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In the Shadow of the Buddha: Secret Journeys, Sacred Histories, and Spiritual Discovery in Tibet Hardcover – January 20, 2011

5.0 out of 5 stars 55 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Pistono draws on his experiences as a journalist, activist, and student of Tibetan Buddhism to explore the intersection between spirituality and politics. He weaves together the stories of his pilgrimages in Tibet, his role in smuggling out evidence of the Chinese government's human rights abuses to the West, and the history of Terton Sogyal, a lama who served as spiritual and political adviser to the current Dalai Lama's predecessor in the late 19th and very early 20th centuries. Pistono follows the path of Terton Sogyal across vast expanses of the Tibetan landscape while hearing testimonies to suffering by Tibetans who sought him out to share their stories. The phurba, a "great weapon of compassion" in Tibetan ritual to destroy anger, provides a continuing motif. Spiritual aspirations and political realities collide tragically in present-day Tibet, and through this complex set of narratives Pistono explores his own search for freedom from anger when faced with massive injustice and the apparent ineffectiveness of activism on behalf of Tibet. These inner and outer journeys are no less astonishing for being told matter-of-factly, accompanied by keen analysis of modern realpolitik. (Jan.)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* From Wyoming to Himalayan meditation caves to Capitol Hill, Pistono’s account of his quest for spiritual illumination and political justice is heartbreaking and awe-inspiring. Pistono, raised with the belief that social activism is a core responsibility, began traveling to Tibet in 1999, motivated, in part, by his fascination with Tertön Sogyal, a nineteenth-century mystic and “Tibet’s great champion and protector.” Pistono follows in Tertön Sogyal’s footsteps while telling the mystic’s astonishing story, from his father’s insistence that he join a band of highway robbers to serving as teacher to the XIII Dalai Lama and guiding Tibet through political turmoil and the intrusion of British forces. Traveling as both a journalist and a Buddhist pilgrim, Pistono also found himself at the crossroads of spirituality and politics when he was asked to serve as a human-rights courier, carrying to the West hard evidence of China’s systematic brutality in occupied Tibet. Pistono tells chilling cloak-and-dagger tales and offers mesmerizing descriptions of haunting landscapes and miracle-performing lamas. But what shimmers most in this riveting and mysterious chronicle, which includes a foreword by Tibet activist Richard Gere, is the courage of those dedicated to “the Dalai Lama’s vision for real autonomy and religious freedom in Tibet through nonviolent means.” --Donna Seaman

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton; 1St Edition edition (January 20, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525951199
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525951193
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #950,695 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Edward A. Dickey on January 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There have been many fascinating accounts by western pilgrims, explorers, and adventurers (Alexandra David Neel, Heinrich Harrer, Lama Anagarika Govinda, and Ian Baker come to mind) about life-transforming experiences in Tibet. In the Shadow of the Buddha is a most worthy addition to this body of literature.

Matteo Pistono began with a plan to write a biography of Terton Sogyal, a highly realized holy man and revealer of hidden teachings, who lived in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He was a close advisor to the thirteenth Dalai Lama during years when Tibetan sovereignty was threatened by both the British and Chinese and used his considerable spiritual powers to guard against these threats. The book provides beautifully written and inspiring accounts of important events in the life of Terton Sogyal and of the author's visits to the places where those events took place.

During his decade of arduous travels in the Land of Snows, Matteo Pistono lived in a monastic encampment, sought out Buddhist masters and hermits, received advanced teachings, learned special practices, and witnessed the seemingly miraculous. He also encountered evidence of human rights abuses, including destruction of homes, imprisonment, torture, and even death meted out to monks, nuns, and others whose only crimes were to practice their religion, peacefully protest, express devotion to the Dalai Lama, or merely decline to denounce him. Before long he was spiriting evidence of these violations out of Tibet so that they could be seen by policy makers in Washington, Europe, and the UN. At the same time he was bringing in messages from the Dalai Lama.
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Format: Hardcover
In the Shadow of the Buddha is a book about religious freedom, transmitted from a prism that refracts a quartet of incisively written points of view. What's really remarkable about Matteo Pistono's book is that he wears his various narrative hats with equal authority. The end result is one of seemingly incongruous components interlocking to create a multi-textural experience seldom offered to readers.

Pistono, the spy: During the last decade, the author has made numerous trips to Tibet to surreptitiously photograph evidence of Chinese oppression inside Tibet and to smuggle out written documents that have become essential data to international human rights organizations, as well as to the US State Department. His fearless information gathering has contributed greatly to a deeper understanding of Tibet, normally off-limits to Western reporters.
Pistono, the Tibetan historian: By weaving in the biography of the 19th century Tibetan mystic Terton Sogyal, the author brings a deeper understanding of the importance of spiritual lineage in Tibetan culture - both from religious and political standpoints. Terton Sogyal's recorded lineage began with Padmasambhava - the adept who brought Buddhism to Tibet twelve centuries years ago - gained renewed importance during the politically pivotal era of the XIII Dalai Lama, and remains extremely relevant to the XIV Dalai Lama, as well as to Terton Sogyal's present-day incarnation Sogyal Rinpoche, (author of the best-seller Tibetan Book of Living and Dying).
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Format: Hardcover
This book has been keeping me up late the last few nights. Despite a desire to read quickly to learn more of Mr. Pistono's journey of self-discovery, I'm constantly stopping myself to re-read passages to experience the beauty and thoughtfulness of his prose. With every page I learn more about Buddhism, Tibet and the political attrocities occuring there. It's a privilege to read this book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Yesterday, I sat in the park with my daughter and we brought our books along. We were both turning pages as quickly as we could read them. We were both uttering sounds of surprise and excitement from what we were reading. She was reading the new Dan Brown novel and I was reading, In the Shadow of the Buddha by Matteo Pistono. My daughter was reading a fictional tale. What I was reading is factual, yet it reads and flows like a great novel. It combines the wonderment of a travel book with the great anticipation of a story of intrigue and still it is infused with a devoted student's mystical and spiritual quest.

I love this book, and I have not wanted to put it down. I force myself to do so because I want to savor it, spend more time with it.

Often, when authors write such accounts, jumping from one century to another, I find it challenging to follow and often, clumsy. Not so here. There is continuity, a smooth flow that moves the reader from the time of Terton Sogyal to the recent past and back again without having to look back and see where you jumped off.

In the Shadow of the Buddha is a moving book. Matteo's devotion to his teachers' instructions is inspiring. His willingness to risk his own well being to tell the truth of the atrocities to which the Tibetan people are subjected, shows that he is a brave and compassionate person. This book is mystical, tragic and loving all at the same time. Bravo.
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