Enter your mobile number below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
Getting the download link through email is temporarily not available. Please check back later.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Android

To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.

  • List Price: $37.00
  • Save: $3.00 (8%)
Usually ships within 1 to 4 weeks.
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.
Prisoners of Shangri-La: ... has been added to your Cart
FREE Shipping on orders over $25.
Condition: Used: Good
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See all 2 images

Prisoners of Shangri-La: Tibetan Buddhism and the West Hardcover – May 28, 1998

4.1 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

See all 4 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
New from Used from
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
$10.94 $0.01

Top 20 lists in Books
Top 20 lists in Books
View the top 20 best sellers of all time, the most reviewed books of all time and some of our editors' favorite picks. Learn more
$34.00 FREE Shipping. Usually ships within 1 to 4 weeks. Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.
click to open popover

Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

In this fine scholarly work, Lopez (Asian Languages and Cultures/Univ. of Michigan) warns his readers away from romanticized visions of Tibet, which ultimately harm that beleaguered nation's prospects for independence. Buddhism, the religion of enlightenment, takes as its task the dispersal of human misconceptions of reality. It is only fitting that, in the wake of heightened popular interest in Tibet, Lopez should write a corrective to both positive and negative misconceptions of Tibetan Buddhism. Among the sources of misinterpretation he notes are: psychological interpretations of the Tibetan Book of the Dead; The Third Eye, by Englishman Cyril Hoskin, a fantastic (and popular) tale of Tibetan spirit possession published in 1956; mistranslations of the famous mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum; exhibitions of Tibetan art in Western museums; the institutionalization of the academic discipline of Tibetology; increasingly airy spiritualizations of Tibetan culture. What all these acts of interpreting Tibetan Buddhism share, says Lopez, is a whole or partial disregard for the concrete, living contexts of Tibetan religion. Elements of Tibetan Buddhism become abstract symbols onto which Western writers project their own spiritual, psychological, or professional needs. For example, the chant Om Mani Padme Hum, mistranslated as ``the jewel is in the lotus,'' is allegorized into an edifying symbol of conjoined opposites when, in fact, it is simply a prayerful invocation of the Buddhist god Avalokiteshvara. The irony is that Tibetans affirm these Western misreadings in hopes of winning more sympathy for their struggle for independence. The danger, according to Lopez, is that the full particularity of Tibet will be lost in ineffectual platitudes. He is angry about many of the more outrageous manglings of Tibetan belief and culture; he can also be quite witty over the more ridiculous applications by New Agers of ostensibly Tibetan beliefs. As an interpreter of interpreters, Lopez functions here twice removed from the actual religion of Tibet; readers should approach with some prior knowledge of Buddhism. -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.


...Lopez explores with skill, and a barely concealed delight in the debunkings... -- The Boston Globe, Michael Kenney

New York Times best sellers
Browse the New York Times best sellers in popular categories like Fiction, Nonfiction, Picture Books and more. See more

