The Dalai Lama has just answered the last question on my list. We were coming to the end of my fourth interview with him for a magazine story. Like most who talk to him, I felt I’d met an exceptional human being and was inspired as much as awed. It was hard to pinpoint why. He answered my questions in a businesslike manner, but he did so in a way that made me wonder at the untapped possibility inside each of us.
Outside in the sunshine, a loud flock of mynah birds swooped through the forest that surrounds his small bungalow on a hilltop above the plains of India. He has purposely not re-created the pomp and splendor of the Potala in Lhasa since he fled his homeland in 1959 after the Chinese invasion. He calls himself a simple Buddhist monk, and there is a Zen-like sparseness to the rooms he inhabits in exile.
He adjusted his wine-red robe, and his rich brown eyes calmly stared at me, waiting for my next questions. I brushed my sweaty palms across my jacket and looked at the blank half of the page, below my prepared questions. I summoned my courage and explained that although I am not a historian, I wanted to write a history of Tibet.
He looked at me quizzically. "There are excellent academic histories of Tibet," I explained, “but what is lacking is a popular history of Tibet-aimed at modern Westerners and Chinese-that is accurate, concise, and easy to read. You told me two years ago, in our first meeting, that Tibetan history is complex. You sounded despondent, as if it was impossible to explain Tibet’s history to the average person. The way you said that haunted me, and since then I found myself reading everything available about Tibetan history. It is not impossible. I want to strip