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Secret Lives of the Dalai Lama: The Untold Story of the Holy Men Who Shaped Tibet, from Pre-history to the Present Day Paperback – February 16, 2010
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– His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama
“Secret Lives of the Dalai Lama provides the modern reader a most insightful description of Tibetan history and culture. Engaging, accessible, and scrupulously fair in its treatment of the subject, perhaps its greatest merit is that it offers a new and rich way to appreciate the life and work of the present Dalai Lama.”
– Thupten Jinpa, PhD, Tibetan scholar and the principal translator to the Dalai Lama
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Top Customer Reviews
The present Dalai Lama lent his support to the writing of this manuscript; although he says in his forward that he does not agree with everything.
Sometimes the history is deeper than a casual reader can comfortably understand, for example in the frequent use of tantric and words such as antinomianism. There is a glossary to help, but a chronological listing of the Holy Men would have been very helpful; however there are many enlightening footnotes to help in understanding. The traditions of Tibet and its' many deities are covered from the early 600's to the present.
This reading is not for someone who wants an easy reading of Tibet and the Dalai Lamas. What the book shows is not the serene, peaceful vision that many have of Tibet, but a country that has had its' share of violence both within and from others. It would make a good textbook on the subject, but does little to go into the heart and soul of the country and its' religion.
Beginning with the pre-history of Tibetan myth (that is, myth to non-Tibetans), Norman spends the first half of the book explaining the concept of Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, and his personal interest in Tibet and history of reincarnating in human form throughout Tibet's history. By the second half of the book we reach the 16th century, when Chenrezig's rebirth was formally given the name of Dalai Lama and applied for the first time to the man who became known as the 3rd Dalai Lama. (The two immediately preceding incarnations were retroactively proclaimed as the 1st and 2nd.) Each Dalai Lama is then given a chapter or more depending on his significance, along with detail on his family and background, as well as on the actions of the various Buddhist hierarchs and sects in selecting him as the incarnation, training him, and running the country during his minority. Norman examines the rise and fall of each Dalai Lama's control of the religious and secular institutions of his day and the resulting fortunes of Tibet in relation to its neighbors, especially Mongolia and China. The final chapters bring us up-to-date with the current Dalai Lama and Tibet's ongoing struggle to maintain a presence distinct from that of China.
Footnotes, a 22-page bibliography, and a detailed index are included. The author is a long-time acquaintance of the current Dalai Lama, with whom he has co-authored several books and who wrote the forward to this one.Read more ›
The word Shugden was mentioned 27 times, but even to the end of this book, no serious discussion of his religious or political impact on the Tibetan society.
It may be an okay book as a traveller's history of Tibet, but as a whole, it is a failed attempt by the author to do what he claimed he wanted to do. It's simply lost track.
I am not quite sure why His Holiness the Dalai Lama XIV would write the foreword for this book, but he did mention that "(His Holiness) did not necessarily agree with every opinion the author has expressed".
Norman does not subscribe to the "Shangri-La" perspective of Tibet. His presentation depicts a Tibet that was inhabited and presided over by human beings and that has had its share of political and religious strife, including coups, religious persecution, and assassinations. If you find this bothersome, you might wish to avoid this book. That said, Norman is not anti-Tibet, and he is certainly respectful and appreciative of its religious history and genuinely pious historical figures. He just doesn't sugarcoat the negative aspects, especially the Gelug treatment of other sects and in-house dissidents. With respect to the China/Tibet debate, Norman is decidedly on the side of Tibet in terms of the historical links between the two cultures. He strongly implies that China's version of past events (i.e. Tibet has always been a protectorate of the various Chinese empires) is tantamount to revisionist history.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Norman's history honors religious myth as a real force in people's minds, but he also wants to expose the harsh realities of competition for leadership. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Brian Griffith
Hard to read and names are difficult to pronounce but the history of the Dalai Lama is very interesting.Published 19 months ago by the old guy
"The Secret Lives of the Dalai Lama" by Alexander Norma is very engaging historical tale of the succession of Tibet's god-king. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Dorjee
Pros and cons on Alexander Norman's "The Secret Lives of the Dalai Lama"
- The book is a fantastic lesson on the history of Tibet, origins of Tibetan... Read more
This book treats Tibetan Buddhism and its spiritual accomplishments and practices in a very cavalier fashion, focusing instead on the military and political history of the leaders... Read morePublished on January 22, 2011 by Fred Elgin
This book focuses on Tibet's political history, and I give it two stars for its detailed contents and the extensive bibliography. Read morePublished on August 10, 2010 by book addict