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Visions of Buddhist Life


Visions of Buddhist Life 

Photography and text by Don Farber, Foreword by Huston Smith. Hardcover, 245 pages, 10” x 10 1/2” (University of California Press, 2002)


Don Farber's highly acclaimed photographs open a spectacular view of the beauty and diversity of Buddhist life around the world. His superb eye for composition, his attention to color and detail, and his intimate knowledge of Buddhism come together to produce outstanding, often breathtaking images. A selection of Farber's best work to date, Visions of Buddhist Life brings an important message of compassion, healing, and understanding to today's troubled world. 


The photographs, together with Farber's extensive captions, take us to the temples, monasteries, and colorful streets of Los Angeles, Kyoto, and Bangkok, and travel onward to China, India, Nepal, South Korea, and Taiwan. They depict Buddhists alone and in crowds, in cities rich and poor, in meditation and in conversation. They also picture some of the great teachers of our day--the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Kalu Rinpoche. These images capture some of the last Tibetan masters to have received their training before the Chinese invasion and are a vital documentation of a tradition in danger of vanishing forever. 


A study in the human face, in the art of spiritual devotion, in the evocative power of landscape, this collection of images provides an essential context for understanding Buddhism. Visions of Buddhist Life is also a visual and spiritual journey into a realm where the doctrine of nonviolence is paramount and where peace begins with the thoughts and actions of the individual.   

-- Description from the inside jacket.

“This book is the story of two loves that merged to become one.  Don Farber’s first love was photography, his chosen profession - or more accurately his vocation, for it came to him as a calling.  Then, at a relatively early age, a second love, Buddhism, entered his life and caught up with the first.  The tangible issue from these complementing loves is the book the reader holds in his hands...Farber is not only a master photographer, he is an accomplished portrait photographer. The faces in these photographs will remain with me for a long, long time.”

--Huston Smith, from the foreword to Visions of Buddhist Life


“Visions of Buddhist Life is a beautiful documentation of the diverse world of Buddhist life and practice.  It’s hard for me to review this book without succumbing to the familiar cliches of “inspiring,” “moving,” “breath taking,” etc., because, well, that is exactly what this book is.”

--Andrew Parodi, reviewer for


“Only a handful of photography books - monographs by the likes of Robert Frank, Sebastiao Salgado, Helen Levitt and Elinor Carucci - have moved me as deeply as Farber’s, which seems less a static book than a journey through the author’s spiritual and artistic evolution.  Rather than simply browse through the volume (always a temptation with coffee table books), I read this one from cover to cover, and when I was finished, I felt that I’d been granted a glimpse of Buddhism’s human heart...By the book’s conclusion, we realize that Farber has patiently carved himself unique niches in at least two worlds: visual art and dharma practice.  One of the most impressive things about this book, in fact is that his art and practice are so tightly interwoven; the photographs manage to integrate compassion and mindfulness with a wonderful aesthetic sensibility.  At least a dozen images in Visions of Buddhist Life deserve to be digitally encoded and broadcast to the stars as a counterpoint to the insanity issuing from our radios and televisions.”

--Jeff Greenwald, Inquiring Mind

"Don Farber is one of the most important chroniclers of Buddhism in the twentieth century. Whether he is portraying great teachers or ordinary practitioners, he has a unique ability to capture in a photograph the essence of Buddhist enlightenment."

--Melvin McLeod, Editor-in-chief, Shambhala Sun magazine

"Visions of Buddhist Life is a powerful and moving work, a spiritual odyssey, which beautifully captures the living spirit of Buddhism in today's world... I highly recommend this remarkable book."

--Howard C. Cutler, M.D., co-author with H.H. the Dalai Lama of The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living.


"The global range of Buddhism... is captured in this astonishing book of photos and text."

--USA Today


"This gorgeous, near-square coffee table volume is a loving, beautifully realized tribute to Buddhists around the world."

--Publishers Weekly


"You could take a dozen trips into the Far East . . . and you would still be a dozen years short of the visual breadth of Don Farber's coffee-table photography book. . . It is epic in scope, but quiet enough not to miss the details. . . His monograph contains fine, intimate portraits, as well as full-bodied narrative, with saturated color and strong black-and-white textures."

-- Dallas Morning News


"Inspired and inspiring. . . [A] visual treat."

--Shambhala Sun


"The overall impression is that of a rich and varied celebration. . . . The photographer sets out to open a spectacular view on the beauty and diversity of Buddhism and this he ably does."

--Japan Times


"Since 1987, Don Farber, a Buddhist and Fulbright scholar, has photographed Buddhist life in eight Asian countries and the United States. This beautiful book is a collection of his best work from those travels. As professor of religion and philosophy Huston Smith says in his foreword, 'Farber doesn't tell us what drew him to Buddhism. He shows us.'"

--San Francisco Chronicle


"Devoted eye. Sweet enterprise. Thank you."

--Leonard Cohen


"What a kind, gentle, knowing photo book Don Farber has done here. It has taken a lifetime of commitment and insight for these photos to reach us."

--Richard Gere


"Farber brings us into the temple, monastery, and mountain village with these striking photographs of both ordinary practitioners and many of the great masters. The simple elegance of these images offers a wonderful window into the Buddhist world."

--Sharon Salzberg, co-founder of Insight Meditation Society and author of Lovingkindness and A Heart as Wide as the World


"Don Farber's images capture the beauty of his subjects. However, his skill goes far beyond the surface and draws the viewer into a close experience with the structure of the experience that opens before his lens. This rare talent is essential when directing the gaze toward a sacred object or a holy person. It is an even greater need when holding a moment of religious life in the frame. Farber provides us with pictures which give dignity to aspects of religion and culture that appear as a result of his careful focus and sensitivity to the energy and spirit of each event taking place before him. We are directed in our own viewing by his guidance as people and objects take on a quality that touches our emotions. His pictures teach us much about life and art. In his hands, the camera gives us the nuances that escape all but the most talented of artists. It is a pleasure to see the Buddhist tradition depicted in such a masterful fashion."

--Lewis Lancaster, Professor Emeritus, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, UC Berkeley


“Visions of Buddhist Life is a remarkable contribution to the understanding of the colorful diversity and the serene depth of Buddhism.  We owe a debt of gratitude to Don Farber the this excellent work.”

--Ananda W.P. Guruge, Director, International Academy of Buddhism and former Ambassador of Sri Lanka to UNESCO, France, and the United States

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