The impulse to believe the absurd when presented with the unknowable is called religion. Whether this is wise or unwise is the domain of doctrine. Once you understand someone's doctrine, you understand their rationale for believing the absurd. At that point, it may no longer seem absurd. You can get to both sides of this conondrum from here.


Postby admin » Fri Jun 19, 2015 2:20 am



The totalitarian Lamaist state (the Tibetan Buddhocracy), headed by its absolute ruler, the Dalai Lama, was — as contradictory as this may at first appearance seem to be — only one of the power-political forces which decisively shaped the history of Tibet. On the other side we find all the disintegrative and anti-state forces which constantly challenged the clerical sphere as dangerous opponents. As we shall soon see, within the whole social structure they represented the forces of anarchy: "Thus, Tibetans understand power both“, writes Rebecca Redwood French, "as a highly centralized, rigidly controlled and hierarchically determined force and as a diffuse and multivalent force” (Redwood French, 1995, p. 108). What are these "diffuse and multivalent” forces and how does the "highly centralized … and hierarchically determined” Buddhist state deal with them?

The powers which rebelled against the established monastic order in the Tibet of old were legion — above all the all-powerful nature of the country. Extreme climactic conditions and the huge territory, barely developed in terms of transport logistics, rendered effective state control by the lamas only partially realizable. But the problems were not just of the factual kind. In addition, from the Tibetan, animist point of view, the wilds of nature are inhabited by countless gods, demons, and spirits, who must all be brought under control: the lu — water spirits which contaminate wells and divert rivers; the nyen — tree spirits that cause illnesses, especially cancer; the jepo — the harmful ghosts of bad kings and lamas who broke their vows; the black dü — open rebels who deliberately turn against the Dharma; the mamo, also black — a dangerous breed of witches and harpies; the sa — evil astral demons; and many others. They all posed a daily threat for body and soul, life and possession in the Tibet of old and had to be kept in check through constant rituals and incantations. This animist world view is still alive and well today despite Chinese communist materialism and rationalism and is currently experiencing an outright renaissance.

But it was not enough to have conquered and enchained (mostly via magic rituals) the nature spirits listed. They then required constant guarding and supervision so that they did not resume their mischief. Even the deities known as dharmapalas, who were supposed to protect the Buddhist teachings, tended to forget their duties from time to time and turn against their masters (the lamas). This “omnipresence of the demonic” kept the monks and the populace in a constant state of alarm and caused an extreme tension within the Tibetan culture.

On the social level it was, among other things, the high degree of criminality which time and again provoked Tibetan state Buddhism and was seen as subversive. The majority of westerners traveling in Tibet (in the time before the Chinese occupation) reported that the brigandry in the country represented a general nuisance. Certain nomadic tribes, the Khampas for example, regarded robbery as a lucrative auxiliary income or even devoted themselves to it full-time. They were admittedly feared but definitely not despised for this, but were rather seen as the heroes of a robber romanticism widespread in the country. To go out without servants and unarmed was also considered dangerous in the Lhasa of old. One lived in constant fear of being held up.

In terms of popular culture, there were strong currents of an original, anarchist (non-Buddhist) shamanism which coursed through the whole country and were not so easily brought under the umbrella of a Buddhist concept of state. The same was true of the Nyingmapa sect, whose members had a very libertarian and vagabond lifestyle. In addition, there were the wandering yogis and ascetics as further representatives of “anarchy”. And last but not least, the great orders conducted an unrelenting competitive campaign against one another which was capable of bringing the entire state to the edge of chaos. If, for example, the Sakyapas were at the high point of their power, then the Kagyupas would lay in wait so as to discover their weaknesses and bring them down. If the Kagyupas seized control over the Land of Snows, then they would be hampered by the Gelugpas with help from the Mongolians.

The Lamaist state and anarchy have always stood opposed to one another in Tibetan history. But can we therefore say that Buddhism always and without fail took on the role of the state which found itself in constant conflict with all the non-Buddhist forces of anarchy? We shall see that the social dynamic was more complex than this. Tantric Buddhism is itself — as a result of the lifestyle which the tantras require — an expression of “anarchy”, but only partially and only at times. In the final instance it succeeds in combining both the authoritarian state and an anarchic lifestyle, or, to put it better, in Tibet (and now in the West) the lamas have developed an ingenious concept and practice through which to use anarchy to shore up the Buddhocracy. Let us examine this more closely through a description of the lives of various tantric “anarchists”.

The grand sorcerers (Maha Siddhas):

The anarchist element in the Buddhist landscape is definitely not unique to Tibet. The founding father, Shakyamuni himself, displayed an extremely anti-state and antisocial behavior and later required the same from his followers.

Instead of taking up his inheritance as a royal ruler, he chose homelessness; instead of opting for his wife and harem, he chose abstinence; instead of wealth he sought poverty. But the actual “anarchist” representatives of Buddhism are the 84 grand sorcerers or Maha Siddhas, who make up the legendary founding group of Vajrayana and from whom the various lineages of Tibetan Buddhism are traced. Hence, in order to consider the origins of the anti-state currents in Tibetan history, we must cast a glance over the border into ancient India.

All of the stories about the Maha Siddhas tell of the spectacular adventures they had to go through to attain their goal of enlightenment (i.e., the ritual absorption of gynergy). Had they succeeded in this, then they could refer to themselves as “masters of the maha mudra”. The number 84 does not correspond to any historical reality. Rather, we are dealing with a mystical number here which symbolizes perfection in several Indian religious systems. Four of the Maha Siddhas were women. They all lived in India between the eighth and twelfth centuries.

The majority of these grand sorcerers came from the lower social strata. They were originally fishermen, weavers, woodcutters, gardeners, bird-catchers, beggars, servants, or similar. The few who were members of the higher castes — the kings, brahmans, abbots, and university lecturers — all abandoned their privileges so as to lead the life of the mendicant wandering yogis as “drop-outs”. But their biographies have nothing in common with the pious Christian legends — they are violent, erotic, demonic, and grotesque. The American, Keith Dowman, stresses the rebellious character of these unholy holy men: "Some of these Siddhas are iconoclasts, dissenters, anti-establishment rebels. [...] Obsessive caste rules and regulations in society and religious ritual as an end in itself, were undermined by the siddhas’ exemplary free living” (Dowman, 1985, pp. 2). Dowman explicitly refers to their lifestyle as "spiritual anarchism” which did not allow of any control by institutionalism (Dowman, 1985, p. 3).

Ling-tsang Gyalpo – a great Nyinma Phurba Master

The relationship with a woman so as to perform the sexual magic rites with her was at the core of every Siddha’s life. Whether king or beggar, they all preferred girls from the lower castes — washer-women, prostitutes, barmaids, dancing girls, or cemetery witches.

The grand sorcerers’ clothes and external appearance was also in total contradiction to the image of the Buddhist monks. They were demonically picturesque. With naked torsos, the Maha Siddhas wore a fur loincloth, preferably that of a beast of prey. Huge rings hung from their ears and about their necks swung necklaces of human bone. In contrast to the ordained bhiksus (monks) the grand sorcerers never shaved their heads, instead letting their hair grow into a thick mane which they bound together above their heads in a knot. Their style more resembled that of the Shivaite yogis and it was difficult to recognize them as traditional followers of Gautama Buddha. Many of the Maha Siddhas were thus equally revered by both the Shivaites and the Buddhists. From this the Indologist, Ramachandra Rao, concludes that in the early phase of Tantrism the membership of a particular religious current was in no way the deciding criterion for a yogi’s world view, rather, it was the tantric technique which made them all (independent of their religious affiliation) members of a single esoteric community (Ramachandra Rao, 1989, p. 42).

The Maha Siddhas wanted to provoke. Their “demonic nihilism” knew no bounds. They shocked people with their bizarre appearance, were even disrespectful to kings and as a matter of principle did the opposite of what one would expect of either an “ordinary” person or an ordained Mahayana monk. It was a part of their code of honor to publicly represent their mystic guild through completely unconventional behavior. Instead of abstinence they enjoyed brandy, rather than peacemakers they were ruffians. The majority of them took mind-altering drugs. They were dirty and unkempt. They collected alms in a skull bowl. Some of them proudly fed themselves with human body parts which lay scattered about the crematoria. We have reported upon their erotic practices in detail in the first part of our study, and likewise upon their boundless power fantasies which did not shy at any crime. Hence, the magic powers (siddhis) were at the top of their wish list, even if it is repeatedly stressed in the legends that the “worldly” siddhis were of only secondary importance. Telepathy, clairvoyance, the ability to fly, to walk on water, to raise the dead, to kill the living by power of thought — they constantly performed wonders in their immediate environs so as to demonstrate their superiority.

But how well can this “spiritual anarchism” of the Maha Siddhas be reconciled with the Buddhist conception of state? In his basic character the Siddha is an opponent of all state hierarchies and every form of discipline. All the formalities of life are repugnant to him — marriage, occupation, position, official accolades and recognition. But this is only temporarily valid, then once the yogi has attained a state of enlightenment a wonderful and ordered world arises from this in accordance with the law of inversion. Thanks to the sexual magic rites of Tantrism the brothel bars have now become divine palaces, nauseating filth has become diamond-clear purity, stinking excrement shining pieces of gold, horny hetaeras noble queens, insatiable hate undying love, chaos order, anarchy the absolute state. The monastic state is, as we shall show in relation to the “history of the church” in Tibet, the goal; the “wild life” of the Maha Siddhas in contrast is just a transitional phase.

For this reason we should not refer to the tantric yogi simply as a “spiritual anarchist” as does Keith Dowman, nor as a “villain”. Rather, he is a disciplined hero of the “good”, who dives into the underworld of erotic love and crime so as to stage a total inversion there, in that he transforms everything negative into its positive. He is no libertarian free thinker, but rather an “agent” of the monastic community who has infiltrated the red-light and criminal milieu for tactic spiritual reasons. But he does not always see his task as being to transform the whores, murderers and manslaughterers into saints, rather he likewise understands it as being to make use of their aggression to protect and further his own ideas and interests.

