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Re-enchantment: Tibetan Buddhism Comes to the West Paperback – November 17, 2004

4.5 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Memorable anecdotes, great storytelling and keen observations mark this cogent exploration of the explosive growth of Tibetan Buddhism in the West. Paine offers chapters on many famous Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama (who, refreshingly, doesn't appear until nearly the end of the book), the pioneering Lama Yeshe, who first taught Westerners, and the controversial rogue playboy Chogyam Trungpa, Yeshe's character foil. Other chapters profile Westerners who discovered Tibetan Buddhism, like Tenzin Palmo (formerly a Cockney London girl named Diane Perry), who meditated alone for 12 years in an Indian cave and American lama Jetsunma (Catherine Burroughs), a much-married "tough bird from Brooklyn" who was the first Western woman to be recognized as a tulku (reincarnated Buddhist figure). Of course, there's a chapter on Hollywood, but Paine eschews a superficial chronicle of Tibetan Buddhism's sudden popularity among the glitterati in favor of a compelling analysis of why a Buddhist concept of reality might make sense to people whose lives revolve around the creation of impermanent "realities" like films. Throughout, Paine explores how Tibetan Buddhism has changed the American religious landscape, but also how it has been changed by America: in Tibet, for example, meditation was traditionally a very advanced practice, but in practical-minded America, practitioners "dive straight into meditation immediately." A final chapter introduces the only Tibetan Buddhist on death row; in a fascinating observation, Paine notes that famed Tibetan saint Milarepa was in fact a reformed criminal.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Forty years after Chinese Communists attempted to sweep Tibetan Buddhism off the planet, casting much of its monastic community and the Dalai Lama into exile, Paine asserts that Buddhism is enjoying record-breaking popularity, particularly in the West. Its attractiveness stems from principles that appeal to Americans disenchanted with what has turned out to be the myth of materialism and the politicization of organized religion. Tibetan Buddhism, he says, is universal, places accountability squarely in the hands of the individual, and offers the potential for heightened capacity. What's more, it relocates religion from church and Sunday to anywhere, anytime. In this guide-to-the-common-person narrative, Paine provides a brief history of Tibetan Buddhism, constructs an apology of its basic tenets, and relates the personal histories of several converts. His account of Frenchwoman Alexandra David-Neel's obsession with Tibetan Buddhism and the stories of converts, including an Ivy League professor, a death-row inmate, and a Hollywood movie star, illustrate the broad range of those to whom Buddhism has become a personal salvation. Donna Chavez
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (November 17, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393326268
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393326260
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,012,278 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Daiho VINE VOICE on March 29, 2008
Format: Paperback
Even those who already know the story will enjoy spending time between the pages of Jeffrey Paine's engaging narrative. Through profiles of four well-known teachers, plus a few lesser lights, he recounts Tibetan Buddhism's arrival in North America after being driven in mid-20th century from its native environment, a tale of cynical and world-weary westerners becoming re-enchanted with the world.

A regular contributor to national publications, Paine knows how to keep a reader's attention. The book never lags and I would guess that most readers will be unwilling to put it down at the end of the evening. When the occasion warrants, Paine also lets his sense of humor shine, as in his discussion of actor Steven Segal, the world's most unlikely reincarnated lama and the only one, Paine observes, capable of uttering _Dalai Lama_ and _motherf......_ in the same sentence.

The book's most interesting insights are found in the chapter on Hollywood, a place where many are infatuated with the Dalai Lama and where you can even find a few practicing Buddhists, most prominently Richard Gere. Paine argues that actors already share a world view consistent with Buddhism, that thoughts and actions create reality. This dovetails nicely with the American ethos of being able to reinvent oneself, to start a new life. Paine sees a correlation in the growth of Buddhism in a society raised on film. Where the Buddha declined to discuss the soul and instead focused on our moment-to-moment experience of life, so too does the cinema ignore the metaphysical in building reality from sound, motion, and feeling.
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Format: Paperback
At the beginning of "Re-Enchantment", (2004) a study of Tibetan Buddhism and the West, Jeffery Paine describes Thomas Merton's journey to Dharamsala, the home of the Tibetan government in exile, in 1968. Paine describes how Merton's initial skepticism towards the Tibetan form of Buddhism quickly vanished and how Merton came to think that this then-obscure sect of Buddhism might "spiritually reanimate" (p.8) the West.

Following his exploration of Tibetan Buddhism's reception in the West, Paine discusses (pp. 257-259) three factors that he believes have influenced many people in the West in their search for spiritual renewal: 1. universality and nonpartisanship, by which Paine means that this esoteric Buddhist sect has been transformed in the West to a religion accessible to people of all backgrounds, races, and creeds; 2. individual responsibility, by which Paine means the emphasis given in all schools of Buddhism to individuals working towards their own enlightenment; and 3.heightened capabilities, or the hope Tibetan Buddhism holds out of deepening one's understanding of oneself and reaching new spiritual depths. Paine concludes that "even if Tibetan Buddhism disappeared tomorrow, it would have meanwhile enriched numerous lives and renewed appreciation for what spirituality is." (p. 260)

This is an inspiring vision indeed, and there is much in Paine's study and to teach. Paine introduces the reader to a mixed group of seekers who helped bring Tibetan Buddhism to westerners searching for a revitalized form of spirituality.
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By A Customer on February 11, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Re-enchantment provides a reasonably well-written summary of stories that have already been told. Anyone acquainted with the subject is advised to pass this title over though. It appears to be mostly recycled info from books like Vicki Mackenzie's various titles, Sherill's Buddha From Brooklyn, and Tricycle/Shambhala Sun backissues. Despite the title, little mention is made of Europe aside from references to the Vidyadhara Trungpa Rinpoche's initial landing in the UK. One example of the tendency to highly only the most prominent and already-documented storylines: I was curious to read a little more about Tarthang Tulku, who's been living and teaching in California since 1968, where he established large temple complex and a publishing house, among other enterprises. He's not even mentioned in passing.
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Format: Hardcover
I also was amazed by who was left out. A sample: namkhai norbu, tenzin wangyal, ole nydahl and...(drum roll)...tarthang tulku(!!!)
All these people are very, very interesting (sometimes controversial) teachers of tibetan buddhism. That's why it's so surprising he doesn't include them. They're all so interesting!!! That said, this is very much worth reading. It's well done and he doesn't candy coat any of the bad stuff (refreshing). There were plenty of new things (to me, anyway) here that made me seriously think. I particularly liked the great dzogchen master that one man put up in his lavish upstairs bedroom, only to have the master move into a walk-in closet and convert it into a version of a "himalayan cave." I loved the story where some man in a western audience said to the dalai lama, "Just tell us the fastest way to
enlightenment-" only to have the Great One burst into tears (tears of compassion, to my mind; read it and come to your own conclusion). Anyway, you get the idea.
So, the bottom line is I'm very glad I read this book. However, the definitive story of tibetan buddhism in the west remains to be told. That said, you'll enjoy this book a lot. I know I did.
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