From Publisher's Weekly
"Do you hate the Chinese?" Chan asked the Dalai Lama when they first met in India in 1972. It was a live question, since Chan hailed from the country that had forced the Tibetan spiritual leader into exile and subjugated the Tibetan people. The Dalai Lama replied immediately with the English word "no," then stated through an interpreter that he had forgiven the Chinese and did not blame China's people. Drawing on Buddhist principles, this book loosely discusses His Holiness's ideas on forgiveness, though Chan presents them gently through stories, not didactically as a step-by-step how-to manual. For example, one chapter arises in the context of the Dalai Lama's travels in war- torn Belfast, where he spoke about forgiveness to the families of victims of terrorist attacks. To research this book, Chan traveled with the Dalai Lama off and on for several years, spent time with him at home and conducted numerous interviews. Apart from the expected teachings on forgiveness, what comes through most clearly is the personality of the Dalai Lama himself: his humor, playfulness and joy. We learn that he had something of a temper as a young man and that he can't resist pulling men's beards. Somehow, the book's serious call to forgiveness becomes all the more engaging and possible because of the Dalai Lama's own lighthearted spirit.
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The Dalai Lama, as seen by a friend
Plain Dealer (Cleveland)
August 5, 2004 Thursday
SECTION: ARTS & LIFE; Pg. F7
LENGTH: 892 words
BYLINE: Wendy Hoke, Jenny Staletovich,
Pam Lilley, Special to the Plain Dealer
In 1971 Chan and a Western friend had escaped from Afghanistan, where they had been kidnapped, and were headed to Dharamsala, Tibet. The woman Chan was with had a letter of introduction to the Dalai Lama, and Chan was along for the ride.
What grew from that first meeting was Chanís amazing friendship with the Dalai Lama. It has lasted for 30 years and led to this book.
Chan has an amazing gift of observation and description. The book is as much an intimate look at his own personal journey as it is a portrait of the Dalai Lama.
Chan begins by setting up the contrasts between his controlled, unemotional Chinese upbringing in Hong Kong and the "childlike, carefree spontaneity of Tibetans." In a beautiful turn of phrase that he illuminates throughout the book, Chan says the Dalai Lama "wears his soul on his face." And he shares, as he has rarely done, his own spiritual experiences.
Chan carefully documented the Dalai Lama using a video camera and tape recorder, and he quotes him using his somewhat broken English. It may slow the reader at first, but the book develops a peaceful cadence that helps explain spiritual progress.
One of the most endearing qualities of the Dalai Lama is his playfulness. I laughed out loud when reading about him and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (who shares his playfulness) at the Nobel Prize centennial in 2001. But there's a serious side to the Dalai Lama. He is not afraid to buck popular opinion when expressing his beliefs about the importance of compassion for all, including Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. And he vehemently condemned the violence at Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Although the book is filled with many intimate experiences and conversations that bring this holy man into vivid view, its most beautiful aspect is the relationship between Chan and the Dalai Lama.
—Wendy Hoke: The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)