The anarchist founding father of Tibetan Buddhism: Padmasambhava:

The most famous of all the great magicians of Tibet is, even though he is not one of the 84 Maha Siddhas, the Indian, Padmasambhava, the “Lotus Born”. The Tibetans call him Guru Rinpoche, “valuable teacher”. He is considered to be not just an emanation of Avalokiteshvara (like the Dalai Lama) but is himself also, according to the doctrine of the “Great Fifth”, a previous incarnation of the Tibetan god-king. The reader should thus always keep in mind that the current Fourteenth Dalai Lama is accountable for the wild biography of Guru Rinpoche as his own former life.

Legend tells of his wondrous birth from a lotus flower — hence his name (padma means ‘lotus’). He appeared in the form of an eight-year-old boy “without father or mother”, that is, he gave rise to himself. The Indian king Indrabhuti discovered him in the middle of a lake, and brought the lotus boy to his palace and reared him as a son. In the iconography, Padmasambhava may be encountered in eight different forms of appearance, behind each of this a legend can be found. His trademark, which distinguishes him from all other Tibetan “saints”, is an elegant “French” goatee. He holds the kathanga, a rod bearing three tiny impaled human heads, as his favorite scepter. His birthplace in India, Uddiyana, was famed and notorious for the wildness of the tantric practices which were cultivated there.

Around 780 C.E. the Tibetan king, Trisong Detsen, fetched Padmasambhava into Tibet. The political intentions behind this royal summons were clear: the ruler wanted to weaken the power of the mighty nobles and the caste of the Bon priests via the introduction of a new religion. Padmasambhava was supposed to replace at court the Indian scholar, Shantarakshita, (likewise a Buddhist), who had proved too weak to assert himself against the recalcitrant aristocracy.

Guru Rinpoche, in contrast, was already considered to be a tantric superman in Uddiyana. He demanded his own weight in gold bars of the king as his fee for coming. When he finally stood before Trisong Detsen, the king demanded that he demonstrate his respect with a bow. Instead of doing so, Guru Rinpoche sprayed lightning from his fingertips so that it was the king who sank to his knees and recognized the magician as the appropriate ally with whom to combat the Bon priests, likewise skilled in magic things. The guru was thus bitterly hated by these and by the nobles, even the king’s ministers treated him with the greatest hostility imaginable.

Statue of Padmasambhava

The saga has made Padmasambhava the founding father of Tibetan Buddhism. His life story is a fantastic collection of miracles which made him so popular among the people that he soon enjoyed a greater reverence than the historical Buddha, whose life appeared sober and pale in comparison. Reports about Guru Rinpoche and his writings are drawn primarily from the termas (treasures) already mentioned above, which, it is claimed, he himself hid so that they would come to light centuries later.

From a very young age the boy already stood out because of his abnormal and violent nature. He killed a sleeping baby by throwing a stone at it and justified this deed with the pretense that the child would have become a malignant magician who would have harmed many people in his later life. Apart from his royal adoptive father, Indrabhuti, no-one accepted this argument, and several people attempted to bring him to justice. At the urgings of a minister he was first confined to a palace by soldiers. Shortly afterward the guru appeared upon the roof of the building, naked except for a “sixfold bone ornament”, and with a vajra and a trident in his hands. The people gathered rapidly to delight in the odd spectacle, among them one of the hostile ministers with his wife and son. Suddenly and without warning Padmasambhava’s vajra penetrated the brain of the boy and the trident speared through the heart of the mother fatally wounding both of them.

The pot boiled over at this additional double murder and the entire court now demanded that the wrongdoer be impaled. Yet once again he succeeded in proving that the murder victims had earned their violent demise as the just punishment for their misdeeds in earlier lives. It was decided to refrain from the death penalty and to damn Padmasambhava instead. Thereupon a troupe of dancing dakinis appeared in the skies leading a miraculous horse by the halter. Guru Rinpoche mounted it and vanished into thin air. Acts of violence were to continue to characterize his future life.

As much as he was a master of tantric erotic love, he decisively rejected the institution of marriage. When Indrabhuti wanted to find him a wife, he answered by saying that women were like wild animals without minds and that they vainly believed themselves to be goddesses. There were, however, exceptions, as well hidden as a needle in a haystack, and if he would have to marry then he should be brought such an exception. After many unsuccessful presentations, Bhasadhara was finally found. With her he began his tantric practices, so that “the mountains shook and the gales blew”.

The marriage did not last long. Like the historical Buddha, Guru Rinpoche turned his back on the entertaining palace life of his adoptive father and chose as his favorite place to stay the crematoria of India. He was in the habit of meditating there, and there he held his constant rendezvous with terrible-looking witches (dakinis). One document reports how he dressed in the clothes of dead and fed upon their decomposing flesh (Herrmann-Pfand, 1992, p. 195). He is supposed to have visited a total of eight cemeteries in order to there and then fight out a magical initiation battle with the relevant officiating dakinis.

His most spectacular encounter was definitely the meeting with Guhya Jnana, the chief of the terror goddesses, one of the appearances of Vajrayogini. She lived in a castle made of human skulls. When Padmasambhava reached the gates he was unable to enter the building, despite his magic powers. He instructed a servant to inform her mistress of his visit. When she returned without having achieved anything he tried once more with all manner of magic to gain entry. The girl laughed at him, took a crystal knife and slit open her torso with it. The endless retinue of all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas appeared within her insides. “I am just a servant”, she said. Only now was Padmasambhava admitted.

Guhya Jnana sat upon her throne. In her hands she held a double-ended drum and a skull bowl and was surrounded by 32 servant girls. The yogi bowed down with great respect and said, “Just as all Buddhas through the ages had their gurus, so I ask you to be my teacher and to take me on as your pupil” (Govinda, 1984, p. 226). Thereupon she assembled the whole pantheon of gods within her breast, transformed the petitioner into a seed syllable and swallowed him. Whilst the syllable lay upon her lips she gave him the sacrament of Amitabha, whilst he rested in her stomach he was initiated into the secrets of Avalokiteshvara. After leaving her lotus (i.e., vagina) he received the sacraments of the body, the speech, and the spirit. Only now had he attained his immortal vajra body.

This scene also grants the feminine force an outstanding status within the initiation process. But there are several versions of the story. In another account it is Padmasambhava who dissolves Vajrayogini within his heart. Jeffrey Hopkins even describes a tantra technique in which the pupil imagines himself to be the goddess so as to then be absorbed by his teacher who visualizes himself as Guru Rinpoche (Hopkins, 1982, p. 180).

Without doubt, Padmasambhava’s relationship with Yeshe Tshogyal, the karma mudra given to him by Indrabhuti, and with Princess Mandavara, the reincarnation of a dakini, display a rare tolerance. Thus within the tradition both yoginis were able to preserve a certain individuality and personality over the course of centuries — a rare exception in the history of Vajrayana. For this reason it could be believed that Padmasambhava had shown a revolutionary attitude towards the women, especially since the statement often quoted here in the West is from him: “The basis for realizing enlightenment is a human body. Male or female — there is no great difference. But if she develops the mind bent on enlightenment, a woman's body is better” (Gross, 1993, p. 79).

But how can this comment, which is taken from a terma from the 18th century (!), be reconciled with the following statement by the guru, which he is supposed to have offered in answer to Yeshe Tshogyal’s question about the suitability of women for the tantric rituals? "Your faith is mere platitude, your devotion insincere, but your greed and jealousy are strong. Your trust and generosity are weak, yet your disrespect and doubt are huge. Your compassion and intelligence are weak, but your bragging and self-esteem are great. Your devotion and perseverance are weak, but you are skilled at misguiding and distorting. Your pure perception and courage is small” (Binder-Schmidt, 1994 p. 56).

Yet this comment is quite harmless! The “demonic” Guru Rinpoche also exists as the aggressive butcher of people and serial rapist. There is for instance a story about him in circulation in which he killed a Tibetan king and impregnated his 900 wives so as to produce children who were devoted to the Buddhist teaching. In another episode from his early life he was attacked out of the blue by dakinis and male dakas. The story reports that “he [then] kills the men and possesses the women” (R. Paul, 1982, p. 163). Robert A. Paul thus sees in Padmasambhava an intransigent, active, phallic, and sexist archetype whom he contrasts with Avalokiteshvara, the mild, asexual, feminized, and transcendent counterpole. Both typologies, Paul claims, determine the dynamic of Tibetan history and are united within the person of the Dalai Lama (R. Paul, 1982, p. 87).

Many of the anecdotes about Guru Rinpoche which are in circulation also depict him as a boastful superman. He paid for his beer in a tavern by holding the sun still for two days for the female barkeeper. This earned him not just the reputation of a sun-controller but also the saga that he had invented beer in an earlier incarnation. His connection to the solar cults is also vouched for by other anecdotes. For instance, one day he assumed the shape of the sun bird, the garuda, and conquered the lu, the feminine (!) water spirits. Lightning magic remained one of his preferred techniques, and he made no rare use of it. An additional specialty was to appear in a sea of flames, which was not difficult for him as an emanation of the “fire god”, Avalokiteshvara. His siddhis (magic powers) were thought to be unlimited; he flew through the air, spoke all languages, knew every magic battle technique, and could assume any shape he chose. Nonetheless, all these magical techniques were not sufficient for him to remain the spiritual advisor of Trisong Detsen for long. The Bon priests and the king’s wife (Tse Pongza) were too strong and Guru Rinpoche had to leave the court. Yet this was not the end of his career. He moved north in order to do battle with the unbridled demons of the Land of Snows. The rebellious spirits, usually local earth deities, constantly blocked his path. Yet without exception all the “enemies of the teaching” were defeated by his magic powers. The undertaking soon took on the form of a triumphal procession.

It was Guru Rinpoche’s unique style to never destroy the opponents he defeated but rather to demand of them a threefold gesture of submission: 1. the demons had to symbolically offer up to him their life force or “heart blood”; 2. they had to swear an oath of loyalty; and 3. they had to commit themselves to fighting for instead of against the Buddhist teachings in the future. If these conditions were met then they did not need to abandon their aggressive, bloodthirsty, and extremely destructive ways. In contrast, they were not freed from their murderous fighting spirit and their terrifying ugliness but instead from then on served Tantric Buddhism as its terrible protective deities, who were all the more holy the more cruelly they behaved. The Tibetan Buddhist pantheon was thus gradually filled out with all imaginable misshapen figures, whose insanity, atrocities, and misanthropy were boundless. Among them could be found vampires, cannibals, executioners, ghouls (horrifying ghosts), and sadists. Guru Rinpoche and his later incarnations, the Dalai Lamas, were and still are considered to be the undisputed masters of this cabinet of horrors, who they regally command from their lotus throne.

