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A Wanderer in Search of the Dalai Lama

May 2008
A Wanderer in Search of the Dalai Lama

There could scarcely be a more opportune moment for the release of The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Pico Iyer’s latest book. Thanks to what may be called the Beijing Olympics controversy, the Tibetan cause seems to have captured the world’s imagination like never before. More than its timeliness, however, what makes the book so relevant is that Iyer—an expert chronicler of his own internal and external journeys—is well qualified to write about the Dalai Lama, whom he has known since his childhood. “The Open Road intertwines an insider’s access to telling detail with a well-seasoned journalist’s skeptical sensibility,” one reviewer points out.

Iyer was 17 when he first met the Dalai Lama, but he had actually become aware of him much earlier. When the Dalai Lama fled to India and settled in Dharamsala—which now has the largest Tibetan community outside Tibet—Iyer was only a toddler. But according to Iyer’s late father, a philosopher who had known the Dalai Lama intimately, young Pico had followed the events with keen interest. “This Dalai Lama has, in only a few years, and unexpectedly, become one of the most visible figures on the planet,” writes Pico Iyer. “And yet, I sometimes think, that very visibility often gets in the way of the ideas he’s speaking for or the people on whose behalf he’s talking. His warmth and charisma are so strong that those who listen to him sometimes don’t see behind them to what is really lasting and has little to do with his particular being. In that sense, he may be one of the least-seen figures on the planet.”

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