Every now and then people ask what my favorite book is and I can never say, but for now, at least until I find another one, I can say that David Mitchie’s The Magician of Lhasa is it. I first came across fellow Australian, David Mitchie’s writing with his book The Dalai Lama’s Cat, but this book is more dramatic than that and has more of a story in terms of plot.
The Magician of Lhasa is the kind of metaphysical fiction that I really enjoy. The metaphysics enlighten the character’s situation and provide points of wisdom for contemplation that further the plot, and this is what metaphysical fiction should do. Some works that use the metaphysical fiction handle fail to have much of a plot; they’re more a delving into some metaphysical construct than a strong story with the kind of dramatic elements that a good story requires; such books are dull, but not this one. Anyone writing metaphysical fiction should read this and take note. Mitchie is a master of the genre.
The Magician of Lhasa starts with a sad era in the history of Tibet, the Chinese invasion, and documents the story of three monks journey across the Himalayas to freedom in India. They are carrying ancient, rare and precious texts that must be saved from destruction by Chinese soldiers. Mitchie clearly lays out the importance of these texts, written by Padmasambhava himself, and the value placed on them by the monks. In contrast, the complete disregard of the Chinese soldiers for the value of the wisdom held within in shocking, and their ignorance sad. The kind of contempt and cruelty they display in their treatment of the monks is also in stark contrast to the monks ability to handle their dire circumstances with wisdom and compassion. It may look like the Chinese are winning, but clearly, in all ways that are important, those who carry the dharma in their heart are the true winners.
The chapters on the monks journey are interspersed with the story of a Western scientist who shifts from London to Los Angeles. His challenges are that of the modern man, very different to those of the monks, but distressing for him nevertheless. Although I knew there would be a link between the two sections of the book, the type of link still came as a surprise, and it shows the depth of the Tibetan wisdom tradition in a powerful and moving way. The story also allows Mitchie to share the results of modern research into the effects of meditation on the brain and to draw parallels between the monks and the scientist’s view of the world.
Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in metaphysical fiction and Buddhist fiction in particular. This book is more than just a story; like my own books, it contains real wisdom and real magic.