There’s a common misconception that Tantric yoga is somewhat esoteric, or confined to Tibet. Yet in “The Extasie”, a poem written in 1595 or thereabouts, John Donne writes of a couple who become “by good love … grown all mind.” Buddha Sakyamuni is reputed to have said “If the body is not mastered, the mind cannot be mastered. If the body is mastered, mind is mastered.”
We all belong somewhere: a place of our birth, the origin of our being. But there are those who belong to nowhere, an existence without a motherland, or circling in-between, as if in bardo. The Tibetan Suitcase is a story of the peripatetic life of the protagonist, an Indian-born Tibetan.
Hagiography. What a fascinating word; at one time I thought the “hag” implied the study of witches! The word, which of course literally means “writings on [the lives of] saints”, has also taken on a pejorative meaning, in the sense that since saints are supposedly exceptionally good people, even considered “perfectly-formed at birth” as Alexander Gardner puts it, admiringly servile biographies which flatter exceptionally bad people or even mediocrities must also be hagiographies, because they make those people look like saints.
Ah, Tibet! This is the land of stupendous mountain vistas, prayer flags flapping in the breeze, monasteries perched precariously on hillsides and gentle orange-clad lamas chanting Buddhist prayers in incense-filled temples. And then, along comes Tsering Döndrup to spoil it all.
Professor Holly Gayley offers a full translation of the tantric love letters between Namtrul Rinpoche and Khandro Tare Lhamo, two Buddhist lamas who worked to preserve Tibetan Buddhist culture in the wake of the Chinese Cultural Revolution.
Christians have Jesus, the Jews the Messiah, Muslims the Mahdi, and Buddhists Maitreya. All these names are applied to someone who will, at some time, appear on earth as a representative, regent or successor of the principal object of religious veneration.
In the summer of 1792, the Qianlong Emperor was confronted with a uniquely Tibetan Buddhist problem: Qing authorities had discovered the Eighth Dalai Lama, Seventh Panchen Lama, the Fourth Jetsundamba, several other prominent reincarnate lineages, and a distinguished Tibetan statesman, were embedded in a web of kinship ties. “… How is it possible that the reincarnations of all the major kutuktus of Tibet have come to appear only in the noble households?” he remarked in a letter to one of his most trusted generals.