Don Farber. Tibetan Buddhist Life. London: Dorling Kindersley Ltd. in association with the Tibet Fund, 2003. Oversize hardcover, 192 pages.
Tibet’s tragic story is by now well known. Since the invasion of this Himalayan country by the Communist Chinese in 1949, the Buddhist heritage of the Tibetans has found its way into the hearts of thousands of Westerners. Don Farber is one of those who has made ample room in his heart and life for the people and culture of Tibet. This well-known author and photographer, who is married to a Tibetan woman, was introduced to Buddhism in the 1970s. His photographs have graced the pages of many periodicals as well as the walls of various museums.
Tibetan Buddhist Life is a lavishly and artfully produced coffee-table book with over 200 telling images, which deserves to be read and contemplated rather than merely browsed in. The illustrations, consisting mostly of Farber’s own photographs but also including representations of traditional imagery and historical photographs, beautifully complement the text.
Apart from introducing with great sensitivity the spirituality and culture of Tibet, past and present, Farber also tells in simple terms the story of Tibetan Buddhism and its followers in the Himalayan countries and India. The reader will get a sense of the struggles and triumphs of the Tibetan diaspora. One of Farber’s favorite subjects is the fascinating figure of Tibet’s spiritual and secular leader, H.H. the Dalai Lama, a “simple monk” who happens to be venerated as an embodiment of the godlike Buddha Avalokiteshvara.
Many pages capture in image and text some of the great spiritual masters of modern Tibetan Buddhism, such as the Karmapa, Kalu Rimpoche, Sakya Trizin, Ganden Tri Rimpoche, and Garchen Rimpoche. The reader is also introduced to Tibet’s monasteries, which at one time numbered over 6,000, of which only 50 or so have escaped destruction at the hands of the Chinese. The monastic life for monks and nuns, sacred art, music, and dance, and not least Tibetan Buddhist spiritual practice form a substantial portion of Farber’s work.
This richly textured volume offers a portrait of Tibet and Tibetans that is both informative and enchanting. It also gives one a strong sense that Tibet’s cultural heritage deserves to be protected and preserved. It has already been a great stimulus of spiritual revival in the Western hemisphere and, hopefully, will continue to be a significant catalyst in the transformative struggles of our postmodern world.
Copyright ©2006 by Georg Feuerstein. All rights reserved.
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