The Saturday Book Review : The Dalai Lama–An Extraordinary Life

  • The Dalai Lama – An extraordinary life
  • Author: Alexander Norman
  • Publisher: Harper Collins
  • TNA Rating: *****


In the Backdrop of the Recent Chinese Aggression, the skirmishes on the Indo-China Border, the Clamour for His Holiness, the Dalai Lama to be conferred with the most prestigious and the Highest Indian Award Bharat Ratna and the pressure to revisit the Government of India’s One China Policy, the biography on the 14th Dalai Lama could not have come at a more opportune moment.

Alexander Norman, the acclaimed scholar of the history of Tibet and history of the Dalai Lamas- Holder of the While Lotus, has also published books in collaboration with the Dalai Lama including Freedom in Exile and Beyond Religion.

The Spectator in appreciation “Alexander Norman knows the Dalai Lama probably better than any Englishman Alive”. Norman takes us on a journey through the historical traditions and Cultures of the Tibetan People and past events as a road map to be able to unfold the Persona that is the 14th Dalai Lama: Tenzin Gyatso.

He traces the journey of the Dalai Lamas from the 5h Dalai Lama who was referred to as one of the Most Powerful Men in Asia. The Dalai Lamas ruled over a ‘Country the Size of Western Europe, spanning over 1500 miles from a border with Pakistan in the west to China in the east, and almost a thousand miles from Mongolia in the North to India Nepal and Burma in the South ‘.

Till the brutal subjugation of Gods own country, under the jackboots of the Chinese Communist Party, ripped apart a country seeped in compassion, kindness and spiritual practices. In a reference of the efforts to reach out to Mao Tse Tung, the then Chairman of Communist Party of China Norman mentions the content of a letter written by Tibetan officials.

Tibet is a peculiar country where the Buddhist religion is widely flourishing and which is predestined to be ruled by the Living Buddha of Mercy or Chenrezig. As such, Tibet has from the earliest times up to now, been an independent Country whose Political Administration had never been taken over by any foreign country.”

The letter ends, one short paragraph later with the demand that “those Tibetan territories annexed as part of Chinese territories some years back should now be returned back to their rightful jurisdiction.”

Norman reveals that the Dalai Lama has never been comfortable with his political position An interesting revelation was his participation in the 1971 War with Pakistan and the creation of Bangladesh. Though he did accede to India’s Request to send Establishment 2.2 to war in Bangladesh.

A letter was written by the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, though not addressed personally to the Dalai Lama it was directed towards him. “We cannot compel you to fight a war for us,” Mrs Gandhi wrote, “but the fact is that General A A K Niazi (the Pakistani Army Commander in East Pakistan) is treating the people of East Pakistan very badly. India has to do something about it. In a way, it is similar to the way the Chinese are treating the Tibetans in Tibet…It would be appreciated if you could help us fight the war for Liberating the people of Bangladesh.

A biography of one of Todays most charismatic and beloved world leaders seeped in compassion, extreme grace humility and kindness has been a challenge unfathomed. He has also attempted to enter into the hitherto unknown realm of the Dalai Lama’s spiritual practice, rooted in magic, vision and prophecy for the very first time.

The author takes the reader through the historical, political and spiritual challenges and his commitment to work for the enlightenment of all human beings through compassion. It is a biography which leaves the reader in complete awe of a man so steeped in goodness, kindness, compassion and spirituality.

For him to convey that “ultimately there is no self and no other, indeed no Dalai Lama, no precious protector, no Tibet- that in the end there is only the magical play of illusion’.

— Gaurav Prakash/Lucknow

(The author of this book review is a Lucknow-based businessman and Co-Chairman PHD Chambers of Commerce and the Founder Chair of YII. He can be contacted at

This Book Is Available @ Universal Booksellers

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