In the Shadow of the Buddha:
Secret Journeys, Sacred Histories, and Spiritual Discovery in Tibet
Part spiritual biography, part nail-biting undercover reporting, In the Shadow of the Buddha brings together Pistono’s quest to uncover long-hidden spiritual truths and real-time violations of religious freedom in Tibet.
Disillusioned by a career in American politics, he had gone to the Himalayas. After encountering Buddhism in Nepal, Pistono’s quest led him to Tibet and to a meditation master whose spiritual brother is Sogyal Rinpoche, bestselling author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. Pistono not only became the master’s student, but also couriered messages to him in Tibet from the Dalai Lama in India. This began an extraordinary, and ultimately vital, adventure.
In the Shadow of the Buddha is a book about Tibet through the eyes of a devotee—a stranger hiding in plain sight. It’s about how a culture’s rich spiritual past is slipping away against the force of a tyrannical future. It’s about how Tibetans live today, and the tenacity of their faith in the future in spite of dire repression and abuse. It’s also about Pistono’s own journey of merging political activism with Buddhist mysticism, a man who traveled thousands of miles and risked his own life to pursue freedom and peace.
Richard Gere's Foreword to In the Shadow of the Buddha
The book you hold in your hands is the story of how great spiritual practitioners from Tibet, like the mystic Tertön Sogyal, and the thirteenth and fourteenth Dalai Lamas, are able to bring the full force of the bodhisattva commitment—the burning desire to free all beings from suffering—into whatever situation they face, including the world of politics. The experiences Matteo writes about in this context are often esoteric, but never less than deeply human. He speaks to us of the vital importance of a complete commitment to nonviolence and of an insistence, as Gandhi used to say, on the truth—the profound truth of interdependence and selflessness—as the only doors that can lead us and others to genuine happiness. For Matteo, the world of politics only has meaning when motivated by a selfless compassion, at which point politics and social action can themselves become a powerful spiritual practice.
In the Shadow of the Buddha is a fascinating journey to the Tibet of the present and of the past, which at times is both heartbreaking and inspiring, as the people Matteo writes about demonstrate what courage and commitment to truth are really about when you are motivated by a vast sense of responsibility to all beings—be they friend or enemy. So whether you want to venture beyond the Himalayas to glimpse a sacred world that is almost lost, or whether your interests lead you to the halls of political power, or whether you are finding your path in the Western Dharma world, I trust this book will give you a deeper appreciation of the ancient wisdom tradition of Tibet and how vitally relevant it is to us today, whether in your heart, your community, or in the world at large."
Buddhas work for the benefit of others,
Ordinary people work for the benefit of themselves,
And just look at the difference between them.
Shantideva, seventh century