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The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama
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The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  594 ratings  ·  101 reviews
For over three decades, Pico Iyer, one of our most cherished travel writers, has been a friend to the Dalai Lama. Over these years through intimate conversations, he has come to know him in a way that few can claim. Here he paints an unprecedented portrait of one of the most singular figures of our time, explaining the Dalai Lama's work and ideas about politics, science, t ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published March 10th 2009 by Vintage (first published 2008)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,359)
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Mazola1
The Open Road bills itself as a look at the paradoxical life of the Dalai Lama written by someone who has known him for three decades. While the book does examine the Dalai Lama as a spiritual and temporal leader, a man with one foot planted firmly in the ancient past of his Buddhist tradition and one foot planted firmly in the modern world, it is surprisingly superficial and spotty.

The premise of the book is far better than its execution. For instance, Iyer quotes a Tibetan as saying that Tibe
...more
Snap
I don't know where to start! I mentioned several times to Mr. Dragon that I never write in books ... just one of my *laws*, but I sure wanted to write in this one. Finally, after hearing me say this daily, Mr. D looked at me and said "write in the book"!!! So I did. There is just so much in it that I want to remember and look at again. Pico Iyer in this book "tried to be a general reader speaking to other general readers, and bringing little more than the curiosity and interest of a journalist w ...more
Manu Prasad
One of my favourite authors writing about a human being who has intrigued me from the time I read Siddhartha. It didn't disappoint at all!
What is it like to live, practice, preach a faith while facing oppression from one of the most powerful countries in the world? Even as Tibet becomes more of a Chinese province day by day - the Potala Palace is treated as just another tourist attraction and the streets of Lhasa are filled with entertainment and shopping options - and several Tibetans question
...more
Angie
This was a thoroughly enjoyable book. Of course, this is coming from someone who spent a year in Dharamsala and charted out a map of McLeod Ganj in the margins when I realized that he was going to tell us where each of the main roads go to.

I felt as if Iyer's observations, while trivial, improved the readability of the work and possibly served as a way to draw the ordinary reader into the environment that is Dharamsala. (As someone who's been there, I felt that most of his observations were pret
...more
Ann Mcelligott
The selection for my book group, I was delighted to learn more about the Dalai Lama. Pico Iyer has known the Dalai Lama for more than 30 years, having been introduced through his father, an Oxford don who was born in India. Iyer, an essay, novelist, and travel writer, has spent considerable time in Dharamsala,India, home to the Dalai Lama has his government in exile and to many Tibetan exiles. Further he has attended many of the Dalai Lama's visits around the world.

Although biographical details
...more
Brayden
Iyer is a travel writer who has a personal relationship with the Dalai Lama dating back to his youth. In this book Ayer provides an insider's view of the Dalai Lama's life and mind. I didn't know much about the man before reading the book, and so I was surprised by a lot of what I read. Iyer points out that the Dalai Lama on the surface seems to be full of contradictions (for example, he values science and logic but he also believes in prophecy and spiritual manifestations). Iyer helps the reade ...more
Francesca Marciano
A must read. Clever, insightful, objective. Pico Iyer writes beautifully,but this book is so much more than good writing : it will take you on un unexpected journey, deep into the contradictions and the obstacles that The Fourteenth Dalai Lama has to navigate in order to bridge tradition with the future, secularism with mysticism.
David
Unsuccessful attempt to be both memoir and biography, with some hero-worship thrown in. It's not a complete waste of time, but the writing is often self-indulgent and self-congratulatory. (I loved the moment that went something like: "I heard the Dalai Lama won the Nobel Prize so I dropped in to personally congratulate him. I figured he wouldn't mind.")

