Dalai Lama, My Son: A Mother's Story is the autobiography of Diki Tsering, mother of the 14th Dalai Lama. She recently died in Darjeeling, India, where she had lived in exile with her family and the Dalai Lama. Being published at the same time is Transforming the Mind, by the Dalai Lama himself, (Thorsons, $20, 0722540302) which attempts to demonstrate ways of transforming difficult life situations into opportunities for spiritual growth. The two books use different methods to demonstrate the same theme: refinement through perseverance.
Dalai Lama, My Son tells how Diki Tsering lived through the drastic transformation from a hard-working farm girl on the high Tibetan plains to an esteemed political figure at the center of an international debate. She reveals life at the heart of Tibet's difficult relationship with communist China, the persecution of the Tibetan people, and her family's sorrowful flight to India in 1959. Diki Tsering explains her difficult transitions not as trials to overcome, but as inevitable and cleansing paths to follow.
I was named Sonam Tsomo. My birth name belongs to another life. Most people know me as Diki Tsering.
Ever since I went to live in Lhasa, I tried to become Diki Tsering, with all the social forms and graces that go with that name. Adventure lurks at every turn. Even in the calmly relayed chapters that describe everyday farm life, the reader will learn how women give birth in the stable, alone, and how terrifying superstitions about ghosts explain deaths from disease or malnutrition. The story transforms in the second half of the book from cultural history lesson to exciting fairy tale adventure. Diki Tsering's son, known from birth as Lhomo Dhondup, undergoes strange trials leading to his new identity as a reincarnation of the Buddha. The family travels on a dangerous three-month journey from their farm to Lhasa, where Lhomo Dhondup will be received as Tibet's revered leader, the Dalai Lama. Communist Chinese lurk everywhere, and disguise is the only hope of the persecuted. Unfortunately, this exotic fairy tale is reality, and the Dalai Lama continues to teach about compassion as an exiled man.
Amy Ryce is a writer in Nashville.