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Essential Writings from the Dalai Lama's words

December 1, 2008

Erie author compiles anthology of wisdom and spirituality from Dalai
Lama's words
BY Dana Massing [
The Erie Times News
November 29. 2008 12:01AM

"The Dalai Lama: Essential Writings" by Thomas A. Forsthoefel, $16,
157 pages, Orbis Books.

We have a copy of "The Dalai Lama: Essential Writings" to give away.
Keyword: lama.

We have a copy of "Soulsong" to give away. Keyword: soul.

To enter either drawing, send your full name, address, city, ZIP and
the keyword on a postcard to Faith, c/o Dana Massing, Erie
Times-News, P.O. Box 6215, Erie, PA 16512-6215; or in an e-mail to Entries must be received by Wednesday.
One entry per person per book.

In the Himalayan mountains of Northern India, Mercyhurst College
professor Thomas Forsthoefel encountered the 14th Dalai Lama.

Forsthoefel had been invited to a conference at Dharamsala, the Dalai
Lama's home.

Near the end of the event, the Erie County educator approached the
spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism. The Dalai Lama placed a white
scarf around Forsthoefel's neck and grasped his hands.

"When he held my hands, I was a little startled and self-conscious,"
Forsthoefel said. "I could feel a kind of blessing."

The moment is captured in both Forsthoefel's new book and a
documentary narrated by Harrison Ford.

"The Dalai Lama: Essential Writings" is a 157-page anthology with a
35-page introduction by Forsthoefel, an associate professor and
chairman of the Department of Religious Studies at Mercyhurst.

"Dalai Lama Renaissance" is an 80-minute documentary that had its
U.S. theatrical premiere in May. Its Web site lists the Erie
professor as one of the "characters featured in" the film and shows a
clip of him receiving the blessings scarf.

The footage was shot in 1999 at the conference, to which the Dalai
Lama invited leading thinkers from the West.

"It drew a good number of well-known thinkers and writers and
teachers in contemporary spirituality," said Forsthoefel, who
attended as an observer.

He said that at the end of the conference, anyone could speak during
a session in the Dalai Lama's private chapel. One of the other
attendees said something about looking to the Dalai Lama to save us
from dilemmas and about concerns for social justice that have only
just developed in the past 50 years or so, Forsthoefel said.

He spoke up before the group, saying that it did the Dalai Lama and
themselves a disservice if they looked to anybody to save them in a
singular way.

"We need to step up and take responsibility for issues of injustice
and poverty and combative dynamics in global situations," Forsthoefel
said at the session.

He's not sure whether all that was captured in the documentary
because he hasn't seen it yet. But Forsthoefel might get his chance
in early 2009.

He said the director-producer, Khashyar Darvich, has invited him to
be on stage for a question-and-answer period after a screening in
Cleveland. There's also been talk of showing the documentary at
Mercyhurst, Forsthoefel said.

A scholar of different faith traditions, especially Hinduism and
Buddhism, Forsthoefel said he explores their traditions and
appreciates the wisdom, intensity and passion for the divine he finds
there. His own religious background is Catholic.

His last book, "Soulsong," which examines models of holiness from a
variety of the world's religions, also includes the Dalai Lama and
their encounter.

"Soulsong," like "The Dalai Lama," was published by Orbis Books, the
publishing arm of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers.

The new book is part of the "Modern Spiritual Masters Series."

Robert Ellsberg, general editor of the series, said it has grown to
almost 40 volumes, most about Christians. Exceptions include Thich
Nhat Hahn and Mohandas Gandhi.

All are "people who have had a big impact on Western spirituality,"
Ellsberg said.

He said it was Forsthoefel who proposed including the Dalai Lama in
the series, which aims "to provide short anthologies of essential
writings by great spiritual teachers of our time."

Forsthoefel said he read as much of the Dalai Lama's teachings as he
could and distilled them in short forms "for the busy reader."

The result is entries of Dalai Lama quotes that range from five words
to more than a page full.

Forsthoefel also provides brief introductions to each of the four
chapters: Wisdom, Morality, Meditation, and Religions and the World.

* Dana Massing can be reached at 870-1729 or by e-mail.
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