His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama is known to the world for his efforts to preserve Tibetan culture and for his inspiring spiritual teachings. Often unnoticed, however, is the long, colorful history from which this most beloved of holy men has emerged. In Secret Lives of the Dalai Lama, Alexander Norman tells this story in full for the first time, from Tibetan Buddhism’s foundational narratives to the present-day crisis faced by Tibet.
And what a story it is. Along with dedicated monks selflessly serving the Tibetan people, among His Holiness’s spiritual forebears there are a Dalai Lama who waged wars, a womanizing and inebriated poet, and several who wound up dead following disputes over temporal power. Also, while Western practitioners focus on Tibetan Buddhism’s liberating vision of enlightenment, it simultaneously contains ritual practices of prophecy and magic, as well as a vivid pantheon of deities and demons.
In the end, although Tibet falls short of the Western myths of a Himalayan utopia, by illuminating the historical struggle toward compassion and selflessness embodied in the Dalai Lama lineage, Secret Lives of the Dalai Lama ultimately reveals a reality that is vastly more compelling than any romance of “Shangri-La” and provides deeper reasons for admiring Tibetan tradition.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
After the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911, the Chinese Nationalists, without the traditional religious authority of the Manchu Emperor, promoted nationalism and racial unity in an effort to win support among Tibetans. Once this failed, Chinese politicians appealed to a shared Buddhist heritage. This shift in policy reflected the late-nineteenth-century academic notion of Buddhism as a unified world religion, rather than a set of competing and diverse Asian religious practices.
While Chinese politicians hoped to gain Tibetan loyalty through religion, the promotion of a shared Buddhist heritage allowed Chinese Buddhists and Tibetan political and religious leaders to pursue their goals. During the 1930s and 1940s, Tibetan Buddhist ideas and teachers enjoyed tremendous popularity within a broad spectrum of Chinese society and especially among marginalized Chinese Buddhists. Even when relationships between the elite leadership between the two nations broke down, religious and cultural connections remained strong. After the Communists seized control, they continued to exploit this link when exerting control over Tibet by force in the 1950s. And despite being an avowedly atheist regime, with the exception of the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese communist government has continued to recognize and support many elements of Tibetan religious, if not political, culture.
Tuttle's study explores the role of Buddhism in the formation of modern China and its relationship to Tibet through the lives of Tibetan and Chinese Buddhists and politicians and by drawing on previously unexamined archival and governmental materials, as well as personal memoirs of Chinese politicians and Buddhist monks, and ephemera from religious ceremonies.
His legend enlarged gradually from al-Bukhari to Abu Nu'aym al-Isfahani and after its full formation around the eleventh century, expanded to central Asia under the Mongols, Anatolia under the Ottoman rule, North India in the age of the Tughluqids, and Malaysia during the seventeenth century as revealed in the works by R. Jones. He is known as Abu Ben Adhem or Abou Ben Adhem in the West because of a famous poem by James Henry Leigh Hunt. Accounts of Ibrahim's life are recorded by medieval authors such as Ibn Asakir and Bukhari.
Ibrahim was born into the Arab community of Balkh as the king of the area in around 730 CE, but he abandoned the throne to become an ascetic. He received a warning from God, through Khidr who appeared to him twice, and, abdicated his throne to take up the ascetic life in Syria. Having migrated in around 750 CE, he chose to live the rest of his life in a semi-nomadic lifestyle, often travelling as far south as Gaza. Ibrahim abhorred begging and worked tirelessly for his livelihood, often grinding corn or tending orchards. In addition, he is also said to have engaged in military operations on the border with Byzantium, and his untimely death is supposed to have occurred on one of his naval expeditions.
His earliest spiritual master was a Christian monk named Simeon. Ibrahim later recounted his dialog with Simeon in his writings:
I visited him in his cell, and said to him, "Father Simeon, how long hast thou been here?" "For seventy years", he answered. "What is thy food?" I asked. "O Hanifite", he countered, "what hast caused thee to ask this?" "I wanted to know", I replied. Then he said. "Every night one chickpea." I said, "What stirs thee in thy heart so that this pea suffices thee?" He answered, "They come to me one day in every year and adorn my cell and process about it, so doing me reverence; and whenever my spirit wearies of worship, I remind it of that hour, and endure the labors of a year for the sake of an hour. Do thou, O Hanifite, endure the labor of a year for the glory of eternity."
As is often with the graves of saints, numerous locations have been placed as the burial place of Ibrahim ibn Adham. Ibn Asakir stated that Ibrahim was buried on a Byzantine island, while other sources state his tomb is in Tyre, in Baghdad, in the "city of the prophet Lot", in the "cave of Jeremiah" in Jerusalem and, finally, in the city of Jablah (on the Syrian coast).
This book is story about life of Ibrahim Ben Adam, great muslim sufi saint from balakh, east of khurasan in central asia.
As she uncovers stories of Tibetan women's courage, resourcefulness, and spiritual strength in the face of loss and hardship since the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1950, and observes the changes wrought by the controversial new rail line in the futuristic "new Lhasa," Sam comes to embrace her own capacity for letting go, for faith, and for acceptance. Her glimpse of Tibet's past through the lens of the women - a visionary educator, a freedom fighter, a gulag survivor, and a child bride - affords her a unique perspective on the state of Tibetan culture today - in Tibet, in exile, and in the widening Tibetan diaspora.
Gracefully connecting the women's poignant histories to larger cultural, political, and spiritual themes, the author comes full circle, finding wisdom and wholeness even as she acknowledges Tibet's irreversible changes.