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His Holiness the Dalai Lama on "In the Shadow of the Buddha"

I endeavored to tell two stories in “In the Shadow of the Buddha.” The first story is the mystical life of Tertön Sogyal, a tantric practioner from the 19th century who was called to assist the XIII Dalai Lama and the Tibetan nation in a time of great need. The second story was that of my own travels in the mystic's footsteps, as well as to shed light on the repressive circumstances that Tibetans find themselves living today under the Chinese government.

As I was finishing the writing of “In the Shadow of the Buddha” I respectfully requested His Holiness the Dalai Lama (the XIV) to write a word or two about the book. I sent the manuscript to Dharamsala. Some time later, I was honored and blessed to have His Holiness write the following:

“This story of Matteo Pistono’s quest to visit places in Tibet associated with Tertön Sogyal, the adept who was a companion of the thirteenth Dalai Lama, is revealing not only of the Tertön’s life but also  Read More 
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Peter Gabriel, musician and human rights advocate, on "In the Shadow of the Buddha"

Peter Gabriel’s music and lyrics have impacted me deeply. More than twenty years ago at an Amnesty International rock concert I heard him sing ‘Biko’. That song was an introduction to Stephen Biko and to human rights abuses around the world. But perhaps more importantly, listening to that song was a call to act to combat such abuses.

I wrote about that day in “In the Shadow of the Buddha”:
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“I first came to know about human rights when I was sixteen at a music concert in Italy in 1988. I was attending high school as an exchange student in Ravenna, the same year Amnesty International’s Human Rights Now! concert toured the world with Bruce Springsteen, Sting, and Peter Gabriel headlining.  Read More 
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Richard Gere's foreword to "In the Shadow of the Buddha"

For more than a decade, Matteo Pistono has lived in Nepal and Tibet, and worked in the fields of human rights and religious freedom. He knows the territory well, and it shows in both the grit and scope of his narrative. In the many years and many places that I’ve known him, from India to Washington, Matteo has remained an informed, reliable, skillful, and joyously energized individual. He is a true student of Buddhism, and has had the great fortune of having received significant teachings from some of the world’s greatest teachers, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Sogyal Rinpoche, and the late Khenpo Jikmé Phuntsok inside Tibet—a rarity indeed.

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  Read More 
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Matteo Pistono invited to Tucson Festival of Books, February 10, 2012

I am honored to present “In the Shadow of the Buddha” at the Tucson Festival of Books on Saturday, March 10, 2012 at 4 p.m.

I will participate on the ‘Eden Seekers’ panel, which will include Brook Wilensky-Lanford, author of "Paradise Lust: Searching for the Garden of Eden," and Carolyn O'Bagy Davis, author of "The Fourth Wife: Polygamy, Love & Revolution.” The moderator of the hour-long panel is Rabbi Samuel Cohon of Temple Emanu-El, the oldest congregation in Arizona.

The Tucson Festival of Books brings together authors, publishers and the reading public in a family-friendly community event. Net proceeds of the Festival are used to promote literacy in Southern Arizona.  Read More 
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Exposing China’s Secret Prisons in Tibet One Photo At A Time

A few weeks earlier a man in Chengdu had told me about his experience of a prison in Kandze. When I met the man, half Han and half another ethnic group I did not recognize, he was fixing a flat tire on my bicycle at a repair shop. He did not tell me the reason for his incarceration on the Tibetan Plateau. I thought he probably was busted for theft, but I had no way of knowing. He spoke matter-of-factly of what had happened inside the prison walls, the way only someone who has spent time in jail can do. He detailed the physical abuse in prison, even smirking at the way one particularly skinny policeman’s punches did not hurt him. Beatings and electric shock, he said, were a routine part of interrogation. He was released after a month without explanation or charge. There were pink scars on his wrists above his greasy hands, not yet completely healed.

“Handcuffing our hands to our ankles with our arms behind our back,  Read More 
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Doonesbury and 'In the Shadow of the Buddha'

I researched "In the Shadow of the Buddha" for nearly a decade in Tibet, Nepal and India; wrote much of it on the Lower East Side in New York City; and edited most of it while sitting at the coffee shop 'Modern Times' just below Politics & Prose in Washington DC. And the book was launched at Politics & Prose to a standing room only with over 100 folks. So I had to smile when I saw Politics and Prose in Doonesbury yesterday. Love it.  Read More 
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Gandhi believed a policy of an eye for an eye makes everyone blind

...from 'In the Shadow of the Buddha' page 123-124

“You smell like curry spice and Kathmandu’s dust,” the president of the In¬ternational Campaign for Tibet said, handing me a black blazer at Dulles Airport. Though I had not slept for over twenty-four hours, we sped off toward the U.S. Capitol. He had borrowed a pair of shoes from his office’s media director to replace my hiking boots. I changed in the car ride into Washington. He dropped me off a few blocks from the White House, at the massive office buildings that house key policy decision-makers, including the National Security Council and vice president’s office. It was there I met another advocate from the International Campaign for Tibet. We ducked out of the rain and entered a marble lobby.

