Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

The Story of Tibet

Conversations with the Dalai Lama

by Thomas Laird

“A readable, fascinating account of Tibet’s history from the beginning. . . . Laird teaches a memorable and vivid history lesson about a remote mysterious place that, in terms of its sheer survival, has implications for our own lives.” —Susan Larson, New Orleans Times Picayune

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 496
  • Publication Date October 16, 2007
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4327-3
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $17.00

About The Book

“It is important to understand the past as we are trying to find solutions for the future.” —His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Over the course of three years, journalist Thomas Laird spent more than sixty hours with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in candid one-on-one interviews in Dharamsala, India. They discussed His Holiness’s lifelong study of Buddhism and his beliefs on history, science, and reincarnation. Through these conversations, Laird and the Dalai Lama laid the cornerstones of a popular history of Tibet, something that has not been done with a Dalai Lama since the 1600s.

This was an enormous project, and the result is The Story of Tibet, a vibrant historical narrative that brings these meetings to life. It reveals the presence, character, and ideas of the Dalai Lama, and it introduces the reader to fourteen hundred years of civilization, myth, and spirituality.

Tibet’s story is both rich with tradition and filled with promise. It begins with the Bodhisattva Chenrizi (“The Holy One”), whom Tibetans believe manifests in the Dalai Lama. We learn the origins of Buddhism and the era of Tibet’s emperors, whose reign stretched from southwestern China to northern India. His Holiness introduces us to Tibet’s greatest yogis and meditation masters and explains how the institution of the Dalai Lama was founded. Embedded throughout this journey is His Holiness’s lessons on the larger roles religion and spirituality have played in Tibet’s story, reflecting the Dalai Lama’s belief that history should be examined not only conventionally but holistically.

Traveling across great distances to offer vivid descriptions of Tibet’s greatest monasteries, Laird explores, with His Holiness, Tibet’s relations with the Mongols, the Golden Age under the Great Fifth Dalai Lama, contact with the Manchu empire, the four decades of modern independence in the first half of the twentieth century, and the Dalai Lama’s personal meetings with Mao Tse-Tung just before His Holiness fled into exile in 1959.

The Story of Tibet is His Holiness’s personal look at his country’s past. With so much of Tibetan identity based on oral history, this is a work of monumental importance, and a crucial addition to our understanding of Tibet.


“This book presents a much wider range of material than we are accustomed to hearing discussed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. . . . it is the Dalai Lama’s mastery of a wealth of historical information that makes this captivating reading. He candidly discusses topics such as the early history of Buddhism in Tibet, the first incarnate lama, his memories of Chairman Mao, and his favorite image of the Buddha.” —Tricycle

“A thoughtful dialogue . . . about Tibet’s past not simply as a sequence of events, but as seen through the perspectives of myth, spirituality, morality, human frailty and fate. . . . Will deepen general readers’ knowledge of Tibet, its religion and its engaging leader.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A readable, fascinating account of Tibet’s history from the beginning. . . . Laird teaches a memorable and vivid history lesson about a remote mysterious place that, in terms of its sheer survival, has implications for our own lives.” —Susan Larson, New Orleans Times Picayune

“The 14th Dalai Lama’s fresh account of Tibetan myth and history, as shared at Dharamsala over a three year period with Thomas Laird, is wonderful instruction and a great true pleasure, not less so because of the small informal moments that clarify these encounters with that delightful Buddha being who manifests in the beleaguered public figure of His Holiness.” —Peter Matthiessen, author of The Snow Leopard, National Book Award winner

“Thomas Laird’s lively conversations with His Holiness the Dalai Lama about the history and mythology of Tibet couldn’t come at a better moment, as China stubbornly persists in negating the distinctive Tibetan identity. The honestly, subtlety, and complexity of His Holiness’ thoughts on these crucial matters comes through in these fascinating dialogues. Everyone who cares about Tibet, or about a stable peace in Asia, should read this amazing account.” —Robert Thurman, author of Inner Revolution, Professor of Buddhist studies, Columbia University

