Born in Tibet

Chögyam Trungpa

I was sorely disappointed in this book – it shifted my perception of Buddhism in a way I wish it hadn’t.


The journey the man did to escape from the Chines invasion of Tibet could have been interesting. It’s a bloody long way to India via all those mountains, and that a group of people managed it is amazing. But the drone of the story-telling made me not really care after a while. I kept hoping they would run out of leather to boil or eat their actual last bit of food and expire. I lost count of how many times they ran out of food only to have more in the next chapter.


But worse than the boring telling of what could and should have been a fabulous tale of survival were the aspects of Buddhism I saw and did not like.


The author is the reincarnation of someone or the other, as it seems is almost everyone in Tibetan Buddhism. As such he is treated close to royalty from when he is a little boy.

Snag 1 – isn’t Buddhism essentially supposed to be non-hierarchical?

He is surrounded by people there only to look after him. Hmmm – that doesn’t sit happily with me.


During the escape the monks have to ditch their monkly attire and wear normal clothing so as to be less conspicuous. The author talks about how very distressed the monks are at having to do this – they feel lost and discombobulated (my word, not his) out of their robes.

Snag 2 – what happened to the non-attachment lesson of Buddhism?


Then during the escape a horse falls off a ravine and the author’s comment is that none of the goods the horse was carrying could be retrieved.

Sang 3 – a being died and the Buddhist was worried about his belongings – really? Hmmm – nope, doesn’t work for me.


The author was not likeable much – the only time his personality ever showed was when he was laying down the law with all the people following him. And he kept buggering off to do a retreat while those following him were starving and freezing.


Maybe my escaped catholic roots expect a little more from a religious or spiritual leader.


I have since spoken to a Buddhist friend of mine and apparently this kind of things is a little typical of Tibetan Buddhism – and Tibet Buddhism is a very specific strand of the believe system.

Phew – cos I like the idea that I aspire to be a Buddhist – I’d have hated to lose all that cos of one monk.