The book Freedom in Exile is the autobiography of His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet and Nobel Peace Prize winner. The book includes his entire life journey until 1990 directly from the horse’s mouth. The book gives insights into His Holiness’ perspectives. He has also given some details of China’s occupation over Tibet from 1949 onwards. How the progression of life can turn into exile of the Dalai Lama is an exceptional theme of this book.
‘Holder of the White Lotus’ is the first chapter of the book and includes His Holiness’s birth and initial years of his study and spiritual upbringing by other Guru (Lama) in the monasteries around Lhasa, far away from his native place. As a five-year-old child, he was away from his mother every four months. The white lotus is equivalent to peace in the Indian context too, and is a bright way to start reading this book. It tells a lot about the culture of Tibet and how it is different from his motherland.
The fundamental precept of ‘Buddhism — the Law of Cause and Effect’ has also been discussed in the book. This is the relationship between karma and rebirth of an individual. ‘The Lion Throne’, the second chapter in the book, gives specific details of his personal life. It mentions His name, Lhamo Thondup, which later became Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso.
Each chapter in this book has a special effect on every living being’s life. The book talks about Seventeen Point Peace Agreement that happened between Tibet and China. Nehru had supported China and His Holiness had to agree, as his young spirituality wasn’t supported by any of the parties. Aged 55, Dalai Lama proposed a Five-Point Agreement, where he proposed a friendly relation and asked for the security of environment (in terms of nuclear weapons) was also refused by PLA (People’s Liberation Army).
Reviewing the book as reverential as this is a petty task, but the truth should be known to the world in the light of Tibet’s Freedom Fight. The focus has to be given to the man who sacrificed his life for his people, who are actually on the threat of extinction. His Holiness has given insights into his life as an ordinary man who has suffered a lot, yet come out like a phoenix. People know him around the world for his work and sacrifices, but the book only talks about His Holiness’s life as a person who suffered a lot in the crisis.
The position he holds has the importance of many lives, as millions of Tibetans around the world seek his leadership. So, to include those peoples’ perspective is considerable. The suffering is one path of Buddhism, but those who suffer must get attention. So, people should know what exactly caused the suffering (in case of Tibetans, China’s Extradition). While sharing a press incident, His Holiness described that the Chinese media referred to him as ‘Wolf in the Monk’s Robes’, which is as disrespectful as it gets.
His Holiness represents Tibetans around the world and his autobiography must include them; this is the only shortcoming in his book. The book, overall, gives perspective and spiritual life lessons. His Holiness has elaborated every situation in the face of positivity as one where he quotes a conversation of himself with Mao, where Mao had said, “Your attitude is good, you know. Religion is poison. Firstly, it reduces the population, because monks and nuns must stay celibate, and secondly, it neglects material progress.” Dalai Lama very politely replied to this, “So, you are the destroyer of Dharma after all.”
Prominent media platforms have given the best lines from the book. The Daily Mail has reviewed the book as “an extraordinary story”. The New York Times says, “Remarkable…moving…often amusing” and the Spectator, “A touching book that arouses great sympathy for its extraordinary author.”