A remarkable photograph taken by Homai Vyarawalla (subject of Sabeena Gadihoke's superb biography, India in Focus from Mapin) shows the Dalai Lama, Jawaharlal Nehru and Chou-en-Lai uncomfortably sharing the dais. The oversize garlands, the placement of the three leaders, the awkward salute that seems more like a way of averting the gaze.... It seems such a prescient commentary on the events of the month past, the natural alignment of the nations, the compulsions of proximity, of power, of the lack of it...
The Dalai Lama - who describes himself as smiling monk but yet, being a reincarnation of a Bodhisattva, is obviously something much more than just that- has been the subject of many studies. A collection of essays edited by Rajiv Mehrotra for Penguin, Understanding the Dalai Lama brought together a range of contributors who offered insights into different facets of this remarkable individual. Two of them (at least) have gone on to write their own books on the man and his philosophy.
Pico Iyer's The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama will be published by Penguin in India in May. Already out in the US, this book has been discussed in a great review by Pankaj Mishra in The New Yorker (where he says "The bracing virtue of Iyer’s thoughtful essay is that it allows us to imagine the Dalai Lama as something of an intellectual and spiritual adventurer, exploring fresh sources of individual identity and belonging in the newly united world." and from which we took the title of this post- the Buddha's last words) and is described "not a biography but an extended journalistic analysis of someone deep enough for several lifetimes, as Tibetan Buddhists believe. Iyer organizes his observations by smart descriptions of aspects of the Dalai Lama's work and character: icon, monk, philosopher, politician. This allows him to plumb different sides of His Holiness, whom he demythologizes even as he expresses a clear-eyed respect for the leader's achievements. Iyer reminds readers of paradoxes: the Dalai Lama is highly empirical, yet holds beliefs such as reincarnation that defy observation. He is a public figure who is diligent about elaborate and private religious practices. Like its subject, the aim of this book is ultimately simple: behold the man. "
Bharati Puri's Engaged Buddhism: The Dalai Lama's Worldview from OUP, 2006, is on the Dalai Lama's thoughts "on various current issues such as non-violence, human rights, and the political issue of the autonomy of Tibet. This is one of the first books among the range of books on the Dalai Lama to actually seek out the conceptual foundations of his thought. The Dalai Lama's ethical teachings have gained worldwide recognition primarily because his actions and writings reflect a concern for combining ancient religious traditions with a contemporary political, social, and religious cause. "
Hardcover, Rs 495, ISBN: 9780195673319.