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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Lama, to boot to boot.

My reading lately has been very, er, buddha-riffic. I started reading the Dalai Lama's book "Becoming Enlightened" about a month ago. It was a pretty good read. The Dalai Lama basically writes a treatises on the Buddhist belief system, highlighting the practices that are used in meditation and what it means to be enlightened. I thought that the light, conversational tone the Dalai Lama used made it a very approachable text on religion. I couldn't help but be disappointed though by the rationale behind the magical aspects of Buddhism. For example, the fact that small children tell fantastical stories is considered proof of past lives . I guess I was just a little hopeful that with Buddhism's reputation of being so compatible with science, they would be a little less reliant on magic in their canon.

I really did enjoy this book though. It has great meditative exercises in it that I've been utilizing.

Not too long after I finished that book, I started reading "7 Years in Tibet" by Heinrich Harrer, which turned out to be a really good companion novel. It's also one of my favorite books that I've read in awhile. It's a great combination of adventure, history, and cultural study (with an antiquated eye).

It's an autobiography in which the author escapes a British pow camp in India, and flees into the mountains of Tibet. There he sneaks into the forbidden city of Lhasa, where he assimilates with the local population. Eventually, Harrer gains enough social clout to become a tutor to the Dalai Lama, and teaches him western science and culture. And we're talking about a 14 year old version of our current Lama, the same one who wrote my book. It was really strange reading this portrait of him as a young teen. It's also weird to compare the portrait of him from the book at age 16 to pictures of him now. He kind of grew into his face.

It's cool though, because you could really see how his introduction to worldly understanding with Harrer influenced him, making him a very progressive and savvy spiritual leader today.

"7 Years in Tibet" was also interesting because it was set during WWII, but was written with a German perspective. It's kind of rare to get that other point of view. The writing style was also super German, in that it was very to the point and blunt. A scene that might have been written out in great detail would be confined to a sentence like "We hiked for 6 hours, then he died." I liked this, because it let you use your imagination.

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