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In Memory of a Banyan Tree: Poems of the Outside World: 1985 to 2022
Three Wooden Trunks
The Country Where Everyone’s Name Is Fear: Selected Poems
Tales of a Dalai Lama  
  Pierre Delattre

ISBN 978-0-89924-099-2 (cloth) | 978-0-89924-098-5 (paper)     $24.95 (cloth) | $14.95 (paper)  /  $16 (paper) | $28 (cloth) (Canada)     5.5 x 8.5       

192 pp      
PUB DATE: Spring 2000       Fiction


Excerpt from the Preface

When I was writing this book of adult fairy tales back in l970, the Dalai Lama was still a young man living in exile in India. We in the West received only the vaguest rumors about what the Chinese were doing to Tibet. Had I known that the lamaseries were being reduced to rubble, the monks tortured, killed, or driven into exile, the religious life suppressed, the native people treated as second-class citizens, I doubt that I could have written with such levity, even though I knew that levity and not gravity (seeking the happiness of all sentient beings) is the Tibetan way to enlightenment.

Very little was known about the real Fourteenth Dalai Lama. Though I had taken my graduate degree in religious studies, and had recently, like my neighbor Alan Watts, made a transition from Christianity toward an interest in the religious philosophies of the East, I certainly lacked the authority to write about the subtleties of Tibetan Buddhism. Much as this philosophy of karmic consequence—of how to live and how to die—attracted me, my aim was not to write about the facts of religion but to pursue the possibilities of fiction as a path to spiritual understanding. Spiritual humor was my chosen venue, having been much influenced in childhood by fairy tales, and in adult life by the Sufi storytellers, by Gurdjieff, by stories about Ramakrishna and Rumi, by the writings of Antoine de Sainte-Exupery, particularly The Little Prince, and by that extravagant raconteuse of magic and mystery in Tibet, Alexandra David-Neel, I found my imagination playing with the notion of what it must be like to be at once a child, a king, and a Buddhist incarnation of holiness within a world still resonating with pre-Buddhist mystery and magic. Because I wrote less as a savant than as a naïf with a certain degree of religious experience, it seemed appropriate, and hopefully modest, to assume the viewpoint of a somewhat mischievous child. . . .

. . . I want to express my appreciation for the real Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet in his efforts to transmit teachings about human understanding and compassion, and for the delight he gives us in being alive. This must be an especially difficult period for him with so many of his people wanting to take a politically more confrontational approach. All of us who have come to appreciate the Tibetan people pray that the issue of return to the homeland be resolved in such a way that both they and their Chinese occupiers (née neighbors) emerge from the ordeal freer in spirit and more enlightened in mind. And I want to thank the Tibetan people for their unique generation of spiritual energy into the hearts and imaginations of all humankind.

Pierre Delattre, July 1998

About the Author

Pierre Delattre

Pierre Delattre is a writer and painter living in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo mountains in northern New Mexico between Santa Fe and Taos. Tales of a Dalai Lama was his first book of fiction, followed by Walking On Air, and Episodes, a memoir. He has published stories, poems and essays in many magazines, and has just completed a book of essays entitled The Art of Beauty.

Pierre Delattre's paintings have been on exhibit in several galleries in and around Santa Fe, and at his home studio in Penasco, where he lives with his wife, the painter Nancy Ortenstone. Mr. Delattre took his graduate degree in Religion and the Arts from the University of Chicago Divinity School, and has been involved in the relationship between art and spirituality ever since, including work in theatre, music, television and film, with emphasis on spiritual humor.



Pierre Delattre's joyful book, Tales of a Dalai Lama, records earthbound flights of the spirit, like a bridge over silence. Here is a work of fiction with language simple and beautiful, detailing the structure of the faith of the Tibetan people as seen through the eyes of the awestruck, funny, and wise Dalai Lama, sometimes old and sometimes young. Here is fiction at its best, sure in its footing, centered in writing as an art, fulfilling its own functions and overcoming its own obstacles, bearing the reader along a path of zen grabbers, belly laughs, and glimpses of enlightenment while experiencing the nobility of faith.

—Ed Swan, Pacific Northwest Review of Books

Brilliantly filigreed, airborne, cautionary tales . . . Delattre's wry, reed-thin humor achieves both intimacy and an agreeable distance from which to propagate the mythic/erotic paradoxical verities of The Way.

—The Kirkus Services

Pierre Delattre tells several stories in Tales of a Dalai Lama which illustrate a benign objective sense of humor.

—John C. Lilly, author of Simulations of God

Destined to become a minor classic.

—Robert Somerlott, The Mexico City News

Mysticism laced with laughter.

—John Barkham, Saturday Review Syndicate

Erase and Record Again

The Dalai Lama took the portable tape recorder he had received as a gift from the Japanese legation up to the roof of the Potala on a very still night. He pressed the re­cord button and went to sleep. Awakened by the sound of the tape’s tail flapping, he ran the tape back and listened very attentively. He could hear the galaxy droning slowly around and around through space.

He could remember how he had created the cosmos. He ran the tape back and recorded his words:

Let there be those, let there be these.
Let there be fish, let there be trees.
Let there be fowl, let there be fair.
Let there be here, let there be there.
Let there be water, let there be air.
Let there be fire, let there be earth.
Let there be death, let there be birth.
Let there be good, let there be evil.
Let there be grass, let there be blue.
Let there be me, let there be you . . .

On and on went his voice into the microphone, naming everything he could think of until the tape ran out. He erased it and started over. He erased the cave men and the dinosaurs, he erased the prayer councils and the wars, he erased rain dances, shaman trances, erased scimitars and lances. He just kept erasing the old and replacing it with new, and the words revolved endlessly on the wheel in easy poetry, born and dying in his mind like so many uncountable stars blazing and burning out.

When he was tired, he slept again while the voices overhead in the celestial dome hummed on.