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Books & Films: DEVI’s Recommended Reading and Viewing List for Your Journey to Dharamshala

Books: Recommended Reading

Following is a list of books we recommend that you consider reading in preparation for travel to Dharamshala or other Tibetan refugee settlements, or to educate yourself on Tibetan history, spirituality and central topics.

  • Freedom in Exile (the autobiography of H.H. the Dalai Lama), an essential read for any human being.
  • Any of the Dalai Lama’s introductory books on Tibetan Buddhism (especially the ones from the past decade or so, which tend to be written in a style more accessible to general audiences) such as The Way to FreedomA Simple PathPath to Bliss and Flash of Lightning in the Dark of Night.
  • The Joy of Living by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, an excellent introduction to Tibetan Buddhist meditation and philosophy.
  • In Exile from the Land of Snows by John Avedon, a very good history.
  • My Tibet, by Jetsun Pema, younger sister of H.H. the Dalai Lama and head of the Tibetan Children’s Village schools.
  • Kundun, the book, which is not based on the movie but rather a history of H.H the Dalai Lama’s whole family, which is very illuminating.
  • Words of My Perfect Teacher, by Patrul Rinpoche and Padmakara Translation Group, one of the most powerful introductions to Tibetan Buddhism.
  • Cave in the Snow: Tenzin Palmo’s Quest for Enlightenment, by Vicki Mackenzie, an inspiring biographical account of a Tibetan Buddhist nun from the West.
  • The Jew in the Lotus by Rodger Kamenetz, a fascinating and illuminating true story of cross-cultural dialogue between H.H. the Dalai Lama and Jewish teachers of different traditions, and of personal rediscovery of deeper spirituality, taking place in Dharamshala.
  • Birds of the Kangra Valley by Jan Willem den Besten, a great illustrated companion for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts.


Films: Recommended Viewing

Here is a list of films we suggest you might watch in preparation for travel to Dharamshala or other Tibetan areas, or to educate yourself on Tibetan history, spirituality and other central topics.

  • Kundun (Martin Scorcese), on the life of H.H. the Dalai Lama up to 1959; praised by knowledgeable Tibetan historians as being ‘at least 99% factually accurate.’
  • Tibet: Cry of the Snow Lion, one of the best documentaries on Chinese-occupied Tibet.
  • Compassion in Exile, an excellent documentary about H.H. the Dalai Lama.
  • The Four Noble Truths, a DVD featuring teachings given by H.H. the Dalai Lama in England on the first teaching given by the Buddha, regarded as the foundation of Buddha dharma; perhaps the best video introduction to H.H. the Dalai Lama’s teachings.
  • Discovering Buddhism, a two-DVD set providing a great general introduction to Buddhist philosophy and practise.
  • Windhorse (Tibetan name: Lung-ta), perhaps the best fictional film dealing with issues in modern-day Lhasa under Chinese occupation.
  • Phorpa: The Cup, the first feature film made by a Tibetan (Khyentse Norbu, a.k.a Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche), providing a warm-hearted look at monks living in exile in India whose passion for football (soccer) makes waves. Based on a true story that took place in Bir, just two hours from Dharamshala.
  • Travellers and Magicians, Khyentse Norbu’s second film, an engaging parable ripe with Buddhist metaphor, sharp insight and good humour.
  • Seven Years in Tibet, sticks reasonably close to the facts and does a good job of exposing some of the tragic irony of the Chinese occupation and twisted rhetoric.
  • Robert Thurman on Tibet, a more thorough exploration of Tibetan issues.
  • Robert Thurman on Buddhism, an in-depth exploration of Buddhism from an academic perspective.
  • Gandhi, the epic biopic on the life of the “great soul” of India, starring Ben Kingsley.

Do you have a favorite inspiring or informative book or film related to Dharamshala, Tibet, or the spirituality of the region that we haven’t mentioned here? Let us know.