Best Dalai Lama Biography: Kundun by Mary Craig

Mary Craig’s biography of the 14th Dalai Lama and his family is so good it was turned into a movie. That makes sense: it’s an inspiring story about the Dalai Lama, his family and culture. However, beyond that it’s the story of surviving the track through the Himalaya’s, the Chinese always on their trail and the subsequent landing in India that really make this a book to remember.

At the same time, and this is inherent in the story, we are called on to empathize with the Tibetan people living in occupied Tibet.

Once in India the family of the Dalai Lama became involved in the burgeoning democracy if the Tibetan people that their prominent brother was (is) trying to foster.

The book starts with the death of the previous Dalai Lama and the subsequent search for his rebirth. This is always an interesting start to a Tulku’s story as it takes us right into the magical worldview of Tibetan Buddhism. Tulku’s (incarnated lama’s) have a magical aura in Tibetan Buddhism and of course the Dalai Lama is among those whose reputation is highest. He had a lot to live up to growing up.

The current Dalai Lama was even asked, in his late teens, to write a meditation for his followers on his unity with Avalokiteshvara: Buddha of compassion. I do this meditation regularly because it’s a beautiful sadana and not too long. However, if you look at this from the Dalai Lama’s perspective it’s quite something. Here you are, a teen being prepared by your teachers and tutors for this dual role of spiritual guru and leader of a country and you have to write something to help people worship you more effectively.

The Dalai Lama is world famous. He received The Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to free Tibet peacefully from Chinese occupation. He teaches Buddhism both to TIbetans, Tibetan Buddhists and people interested in no more than happiness in this life. He reaches out to scientists to find common ground between Buddhist psychology and meditation and modern neurology and psychology.

He’s a mountain of a man who will be sadly missed when he passes on.

Most biographies focus on those very public aspects of his life. Kundun instead focuses on the people around him, their culture and struggles, their hopes, fears and challenges. The result is a must-read book for anybody interested in Tibet, Human Rights, Exile and of course Tibetan Buddhism.

More books about Tibetan Buddhism