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Book review – Seven years in Tibet



Like many of you, I have seen the movie based on this book and the movie fascinated me enough to read the book. I am so glad that I read this book because it’s detailed, written with a lot of love and gives an invaluable glimpse into Tibet’s culture and traditions. Once you read this book, you realise why the Tibetans are still fighting for independence !! A whole way of living has been lost to the world and people have lost not just their homes, but their whole identity. 

I learnt a lot about the Dalai Lama through this book because Heinrich Harrer had the unique opportunity to be a friend to a young boy and saw him become the world leader he has. How blessed was he !! As an independent Tibet seems ever more remote, this book will remain as the sole reminder of the Tibetan history and identity. The reason I say that independence for Tibet seems remote is because no one in the world is willing to challenge China. They over-ran a tiny country in broad daylight and just took away a way of life and the world watched it happen …. But such is the world for its the same world that turned a blind eye to the genocide in Cambodia, the unsuccessful subjugation of Ireland, the Kashmiri Pundit exodus from Kashmir, the plunder of Africa and the Taliban, now ISIS’ widespread terrorism. 

Forcing any individual to live “according” to another’s way of life is unacceptable and here we have whole cultures and a country being wiped off the face of the Earth. The so called “developed” nations are Nero’s cousins … Playing golf while the world burns, assuming that they are safeguarding their backyard. 

Anyway, some details in the book stood out for me and here they are – “The haste of Europeans has no place in Tibet”, “The Tibetans wish to leave no trace after death of their bodies, which, without souls, have no significance.” “It was only when we were in Lhasa that we came to know all the complicated reasons which led to the simultaneous existence in Tibet of polyandry and polygamy”. “..the name Dalai Lama is not used in Tibet at all. It is a Mongolian expression meaning ‘broad ocean'”. “Tibetans are a happy little people full of childish humour. They are grateful for any opportunity to laugh”.  “One of the best characteristics of the Tibetan people in their complete tolerance of other creeds. Their monastic theocracy has never sought the conversion of infidels”. “The Tibetans do not mourn for the dead in our sense of the word. Sorrow for the parting is relieved by the prospect of rebirth, and death has no terrors for the Buddhist”.

I learnt a new word “proscribe” which means forbid, haven’t seen this word used before. 

This book is a must read … For what some people will do to stay free (Heinrich Harrer) and the thousands of years old traditions of the Tibetan people. Meeting the Dalai Lama is on our bucket list, and hopefully it will happen sometime as we keep travelling to McLeodganj. 

Hoping also for Tibetans to get their country back and be independent once again … God willing, because man is not willing 😦

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