Dalai Lama: Ethics and Life in a Big, Big World

He is the spiritual leader of the people of Tibet, living as a refugee in India for 60 years.

He was Lhamo Thondup at birth. Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, he has traveled the world, speaking out on topics well beyond his passions of human rights and Buddhism.

The 14th Dalai Lama, now 84, has authored numerous works, including Beyond Religion, a book I have read and read, and then read again.

One of the most revered leaders in the world, he draws readers into thought about the purpose of life, ethics, and how to be a better and happier person. His appeal crosses nationalities, races, religions, and practically every distinction that can be used to divide.

He poses questions about justice, nonviolence, materialism, capitalism, economic justice and a mountain of other topics.

In Beyond Religion, the Dalai Lama is optimistic and practical. Eloquent and approachable. Spiritual and human.

In the final chapter, he is a teacher, guiding readers through methods of mental cultivation through meditation.

Siddhartha: A Search for Fulfillment

Siddhartha is a handsome young Brahman who is wealthy, exceptionally intelligent, and loved. He seems to have it all, but he feels unfulfilled.

With his loving friend Govinda, he leaves his family and the comforts of home in search of enlightenment. He meets Gautama, but even life with the original Buddha is not enough, so he moves on, leaving Govinda behind. He fasts, lives without possessions, eventually slips back into materialism and a life with a beautiful woman.

As an old man living alone and working as a ferryman at a river, he reconnects with Govinda in a poignant meeting. Is Siddhartha, alas, fulfilled?

Siddhartha is German author’s Hermann Hesse’s most famous book. Hesse, who died in 1962 at 85, so beautifully describes Siddhartha’s journey that many readers return to the book. The conversations with people he meets are compelling and the narrative, originally written in German, is deeply human.

Each time I read Siddhartha, I find myself reading passages over and over. It resonated with me as a youth in the 1960s and it touches me as a man now in my late 60s. Messages of hope and beauty emerge from the book’s shadows.

Siddhartha mirrors aspects of Hesse’s own life of discontent. The author suffered depression as a child, attended a seminary, where he rebelled and fled. He attempted suicide at 15.

I devoured all of Hesse’s novels while I was in college in the early 1970s. Siddhartha was my favorite, but I was also drawn to Narcissus and Goldmund and Peter Camenzind. Click on the book cover above to go to Amazon.

Is there a Siddhartha in all of us?

Mont Blanc: Camino Lessons Travel to the Alps

See that speck of a building below the glacier? It is Refugio Elisabetta, one of a collection of remote hostels on the 110-mile Tour du Mont Blanc.

I would never have stayed there if it had not been for my hiking adventure on the Camino de Santiago.

Perched on a spur in the Italian Alps, Refugio Elisabetta offered triple bunks in a crowded coed dorm and bright orange clogs for walking around an outdoor setting that left me gobsmacked. I showered in minimal privacy, shared a sink with other men, and waited to use the only toilet with a seat. We had lucked out with a private room with barely enough room for one set of bunks, but its tiny window opened to a view of the glacier. The dirty duvet made me wish I had packed my sleeping liner, but I was grateful for the bed after several exhausting days of climbs and descents.

Refugio Elisabetta was a highlight of our two-week trip around the Alps’ tallest mountain. The delicious communal dinner came with quick-binding friendships with trekkers who had traveled from throughout Europe. Some were sleeping in tents in the campground down the slope from the building.

In Camino Sunrise: Walking With My Shadows, I describe the restless night in my first albergue in Spain and how I had ruminated about the lack of privacy in coed dorms and bathrooms. Our first long-distance backpacking adventure eventually guided me to come to terms with ghosts that had haunted me since childhood.

And, oh, so thankfully, the Camino lessons led me to Refugio Elisabetta.

The Asian American Male: Who Is He?

What is it like to grow up in the United States as an Asian immigrant male who was born in Manila, Philippines?

For Alex Tizon (the photo above was on the inside book cover), it was a lifelong struggle to overcome the shame he felt as he faced popular stereotypes that portray Asian men as weak, short, and unsexy, among other characteristics. While growing up, he collected memories and files of evidence that he believed refuted those stereotypes.

The culmination of his effort was Big Little Man: In Search of My Asian Self, a powerful, brilliantly illuminating and sometimes humorous story of his life and of Asian men in America.

A Pulitzer Prize winner and ground-breaking journalist at the Seattle Times, Tizon’s last career stop was the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication.

When a book touches me, I write to the author to share my appreciation. But I was shocked and saddened when I looked for Alex Tizon’s contact information and discovered he had died, of natural causes, in 2017, at 57.

You can get his book by clicking here.