is a fascinating story told with unpretentious dignity to her granddaughter and edited with reverence and respect by her grandson. We learn firsthand what it was like to be a mother, daughter, bride, wife, and daughter-in-law in the traditional world of Tibet at the beginning of this century. Diki Tsering began life as a commoner, and while her husband's family was not poor, her role as a wife was arduous. After the recognition of her son, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, she became a public figure of the highest order in her society, but she maintained her values and perspective. Diki Tsering disclosed things about her children's personalities that only a mother would know, and added humanity to her description of momentous and terrible events by giving us homely details like the foods they ate during their climactic state visit to China, the appearance of the wives of Chinese government officials, and the disguises she helped to sew for their escape into India. Readers of other books by or about the Dalai Lama and his family (Freedom in Exile, Seven Years in Tibet, Kundun, etc.) will appreciate seeing this saga through the eyes of his mother. Everyone will enjoy the physical beauty of the book itself, with it's dramatic cover, elegant layout, and historical photographs.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Bill Butler on February 1, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is a magnificent autobigraphy. Also, a very upsetting one. The "Tibet in Exile" website claims that Tibet had women's rights. This book by the Dalai Lama's mother claims otherwise. In Amdo, which is Eastern Tibet, they had a custom that seemed to work for adultery. But not for women. The family of the woman who was the offender were required to kill her. Dike Tsering goes into more detail. Also, if a man died leaving his wife alone, she was required not to marry for three years. Then the family would conduct "secret negotiations" for profit. This caused many Tibetan women to commit suicide. The book also displays the tremendous impact of astrology. How you got married, who you married, and so forth. The astrologer was consulted on all matters of importance in the family. And there were ghosts. One ghost was resposible for the deaths of four of her children. In Lhasa, there were tremendous class distinctions! And Diki Tsering displays them simply as horrible snobs. This applys to the aristocrats who lived off their "bonded laborers". And wouldn't even call them by name. They also acted like Diki Tsering was nothing but "a farm hand". The two regents who controlled Tibet while the Dalai Lama was growing up were Reting Rinpoche and Taktra Rinpoche. Reting was the first regent, until he was supposedly assasinated by Taktra Rinpoche. The author also believes, as did the people of Tibet, that Taktra Rinpoche poinsoned her husband, the father of the Dalai Lama, because he was friends with Reting Rinpoche. Nevertheless, Reting Rinpoche was not without violence. A Tsipan Lungshar led a movemovement for reform. Reting Rinpoche had his eyes goughed out as punishment. I find the testimony of Diki Tsering very good.Read more ›
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By David Marshall on November 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover
If you're looking for an in-depth portrait of the Dalai Lama as a child, you will probably be disappointed here. This is not the story of "Dalai Lama, My Son," but of the mother. The first almost half of the book tells of her youth and married life in Ambo, or Qinghai Province. A few pages in the middle do describe the Dalai Lama's early character leading to his selection. From there on, his mother refers to him as "His Holiness" and says little about him, but tells her personal and family story after fate plunged them into politics.
I did enjoy the book, though, especially the first part. I've lived and traveled in the Himilayan foothills of southern China. Reading the author's description of her familie's life style -- celebrations, marriage, story telling, being snowed in during winter -- made me want to go back and see more.
A famous missionary doctor, Dr. Paul Brand, once said his ideal lifestyle, apart from a need for modern medicine, would be that of an Indian villager. This account of the Tibetan lifestyle, and my own travels through the minority areas of Yunnan Province, confirm how much that is human and natural we lose in our surrender to technology: rhythms of the seasons, traditions, the hard pleasure of sowing and reaping, and what it means to depend on family and community.
The later part of the book is interesting sometimes, but is a bit like the story of a pawn who wanders onto a chessboard by mistake and gets moved around by both sides without quite knowing what is going on.
Despite the quarrel below, there is little about what Westerners call Buddhism in this book.
Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Erika Mitchell TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 7, 2005
Format: Audio Cassette
This book relates some of the details of the life of Diki Tsering, the mother of the Dalai Lama. It begins with her childhood in early Twentieth Century Tibet, where she was born into a peasant family. She tells stories of her life as a child, explaining the special relationship she had with her grandparents, and describing the festivals in great detail. She describes her wedding ceremony as a 17-year-old bride, and her new life as stranger and household worker in her husband's family home. As a peasant, Diki Tsering was not rich, but she also was not from the bottom rungs of society, since her family always had a few servants or paid laborers working for them. When one of her children, Lhamo Dhondup, was recognized as the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, her life changed dramatically. The family was moved to Lhasa, were they became acquainted with aristocratic society and were given large land holdings and servants. As the mother of the Dalai Lama, she was then able to live the life of an aristocrat and travel widely. However, she was also subject to the dangers of Tibetan and international politics, which eventually led to her flight from Tibet in 1958.

The beginning of the book is quite fascinating, with its descriptions of customs and peasant practices in rural Tibet. Her later descriptions of life in Lhasa and travels are not quite as detailed or engaging, but they do provide interesting documentation of Tibetan history at a crucial point in time.
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