His victory over the daemonic powers was sealed by the construction of a three-dimensional mandala, the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet. Samye symbolized nothing less than a microcosmic model of the tantric world system, with Mount Meru at its center. The inaugurating ceremony conducted by Padmasambhava was preceded by the banishment of all venomous devils. Then the earth goddess, Srinmo, was nailed down, in that Guru Rinpoche drove his phurba (ritual dagger) into the ground with a ceremonial gesture. Among those present at this ritual were 50 beautifully adorned girls and boys with vases filled with valuable substances. During the subsequent construction works the rebellious spirits repeatedly tried to prevent the completion of the temple and at night tore down what had been achieved during the day. But here too, the guru understood how to tame the nightly demons and make construction workers of them.

In the holiest of holies of Samye there could be found a statue of Avalokiteshvara which was said to have arisen of itself. Apart from this, the monastery had something of an eerie and gloomy air about it. The saga tells of how once a year Tibet’s terror gods assembled on the roofs of the monastery for a cannibalistic feast and a game of dice in which the stakes were human souls. On these days all the oracle priests of the Land of Snows were said to have fallen into a trance as if under the instruction of a higher power. Because of the microcosmic significance of Samye, its protective god is the Red Tsiu, a mighty force in the pandemonium of the highlands. “He possesses red locks, his body is surrounded by a glory of fire. Shooting stars fly from his eyes and a great hail of blood falls from his mouth. He gnashes his teeth. ... He winds a red noose about the body of an enemy at the same time as he thrusts a lance into the heart of another” (Nebesky-Wojkowitz, 1955, p. 224).

A puzzling red-brown leather mask also hung in the temple, which showed the face of a three-eyed wrathful demon. Legend tells that it was made from clotted human blood and sometimes becomes alive to the horror of all. Alongside the sacred room of the Red Tsiu lay a small, ill-lit chamber. If a person died, said the monks, then his soul would have to slip through a narrow hole into this room and would be cut to pieces there upon a chopping block. Of a night the cries and groans of the maltreated souls could be heard and a revolting stench of blood spread through the whole building. The block was replaced every year since it had been worn away by the many blows.

Guru Rinpoche, the former incarnation of the Dalai Lama, was an explosive mixture of strict ascetic and sorcerer, apostle and adventurer, monk and vagabond, founder of a culture and criminal, mystic and eroticist, lawmaker and mountebank, politician and exorcist. He had such success because he resolved the tension between civilization and wildness, divinity and the daemonic within his own person. For, according to tantric logic, he could only defeat the demons by himself becoming a demon. For this reason Fokke Sierksma also characterizes him as an uninhibited usurper: “He was a conqueror, obsessed by lust of power and concupiscence, only this conqueror did not choose the way of physical, but that of spiritual violence, in accordance with the Indian tradition that the Yogin's concentration of energy subdues matter, the world and gods” (Sierksma, 1966, p. 111).

The orthodox Gelugpas also pull the arch magician to pieces in general. For example, one document accuses him of having devoted himself to the pursuit of women of a night clothed in black, and to drink of a day, and to have described this decadent practice as “the sacrifice of the ten days” (Hoffmann, 1956, p. 55).

It was different with the Fifth Dalai Lama — for him Guru Rinpoche was the force which tamed the wilds of the Land of Snows with his magic arts, as had no other before him and none who came after. As magic was likewise for the “Great Fifth” the preferred style of weapon, he could justifiably call upon Padmasambhava as his predecessor and master. The various guises of the guru which appeared before the ruler of the Potala in his visions are thus also numerous and of great intensity. In them Padmasambhava touched his royal pupil upon the forehead a number of times with a jewel and thus transferred his power to him. Guru Rinpoche became the “house prophet” of the “Great Fifth” — he advised the hierarch, foretold the future for him, and intervened in the practical politics from beyond, which fundamentally transformed the history of Tibet (through the establishment of the Buddhist state) almost 900 years after his death.

The “Emperor” Songtsen Gampo and the “Magician-Priest” Padmasambhava, the principal early heroes of the Land of Snows, carried within them the germ of all the future events which would determine the fate of the Tibetans. Centuries after their earthly existence, both characters were welded together into the towering figure of the Fifth Dalai Lama. The one represented worldly power, the other the spiritual. As an incarnation of both the one and the other, the Dalai Lama was also entitled and able to exercise both forms of power. Just how close a relationship he brought the two into is revealed by one of his visions in which Guru Rinpoche and King Songtsen Gampo swapped their appearances with lightning speed and thus became a single person. A consequence of the Dalai Lama’s strong identification with the arch-magician was that his chief yogini, Yeshe Tshogyal, also appeared all the more often in his envisionings. She became the preferred inana mudra of the “Great Fifth”.

Under the rule of Trisong Detsen (who fetched Padmasambhava into Tibet) the famous Council of Lhasa also took place. The king ordered the staging of a large-scale debate between two Buddhist schools of opinion: the teachings of the Indian, Kamalashila, which said that the way to enlightenment was a graded progression and the Chinese position, which demanded the immediate, spontaneous achievement of enlightenment, which suddenly and unexpectedly unfolded in its full dimensions. The representative of the spontaneity doctrine was Hoshang Mahoyen, a master of Chinese Chan Buddhism. In Lhasa the Indian doctrine of stages was at the end of a two-year debate victorious. Hoshang is said to have been banished from the land and some of his followers were killed by the disciples of Kamalashila. But the Chinese position has never completely disappeared from Tibetan cultural life and is again gaining respectability. It is quite rightly compared to the so-called Dzogchen teaching, which also believes an immediate act of enlightenment is possible and which is currently especially popular in the West. For example, the important abbot, Sakya Pandita, attacked the Dzogchen practices because they were a latter-day form of the Chinese doctrine which had been refuted at the Council of Lhasa. In contrast the unorthodox Nyingmapa had no problem with the “Chinese way”. These days the Tibetan lama, Norbu Rinpoche, who lives in Italy, appeals explicitly to Hoshang.

Of its nature, the Dzogchen teaching stands directly opposed to state Buddhism. It dissolves all forms at once and it would not be exaggerating if we were to describe it as “spiritual anarchism”. The political genius of the Fifth Dalai Lama, who knew that a Buddhocracy is only sustainable if it can integrate and control the anarchic elements, made constant use of the Dzogchen practice (Samuel, 1993, p. 464). Likewise the current Fourteenth Dalai Lama is said to have been initiated into this discipline, at any rate he counts Dzogchen masters among his most high ranking spiritual intimates.

It is also noteworthy that in feminist circles the famous Council of Lhasa is evaluated as the confrontation between a fundamentally masculine (Indian) and a feminine (Chinese) current within Tibetan Buddhism (Chayet, 1993, pp. 322-323).

From anarchy to the discipline of the order: The Tilopa lineage:

The reason the Maha Siddha Tilopa (10th century) is worthy of our special attention is because he and his pupil Naropa are the sole historical individuals from the early history of the Kalachakra Tantra who count among the founding fathers of several Tibetan schools and because Tilopa’s life is exemplary of that of the other 83 “grand sorcerers”.

According to legend, the Indian master is said to have reached the wonderland of Shambhala and received the time doctrines from the reigning Kalki there. After returning to India, in the year 966 he posted the symbol of the dasakaro vasi (the “Power of Ten”) on the entrance gates of the monastic university of Nalanda and appended the following lines, already quoted above: “He, that does not know the chief first Buddha (Adi-Buddha), knows not the circle of time (Kalachakra). He, that does not know the circle of time, knows not the exact enumeration of the divine attributes. He that does not know the exact enumeration of the divine attributes, knows not the supreme intelligence. He, that does not know the supreme intelligence, knows not the tantrica principles. He, that does not know the tantrica principles, and all such, are wanderers in the orb transmigratos, and are out of the way of the supreme triumphator. Therefore Adi-Buddha must be taught by every true Lama, and every true disciple who aspires to liberation must hear them” (Körös, 1984, pp. 21-22).

While he was still a very young child, a dakini bearing the 32 signs of ugliness appeared to Tilopa and proclaimed his future career as a Maha Siddha to the boy in his cradle. From now on this witch, who was none other than Vajrayogini, became the teacher of the guru-to-be and inducted him step by step in the knowledge of enlightenment. Once she appeared to him in the form of a prostitute and employed him as a servant. One of his duties was to pound sesame seeds (tila) through which he earned his name. As a reward for the services he performed, Vajrayogini made him the leader of a ganachakra.

Tilopa always proved to be the androgynous sovereign of the gender roles. Hence he one day let the sun and the moon plummet from heaven and rode over them upon a lion, that is, he destroyed the masculine and feminine energy flows and controlled them with the force of Rahu the darkener. At another point, in order to demonstrate his control over the gender polarity, he was presented as the murderer of a human couple “who he beat in the skulls of the man and the woman” (Grünwedel, 1933, p. 72).

Another dramatic scene tells of how dakinis angrily barred his way when he wanted to enter the palace of their head sorceress and cried out in shrill voices: “We are flesh-eating dakinis. We enjoy flesh and are greedy for blood. We will devour your flesh, drink of your blood, and transform your bones into dust and ashes” (Herrmann-Pfand, 1992, p. 207) .Tilopa defeated them with the gesture of fearlessness, a furious bellow and a penetrating stare. The witches collapsed in a faint and spat blood. On his way to the queen he encountered further female monsters which he hunted down in the same manner. Finally, in the interior of the palace he met Inana Dakini, the custodian of tantric knowledge, surrounded by a great retinue. But he did not bow down before her throne, and sank instead into a meditative stance. All present were outraged and barked at him in anger that before him stood the “Mother of all Buddhas”. According to one version — which is recounted by Alexandra David-Neel — Tilopa now roused himself from his contemplation, and, approaching the queen with a steady gait, stripped her of her clothes and jewelry and demonstrated his male superiority by raping her before the assembled gaze of her entire court (Hoffmann, 1956, p. 149).