The book was predictably biased, and also shirked challenging questions like, "The Tibetans think you're a god. So, are you?" The writer (like th
...more
Bookmarks Magazine

In his study of the Dalai Lama, Iyer offers a rich historical context made stronger by his own diligent research and vast knowledge of global politics (not to mention a personal connection). Given the current unrest between Tibet and China, Iyer's book takes on additional weight by lending urgency to the story of an otherwise little understood

Elissa
didn't love it, but i liked some parts of it. maybe because i read it 5 pages at a time right before bed.
Stop
Read the STOP SMILING review of The Open Road:

We are not accustomed to thinking of our leaders as perennially jolly, which has at times proven to be a problem for the Dalai Lama. Though he is one of the world's wisest and certainly one of its most spiritual men, Pico Iyer reminds us that he sometimes sounds like he is promoting saccharine, feel-good truths — “bromides, as it may seem, that tell people no more than any Golden Rule or Boy Scout’s manual might.” In part, this is because he must reg
...more
aryn
p64: Don’t expect the world to fit its needs to accommodate you; work your needs around the circumstances of the world.

p96: … “Middle Way,” in deference to the Buddha’s guiding principle of walking along the road at the center, not veering toward extremes.

p155: Indeed, even though all monks are committed to the same task, deep down – as doctors or hospital construction workers are – the details of their practice are as different as their wildly divergent times and cultures. A Christian generally
...more
Jon
This is the first book I've read on the Dalai Lama, and my first written by Pico Lyer. Reading other reviews, I can understand some of the criticism. Some aren't fans of Lyer's journalistic writing style, others who have read much about Tibetan Buddhism were disappointed this didn't reveal anything new or deeper, or that Lyer failed to dig deep enough into the tension between the Dalai Lama's spiritual and temporal reality.

For me though, this book proved a fascinating read. While Lyer had uniqu
...more
Suzy
I was hoping to be inspired by this book, but I wasn't. My dumb. For one thing, the DL didn't write the book, a journalist wrote a book about him. This is the second journalist to quite disappoint me with his book writing. (Is this akin to great stand-up comedians making lousy movies? The slightly-wrong genre?) Iyer's writing was an obstacle, to be honest. it is fraught with parenthetical and em-dashed remarks that were often longer than the sentence in which they were imbedded. Needless to say, ...more
Ron
Wonderfully informative book on the 14th Dalai Lama, the man and his beliefs, viewed alongside other explorers and ideas in history and in contemporary society. First meeting the Dalai Lama when quite young, Iyer offers us a close-up view of the Dalai Lama's life, touching on his life history as most books on the Dalai Lama do, but more on what's helped the Dalai Lama form his viewpoints and beliefs through the years on a wide range of topics, besides religion and spirituality, and why such b... ...more
Anita
Pico Iyer's journalistic training comes through strongly in this book. The book reads more like a linked-set of NY Times magazine articles rather than a cohesive book with a story to tell.

Iyer is also more focused on the tragic political situation in Tibet rather than on Tibetan Buddhism and that shows plainly throughout. This isn't a bad thing but it wasn't what I expected exactly.

I also thought that since Iyer and his family have had a long-standing personal relationship with the XIVth Dalai L
...more
Kristianne
If you meet the Dalai Lama on the road. . .

How are we to think about the Dalai Lama? He is a Nobel laureate, a king kept from his country, a spiritual leader, a pop culture darling and an unswerving voice of global compassion. In the past half century he has been thrust onto the world’s stage, first as a fairy tale prince driven from his home and now as the beatific wise man who has charmed billions of people across the globe, drawing 65,000 people to Qwest stadium in Seattle to hear him speak.
...more
Ann
I'm very glad to have read this book. Iyer does an excellent job of exploring the conflicts inherent in the Dalai Lalma's dual role as a secular/spiritual leader. Nonviolence is such a hard road. How does one know it's working? How can it not be seen as appeasement, especially when China is the opponent, and has moved not one inch in its position in the last 50 years? This is what many outside observers ask, as well as frustrated young Tibetans. But the Dalai Lama answers that these are the wron ...more
MJ
This has been a slow read for me - I kept going off and reading other things, then coming back to it. Not because it was difficult, but just so dense with ideas. It is a sort of biography by Pico Iyer of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama and attempts to explain his delicate position as leader of a country that virtually no longers exists, having been systematically destroyed by the Chinese since he escaped it at the age of 14. It explores his philosophies, his attempts to bring his people into a modern ...more
Drew
An engaging book about the plight on modern Tibet, focusing on the dilemmas faced by the Dalai Lama. A considerate discussion of the spiritual vs. political and global vs. local motivations faced by a people whose country has practically disappeared.



