I started reading the book, worrying that I wouldn't finish. Would a monk's deep spirituality be to much for me to grasp? Would I find the graphic descriptions too painful to read?
None of the above. Palden Gyatso is as human as the rest of us. He felt petty emotions, despair and even did things he might be ashamed of. And he watched his entire country and culture go through the same things.
His triumph is that he overcame judgement, and simply struggles to understand and forgive. And he understands that the only way he can save his country and his people's culture is to make the whole world aware of the oppression and cruelty.
I was struck by three things:
**Tibet and Tibetians are not some mysterious other-worldly people and culture. The basic needs and feelings, both good and bad, are universal.
**Would I be able to endure the physical, mental and emotional torture with equal grace? I hope I never have to find out.
**Oppressive and cruel tactics for power are still going on. As I read the personal and national horror and realized what I was doing in my life at that time (The book takes place roughly from 1950-1995), I couldn't help but wonder at the contrast. My life was easy, and good and full of hope, food and comfort. Tibet was tortured, starved and oppressed.
As I read, I couldn't help think about those bits and pieces of news stories that tricke in to my consciousness. What's really happening in Rwanda, Darfur and Georgia? And what does it say about me that I haven't even written a letter urging MY elected officials to help?
I strongly recommend this book to everyone. You can't help but walk away with a better understanding of the world, Tibet, and history. And only by all people understanding what happened and why, can we hope to end the brutality and prevent it from ever happening again.