Tilopa’s character first becomes three dimensional when we examine his relationship with his pupil, Naropa. The latter first saw the light of the world in the year of the masculine fire dragon as the son of a king and queen. Later he at first refused to marry, but then did however succumb to the will of his parents. The marriage did not last long and was soon dissolved. Naropa offered the following reason: “Since the sins of a woman are endless, in the face of the swamp mud of deceptive poison my spirit would take on the nature of a bull, and hence I will become a monk” (Grünwedel, 1933, p. 54). His young spouse agreed to the divorce and accepted all the blame: “He is right!”, she said to his parents, “I have endless sins, I am absolutely without merit ... For this reason and on these grounds it is appropriate to put an end to [the union of] us two” (Grünwedel, 1933, p. 54). Afterwards Naropa was ordained as a monk and went on to become the abbot of what was at the time the most important of the Buddhist monastic universities, Nalanda.

Nevertheless, one day the ecclesiastical dignitary renounced his clerical privileges just as he had done with his royal ones and roamed the land as a beggar in search of his teacher, Tilopa. He had learned of the latter’s existence from the dakini with the 32 markings of ugliness (Vajrayogini). While he was reading the holy texts in Nalanda, she cast a threatening shadow across his books. She laughed at him derisively because he believed he could understand the meaning of the tantras by reading them.

After Naropa had with much trouble located his master, a grotesque scene, peerless even in the tantric literature, was played out. Tilopa fooled his pupil with twelve horrific apparitions before finally initiating him. On the first occasion he appeared as a foul-smelling, leprous woman. He then burnt fish that were still alive over a fire in order to eat them afterwards. At a cemetery he slit open the belly of a living person and washed it out with dirty water. In the next scene the master had skewered his own father with a stake and was in the process of killing his mother held captive in the cellar. On another occasion Naropa had to beat his penis with a stone until it spurted blood. At another time Tilopa required of him that he vivisect himself.

In order to reveal the world to be an illusion, the tantra master had his pupil commit one crime after another and presented himself as a dastardly criminal. Naropa passed every test and became one of the finest experts and commentators on the Kalachakra Tantra.

One of his many pupils was the Tibetan, Marpa (1012-1097). Naropa initiated him into the secret tantric teachings. After further initiations from burial ground dakinis, whom Marpa defeated with the help of Tilopa who appeared from the beyond, and after encountering the strange yogi, Kukkuri ("dog ascetic”), he returned from India to his home country. He brought several tantra texts back with him and translated these into the national language, giving him his epithet of the “translator”. In Tibet he married several women, had many sons and led a household. He is said to have performed the tantric rites with his head wife, Dagmema. In contrast to the yoginis of the legendary Maha Siddhas, Dagmema displays very individualized traits and thus forms a much-cited exception among the ranks of female Tibetan figures. She was sincere, clever, shrewd, self-controlled and industrious. Besides this she had independent of her man her own possessions. She cared for the family, worked the fields, supervised the livestock and fought with the neighbors. In a word, she closely resembled a normal housewife in the best sense.

A monastic interpretation of Marpa’s “ordinary” life circumstances reveals, however, how profoundly the anarchist dimension dominated the consciousness of the yogis at that time: Marpa’s “normality” was not considered a good deed of his because it counted as moral in the dominant social rules of the time, but rather, in contrast, because he had taken the most difficult of all exercises upon himself in that he realized his enlightenment in the so despised “normality”. “People of the highest capacity can and should practice like that” (Chökyi, 1989, p. 143). Effectively this says that family life is a far greater hindrance to the spiritual development of a tantra master than a crematorium. This is what Marpa’s pupil, Milarepa, also wanted to indicate when he rejected marriage for himself with the following words: “Marpa had married for the purpose of serving others, but ... if I presumed to imitate him without being endowed with his purity of purpose and his spiritual power, it would be the hare's emulation of the lion’s leap, which would surely end in my being precipitated into the chasm of destruction” (R. Paul, 1982, p. 234)

Marpa’s pragmatic personality, especially his almost egalitarian relationship with his wife, is unique in the history of Tibetan monasticism. It has not been ruled out that he conceived of a reformed Buddhism, in which the sex roles were supposed to be balanced out and which strove towards the normality of family relationships. Hence, he also wanted to make his successor his son, who lost his life in an accident, however. For this reason he handed his knowledge on to Milarepa (1052–1135), who was supposed to continue the classic androcentric lineage of the Maha Siddhas.

Milarepa’s family were maliciously cheated by relatives when he was in his youth. In order to avenge himself, he became trained as a black magician and undertook several deadly acts of revenge against his enemies. According to legend his mother is supposed to have spurred him on here. In the face of the unhappiness he had caused, he saw the error of his ways and sought refuge in the Buddhist teachings. After a lengthy hesitation, Marpa took him on as a pupil and increased his strictness towards him to the point of brutality so that Milarepa could work off his bad karma through his own suffering. Time and again the pupil had to build a house which his teacher repeatedly tore down. After Milarepa subsequently meditated for seven nights upon the bones of his dead mother (!), he attained enlightenment. In his poems he does not just celebrate the gods, but also the beauty of nature. This “natural” talent and inclination has earned him many admirers up until the present day.

Like his teacher, Marpa, Milarepa is primarily revered for his humanity, a rare quality in the history of Vajrayana. There is something so realistic about Marpa’s arbitrariness and the despair of his pupil that they move many believers in Buddhism more than the phantasmagoric cemetery scenes we are accustomed to from the Maha Siddhas and Padmasambhava. For this reason the ill treatment of Milarepa by his guru counts among the best-known scenes of Tibetan hagiography. Yet after his initiation events also became fantastic in his case. He transformed himself into all manner of animals, defeated a powerful Bon magician and thus conquered the mountain of Kailash. But the death of this superhuman is once again just as human as that of the Buddha Shakyamuni. He died after drinking poisoned milk given him by an envious person. The historical Buddha passed away at the age of 80 after consuming poisoned pork.

Milarepa’s sexual life oscillated between ascetic abstinence and tantric practices. There are several misogynous poems by him. When the residents of a village offered the poet a beautiful girl as his bride, he sang the following song:

At first, the lady is like a heavenly angel;
The more you look at her, the more you want to gaze.
Middle-aged, she becomes a demon with a corpse’s eyes;
You say one word to her and she shouts back two.
She pulls your hair and hits your knee.
You strike her with your staff, but back she throws a ladle….
I keep away from women to avoid fights and quarrels.
For the young bride you mentioned, I have no appetite.

(Stevens, 1990, p. 75)

The yogi constantly warned of the destructive power of women, and attacked them as troublemakers, as the source of all suffering. Like all the prominent followers of Buddha he was exposed to sexual temptations a number of times. Once a demoness caused a huge vagina to appear before him. Milarepa inserted a phallus-like stone into it and thus exorcised the magic. He conducted a ganachakra with the beautiful Tserinma and her four sisters.

Milarepa’s pupil, Gampopa (1079–1153), drew the wild and anarchic phase of the Tilopa lineage to a close. This man with a clear head who had previously practiced as a doctor and became a monk because of a tragic love affair in which his young wife had died, brought with him sufficient organizational talent to overcome the antisocial traits of his predecessors. Before he met Milarepa, he was initiated into the Kadampa order, an organization which could be traced back to the Indian scholar, Atisha, and already had a statist character. As he wanted to leave them to take the yogi poet (Milarepa) as his teacher, his brethren from the order asked Gampopa: “Aren’t our teachings enough?” When he nonetheless insisted, they said to him: “Go, but [do] not abandon our habit.” (Snellgrove, 1987, vol. 2, p. 494). Gampopa abided by this warning, but likewise he took to heart the following critical statement by Milarepa: “The Kadampa have teachings, but practical teachings they have not. The Tibetans, being possessed by evil spirits, would not allow the Noble Lord (Atisha) to preach the Mystic Doctrine. Had they done so, Tibet would have been filled with saints by this time” (Bell, 1994, p. 93).

The tension between the rigidity of the monastic state and the anarchy of the Maha Siddhas is well illustrated by these two comments. If we further follow the history of Tibetan Buddhism, we can see that Gampopa abided more closely to the rules of his original order and only let himself be temporarily seduced by the wild life of the “mountain ascetic”, Milarepa. In the long term he is thus to be regarded as a conqueror of the anarchic currents. Together with one of his pupils he founded the Kagyupa order.

The actual chief figure in the establishment of the Tibetan monastic state was the above-mentioned Atisha (982–1054). The son of a prince from Bengal already had a marriage and nine children behind him before he decided to seek refuge in the sangha. Among others, Naropa was one of his teachers. In the year 1032, after several requests from the king of Guge (southern Tibet), he went to the Land of Snows in order to reform Buddhism there. In 1050, Atisha organized a council in which Indians also participated alongside many Tibetan monks. The chief topic of this meeting was the “Re-establishment of religion in Tibet”.

Under Tantrism the country had declined into depravity. Crimes, murders, orgies, black magic, and lack of discipline were no longer rare in the sangha (monastic community). Atisha opposed this with his well-organized and disciplined monastic model, his moral rectitude and his high standard of ethics. A pure lifestyle and true orderly discipline were now required. The rules of celibacy applied once more. An orthodoxy was established, but Tantrism was in no sense abolished, but rather subjected to maximum strictness and control. Atisha introduced a new time-keeping system into Tibet which was based upon the calendar of the Kalachakra Tantra, through which this work became exceptionally highly regarded.

Admittedly there is a story which tells of how a wild dakini initiated him in a cemetery, and he also studied for three years at the notorious Uddiyana from whence Padmasambhava came, but his lifestyle was from the outset clear and exact, clean and disciplined, temperate and strict. This is especially apparent in his choice of female yiddam (divine appearance), Tara. Atisha bought the cult of the Buddhist “Madonna” to Tibet with him. One could say he carried out a “Marianization” of Tantric Buddhism. Tara was essentially quite distinct from the other female deities in her purity, mercifulness, and her relative asexuality. She is the “spirit woman” who also played such a significant role in the reform of other androcentric churches, as we can see from the example provided by the history of the Papacy.

