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, White Lama recounts the real story behind the purported adventures of this iconic figure and his role in America's religious counterculture. During his brief span, 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 the saints, scholars, and diplomats of British India, from Charles Lindbergh and Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Gandhi and Nehru. Bernard also had his flaws. He was a traveler 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 and eventually disappeared in India during the communal violence of the 1947 Partition.
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Columbia University Press
April 09, 2012
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