“Thomas Laird captures the beauty, the magnificence, the humor of this world spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.” —James Lilley, former U.S. Ambassador to China and South Korea, and author of China Hands: Nine Decades of Adventure, Espionage, and Diplomacy in Asia

“A tenderly crafted study that is equal parts love letter, traditional history and oral history. . . . Throughout, Laird’s colorful and lively writing brings to life thousands of years of Tibetan history, inviting the reader on his journey to a strange and wonderful land.” —Publisher’s Weekly

The Story of Tibet: Conversations With the Dalai Lama by Thomas Laird . . . is a work of real value . . . a narrative that is readable, instructive, and at times touching.” —Straight.com

“Deeply absorbing . . . valuable and fascinating . . .” —Mick Brown, The Telegraph (UK)

“A fascinating journey to a strange and wonderful country. . . . An amazing account.” —Robert Maddox, Derby Evening Telegraph (UK)

“The Dalai Lama’s input is invaluable in the telling of a story that has been the victim of disinformation and revisionist history. The result is an authoritative guide to Tibet’s turbulent past (and present).” —Gary Osborn Clarke, Western Daily Press (UK)

“This is the Dalai Lama’s personal look at his country’s past as well as a summary of his life’s work as the leader of the Tibetan people.” —Goof Book Guide (UK)

“The research and academic weight of this study is breathtaking. . . . The cut-and-thrust debate between Laird and the Dalai Lama . . . brings the history alive. Laird reveals much about the personality and human frailties of the Tibetan leader, what rattles him and when he felt acutely betrayed.” —Claire Scobie, The Age (Australia)

“A significant contribution to the outpouring of recent writings on Tibet.” —Harold M. Otness, Library Journal

“Laird uncovers a history of Tibet not found in other books about the country.” —Colette Davidson, Phayul

Praise for Into Tibet:

“Thomas Laird examines a little-known incident in the Cold War and thereby throws a brilliant light upon the character of America’s intelligence and foreign-policy organizations of the time. . . . A fascinating, groundbreaking work on a controversial subject about which few readers will be familiar. Packed with vital new information and insights, Into Tibet fills a blank space in the hidden history of the Cold War.” —Chris Patsilelis, Houston Chronicle

“Helps illuminate what the agency was doing in the birth of the Cold War . . . A gripping tale.” —James Rupert, The Washington Post

“A scrupulously documented account of Cold War intrigue . . . [Provides] a detailed view into the CIA’s shadowy world and the havoc it wreaks on individual lives . . . A grippingly good narrative.” —The Village Voice

Into Tibet brings alive the remarkable adventure of two American Heinrich Harrers and an event the CIA would still, more than fifty years later, like to keep quiet.” —Bruce Barcott, Outside Magazine


“How old were you,” I asked the Dalai Lama, “when you first realized that you were a Tulku, a Rinpoche, a reincarnate Lama?”

“Maybe five or six years old,” he replied. “My mother told me that I insisted once that I would like to go to the Chensalingkha (a building in the Norbulingka compound built by the Thirteenth Dalai Lama). She told me that we entered one room, and I pointed to one box and said to open it. My teeth would be there. The officials opened it and they found the (false) teeth of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama in there. I don’t remember, but my mother told me.”

“In Lhasa,” I asked the Dalai Lama, “Do you remember anyone saying to you, ‘Oh you have returned.’ Did they strongly believe that you were the same man returned?”

“There was one experience like that with Tsarong Dhasang Damdul, whom people at that time did not consider to be very religious minded, since he was very close with Western people and his lifestyle, including his food and dress, were more Western. Once he came to offer me a khata, a white scarf, and we casually spoke about his own experiences with the Thirteenth Dalai Lama. Then he said, ‘And now today the Thirteenth Dalai Lama has taken such a beautiful age,’ and he cried and cried.”