At the direction of his teacher, Atisha’s pupil Bromston founded a community of Kadampas whom we have already mentioned above, a strict clerical organization which later became an example for all the orders of the Land of Snows including the Nyingmapas and the remainder of the pre-Buddhist Bonpos. But in particular it paved the way for the victory march of the Gelugpas. This order saw itself as the actual executors of Atisha’s plans. With it the nationalization of Tibetan monasticism began. This was to reach its historical high point in the institutionalization of the office of the Dalai Lama.
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The pre-planned counterworld to the clerical bureaucracy: Holy fools

The archetype of the anarchist Maha Siddha is primarily an Indian phenomenon. Later in Tibet it is replaced by that of the “holy fools”, that is, of the roaming yogis with an unconventional lifestyle. While the “grand sorcerers” of India still enjoyed supreme spiritual authority, before which abbots and kings had to bow, the holy fools only acted as a social pressure valve. Everything wild, anarchic, unbridled, and oppositional in Tibetan society could be diverted through such individuals, so that the repressive pressure of the Buddhocracy did not too much gain the upper hand and incite real and dangerous revolts. The role of the holy fools was thus, in contrast to that of the Maha Siddhas, planned in advance and arranged by the state and hence a part of the absolutist Buddhocracy. John Ardussi and Lawrence Epstein have encapsulated the principal characteristics of this figure in six points:

1. A general rejection of the usual social patterns of behavior especially the rules of the clerical establishment.
2. A penchant for bizarre clothing.
3. A cultivated non-observance of politeness, above all with regard to respect for social status.
4. A publicly proclaimed contempt for scholasticism, in particular a mockery of religious study through books alone.
5. The use of popular poetic forms, of mimicry, song, and stories as a means of preaching.
6. The frequent employment of obscene insinuations (Ardussi and Epstein, 1978, pp. 332–333).

These six characteristics do not involve a true anarchist rejection of state Buddhism. At best, the holy fools made fun of the clerical authorities, but they never attacked these as such.

The roaming yogis primarily became famous for their completely free and uninhibited sexual morals and thus formed a safety valve for thousands of abstinent monks living in celibacy, who were subjected to extreme sexual pressure by the tantric symbolism. What was forbidden for the ordained monastery inmates was lived out to the full by the vagabond “crazy monks”: They praised the size of their phallus, boasted about the number of women they had possessed, and drifted from village to village as sacred Casanovas. Drukpa Kunley (1455–1529) was the most famous of them. He sings his own praises in a lewd little song:

People say Drukpa Kunley is utterly mad
In Madness all sensory forms are the Path!
People say Drukpa Kunley’s organ is immense
His member brings joy to the hearts of young girls!

(quoted by Stevens, 1990, p. 77)

Kunley’s biography begins with him lying in bed with his mother and trying to seduce her. As, after great resistance, she was prepared to surrender to her son’s will, he, a master of tantric semen retention, suddenly springs up and leaves her. Amazingly, this uninhibited outsider was a member of the strict Kadampa order — this too can only be understood once we have recognized the role of the fool as a paradoxical instrument of control.

An anarchist erotic: The Sixth Dalai Lama:

At first glance it may appear absurd to include the figure of the Sixth Dalai Lama, Tsangyang Gyatso (1683-1706), in a chapter on “Anarchism and Buddhocracy”, yet we do have our reasons for doing so. Opinions are divided about this individual: for those who are sympathetic towards him, he counts as a rebel, a popular hero, a poète maudit, a Bohemian, a romantic on the divine throne, an affectionate eroticist, as clever and attractive. The others, who view him with disgust, hold him to be a heretic and besmircher of the Lion Throne, reckless and depraved. Both groups nonetheless describe him as extremely apolitical.

He became well-known and notorious above all through his love poems, which he dedicated to several attractive inhabitants of Lhasa. Their self ironic touch, melancholy and subtle mockery of the bureaucratic Lamaist state have earned them a place in the literature of the world. For example, the following five-line poem combines all three elements:

When I’m at the Potala Monastery
They call me the Learned Ocean of Pure Song;
When I sport in the town,
I’m known as the Handsome Rogue who loves Sex!
(quoted by Stevens, 1990, p. 78)

The young “poet prince” stood in impotent opposition to the reigning regent, Sangye Gyatso (1653-1705), who claimed the power of state for himself alone. The relationship between the two does not lack a certain piquancy if, following Helmut Hoffmann, one assumes that the regent was the biological son of the “Great Fifth” and thus stood opposed to the Sixth Dalai Lama as the youthful incarnation of his own father. Nevertheless, this did not prevent him from treating the young “god-king” as a marionette in his power play with the Chinese and Mongolians. When the Dalai Lama expressed his own claim to authority, his “sinful activities" were suddenly found to be so offensive that his abdication was demanded.

Oddly enough the sixth Kundun accepted this without great pause, and in the year 1702 decided to hand his spiritual office over to the Panchen Lama; his worldly authority, however, which he de jure but never de facto exercised, he wanted to retain. This plan did not come to fruition, however. A congregation of priests determined that the spirit of Avalokiteshvara had left him and appointed an opposing candidate. In the general political confusion which now spread through the country, in which the regent, Sangye Gyatso, lost his life, the 24-year-old Sixth Dalai Lama was also murdered. Behind the deed lay a conspiracy between the Chinese Emperor and the Mongolian Prince, Lhabsang Khan. Nonetheless, according to a widely distributed legend, the “god-king” was not killed but lived on anonymously as a beggar and pilgrim and was said to have still appeared in the country under his subsequent incarnation, the Seventh Dalai Lama.

Western historians usually see a tragic aesthete in the figure of the poet prince, who with his erotic lines agreeably broke through the merciless power play of the great lamas. We are not entirely convinced by this view. In contrast, in our view Tsangyang Gyatso was all but dying to attain and exercise worldly power in Tibet, as was indeed his right. It is just that to this end he did not make use of the usual political means, believing instead that he could achieve his goal by practicing sexual magic rites. He firmly believed in what stood in the holy texts of the tantras; he was convinced that he could gain power over the state via “sexual anarchy”.

The most important piece of information which identifies him as a practicing Tantric is the much-quoted saying of his: "Although I sleep with a woman every night, I never lose a drop of semen” (quoted by Stevens, 1990, p. 78). With this statement he not only justified his scandalous relationships with women; he also wanted to express the fact that his love life was in the service of his high office as supreme vajra master. One story tells of how, in the presence of his court, he publicly urinated from the platform roof of the Potala in a long arc and was able to draw his urine back into his penis. Through this performance he wanted to display the evidence that in his much-reproached love life he behaved correctly and in accordance with the tantric codex, indeed that he had even mastered the difficult draw-back technique (the Vajroli method) needed in order to appropriate the female seed (Schulemann, 1958, p. 284). It is not very difficult to see from the following poem that his rendezvous were for him about the absorption of the male-female fluids.

Glacier-water (from) 'Pure Crystal Mountain'
Dew-drops from (the herb) 'Thunderbolt of Demonic Serpent'
(Enriched by) the balm of tonic elixir;
(Let) the Wisdom-Enchantress(es)
be the liquor-girl(s):
If you drink with a pure commitment
Infernal damnation need not be tasted.

(see Sorensen, 1990, p. 113)

Other verses of his also make unmistakable references to sexual magic practices (Sorensen, 1990, p. 100). He himself wrote several texts which primarily concern the terror deity, Hayagriva. From a tantric point of view his “seriousness” would also not have been reduced by his getting involved with barmaids and prostitutes, but rather in contrast, it would have been all but proven, because according to the law of inversion, of course, the highest arises from the most lowly. He is behaving totally in the spirit of the Indian Maha Siddhas when he sings:

If the bar-girl does not falter,
The beer will flow on and on.
This maiden is my refuge,
and this place my haven.

(Stevens, 1990, p. 78, 79)

He ordered the construction of a magnificently decorated room within the Potala probably for the performance of his tantric rites and which he cleverly called the “snake house”. In his external appearance as well, the “god-king” was a Vajrayana eccentric who evoked the long-gone magical era of the great Siddhas. Like them, he let his hair grow long and tied it in a knot. Heavy earrings adorned his lobes, on every finger he wore a valuable ring. But he did not run around naked like many of his role-models. In contrast, he loved to dress magnificently. His brocade and silk clothing were admired by Lhasa’s jeunesse dorée with whom he celebrated his parties.

But these were all just externals. Alexandra David-Neel’s suspicion is obviously spot on when she assumes: “Tsangyang Gyatso was apparently initiated into methods which in our terms allow or even encourage a life of lust and which also really signified dissipation for anyone not initiated into this strange schooling” (Hoffmann, 1956, 178, 179).

We know that in the tantric rituals the individual karma mudras (wisdom girls) can represent the elements, the stars, the planets, even the divisions of time. Why should they not also represent aspects of political power? There is in fact such a “political” interpretation of the erotic poems of the Sixth Dalai Lama by Per K. Sorensen. The author claims that the poetry of the god-king used the erotic images as allegories: the “tiger girl” conquered in a poem by the sixth Kundun is supposed to symbolize the clan chief of the Mongols (Sorensen, 1990, p. 226). The “sweet apple” or respectively the “virgin” for whom he reaches out are regarded as the “fruits of power” (Sorensen, 1990, p. 279). Sorensen reinterprets the “love for a woman” as the “love of power” when he writes: “We shall tentatively attempt to read the constant allusion to the girl and the beloved as yet a hidden reference to the appropriation of real power, a right of which he [the Sixth Dalai Lama] was unjustly divested by a despotic and complacent Regent, who in actual fact demonstrated a conspicuous lack of interest in sharing any part of the power with the young ruler” (Sorensen, 1990, p. 48).

