In this fascinating memoir the Dalai Lama’s mother tells a compelling woman’s story. With vivid and intimate details, she recounts her life’s humble beginning, the customs and rituals of old Tibet, the births of her sixteen children (only seven of whom survived), learning her son’s remarkable destiny, the family’s arduous move to Lhasa before the Chinese invasion of Tibet, and their escape and eventual exile. Rich in historic and cultural details, this moving memoir personalizes the history of the Tibetan people—the magic of their culture, the role of their women, and their ancient ideals of compassion, faith, and equanimity.
This spare, fascinating autobiography by the Dalai Lama's mama addresses issues as diverse as faith, political intrigue and the harsh demands of rural life. Born at the turn of the century to a hardworking peasant family in a frontier region of Tibet, Diki Tsering (her married name) entered an arranged marriage at 16 and found herself entirely under the thumb of a brutal, sometimes violent mother-in-law. She bore 16 children, but only seven survived their toddlerhoods (four of these deaths were blamed on a malevolent family ghost). One of her sons, of course, was recognized at age four as the incarnation of the Dalai Lama, the highest religious and political leader in Tibet. Diki Tsering followed him to urban Lhasa, where she traded her dawn-to-dusk working life for the leisured, and sometimes bewildering, social role as Tibet's "Mother of Compassion." She accompanied the youthful lama on his travels to India and on a year-long expedition to China, where officials attempted to coax the Tibetan entourage into capitulating to Chinese leadership. When the party arrived home, however, they discovered that the Chinese had already infiltrated Tibet, taking over Diki Tsering's homeland and other areas. The family managed to escape to India in 1959, sneaking out at night dressed as soldiers. The story is enthralling, although the writing (edited from taped interviews with Diki Tsering before her death in 1980) is choppy and the narrative sometimes confusing.