Cover image for The dance of 17 lives : the incredible true story of Tibet's 17th Karmapa
The dance of 17 lives : the incredible true story of Tibet's 17th Karmapa
Brown, Mick.
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Bloomsbury : Distributed to the trade by Holtzbrinck Publishers, 2004.
Physical Description:
xiv, 304 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : color illustrations, 1 map ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BQ7682.9.A2 B76 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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The extraordinary story of the exiled Tibetan teenager who has been hailed as one of the greatest spiritual leaders of the coming age.

In January 2000, an Ambassador taxi twisted its way up the narrow road leading toward Dharamsala in the Himalayan foothills of northern India-the home in exile of the Dalai Lama. In this aging car was a fourteen-year-old boy: the 17th Karmapa, one of the most important figures in Tibetan Buddhism. The boy's arrival in Dharamsala was the culmination of an escape. He had journeyed nine hundred miles across the Himalayas, in conditions of high danger, far from the monastery in Tibet where he had lived since he was eight. His arrival took everyone by surprise: far-flung devotees, the world's press, the Chinese government, even the Dalai Lama himself, who was reminded of his own escape into exile more than forty years earlier.

Fascinated by this charismatic young figure, British writer Mick Brown traveled to Dharamsala to meet him and found himself drawn into a web of intrigue. Amid a feud of Byzantine complexity concerning the boy's succession, Mick Brown gained unique access to both sides. In The Dance of 17 Lives, the author reveals what he uncovered: tales of miracles and murder, the settling of two-hundred-year-old scores, and the enduring spirit of Tibetan Buddhism in the face of all adversity.

Author Notes

Mick Brown is the author of four previous books: Richard Branson: The Inside Story, American Heartbeat: Travels from Woodstock to San Jose by Song Title, The Spiritual Tourist, and Performance . Born in London, he is a freelance journalist and broadcaster.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

China's brutal occupation of Tibet and efforts to quash Tibetan Buddhism have caused countless tragedies, engendering compelling tales of activism, valor, and loss. This "living" biography of Tibetans caught up in the struggle offer unusual insiders' perspectives. Some of the saddest and most puzzling incidents associated with China's occupation of Tibet involve conflicts over the recognized reincarnations of high lamas. The fate of the eleventh Panchen Lama is chronicled in Isabel Hilton's The Search for the Panchen Lama 0 (2000). Now British journalist Brown covers the battle over the identity of the seventeenth Karmapa. Brown provides an enlightening explanation of the mystical process by which reincarnated lamas are found and identified, then launches a gripping account of the labyrinthine dispute between factions aligned behind two possible "emanations" of the sixteenth Karmapa. Tangled rumors, rivalries among lamas, a secret letter, gnarled court cases, and violence all feature in this complex and startling tale, as does the daring 1992 escape from Tibet by Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the then-14-year-old boy the Dalai Lama recognizes as the true seventeenth Karmapa. Brown's informative and frank portrait of the courageous young lama conveys the power of Tibetan Buddhism and the blight of "theological politics." --Donna Seaman Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

This intelligent and well-written biography-cum-travelogue explores the life of the 17th Karmapa, the teenage lama who fled Chinese-occupied Tibet in 2000 for India. Brown, a freelance journalist who began the book as a magazine article after the lama's daring escape, traces the Karmapa's story but also uses the account to give Western readers a quick sketch of the nature, history and perennial conflicts of Tibetan Buddhism. Unlike other Western writers who tend to romanticize Buddhism in Asia, Brown evenhandedly paints it as a religion that is as rife with political considerations and human foibles as it is with miraculous incarnations and incomparable teachers. At times the early historical chapters can be too detailed, but Brown's balanced tone serves him well, and the writing is superbly accessible. He is particularly interested in the 11 years that elapsed between the 16th Karmapa's death in 1981 and the recognition of his seven-year-old successor in 1992; Brown shows these years to be characterized by feuding and accusations among the 16th's closest disciples. In the later chapters, he also chronicles China's mid-1990s crackdown on Buddhist practitioners in Tibet who remained loyal to the Dalai Lama, whom the Chinese government labeled a dangerous villain. Far from being a mere report on the 17th Karmapa and his exodus, this is an excellent history of modern Tibetan Buddhism on a broad scale. (June 21) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

When most Westerners think of Buddhism, they conjure images of an eccentric Zen master or the seeming perfect peace and equanimity embodied in the Dalai Lama. In the tradition of Gilles van Grasdorff's Hostage of Beijing: The Abduction of the Panchen Lama but far more effective, this readable and interesting account expands that vision by illuminating the high-stakes politics of Tibetan Buddhism, the arcane process of identifying the reincarnation of a high lama, and the importance of Tibetan Buddhist leaders in addition to the Dalai Lama. British journalist Brown (The Spiritual Tourist: A Personal Odyssey Through the Outer Reaches of Belief ) describes the recognition of the 17th Karmapa, religious leader of the Kagyu branch of Tibetan Buddhism, his harrowing escape in 2000 from Chinese-occupied Tibet to India, and the political intrigue and infighting that surrounds him to this day. Recommended for popular collections.-James R. Kuhlman, Univ. of North Carolina at Asheville Lib. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.