But this is a matter of much more than allegories. A proper understanding of the tantras instantly makes the situation clear: the Sixth Dalai Lama was constantly conducting tantric rituals with his girls in order to attain real power in the state. In his mind, his karma mudras represented various energies which he wanted to acquire via his sexual magic practices so as to gain the power to govern which was being withheld from him. If he composed the lines

As long as the pale moon
Dwells over the East Mountain,
I draw strength and bliss
From the girl’s body

(Koch, 1960, p. 172)

-- then this was with power-political intentions. Yet some of his lines are of such a deep melancholy that he probably was not able to always keep up his tantric control techniques and had actually fallen deeply in love. The following poem may indicate this:

I went to the wise jewel, the lama,
And asked him to lead my spirit.
Often I sat at his feet,
But my thoughts crowded around
The image of the girl.
The appearance of the god
I could not conjure up.
Your beauty alone stood before my eyes,
And I wanted to catch the most holy teaching.
It slipped through my hands, I count the hours
Until we embrace again.

(Koch, 1960, p. 173)

A tantric history of Tibet:

The following Seventh Dalai Lama (1708-1757) was the complete opposite of his predecessor. Until now no comparisons between the two have been made. Yet this would be worthwhile, then whilst the one represented wildness, excess, fantasy, and poetry, his successor relied upon strict observance, bureaucracy, modesty, and learning. The tantric scheme of anarchy and order, which the “Great Fifth” ingeniously combined within his person, fell apart again with both of his immediate successors. Nothing interested the Seventh Dalai Lama more than the state bureaucratic consolidation of the Kalachakra Tantra. He commissioned the Namgyal Institute, which still today looks after this task, with the ritual performance of the external time doctrine. Apart from this he introduced a Kalachakra prayer into the general liturgy of the Gelugpa order which had to be recited on the eighth day of every Tibetan month. We are also indebted to him for the construction of the Kalachakra sand mandala and the choreography of the complicated dances which still accompany the ritual.

Anarchy and state Buddhism thus do not need to contradict one another. They could both be coordinated with each other. Above all, the “Great Fifth” had recognized the secret: the Land of Snows was to be got the better of through pure statist authority, it had to be controlled tantricly, that is, the chaos and anarchy had to be integrated as part of the Buddhocracy. Applied to the various Tibetan religious schools this meant that if he were to succeed in combining the puritanical, bureaucratic, centralizing, disciplined, industrious, and virtuous qualities of the Gelugpas with the libertarian, phantasmagorical, magic, and decentralizing characteristics of the Nyingmapas, then absolute control over the Land of Snows must be attainable. All the other orders could be located between these two extremes.

Such an undertaking had to achieve something which in the views of the time was impossible, then the Gelugpas were a product of a radical critique of the sexual dissolution and other excesses of the Nyingmapas. But the political-religious genius of the Fifth Dalai Lama succeeded in this impossible enterprise. The self-disciplined administrator upon the Lion Throne preferred to see himself as Padmasambhava (the root guru of the Nyingmapas) and declared his lovers to be embodiments of Yeshe Tshogyal (Padmasambhava’s the wisdom consort). Tibet received a ruler over state and anarchy.

The political mythic history of the Land of Snows thus falls into line with a tantric interpretation. At the beginning of all the subsequent historical events stands the shackling of the chaotic earth goddess, Srinmo, by the king, Songtsen Gampo, (the conquest of the karma mudra by the yogi). Through this, the power of the masculine method (upaya) over the feminine wisdom (prajna) invoked in the sexual magic ritual precedes the supremacy of the state over anarchy, of civilization over wilderness, of culture over nature. The English anthropologist, Geoffrey Samuel, thus speaks of a synthesis which arose from the dialectic between anti-state/anarchist and clerical/statist Buddhism in Tibet, and recognizes in this interrelationship a unique and fruitful dynamic. He believes the Tibetan system displays an amazingly high degree of fluidity, openness, and choice. This is his view of things.

But for us, Samuel is making a virtue of necessity. We would see it exactly the other way around: the contradiction between the two hostile extremes (anarchy and the state) led to social tensions which subjected Tibetan society to an ongoing acid test. One has to be clear that the tantric scheme produces a culture of extreme dissonance which admittedly sets free great amounts of energy but has neither led historically to a peaceful and harmonic society to the benefit of all beings nor can it do so in the future.

Samuel makes a further mistake when he opposes clerical state Buddhism to wild tantric Buddhism as equal counterpoles. We have shown often enough that the function of control (upaya) is the more important element of the tantric ritual, more important and more steadfast than the temporary letting loose of wild passions. Nevertheless the contradiction between wildness (feminine chaos) and taming (masculine control) remains a fundamental pattern of every sexual magic project — this is the reason that ("controlled”) anarchy is a part of the Tibetan “state theology” and thus it was never, neither for Atisha nor Tsongkhapa, the two founding fathers of state Buddhism, a question of whether the tantras should be abolished. In contrast, both successfully made an effort to strengthen and extend the control mechanisms within the tantric rites.

If the “political theology” of Lamaism applies the tantric pattern to Tibetan society, then — from a metaphysical viewpoint — it deliberately produces chaos to the point of disintegration so as to ex nihilo establish law and order anew. Internally, the production of chaos takes place within the mystic body of the yogi via the unchaining of the all-destroying Candali. Through this internal fragmentation the yogi is completely “freed” of his earthly personality so as to be re-created as the emanation of the spiritual horde of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and protective deities who are at work behind all reality.

This inverted logic of the tantras corresponds on an outwardly level to the production of anarchy by the Buddhist state. The roaming “holy fools”, the wild lives of the grand sorcerers (Maha Siddhas), the excesses of the founding father, Padmasambhava, the still to be described institution of the Tibetan “scapegoats” and the public debauchery during the New Year’s festivities connected with this, yes, even the erotic games of the Sixth Dalai Lama are such anarchist elements, which stabilize the Buddhocracy in general. They must — following the tantric laws — reckon with their own destruction (we shall return to this point in connection with the “sacrifice” of Tibet), then it legitimates itself through the ability to transform disorder into order, crime into good deeds, decline and fall into resurrection. In order to implement its program, but also so as to prove its omnipotence, the Buddhist Tantric state — deliberately — creates for itself chaotic scenarios, it cancels law and custom, justice and virtue, authority and obedience in order to, after a stage of chaos, re-establish them. In other words it uses revolution to achieve restoration. We shall soon see that the Fourteenth Dalai Lama conducts this interplay on the world stage.

It nonetheless remains to be considered that the authority of Tibetan state Buddhism has not surmounted the reality of a limited dominion of monastic orders. There can be no talk of a Chakravartin’s exercise of power, of a world ruler, at least not in the visible world. From a historical point of view the institution of the Dalai Lama remained extremely weak, measured by the standards of its claims, unfortunately all but powerless. Of the total of fourteen Dalai Lamas only one can be described as a true potentate: the “Great Fifth”, in whom the institution actually found its beginnings and whom it has never outgrown. All other Dalai Lamas were extremely limited in their abilities with power or died before they were able to govern. Even the Thirteenth, who is sometimes accorded special powers and therefore also referred to as the “Great”, only survived because the superpowers of the time, England and Russia, were unable to reach agreement on the division of Tibet. Nonetheless the institution of the god-king has exercised a strong attraction over all of Central Asia for centuries and cleverly understood how to render its field of competence independent of the visible standards of political reality and to construct these as a magic occult field of forces of which even the Emperor of China was nervous.

"Crazy wisdom” and the West:

Already in the nineteen twenties, the voices of modern western, radical-anarchist artists could be heard longing for and invoking the Buddhocracy of the Dalai Lama. “O Grand Lama, give us, grace us with your illuminations in a language our contaminated European minds can understand, and if need be, transform our Mind ...” (Bishop, 1989, p. 239). These melodramatic lines are the work of Antonin Artaud (1896-1948). The dramatist was one of the French intellectuals who in 1925 called for a “surrealist revolution”. With his idea of the “theater of horrors”, in which he brought the representation of ritual violence to the stage, he came closer to the horror cabinet of Buddhist Tantrism than any other modern dramatist. Artaud’s longing for the rule of the Dalai Lama is a graphic example of how an anarchist, asocial world view can tip over into support for a “theocratic” despotism. [1]

There was also a close connection between Buddhism and the American “Beat Generation”, who helped decisively shape the youth revolts of the sixties. The poets Jack Kerouac, Alan Watts, Gary Snyder, Allan Ginsberg, and others were, a decade earlier, already attracted by Eastern teachings of wisdom, above all Japanese Zen. They too were particularly interested in the anarchic, ordinary-life despising side of Buddhism and saw in it a fundamental and revolutionary critique of a mass society that suppressed all individual freedom. “It is indeed puzzling”, the German news magazine Der Spiegel wondered in connection with Tibetan Buddhism, “that many anti-authoritarian, anarchist and feminist influenced former ‘68ers’ [members of the sixties protest movements] are so inspired by a religion which preaches hierarchical structures, self-limiting monastic culture and the authority of the teacher” (Spiegel, 16/1998, p. 121).

Alan Watts (1915-1973) was an Englishman who met the Japanese Zen master and philosopher, Daietsu Teitaro Suzuki, in London. He began to popularize Suzuki’s philosophy and to reinterpret it into an unconventional and anarchic “lifestyle” which directed itself against the American dream of affluence.

Timothy Leary, who propagated the wonder drug LSD around the whole world and is regarded as a guru of the hippie movement and American subculture, made the Tibetan Book of the Dead the basis of his psychedelic experiments. [2]

Already at the start of the fifties Allen Ginsberg had begun experimenting with drugs (peyote, mescaline, and later LSD) in which the wrathful tantric protective deities played a central role. He included these in his “consciousness-expanding sessions”. When he visited the Dalai Lama in India in 1962, he was interested to know what His Holiness thought of LSD. The Kundun replied with a counter-question, however, and wanted to find out whether Ginsberg could, under influence of the drug, see what was in a briefcase that was in the room. The poet answered yes, the case was empty. It was! (Shambhala Sun, July 1995).

The Tibetan Lama Dudjom Rinpoche, the then leader of the Nyingmapa, later explained the emptiness of all things to him. When Ginsberg asked him for advice about how he should deal with his LSD horror trips, the Rinpoche answered, “If you see something horrible, don't cling to it, and if you see something beautiful, don't cling to it” (Shambhala Sun, July 1995). This statement became the life-maxim of the beat poets.

