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From Lion's Jaws: Chogyam Trungpa's Epic Escape To The West Paperback – March 31, 2016
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" ... an evocative, breathless, compellingly written view of this epic journey, among the greatest escape sagas of them all ..."
-- William Gilkerson, award-winning author of Pirate's Passage.
"A powerful, impressive book. From Lion's Jaws left me transfixed on many levels with its lucid portrayals of courage and perseverance involving over three hundred Tibetan refugees ... a breath-taking account of a haunting and inspiring journey of spiritual and physical courage on a life or death escape through freezing weather over towering mid-winter snow-capped mountains ..."
-- Rudy Wurlitzer, screenwriter and novelist -- Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, Little Buddha, Slow Fade and The Drop Edge of Yonder, among many other works.
"A wonderful read. Apart from the extraordinary story, so rich and layered, of Chögyam Trungpa's early life at the Surmang monastery, and of the incredible trek against astounding odds - parts of the journey were unbearable even to read - there is the vast and austere landscape, the history, the politics. From Lion 's Jaws should find very many readers, and will be hugely beneficial. It is a moving and beautiful tour de force."
-- Jane Rosenthal, award-winning Literary Critic, Mail & Guardian.
About the Author
Born in South Africa, Grant MacLean graduated in psychology from Harvard University before developing interests in Tibetan Buddhism, history and strategy. His previous publications include a short history of Halifax and, as co-author/-translator, the best-selling Denma edition of Sun Tzu’s classic Art of War. He lives in Nova Scotia.
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Only eighteen at the time, he leads a ragtag group of ill-prepared refugees for many months through and over the seemingly endless ranges of the high Himalayas, in winter, without adequate provisions. The Chinese army is searching for him, so they take the hardest and therefore least travelled paths, on foot, often travelling at night, sometimes unsure of the way, but unable to seek help or food from nearby villagers. The story builds to a powerful climax as, exhausted and emaciated, they attempt a harrowing night crossing of the Brahmaputra River, practically in the gunsights of the Chinese army. Even after this, the mountains and hardships are not yet over.
Trungpa Rinpoche eventually went on to become one of the most compelling and effective teachers of Buddhism in the West – Tibet’s loss was our gain – and a magnetic figure of manifold energies and endless fascination.
For the general reader this is a gripping and exotic adventure story, an amazing epic of courage and determination, and an introduction to a Tibet that is now lost to us. For those with an interest in Buddhism, and in particular for students of Trungpa Rinpoche, MacLean takes us along as this extraordinary young Tibetan lama passes through an icy Himalayan crucible, emerging as the Shambhala warrior that his Western students would later come to know and follow on their own journeys of transformation.
This book illuminates a heretofore cloudy chapter of Trungpa Rinpoche's life. We now know that Rinpoche's early autobiography, "Born in Tibet" told an incomplete story for many reasons. For his students, this is a must-read. For others, you will not be disappointed -- this is true drama, not a Hollywood-ized one.
Imagine—three hundred men, women (many bearing babes in arms) and children, embark on a nine months journey in an attempt to escape the Chinese Communist takeover of their country. The entourage is led by a just-turned-19-year-old lama, Chogyam Trungpa, already renowned as one of the great teachers in Tibet. They are hoping that he can lead them to freedom. They are forced to travel through a series of extraordinarily high mountain ranges where no human being has ever trod before. They must travel only in the dead of night to avoid being detected from above by the Communist People’s Liberation Army (PLA) pilots that are searching for their young leader from the skies. They know that, if they are spotted and caught, the young Trungpa Rinpoche will share in the fate of the scores of Buddhist teachers that have been mercilessly herded off and executed by the PLA. [At one monastery, the abbot explained to the Chinese that, since the monks followed a path of non-violence, there were no guns or other weapons to be found. The Communist officer responded to this gesture by shooting the abbot through the head.]
Although the Tibetan travelers are, of course, concerned about their own personal safety and the safety of their families, they are even more determined to assist in the young Trungpa Rinpoche’s escape to India and then possibly to the West, so that he can preserve the precious teachings on the discipline of meditation that he has been trained in from birth. He, on the other hand, seems only concerned about them
In addition to being a spiritual classic, From Lion’s Jaws, surpasses even the stories of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic escape and the painful race to the South Pole between Roald Admundsen, a modest Norwegian, and the arrogant Robert Scott, an Englishman. I happen to be an avid reader of such stories, but none of those men had to conquer the odds faced by Trungpa Rinpoche and his group. The professional explorers were not accompanied by hundreds of men, women, and children—all starving and utterly exhausted. The Tibetans had no maps, nor even a compass, to guide their way. The snow was so deep in certain regions that the men had to lie in the snow and press it down so that the others could proceed across, and then navigate a series of harrowing descents from mountain peaks into turbulent rivers below, sometimes using only rope ladders. And, at the head of the group, a 19-year-old boy, having to make each momentous decision by himself, stopping only for short meditation retreats until his intuition helped him to see a clear way to proceed.
As it turns out, Trungpa Rinpoche told us only the barest details about the journey in his early (1969) book, Born in Tibet. Through Mr. MacLean we discover that Rinpoche was prevented from providing those details due to the very real threat that the Chinese Communists would use such information to retaliate against the villagers that had reported any sightings of PLA troops and helped the escapees with food and other provisions along the way. Most remarkably, in Trungpa Rinpoche’s seventeen years in North America, he never mentioned the inconceivable difficulty of the journey or his own bravery in leading the escape. Not even once. No bragging; no piling up of credentials. He simply concentrated on presenting the teachings he had inherited to his thousands of students, most notably in such books as Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism and Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior.
This book means much to me personally due to my own journey with Trungpa Rinpoche. But all readers will find it to be an inspiration, particularly in these times when it may seem difficult to discover examples of the very best that human beings can be. A great book and a perfect gift for the people in your life.