Kindness, Clarity and Insight, the 25th Anniversary Edition

Kindness, Clarity and Insight, the 25th Anniversary Edition

By the Dalai Lama
Snow Lion, Hardback, $19.95, 261 pages.

Although today books on Buddhism by the Dalai Lama can be found in most bookstores throughout the Western world, and several of his titles have even hit the New York Times Bestseller List, his success as a literary figure came slowly. His first title, The Opening of the Third Eye, was published by Quest Books in the early 1960s. Nothing more was to appear from him for almost two decades, when in 1981 Snow Lion in Ithaca, NY, published Kindness, Clarity and Insight, a collection of essays drawn up from his public lectures during his first two tours of North America.
The essays themselves are brilliant, and that 1981 edition went a long way in making the Dalai Lama a household name in America. It introduced the Dalai Lama as the humble Buddhist monk and spiritual teacher that he is, taking the gentle flow of his spoken words to a living audience and molding them into a captivating and inspiring work. For those who thought that the art of essay writing is dead, here is proof that it is alive and well.

The individual essays deal with the fundamentals of Tibetan Buddhism, and each has a title reflecting its focus: "The Luminous Nature of Mind," "The Four Noble Truths," "The Medicine of Wisdom and Compassion," "Altruism and the Six Perfections," and so forth. The Dalai Lama treats each subject in depth, and with the basic simplicity that has become the hallmark of his teaching style.

Prof. Jeffrey Hopkins, who was the translator of the oral discourses, along with the editors at Snow Lion who wove the tread of oral teachings into a coherent literary volume, did a wonderful job twenty-five years ago in bringing the Dalai Lama to a modern reading audience. This new edition, however, is not merely a reprint of the old book, which has been out of print for some years. Editorial and printing improvements lift it far above what it had been. Kindness, Clarity and Insight was one of Snow Lion's first titles, and that small but dedicated publishing house has come a long way since that time.

Jeffrey Hopkins' Preface to the new edition does make one claim that strikes me as a bit off. The Dalai Lama first visited the United States in 1979. The rumor for this tardy entrance was that he could not get a visa. Hopkins tells the story of a meeting that he and the Dalai Lama's representative in New York had with Joel McCleary, an advisor to President Jimmy Carter and an old friend and student of Prof. Robert Thurman. Jeffrey suggests that this meeting was the reason the Dalai Lama finally was issued his first American visa.

In 1977, the Dalai Lama returned to Dharamsala from a visit to Europe. I was asked to edit some of his lectures from the tour for a pamphlet to be published by the Tibetan Library in Dharamsala. During the course of the work, I asked someone in his Private Office why he made so many visits to Europe, but none to America.

"He can't get an American visa," was the reply, which struck me as rather odd, in that all kinds of world leaders visit America regularly. Although there is no doubt that Joel did meet with Hopkins and the Dalai Lama's representative in New York, that meeting was not especially relevant to the visa problem. The solution of the Dalai Lama's visa quandary came from another direction altogether, and required no such high level interference. And that would be a story for another book.