The Columns

Book Burning Targets Alumnus

— by on February 10th, 2011

Authors want their books to garner notice: good reviews, robust sales, enthusiastic readers. Having one’s book burned in protest, however, isn’t usually on the wish list. Erik Curren, a member of Washington and Lee’s Class of 1987, found this out last week, when his 2006 book, Buddha’s Not Smiling: Uncovering Corruption at the Heart of Tibetan Buddhism Today, went up in flames during a Feb. 5 protest in Gangtok, Sikkin, India, located in the eastern Himalayan Mountains.

As one can surmise from his book’s subtitle, Curren touched a nerve, in this case with followers of Ogyen Trinley Droje, the head of the Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Some Buddhists see him as the successor to the Dalai Lama; others back a different candidate. To complicate things, some Indians believe he has unsavory ties to the Chinese government. Curren examined the controversy in his book and found evidence for the charges of corruption. The group that organized the Feb. 5 protest told the Augusta Free Press that Curren’s book contained inaccurate information and that he did not contact them for comment, charges he denies.

Curren, a Buddhist himself, told Charlottesville’s WVIR-TV, “On the one hand I’m glad that people are taking my book seriously. On the other hand I’m appalled that in today’s day and age, something like a book burning is considered to be a valid form of communication about a controversial issue.”

Curren is the managing partner of the Curren Media Group in Staunton, Va.