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The Wisdom of Forgiveness: Intimate Conversations and Journeys    by The Dalai Lama & Victor Chan order for
Wisdom of Forgiveness
by The Dalai Lama
Order:  USA  Can
Riverhead, 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, CD
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

The Wisdom of Forgiveness reflects the bonding of two men in friendship. Victor Chan was one of three people kidnapped in Kabul, to escape several days later. After this incident, Chan joined his fellow captive, who was on her way to an audience with the Dalai Lama. That 1972 meeting was their first. Years later, their paths were to cross again. The Dalai Lama considers that perhaps the kidnapping incident was a karmic link. Chan, a citizen from the country that invaded Tibet, asked the Dalai Lama, 'Do you hate the Chinese?' The instant reply was a resounding 'no'. The Dalai Lama makes clear that his argument is with the Chinese Communist government, not the Chinese people.

Chan was privileged to accompany His Holiness over several years to events such as the Kalachakra Initiation, 'an eleven- day Tibetan Buddhist ritual presided over by The Dalai Lama'. Chan accompanied the Tibetan leader on visits inside and outside India. He attended meetings of world leaders and 'visionaries', and had entry to the Dalai Lama's residence in Dharmsala, India, for one-on-one interviews. Chan posed very personal questions to His Holiness, such as: under which circumstances The Dalai Lama could be capable of violence; how profound spiritual insight feels in the body and the mind; how he came to love those considered enemies; his personal fears; how a highly spiritual person experiences pain; and what medical tests reveal of the heart of a holy man (physicians have stated that the Dalai Lama has the heart of a healthy twenty-year old, despite being in his upper sixties).

The 'most recognizable symbol of Buddhism' in the world today admits that he had a temper as a young man, and can't resist pulling men's beards. In Tibetan, Dalai Lama means 'ocean of wisdom', an appropriate description of the beloved Tibetan leader. He states, 'The formula for happiness is Emptiness + Compassion = Happiness.' Though it sounds so simple, it takes years of learning to decipher its deep meaning, in particular 'emptiness'. This book addresses the latter, taking a close look at the root of the word as applied in Buddhist beliefs. Chan tells of a Tibetan photographer's statement about the Dalai Lama, that he 'doesn't need to read from the TelePrompTer. He is a living example of his wisdom totally relevant to today's world.'

Asked why he thinks he is so popular, His Holiness responds, 'there are many factors. We Buddhists believe in the past ... maybe some karmic link, something more mysterious'. For those who may wonder about the worldwide respect for The Dalai Lama, Chan addresses that awe, placing readers in the presence of a great man. In eloquent prose, Chan reveals the playful, gentle humor of His Holiness. One such incident took place between Archbishop Desmond Tutu and The Dalai Lama, about which Tutu said, 'Both of us have a tremendous sense of fun--inside us is a little child trying to get out.'

The Dalai Lama and Chan deftly intertwine each chapter with anecdotes and lively dialogue, in a book that provokes deep thought about how we are affected by our actions and attitudes towards others. It is a challenge to remain unmoved by The Wisdom of Forgiveness, an intensive read that is rich in story. No matter your persuasion, His Holiness The Dalai Lama has wisdom to impart, and Chan translates it beautifully. Other publications by The Dalai Lama (all worthy of attention) are: The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living (1998), The Art of Happiness at Work (2003), The Dalai Lama's Little Book of Wisdom(2002), and The Dalai Lama's Little Book of Inner Peace (2003).

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