Rather glowing in its description of Dharamsala; new visitors would probably be disappointed after reading this book. Having been there though, with eyes closed it seems, I very much enjoyed seeing more than the symptoms of exile, and getting a feel
...more
Leigh Statham
I was really excited when I picked this book up a the library. And I was still excited after reading the first couple of pages. But the deeper I got into what I thought would be a sort of life story, the more I felt like I was at a dinner party full of extremely intelligent people who already knew the story and were just chuckling over little inside jokes on karma and the "chi" of the universe. I ended up skipping around looking for a real story to follow for my little brain, but ended up just g ...more
Nancy Mackay
Feb 07, 2013 Nancy Mackay rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in Pico Iyer, the Dali Lama, or Tibetan Buddhism
Shelves: slis-202
I'm a little disappointed because I had high expectations. I like Pico Iyer's writing so much, and I'm somewhat interested in Tibetan Buddhism.
The author's purpose is, I believe, to peal away the layers of myth and cult surrounding the Dali Lama and give the reader an insight into the Dali Lama as a person, an exiled head of state, and to some, a god figure. (Pico Iyer's father is a friend of the Dali Lama, and Pico himself has known him for more than 30 years).
Instead, I came away feeling the
...more
Nathan
The Dalai Lama is a singular spiritual presence in our time. The religious and political leader of an isolated and anachronistic Himalayan culture, he was thrust into modernity and onto the global scene when he fled Tibet decades ago to escape the invading Chinese. Iyer ponders the unique significance of the Dalai Lama as a both a champion of nonviolent resistance working to a preserve a culture crushed under the heals of the next superpower, and as a key voice calling for a renewed global ethic ...more
Suju
I enjoyed this book but, though I have not read other books about the Dalai Lama, my guess is this is not the cream of the crop. I appreciated the fact that Iyer has a special relationship with the DL (Iyer's father was a friend of the DL's) and I think he exploits that to some extent in terms of giving us insight into the man. But I often felt that the book lacked focus and I wasn't quite certain what the thesis was or was supposed to be. My favorite part of the book was probably the section wh ...more
Alexis
I'd only read some short articles by Pico Iyer before I picked up this book. I plan to read more of Iyer's books because I really enjoy his writing style.

This book is a portrait and overview of the Dalai Lama. Iyer's father was friends with His Holiness and Iyer has known him for more than 30 years. This enables him to give a good overview of the DL and his general character and daily life. I like the DL a lot, and appreciated the chance to learn more about his character. However, this book has
...more
Carolyn Crocker
The reflections of a journalist who has known the Dalai Lama for more than 30 years, this personal account grapples with philosophy, science, spirituality, politics, and celebrity, as evidenced in the singular person and personality of the Nobel laureate. Iyer recognizes the limitations of his knowledge-- given his subject's eighteen years of isolated study and the continuing private esoteric practice and study which occupies him for the first 6 hours of every day, What emerges is a complex port ...more
Janis
Pico Iyer -- raised in Britain, the son of a Tamil philosopher, currently living in Japan and a member of the global community if there ever was one -- explores the roles of the Dalai Lama as a monk, as leader of his exiled people, as statesman, and as a world religious leader. I appreciated the author's thoughtful analysis of Tibetan politics and the Dalai Lama's teachings and only wished (though the ground's been covered by others) that he had started this work with a chapter on Tibet prior to ...more
Peter Owens
A creative look inside the mind of His Holiness the Dalai Lama from individuals close to him.
Kimfu
I enjoyed learning more about the Dalai Lama through this book. Now I want to travel to Tibet more than ever, and I'd like to go to Daharamsala, too. I especially was interested in learning about how many young Tibetans oppose the Dalai Lama's compromise policy toward the Chinese government as well as Iyer's thoughts on what might happen after the Dalai Lama dies. I also liked the very ending of the book, where Iyer gave lots of recommendations for further books to read about the Dalai Lama.

"The
...more
Jamie DeLoma
Quick and insight read. Stories of private moments are interspersed with Buddhist ideology. Recommended.
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Pico Iyer is a British-born essayist and novelist of Indian descent. As an acclaimed travel writer, he began his career documenting a neglected aspect of travel -- the sometimes surreal disconnect between local tradition and imported global pop culture. Since then, he has written ten books, exploring also the cultural consequences of isolation, whether writing about the exiled spiritual leaders of ...more
More about Pico Iyer...
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