Using an easy, conversational tone, Stephan Talty provides us with rare glimpses of the Dalai Lama’s childhood and adolescent years.
As a precocious two-year old, the Dalai Lama delighted and exasperated his parents, especially his mother. He would often pack a small bag, tie it to a stick and tell his mother he was leaving for Lhasa.
The Dalai Lama inherited his father’s dark moods and liked to torment his older brother. At the monastery, he would shake with rage whenever he lost a game. He was also obsessed with war games, military drills and dangerous stunts. In his mid-teens, he realized that anger was a destructive force and turned to the Buddhist scriptures for inspiration and guidance.
In Escape from the Land of Snows, Talty focuses on the Fourteenth Dalai Lama’s flight to India during a two-week period in 1959. Accompanied by a 300-person escort, the 24-year old monk left behind the comfort and splendor of his summer palace and traveled across the highest terrain in the world and over treacherous Himalayan passes. Forced to sleep in tents and endure extremes in temperatures, he arrived in India sick with dysentery and stripped of his possessions.
Talty gives us an accurate picture of the political climate of Tibet by skilfully weaving dates, numbers and historical data into the narrative. He also provides a glossary, bibliography and maps. Throughout the book, Talty includes comments from local reporters, CIA agents, members of the Dalai Lama’s family and individual Tibetans. He succeeds in piecing together all these elements and producing a smooth narrative.
It is an inspiring tale that chronicles the transformation of a naive, childlike monk into a spiritual hero renowned for his compassion and commitment to mankind.