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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

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  989 ratings  ·  138 reviews
One of the most acclaimed and perceptive observers of globalism and Buddhism now gives us the first serious consideration--for Buddhist and non-Buddhist alike--of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama's work and ideas as a politician, scientist, and philosopher.

Pico Iyer has been engaged in conversation with the Dalai Lama (a friend of his father's) for the last three decades--an
Hardcover, 275 pages
Published March 25th 2008 by Knopf Publishing Group (first published 2008)
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Average rating 3.92  · 
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Sep 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 05, 2015 rated it it was ok
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 ...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

Sean Leas
Oct 10, 2016 rated it liked it
Not an over-stimulating read, but I gained some insight into Tibetan heiarchy. I was really hoping for a candid insiders view, instead I was left wanting. Additionally, the writing style and strength didn't seem to fit the subject matter.
Jun 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Jonna Higgins-Freese
Jan 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Mar 04, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Mar 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
May 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
What do you write in a book about one of the most famous people in the world about whom already exists a ton of literature?
This challenge was taken very well by Iyer (who is now one of my favorite authors, his command on the language to express the most complicated in the most beautiful and simplest of words is something to be experienced and re-read), who gave a remarkably personal account of his times with HHH, the Dalai Lama over a few years. He also did a wonderful job by covering the
Ann Mcelligott
Oct 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
May 22, 2010 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Sep 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 22, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Francesca Marciano
Apr 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jun 01, 2008 rated it liked it
didn't love it, but i liked some parts of it. maybe because i read it 5 pages at a time right before bed.
Jun 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
My first Pico Iyer book and won't be my last. Beautiful writing. He paints a realistic and inspiring picture of Tibet, the 14th Dalai Lama and Buddhism.
Nov 02, 2008 rated it liked it
I really enjoy this book. It's written by someone in observance of the Dalai Lama, but his insight is there. I need to make more time to meditate and finish this book.
Jun 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
very well-written biography of the Dalai lama, with discussions of his political life vs spiritual, highlighting the tragedy that is Tibet.
robin friedman
Nov 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Open Road

Pico Iyer's new book subtitled "The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama" takes its title and theme from an essay by D. H. Lawrence about Walt Whitman and his poem, "The Song of the Open Road". Lawrence wrote "The great home of the Soul is the open road. Not heaven, not paradise, not `above'" The human person (or "soul" for Lawrence) "is a wayfarer down the open road" and democracy flowers "where soul meets soul in the open road." (Iyer, pp. 13-14)

Whitman's poetry, with its
Jan 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
It’s difficult to give a star rating to a non-fiction book, especially one that has as much breadth of subject matter as The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama by Pico Iyer. It seems that Pico Iyer is well situated to write a biography of the Dalai Lama, considering that his father met the Dalai Lama in 1960 when he had just arrived in India and Pico has had audiences with him regularly over many years. Pico has obviously read all of the material that has already been ...more
Mar 06, 2013 rated it liked it
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
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.
Dan Roe
Jun 10, 2018 rated it liked it
Great intro read about someone I've heard a lot about but knew nothing.
Now I know a little. The short "In Gratitude" chapter piqued my interest in the artist Bill Viola, for which I am grateful.
Madhu Solanki
Jun 05, 2018 rated it liked it
An easy read, I found the book very informative about the plight of the Tibetans, both in the state as well as in exile. The author shares his personal experience, having spent time with the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala and also by following him abroad. We get an insight into the Dalai Lama’s lifestyle and his efforts to modernise his people, at the same time holding on to the teachings of the Buddha. The author’s vivid description of McLeod Gunj and Dharamsala, where he has spent a lot of time, ...more
Jan 07, 2009 added it
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
Jul 09, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Mar 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
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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
“We now have access, increasingly, to more and more cultures across the globe, and the result is that restlesness has gone global, and hopdfulness, and the sense of an answer being found somewhere else.” 0 likes
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