THE Dalai Lama is perhaps the most iconic figure of the Tibetan religious movement and is well-known all over the world for his efforts to achieve justice for the Tibetan cause. Considered as a manifestation of the bodhisattva or compassion, Avalokitesvara, it is said his true purpose is to guide others towards the spiritual path in a world riven by strife and social discontent. There have been 14 Dalai Lamas so far and their history has been bloody and intriguing; with its twists and turns, it is worthy of any John Le Carre novel. Initially the institution of the Dalai Lama tendered to a purely spiritual plane, but has now become inextricably involved with the political and cultural life of Tibet.
With a Masters in Tibetan Studies from the University of Oxford, Alexander Norman is an authority on all things Tibetan and is uniquely qualified to write on the Dalai Lama, whom he has known for well over two decades. The Secret Lives of the Dalai Lama traces the history of the institution of the Dalai Lama; from the first, Gendun Drub, known for his gentleness and compassion, to the present Dalai Lama, who had to flee his native Tibet and seek refuge in India from Chinese depredations. The fourteen individuals who have carried the title of the Dalai Lama have differed widely in their personalities.
The book has devoted considerable space to the life of the thirteenth and the fourteenth Dalai Lamas, who played leading roles in Tibet’s spiritual quest to assert herself as an independent country. Thubten Gyatso, known as The Great Thirteenth, was a reformer who played a prominent role when Tibet became a pawn in the Great Game between the Russians and the British. The present Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is well-known for his flight to India in 1959 and the establishment in Dharamshala of a government in exile. Widely travelled, winner of a Nobel Peace prize and the most visible face of Tibet, he is an outspoken champion of the cause of Tibetan independence and has commented on topics as diverse as the environment, economics and sexuality.
(Abacus, Hachette Business Plus, 612/614 (Sixth Floor) Time Tower, MG Road, Sector 28, Gurgaon-122 001.)