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Yes, it’s about Tibet, but not the mystical wonderland of Western imagination. There is magic, to be sure -- saints who pass invisibly among prison guards, ceremonies that stop torrential rain, and a ferocious landscape that inspires uneasy reverence. But the country described in these pages is incontestably real, harsh, and shocking.
What the Lotus Said is the story of Eric Swanson’s journey through East Tibet in the company of a Tibetan lama and several other Americans. The ostensible purpose of the trip is humanitarian supporting fledgling schools and bringing medical aid to nomads—but Swanson, a self-confessed “spiritual shopper,” nurses private hopes of enjoying a peak experience in a cave once inhabited by the eithth-century mystic who transcribed the classic Tibetan Book of the Dead. Through episodes alternately comic and harrowing, Swanson gradually discovers the liberating power of disenchantment, and in a startling turn of events, at last deciphers his lama’s cryptic statement that Tibetan Buddhism offers Westerners a way to die.
Written in a fragmentary style evocative of the classic text that inspired Swanson’s journey, What the Lotus Said introduces the reader to the irreducible complexities inherent in the search for spiritual solace.
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After years of flirting with a variety of spiritual traditions, Eric Swanson became a student of the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism in 1996. He was educated at Yale University and the Juilliard School, and worked as an actor for several years before publishing his first novel in 1990. It’s quite possible that he lives in Brooklyn with several cats.
"I was thirty-six years old before I found out Tibet was a real place," writes Swanson, author of The Boy in the Lake (1999). Having spent most of his life in search of spiritual guidance, Swanson visits a Buddhist center in New York City, then goes to Tibet with the lama and other Americans on a mission to deliver medical and educational supplies. Swanson glosses over the steps taken to reach Tibet--a country that politically does or doesn't exist, depending on whether the area is represented by the Dalai Lama or China--and instead focuses on his interpretations of the teachings of the Buddhist Kagyu sect. Interspersed with his commentary about Buddha and his desire to visit a cave once used by a Buddhist saint known as "The Lotus Born," Swanson depicts a land of almost immeasurable squalor with deep religious roots and brightly colored prayer flags waving in the breeze like leaves. His physical journey mirrors his spiritual one as he seeks enlightenment. For collections with a strong Buddhist interest. Melanie Duncan
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Book Description St. Martin's Press, 2002. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0312266936