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 294 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (May 28, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780226493107
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226493107
  • ASIN: 0226493105
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,625,981 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a most interesting account of the reception and influence of Tibetan Buddhism in the West. Towards the end of his book, Professor Lopez discusses Oscar Wilde's paradoxical maxim that "Life imitates Art" and views this as summarizing in a nutshell the West's attitude towards Tibet. Professor Lopez shows how the West's fascination with Tibet is of long duration and stems from a need to project to this esoteric little-known culture a spiritual search the West, or some people in it, are making for themselves. Tibet and its Buddhism thus become vehicles for the transmission of ideas that sometimes are only remotely related to this source.
Thus, most broadly, in the late 19th century, the Victorians viewed Buddhism as a form of rational religion under which one could live ethically and spiritually without a theology, a frightening God, or revelation. (This remains one of the attractions of Buddhism today for Westerners.) Tibetan Buddhism, with its mantras, its many divinities, its paintings and chants was viewed by many as in derogation of the teachings of "original Buddhism."
Later writers, influenced by Theosophy, the occult, the drug culture, or New Age, found in Tibet materials to support their predelictions, sometimes on the most questionable bases. What was missing in all of this, according to Professor Lopez, was an attention to Tibetans themselves and to Tibetan sources.
Thus we learn about the Tibetan "Book of the Dead", the Tibetan mantra "Om Padhe... Hum", its art, as reflected through different Western eyes. We learn about the Tibetans in exile and about the Dali Lama's attempts to hold his people together while creating a world-wide basis of support.
Read more ›
Comment 27 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
By A Customer on June 30, 1999
Format: Paperback
Lopez, Donald S. Prisoners of Shangri-la: Tibetan Buddhism and the West (University of Chicago, 1998) is a meticulous analysis of the misinformation, disinformation and fantasies promulgated by various people, well-intended and otherwise. They include charlatans like T. Lobsang Rampa, famous for having written a series in the 1950's about his "life" as a lama in Drepung monastery. Trungpa Rinpoche's psychologization of Tibetan Buddhism as exemplified by his version of the Bardo Thodol, and Leary and Alpert's psychedelic-isation of that Nyingma text, as well as Lama Sogyal's well-received edition of the same, are examined. Lopez offers an amusing look (and a fascinating one, to someone who has partaken of all these notions in her own journey of discovery) at a wide variety of topics including the notion of Tibet, itself; of that invention of the West known as Lamaism, of Tibetan art (the implication being whether there is such a thing or not), and the history of the dispute over misconceptions concerning the meaning of the six-syllable Chenresi mantra, among other subjects.
Of particular interest to me was the revelation of Jeffrey Hopkins's methods of teaching traditional philosophical debate at the University of Virginia. This book is an excellent complement to Stephen Batchelor's The Awakening of the West. It will be remembered that Batchelor's final chapters, in which he expressed the idea that the West could never accept Buddhism into the mainstream until concepts and language became more Westernized, created a bit of a stir.
1 Comment 23 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover
It seems to me that the unblinking and unforgiving light of rationality and critical deconstruction (such as textual criticism) has already been shining for a century or more on Christianity. This kind of examination of other religions is just beginning; this book is an example.
I disagree that it is "too scholarly" -- I was engaged pretty much from beginning to end. If you need to counterbalance years of overly-romantic information about Tibet, this book fits the bill.
Comment 19 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback
How we idealize Tibet as the white man's spiritual treasury, protected by monks within frozen lairs, links seven essays. Acerbic, dispassionate, and unromantic, Lopez demystifies what much coverage of the Dalai Lama and centuries of fables have obscured: Tibet's reality. This book talks little of politics, but much about the predicament that the West has placed Tibet within: we cannot allow it to escape our own fanciful prison, within which levitating lamas, carefree peasants, and many monks pursue beneath rarified skies the mysteries of a higher realm.

This emphasis, despite Lopez's knack for deadpan dismissal of tall tales, can be dispiriting. While I admire his efforts to dismantle the Orientalist construct that freezes Tibet, I wondered why he remained so dispassionate about its current plight. The final chapter, "The Prison," appears to castigate the Dalai Lama for his difficult balancing act between political leader and spiritual director, but it's hard to see why Lopez ignores the destruction of so much of the learning and culture that he, as a professional Tibet expert, would surely lament.

Perhaps the "surely" betrays my own prejudice, however. In professorial mode rather than as gulled tale-teller, he seeks to distance himself from Western stereotypes of Eastern wisdom. He studies how Western reception makes "things Tibetan become not particular to a time and a place, but universal, and in the process Tibet is everywhere and hence nowhere, functioning as an element of difference in which everything is possible." And in this non-historical, non-geographical, nonsensical depiction, Westerners form their own deluded knowledge of what they claim to know.

Chapter One examines at great length the term Lamaism as a definition for what Tibetans believe.
Read more ›
3 Comments 14 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse

Most Recent Customer Reviews