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Prisoners of Shangri-La: Tibetan Buddhism and the West Hardcover – May 28, 1998
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From Kirkus Reviews
Top Customer Reviews
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 ›
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.
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.
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 ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The item came in the condition that was specified on the product description. I was very pleased with the purchase and shipping method.Published on January 23, 2013 by Mikal Hemingway
"Prisoners of Shangri-La" is a book exposing both pro-Tibetan and anti-Tibetan myths common in the West. Read morePublished on June 22, 2010 by Ashtar Command
I was originally turned off from reading this collection of critical essays because of some of the negative reviews here, but curiosity got the better of me and I'm glad it did. Read morePublished on April 18, 2010 by applewood
At ten years from its publication that flared many a fire from other Tibetan scholars and Buddhist adepts, Lopez's demystifying and deconstructive work can be coolly judged for its... Read morePublished on February 10, 2008 by Magalini Sabina
Very impressive erudition displayed by this famous Tibetologist. The book has seven chapters discussing seven aspects of Tibetan culture;
1) Lama-Lamaism. Read more
to one of the biggest gigs touring the world right now.
The book, written in the best academese, presents a clear view of the West's distortion, and the history of that... Read more
As many reviewers have commented, Prof. Lopez does an excellent job deconstructing the many fantasies Westerners entertain about Tibet. Read morePublished on March 18, 2004
Refreshing and insightful take on the coming of the Buddha circus to the West, with a knuckle ball twist attempting to 'deconstruct' the perceptions of Westerners on Tibet. Read morePublished on January 24, 2004 by John C. Landon
This is a very unique analysis of how the idea of Tibet has been constructed by outsiders, especially those of far different Western cultures. Read morePublished on September 14, 2003 by doomsdayer520