Theos Bernard, the White Lama: Tibet, Yoga, and American Religious Life
Paul G. Hackett
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In 1937, Theos Casimir Bernard (1908–1947), the self-proclaimed "White Lama," became the third American in history to reach Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet. During his stay, he amassed the largest collection of Tibetan texts, art, and artifacts in the Western hemisphere at that time. He also documented, in both still photography and 16mm film, the age-old civilization of Tibet on the eve of its destruction by Chinese Communists.
Based on thousands of primary sources and rare archival materials, Theos Bernard, the White Lama recounts the real story behind the purported adventures of this iconic figure and his role in the growth of America's religious counterculture. Over the course of his brief life, 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, from Charles Lindbergh and Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Gandhi and Nehru. Although hailed as a brilliant pioneer by the media, Bernard 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 in support of his activities, and a master manipulator who concocted his own interpretation of Eastern wisdom to suit his ends. Bernard had a bright future before him, but 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, the Himalayas, and Tibet. Hackett concludes with a detailed geographical and cultural trace of Bernard's Indian and Tibetan journeys, which shed rare light on the explorer's mysterious disappearance.
morning and it takes from 3 to 6 months to complete it. The completion means the sucking of mercury. After which one can suck water milk honey etc. without a tube and even when erection takes place. Another mention is made of introducing filtered oily medicines in the rectum and bladder for various purposes. Main function tho seems to be to be able to suck one’s own and the wife’s semen back into the urethra, both the semens being reabsorbed into the body from the pores. Also a mention O n H o
teacher, Sukumar Chatterji, then living in Calcutta. Theos and Glen spent the next three days meeting off and P re t e n s e an d P re t ex t : St u die s in I ndia 94 C5744.indb 94 12/20/11 9:22 AM on with Chatterji, who even played some rare recordings of Tibetan music and chants being pressed on the outskirts of Calcutta by the Gramophone record plant in Dum Dum. Determined to get a set of the records for himself, Theos made the journey across the city by trolley and rickshaw, which
that he could halve the Rs. 4,000 expense of copies of the Kangyur and the Tengyur in Calcutta by buying his own paper and shipping it up to Tibet to be printed there. He and Viola decided that it would be a worthwhile expenditure and placed the order with Jinorasa’s cousin, who thought the manuscripts could arrive as early as mid-February. Returning to Kalimpong, Theos began following up on recommendations in the area. He had asked for help in learning Tibetan when he was in Darjeeling, and
a gap in the clouds would reveal vast fields of blooming rhododendron trees towering overhead and tiny mountain flowers just barely jutting out of the otherwise seamless white snow. At other times, the trail wound around narrow cliff edges passing over streams and underneath roaring waterfalls, whose spray made the rain showers seem gentle and tepid by comparison. When the small party of wet travelers finally crossed the last ridge of the day, the sight before them struck Theos as the most
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