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

3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  794 Ratings  ·  121 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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(showing 1-30 of 2,075)
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Jonna Higgins-Freese
This was absolutely lovely -- nuanced and detailed and sharp. Iyer makes a compelling case that there are several "faces" or aspects to the Dalai Lama -- the public face, where His Holiness talks about a secular ethics of kindness that anyone can follow, while encouraging people to delve into their own religious traditions rather than necessarily "converting" to Buddhism. Iyer also writes compellingly - -but not in an "oh, wow, isn't this exotic" way -- about the more private face of the Dalai L ...more
Mazola1
Mar 04, 2009 Mazola1 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
May 22, 2010 Snap rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2010
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
Sep 28, 2012 Manu Prasad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: review
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
Jul 08, 2009 Angie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: buddhism, tibet, 2009
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
Oct 27, 2011 Ann Mcelligott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
May 26, 2008 Brayden rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Drew
Jul 06, 2015 Drew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting. One of the factors that made Tibet so vulnerable to being taken over by China was its chosen isolation from the rest of the world. This book relates how the Dalai Lama, understanding that, has chosen to take Tibetan Buddhism to the world. It also relates his practice of Buddhism and non-violence against China has caused turmoil within the Tibetan exile community. Plus, imagine the difficulty when so many Tibetans believe he is God. Also, there is a mystical part of Tibetan Budd ...more
MJ
Sep 06, 2008 MJ rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Bharath Ramakrishnan
I had high expectations of this book and was disappointed. The book devotes considerable space to the situation in Tibet and how China has consolidated it's hold. It also has a few personal episodes describing Pico Iyer's conversations with the Dalai Lama. However, these are few and mostly cover matter known in the public domain. There is little information on Tibetan Buddhism itself and not enough of the Dalai Lama's personal life and thoughts. This book simply skims the surface on what could h ...more
David
Sep 22, 2009 David rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-2009
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
Judy
Dec 25, 2015 Judy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Only Pico Iyer could have written this book, an account of a man he has known about since he was two (really!) and whom he first met, personally, as a reluctant teenager. But because Iyer is not a Buddhist, the book has an objectivity many reports on the Dalai Lama do not. As Mr. Iyer might say, it is low on the "shangri-la" factor.

Nevertheless, I came away with a much greater appreciation of the experiment the Dalai Lama has attempted in setting up a global Tibetan community and of the many rol
...more
Mimi
Jun 13, 2015 Mimi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
very well-written biography of the Dalai lama, with discussions of his political life vs spiritual, highlighting the tragedy that is Tibet.
Neha
Jan 27, 2015 Neha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book poses uneasy questions and the narrative voice of Iyer's stealthily moves out without imposing his own judgments. However, he subtly reinforces the limitation of deifying the Dalai Lama way beyond rationality. The idea of spirituality vs the political landscape does collide, mostly due to the immense amount of expectations, which ride on one man to solve the world's problems, particularly those of Tibet's and therefore it is not an easy explanation. Interestingly, the book talks about t ...more
Julie
Considering its subject, this book was surprisingly light on content. Despite the author's longtime personal relationship with the Dalai Lama and his family, I did not really feel that he was able to give the reader an in-depth, personal view of the man behind the title. More emphasis is placed on the Lama's place as political leader of his people and his struggle to find a "middle way" as the Chinese destroy Tibet and the Tibetan people lose more and more of their culture, living in exile. But ...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

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.
Jeannie Zeck
Dec 19, 2015 Jeannie Zeck rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pico Iyer knows the Dalai Lama personally and has traveled with him over the years. I learned so much about Buddhism, Buddhist monks, and the Dalai Lama. I took my time reading this book: it is a meditation in itself and inspired me to increase the seriousness of my own practice.
Samer Bou Karroum
Jul 05, 2016 Samer Bou Karroum rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It took a lot of will power to finish reading this book. I skipped parts of it. It is extremely boring and uninteresting. I hated the writer's style and I think he wasn't organized.

On the positive side, however, I liked how the writer showed that all the world is related, that the Dalai Lama and the Tibetans cared about Palestine and Beirut as much as they cared about their own land. I had the feeling that we are all the same: facing similar problems: Tibetans want their independence from China,
...more
Lynette
The subject of this book was interesting, but for me the author failed to make the most of it. He says at the end that before writing a book he reads everything he can find on the subject, implying that he likes to cover new territory rather than repeating what has already been written. Maybe I should have started elsewhere, because I know very little about Buddhism or the Dalai Lama. Still, the book did not captivate me at all. I kept hoping the author would engage me, but that hope was in vain ...more
Elissa
Jun 01, 2008 Elissa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 21, 2013 aryn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 05, 2013 Jon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 21, 2011 Suzy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 10, 2010 Ron rated it really liked it
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
Nov 21, 2009 Anita rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 31, 2008 Ann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, buddhism
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
Sayantani Dasgupta
Pico Iyer's quiet, meditative writing is a good introduction to the Dalai Lama, his relevance in the contemporary world, and the challenges he faces as the spiritual and political leader of Tibet. I see Buddhism fetishized in many different ways so this sentence in the book about the Dalai Lama made me smile: ..."(he is) a Buddhist who, more and more, is urging foreigners not to take up Buddhism but to study within their own traditions, where their roots are deepest..." (p.14)
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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
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