In Sikkim in 1962, Ginsberg participated in the Black Hat ceremony of the Karmapa and at that early stage met the young Chögyam Trungpa. Ten years later (1972) he was quoting radical poems together with him at spectacular events. At these “readings” both “Buddha poets” lived out their anarchist feelings to the full, with Lama Trungpa usually being drunk.

It demonstrates his ingenious instinct for mental context that the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, when asked whether he ever meditated by Ginsberg, who was in revolt against the state and every form of compulsion, answered, “No, I don't have to” (Tricycle, vol. 5, no. 2, p. 6). In contrast, we have learned from other interviews with His Holiness that he spends four hours meditating every morning, as is proper for a good Buddhist monk. The Kundun thus has the appropriate answer ready for whatever the spiritual orientation of his conversation partner may be. Through this he succeeds in making himself popular everywhere.

His nonchalance on this occasion in contrast to the in other contexts strongly emphasized meditative discipline is congruent with Ginsberg’s fundamentally anarchist and anti-authoritarian attitudes. In turn, the latter’s unconventional escapades are compatible with the Tibetan archetype of the “holy fool”. For this reason, Ginsberg also explained his poems to be an expression of “crazy wisdom”, a phrase which soon proved to be a mark of quality for the anti-conventional attitude of many Tibetan lamas in the West.

Within the tantric system of logic, the god-king did not need to fear the chaotic and anti-bourgeois lifestyle of the sixties or its anarchic leaders. Indeed, all the Maha Siddhas had been through a wild phase before their enlightenment. The Beat Generation represented an almost ideal starting substance (prima materia) for the divine alchemist upon the Lion Throne to experiment with, and he was in fact successful in “ennobling” many of them into propagandists for his Buddhocratic vision.

From the beginning of his artistic career, the famous and unconventional German conceptual artist, Joseph Beuys, saw himself as an initiate of a shamanist/Tartar tradition. He justified his renowned works in felt, a material used primarily by the Mongolian nomads, with his affinity to the culture and religion of the peoples of the steppes. A number of meetings between him and the Dalai Lama occurred, which — without it being much discussed in public — were of decisive significance for the development of the artist’s awareness.

In Amsterdam in 1990 famous artists like Robert Rauschenberg and John Cage met with His Holiness. The painter, Roy Lichtenstein, and Philip Glass the composer are also attracted to Buddhism. In 1994 together with the Czech president and former writer, Vaclav Havel, the Kundun amused himself over the erotic poems of his anarchist predecessor, the Sixth Dalai Lama.

The god-king is even celebrated in the pop scene. Major stars like David Bowie, Tina Turner, and Patty Smith openly confess their belief in the Buddha’s teachings. Monks from the Namgyal monastery, which is especially concerned with the Kalachakra Tantra, perform at pop festivals as exotic interludes.

But – as we know — anarchist Buddhism is always only the satyric foreplay to the idea of the Buddhocratic state. Just as wild sexuality is transformed into power in Vajrayana, indeed forms the precondition for any power at all, so the anarchist art scene in the West forms the raw material and the transitional phase for the establishment of a totalitarian Buddhocracy. We can observe such a sudden change from anti-authoritarian anarchy into the concept and ideas of an authoritarian state within the person of Chögyam Trungpa, who in the course of his career in the USA has transformed himself from a Dharma freak into a mini-despot with fascistoid allures. We shall later present this example in more detail.



[1] In 1946 Artaud made a renewed about-face and composed a new pamphlet against the Dalai Lama. In it he attacked the Tibetan clergy as swine, revolting idiots, the cause of syllogism, logic, hysterical mysticism, and dialectic. He accused the lamas of being a warehouse “full of opium, heroin, morphine, hashish, narde, nutmeg, and other poisons” (quoted by Brauen, 2000, p. 92).

[2] See: Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner, and Richard Alphert, The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
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In the first part of our study we described the “tantric female sacrifice” as the central cultic mystery of Tibetan Buddhism. To recap, in the sacrifice feminine energies (gynergy) are absorbed in the interests of the androcentric power ambitions of a yogi. The general principle behind this “energy theft”, namely to increase one’s own energy field via the life force of an opponent, is common to all ancient societies. In very “primitive” tribal cultures this “transfer” of life energy was taken literally and one fed upon his slaughtered enemies. The idea that the sacrificer benefited from the strengths and abilities of his sacrifice was a widely distributed topos in the ancient culture of Tibet as well. It applied not just to the sexual magic practices of Tantrism but rather controlled the entire social system. As we shall see, Lamaism sacrificed the Tibetan kingship out of such an ancient way of seeing things, so as to appropriate its energies and legitimate its own worldly power.

Ritual regicide in the history of Tibet and the Tibetan “scapegoat”:

The kings of the Tibetan Yarlung dynasty (from the 7th to the start of the 9th centuries C.E.) derived their authority from a divine origin. This was not at all Buddhist and was only reinterpreted as such after the fact. What counted as the proof of their Buddhist origin was a “secret text” (mani kabum) first “discovered” by an eager monk 500 years later in the 12th century. In it the three most significant Yarlung rulers were identified as emanations of Bodhisattvas: Songtsen Gampo (617–650) as an incarnation of Avalokiteshvara, Trisong Detsen (742–803) as an embodiment of Manjushri, and Ralpachan (815–838) as one of Vajrapani. Their original, pre-Buddhist myth of origin, in which they were descended from an old race of gods from the heavenly region, was thereby forgotten. From now on in a Lamaist interpretation of history, the kings represented the Buddhist law on earth as dharmarajas ("law kings”).

Thanks to older, in part contemporary, documents (from the 8th century) from the caves of Dunhuang, we know that the historical reality was more complex. The Yarlung rulers lived and governed less as strict Buddhists, rather they played the various religious currents in their country off against one another in order to bolster their own power. Sometimes they encouraged the Bon belief, sometimes the immigrant Indian yogis, sometimes the Chinese Chan Buddhists, and sometimes their old shamanist magic priests. Of the various rites and teachings they only took on those which squared with their interests. For example, Songtsen Gampo, the alleged incarnation of Avalokiteshvara, permitted human and animal sacrifices at the ratification of contracts and his own burial as was usual in the Bon tradition but strictly condemned by the Buddhists.

Alone the penultimate king of the dynasty, Ralpachan, can be regarded as a convicted, even fanatical adherent of Buddhism. This is apparent from, among other things, the text of a law he enacted, which placed the rights of the monks far above those of ordinary people. For example, whoever pointed a finger at one of the ordained risked having it cut off. Anyone who spoke ill of the teaching of the Buddha would have his lips mutilated. Anyone who looked askance at a monk had his eyes poked out, and anyone who robbed one had to repay twenty-five times the worth of the theft. For every seven families in the country the living costs of one monk had to be provided. The ruler totally subjected himself to the religious prescriptions and is said to have joined a Sangha (monastic community). It is not surprising that he was murdered in the year 838 C.E. after pushing through such a harsh regime.

The murder of King Langdarma:

It is just as unsurprising that his brother, Langdarma, who succeeded him on the throne, wanted to reverse the monastic despotism which Ralpachan had established. Langdarma was firmly resolved to work together with the old Bon forces once again and began with a persecution of the Buddhists, driving them out or forcing them to marry. All their privileges were removed, the Indian yogis were hunted out of the country and the holy texts (the tantras) were burned. For the lamas Langdarma thus still today counts as the arch-enemy of the teaching, an outright incarnation of evil.

But his radical anti-Buddhist activity was to last only four years. In the year 842 his fate caught up with him. His murderer rode into Lhasa upon a white horse blackened with coal and swathed in a black cloak. Palden Lhamo, the dreadful tutelary deity of the later Dalai Lamas, had commanded the Buddhist monk, Palgyi Dorje, to “free” Tibet from Langdarma. Since the king thought it was a Bon priest who had called upon him, he granted his murderer an audience. Beneath his robes Palgyi Dorje had hidden a bow and arrow. He knelt down first, but while he was still getting up he shot Langdarma in the chest at close range, fatally wounding him, and crying out: “I am the demon Black Yashe. When anybody wishes to kill a sinful king, let him do it as I have killed this one” (Bell, 1994, p. 48). He then swung himself onto his horse and fled. Underway he washed the animal in a river, so that its white coat reappeared. Then he reversed his black coat which now likewise became white. Thus he was able to escape without being recognized.

Up until the present day official Tibetan history legitimates this “tyrannicide” as a necessary act of desperation by the besieged Buddhists. In order to quiet a bad conscience and to bring the deed into accord with the Buddhist commandment against any form of killing, it soon became evaluated as a gesture of compassion: In being killed, Langdarma was prevented from collecting even more bad karma and plunging ever more people into ruin. Such “compassionate” murders, which — as we shall see — were part of Tibetan state politics, avoided using the word “kill” and replaced it with terms like “rescue” or “liberate”. “To liberate the enemy of the doctrine through compassion and lead his consciousness to a better existence is one of the most important vows to be taken in tantric empowerment”, writes Samten Karmay (Karmay, 1988, p. 72). In such a case all that is required of the “rescuer” is that at the moment of the act of killing he wish the murdered party a good rebirth (Beyer, 1978, pp. 304, 466; Stein, 1993, p. 219).

The sacred murder:

But all of this does not make the murder of King Langdarma an exceptional historical event. The early history of Tibet is full of regicides (the murder of kings); of the eleven rulers of the Yarlung dynasty at least six are said to have been killed. There is even a weight of opinion which holds that ritual regicide was a part of ancient Tibetan cultural life. Every regent was supposed to be violently murdered on the day on which his son became able to govern (Tucci, 1953, p. 199f.).

But the truly radical and unique aspect to the killing of Langdarma is the fact that with him the sacred kingship, and the divine order of Tibet associated with it, finally reached its end. Through his murder, the sacrifice of secular rule in favor of clerical power was completed, both really and symbolically, and the monks’ Buddhocracy thus took the place of the autocratic regent. Admittedly this alternative was first fully developed 800 years later under the Fifth Dalai Lama, but in the interim not one worldly ruler succeeded in seizing power over all of Tibet, which the great abbots of the various sects had divided among one another.

