01 Jan / The 14th Dalai Lama: A Manga Biography by Tetsu Saiwai
Every new year seems to begin with a fervent prayer/wish/hope for true PEACE. So far in my own lifetime, worldwide peace hasn’t been achieved. Still, I have a few more years left in me and surely enough stubbornness to believe peace can truly happen before I’m off to the other side …
One of the leaders in the worldwide peace movement – and perhaps the only living person who embodies pure peace – is the Dalai Lama. Having been in the same room with him just once (with hundreds of others, too) is enough to make you believe in his peaceful power. And if you’ve ever heard him laugh (which he seems to do often), you can’t help but bask in a moment of … well … just true utter JOY. One giggle can leave you in a state of lasting gleeful waaaaaaah.
So what better way to start 2011 than to pick up this latest biography of the 14th Dalai Lama? It’s the first bio of His Holiness presented in manga (!), originally published by Emotional Content LLC and recently picked up by publishing giant Penguin in a new distribution agreement. The bio-manga – which artist Tetsu Saiwai created with “the kind contributions from The Liaison Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama for Japan and East Asia,” and authorized by the Government of Tibet in Exile in Dharamsala – has been adopted by said exiled government, translated into Tibetan, and is being used as an official textbook in 62 Tibetan schools – including refugee schools in Nepal and India! This book couldn’t come with a higher stamp of approval!
The 14th Dalai Lama’s story is, in a word, remarkable. Born in 1935 as Llhamo Döndrub, he was identified at age 2 as the reincarnation of his predecessor, the 13th Dalai Lama Thubten Gyatso. At 5, he was officially recognized and named Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso (which translates to “Holy Lord, gentle glory, compassionate, defender of the faith, ocean of wisdom”); he lived for a year in Norbulingka Palace in Llasa with his parents and recalls, “In retrospect, I think this may have been the happiest period of my life.”
At age 6, he formally ascended the Tibetan throne as spiritual leader and began his life as the 14th Dalai Lama at the famed Potala Palace (and yes, he missed his mother, as any young child would). At 15, he lost his freedom as he became the political leader of 6 million Tibetans confronting an invading Chinese army that arrived with a message of “emanicipation” and instead carried forth plans of near-annihilation. At 24, he lost his country, leaving Tibet in exile, an exile which continues many decades later. At 54, he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize with the words, “The true recipient of this prize for peace is none other than the Tibetan people.”
His teachings are deceptively simple, if only we would listen. They remain the best way to welcome in this new year (and every year): “We, human beings, have an innate gift to love and care about others. No complicated dogma or religious teachings are necessary to be able to love. Our own heart is our temple. Our kindness is our dogma. And our compassion will lead the world towards peace, generating hope for happiness.”
Read and believe: Peace is coming.
Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult, Adult
Published: 2008 (original U.S. boutique press publication), 2010 (Penguin)