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Theos Bernard, the White Lama


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Theos Bernard, the White Lama recounts the real story behind the purported adventures of Theos Casimir Bernard (1908-1947), the self-proclaimed "White Lama" who in 1937 became the third American in history to reach Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet. Bernard met, associated, and corresponded with the major social, political, and cultural leaders of his day, from the Regent and high politicians of Tibet to saints, scholars, and diplomats of British India, and from Charles Lindbergh and Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Gandhi and Nehru. But he also had his flaws. He was an entrepreneur propelled by grandiose schemes, a handsome man who shamelessly used his looks to bounce from rich wife to rich wife to support his activities, and a master manipulator who concocted his own interpretations of Eastern wisdom to suit his own ends. Despite the bright future ahead of him, Bernard disappeared in India during the communal violence of the 1947 Partition, never to be seen again. Through diaries, interviews, and previously unstudied documents, Paul G. Hackett shares Bernard's compelling life story, along with his efforts to awaken America's religious counterculture to the unfolding events in India, Tibet, and the Himalayas.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations Preface Acknowledgments 1. Life in the Desert 2. New York and New Mexico 3. Two Parallel Paths (I) 4. Two Parallel Paths (II) 5. On Holy Ground 6. Pretense and Pretext: Studies in India 7. A Well-Trodden Path: Studies in Darjeeling and Sikkim 8. Tibet, Tantrikas, and the Hero of Chaksam Ferry 9." The Clipper Ship of the Imagination" 10. Yoga on Fifth Avenue 11. Tibetland and the Penthouse of the Gods 12. To Climb the Highest Mountains 13. The Aftermath 14. Postscript: The View from Ki, Sixty Years Later Notes Bibliography Index

About the Author

Paul G. Hackett is an editor for the American Institute of Buddhist Studies and teaches Classical Tibetan at Columbia University. He is the author of A Tibetan Verb Lexicon and numerous articles on Tibetan language and Buddhist philosophy.


His writing is fluid and at times witty, and the density of the book's detail calls for a close reading...a lively and significant study... -- Michael J. Sweet Buddhadharma Well-written Library Journal A 'must-read' book Practical Matters A detailed and engrossing story about this enigmatic figure's life. -- David M. DiValerio Journal of Buddhist Ethics Hackett's sympathetic account is a page-turner, meticulously documented over a number of years... Well-written... A readable intellectual account of the life of an ambitious Tibetological pioneer. Asian Ethnology Hackett's work is excellently detailed... [his] construction of Theos' story is so interesting it reads both as a novel and as an academic biography. Nova Religio

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