The first thing that caught my eye was a large emblazoned seal hanging above our heads: a Roman cuirass surrounded by unsheathed swords, crossed bayonets, and other artillery, and a rattlesnake with a scroll unfurling from his fanged mouth that bore the inscription "This We’ll Defend". We were in the former Department of War building. The seal above us is still used today, with its blades and swords—not unlike the wrathful weaponry used in Tibetan Buddhist iconography to symbolize destroying the self-cherishing ego. But what is the difference between  Read More 
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Upcoming conversation with Antonio Terrone on February 6 in Chicago

I was pleased when Antonio Terrone called me a few weeks ago to ask me if I wanted to join him for an event at Northwestern University, where he is a professor of Tibetan Buddhism. Antonio asked if I wanted to sit down with him for a conversation about Tibet, China, human rights...and our friendship. I heartily agreed. The event is planned for February 6 (check on the event page for full details.

It was in fact over a decade ago when I met Antonio Terrone in a remote part of Eastern Tibet. We were both researching treasure revealers in Tibet. We made an immediate connection. I wrote this about Antonio in "In the Shadow of the Buddha" about a later pilgrimage:

"Antonio and I had met years before while we both were traveling near Serthar, and after a month of grueling travel from Golok to Lhasa—where on two occasions, we had to get out of our transport and hike a wide detour around the police check posts undetected, before returning to the main road to  Read More 
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Meeting Khenpo Jikme Phuntsok in Eastern Tibet

Khenpo Jikmé Phuntsok (1933–2004) was the most prominent teacher who emerged from the Cultural Revolution to begin teaching and reviving Buddhism in Tibet. He is one of two simultaneous reincarnations of Tertön Sogyal and, here, holds the tertön’s phurba dagger.
from Chapter 2 of Matteo Pistono's "In the Shadow of the Buddha: One Man's Journey of Discovery in Tibet"

Winter 1999, Year of the Earth Hare
Larung Buddhist Encampment, Eastern Tibet

The younger monk with whom I had traveled in the bus to the encamp¬ment had space on his kitchen floor for me to sleep. We wound our way through the muddy alleyways of the encampment to his shack. Monks and nuns chanted scriptures behind the doors we passed. Smoke rose from simple tin chimneys in the homes of those who had money to buy yak dung for fuel. A few refugee dogs were curled against the doors of some of the huts, trying to stay warm. My head pounded from the lack of oxygen at this altitude. When we arrived at my host’s small home, he started a fire as I fell into a corner, exhausted from the journey. The monk put a kettle of water on to boil and then ran out the door halfway down the valley to Khenpo’s residence to deliver my request to meet the teacher, and pass along a letter Sogyal Rinpoche had written for me requesting assistance on my pilgrimage.

For the next week, while waiting for a response to the request to speak privately with Khenpo, I attended his teachings  Read More 
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Upcoming New York and Chicago dates for 'In the Shadow of the Buddha: One Man's Journey of Discovery in Tibet'

The paperback edition of 'In the Shadow of the Buddha: One Man's Journey of Discovery in Tibet' will be released January 31, 2012. This is the redesigned cover with His Holiness the Dalai Lama's blurb about the book at the top.

Matteo will launch the paperback edition in Bedford, New York, and then head to Chicago for a few talks and slideshows.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012 Bedford, NY 6:00 p.m.
Westchester Buddhist Meditation Center
954 Old Post Road in Bedford, NY.

Monday, February 6, 2012 Evanston, IL 4:30-6 p.m.
Northwestern University, Harris Hall, Room 108
Department of Religious Studies
Contact: Antonio Terrone a-terrone@northwestern.edu

Tuesday, February 7, 2012 Chicago, IL
6:00 p.m. at Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA)
820 N. Michigan Avenue
RSVP to luma@luc.edu or 312.915.7608.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012 Evanston, IL
7:00 p.m. at Tibet Alliance of Chicago
2422 Dempster Street
RSVP: RigpaChicago@att.net
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