The Open Road

The Open Road

The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama
By Pico Iyer

This book aims to shed more light on the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. I learn one thing from this book : a person must move with the world, too much of an isolation is no good.

In 1950, China invaded Tibet, beginning an occupation during which, according to Iyer, more than a million Tibetans died of starvation or in violent encounters with the Chinese. In 1959, along with other government officials, the Dalai Lama fled to Dharamsala, India where he established the Tibetan Government in Exile.

 I guess if one is too isolated, secular, even if one’s country gets invaded, one will still have no idea. Because one is too isolated, you can’t find any friends to help you.

“Our worst mistake, our greatest mistake,” the Dalai Lama told me once of the Tibetan situation, was being isolated from the world, and now, with assistance from circumstances, he was doing what he could to redress that problem. if Tibet in the past had stood for the farthest extremes of self-containment and remoteness, now he would make it one of the central players in a global vision that showed that Tibetans could, for example, help the Indians they lived among, and foreigners could help Tibet.

The Dalai Lama’s designation as both the spiritual and political leader of the Tibetan people, places him in a difficult situation with regard to the Chinese choke-hold that threatens to extinguish what remains of Tibetan culture. Aware of this difficulty, the Dalai Lama has endeavored to place more political power in his people, encouraging them to govern themselves in a democratic fashion – “You should carry your work as if I didn’t exist, because that day will come, definitely.”

In 2001, Tibetans in exile had been invited, for the first time in Tibetan history, to vote for their own prime minister, they had selected the celebrated monk and scholar, Samdhong Rinpoche. According to Samdhong Rinpoche, the Dalai Lama sometimes jokes, “I ask people to choose their own political leadership and again they have chosen an old monk, instead of young, energetic, educated, secular people!”


One other thing I learnt from the book is that, the most wicked thing one can do to another person is to let him have vices, be uneducated, ensure that he has no spirit or discipline for the future. In this way, there is no way that he or their next generation of people can stage any revenge or rebellion.

I meet a young Tibetan man whose dream is to become a writer. He was born in Amdo, in eastern Tibet, he tells me, but his father took him to Lhasa as a boy, and there he did what most 12 year old Tibetans in Lhasa do.

“Lots of alcohol, play snooker, going to prostitutes. I never went to school or did job. The Chinese make it very cheap to buy beer, whiskey. Everything is cheap. So we do not like to go to school. We ask our parents for money and if they do not give, we steal from their pockets.” Illiteracy in Tibet, he says, is running at 80%.

Lhasa is the administrative capital of the Tibet autonomous region in the People’s Republic of China. The name “Lhasa” literally means “place of the Gods”.

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