Ritual regicide has always been a major topic in anthropology, cultural studies, and psychoanalysis. In his comprehensive work, The Golden Bough, James George Frazer declared it to be the origin of all religions. In his essay, Totem and Taboo, Sigmund Freud attempts to present the underhand and collective killing of the omnipotent patriarchal father by the young males of a band of apes as the founding act of human culture, and sees every historical regicide as a repetition of this misdeed. The arguments of the psychoanalyst are not very convincing; nevertheless, his basic idea, which sees an act of violence and its ritual repetition as a powerful cultural performance, has continued to occupy modern researchers.

The immense significance of the regicide becomes clear immediately when it is recalled that the ancient kings were in most cases equated with a deity. Thus what took place was not the killing of a person but of a god, usually with the melodramatic intent that the ritually murdered being would be resurrected or that another deity would take his place. Nonetheless, the deed always left deep impressions of guilt and horror in the souls of the executors. Even if the real murder of a king only took place on a single occasion, the event was ineradicably fixed in the awareness of a community. It concentrated itself into a generative principle. By this, René Girard, in his study of The Violence and the Sacred, means that a “founding murder” influences all the subsequent cultural and religious developments in a society and that a collective compulsion to constantly repeat it arises, either symbolically or for real. This compulsive repetition occurs for three reasons: firstly because of the guilt of the murderers who believe that they will be able to exorcise the deed through repetition; secondly, so as to refresh one’s own strengths through those which flow from the victim to his murderers; thirdly as a demonstration of power. Hence a chain of religious violence is established, which, however, be comes increasingly “symbolized” the further the community is removed from the original criminal event. In place of human sacrifices, the burning of effigies now emerges.

The cham dance:

The murder of King Langdarma was also later replaced by a symbolic repetition in Tibet. The lamas repeat the crime in an annually performed dance mystery, the cham dance. There are particular sequences which depend upon the location and time, and each sect has its own choreography. There are always several historical and mythical events to be performed. But at the heart of this mystery play there always stands the ritual sacrifice of an “enemy of the religion” for whom Langdarma furnishes the archetype.

As it is a ritual, a cham performance can only be carried out by ordained monks. It is also referred to as the “dance of the black hats” in remembrance of the black hat which the regicide, Palgyi Dorje, wore when carrying out his crime and which are now worn by several of the players. Alongside the Black Hat priests a considerable number of mostly zoomorphic-masked dancers take part. Animal figures perform bizarre leaps: crows, owl, deer, yak, and wolf. Yama, the horned god of the dead, plays the main role of the “Red Executioner”.

In the center of an outdoor theater the lamas have erected a so-called lingam. This is an anthropomorphic representation of an enemy of the faith, in the majority of cases a likeness of King Langdarma. Substitutes for a human heart, lungs, stomach and entrails are fashioned into the dough figure and everything is doused in a red blood-like liquid. Austine Waddell claims to have witnessed on important occasions in Lhasa that real body parts are collected from the Ragyab cemetery with which to fill the dough figure (Waddell, 1991, p. 527).

Yama – the death god as Cham dancer

Afterwards, the masked figures dance around the lingam with wild leaps to the sounds of horns, cymbals, and drums. Then Yama, the bull-headed god of the dead, appears and pierces the heart, the arms and legs of the figure with his weapon and ties its feet up with a rope. A bell tolls, and Yama begins to lop off the victim’s limbs and slit open his chest with his sword. Now he tears out the bloody heart and other internal organs which were earlier placed inside the lingam. In some versions of the play he then eats the “flesh” and drinks the “blood” with a healthy appetite.

In others, the moment has arrived in which the animal demons (the masked dancers) fall upon the already dismembered lingam and tear it apart for good. The pieces are flung in all directions. Assistant devils collect the scattered fragments in human skulls and in a celebratory procession bring them before Yama, seated upon a throne. With a noble gesture he takes one of the bloody pieces and calmly consumes it before giving the rest free for general consumption with a hand signal. At once, the other mystery players descend and try to catch hold of something. A wild free-for-all now results, in which many pieces of the lingam are deliberately thrown into the crowded audience. Everybody grabs a fragment which is then eaten.

In this clearly cannibalist scene the clerical cham dancers want to appropriate some of the life energy of the royal victim. Here too, the ancient idea that an enemy’s powers are transferred to oneself through killing and eating them is the barely concealed intention. Thus every cham performance repeats on an “artistic” level the political appropriation of secular royal power by Lamaism. But we must always keep in mind that the distinction between symbol and reality which we find normal does not exist within a tantric culture. Therefore, King Langdarma is sacrificed together with his secular authority at every cham dance performance. It is only all too understandable why the Fifth Dalai Lama, in whose person the entire worldly power of the Tibetan kings was concentrated for the first time, encouraged the cham dance so much.

Why is the victim and hence the “enemy of the religion” known as the lingam? As we know, this Sanskrit word means “phallus”. Do the lamas want to put to service the royal procreative powers? The psychoanalyst, Robert A. Paul, offers another interesting interpretation. He sees a “symbolic castration” in the destruction of the lingam. Through it the monks demonstrate that the natural reproductive process of birth from a woman represents an abortive human development. But when applied to the royal sacrifice this symbolic castration has a further, power-political significance: it symbolizes the replacement of the dynastic chain of inheritance — which follows the laws of reproduction and presupposes the sexual act — by the incarnation system.

In his fieldwork, Robert A. Paul also observed how on the day following a cham performance the abbot and his monks dressed as dakinis and appeared at the sacrificial site in order to collect up the scattered remains and burn them in a fire together with other objects. Since the “male” lamas conduct this final ritual act in the guise of (female) “sky walkers”, it seems likely that yet another tantric female sacrifice is hidden behind the symbolic regicide.

The substitute sacrifice:

The sacrifice of a lingam was a particular specialty of the Fifth Dalai Lama, which he had performed not just during the cham dance but also used it, as we shall soon see, for the destruction of enemies. We are dealing with a widely spread practice in Tibetan cultural life. On every conceivable occasion, small pastry figurines (torma or bali) were created in order to be offered up to the gods or demons. Made from tsampa or butter, they were often shaped into anthropomorphic figures. One text requires that they be formed like the “breasts of Dakinis” (Beyer, 1978, p. 312). Blood and pieces of meat, resins, poisons, and beer were often added. In the majority of cases substitutes were used for these. Numerous Tibet researchers are agreed that the sacrifice of a torma involves the symbolic reconstruction of a former human sacrifice (Hermann, Hoffmann, Nebesky-Wojkowitz, Paul, Sierksma, Snellgrove, and Waddell).

Now there are several views about what the offering of a substitute sacrifice signifies. For example, all that is evil, even one’s own bad features, can be projected onto the torma so as to then be destroyed. Afterwards, the sacrificer feels cleansed and safe from harmful influences. Or the sacrifice may be offered up for the demons to devour, whether to render them favorable or to avert them from harming a particular individual. Here we are dealing with the bali ritual codified by the Fifth Dalai Lama. The purpose of the ceremony consists in hampering the dakinis or other malignant spirits from taking a sick or dying person with them into their domain. So that the patient is not tempted by them, a lama depicts the land of the dakinis in a truly terrible light and portrays its female inhabitants as monsters:

They consume warm human flesh as food
They drink warm human blood as a beverage
They lust to kill and work to dismember
There is not a moment in which they cease to battle and fight.
And the addressee is then abjured:
Please do not go to such a country,
stay in the homeland of Tibet!

(Herrmann-Pfand, 1992, p. 463)

With this, the soul of the sick person has indeed been deterred, but the dakinis who wanted to seize him or her have not yet been satisfied. For this reason the texts recommend a substitute sacrifice. The female cannibals are offered a bali pyramid consisting of a skull, torn-off strips of skin, butter lamps filled with human fat, and various organs floating in a strong-smelling liquid made from brain, blood and gall. This is supposed to assuage the greed of the “sky walkers” and distract them from the sick person (Herrmann-Pfand, 1992, p. 466).

The Tibetan “scapegoat”:

The anthropologist, James George Frazer, likewise draws a connection between ritual regicide and the symbolic sacrificial rites practiced by many peoples at the beginning of a year. The past year, represented by the old ruler, is sacrificed, and the new year celebrates its entry in the figure of a young king. In the course of time the reigning kings were able to escape this rite, deeply anchored in human history, by setting up substitutes upon whom the ritual violence could be let out. Such sacrificial substitutes for the king were attributed with all kinds of negative features like illnesses, weaknesses, barrenness, poverty, and so on, so that these would no longer be a burden on the community following the violent death of the substitute.

This role of a human “scapegoat” during the Tibetan New Year’s feast (Monlam) was taken on by a person who bore the name of the “king of impurity”, “ox demon”, or “savior king”. Half of his face was painted white and the other half black, and he was dressed in new clothes. He then took to the streets of Lhasa, swinging a black yak’s tail as a scepter, to collect offerings and to appropriate things which appealed to him. Many also gave money, but the former owners invested all of these objects with every misfortune with which they might reckon in the future.

This continued for several days. At a pre-arranged time the “ox demon” appeared in front of Lhasa’s cathedral, the Jokhang. There a monk from the Drepung monastery was waiting for him in a magnificent robe. In the scene which was now played out he represented the Dalai Lama. First up there was a violent battle of words in which the scapegoat mocked the Buddhist teachings with a sharp tongue. Thereupon the pretend Dalai Lama challenged him to a game of dice. If the “king of impurity" were to win, the disastrous consequences for the whole country would have been immense. But preparations had been made to ensure that this did not happen, that he had a die which displayed a one on every face, whilst his opponent always threw a six. After his defeat the loser fled from the town on a white horse. The mob followed him as far as it could, shooting at him with blanks and throwing stones. He was either driven into the wilderness or taken prisoner and locked in one of the horror chambers of the Samye monastery for a time. It was considered a good omen if he died.

Even if he was never deliberately killed, he often paid the highest price for his degrading treatment. Actually his demise was expected, or at least hoped for. It was believed that scapegoats attracted all manner of rare illnesses or died under mysterious circumstances. If the expelled figure nonetheless saved his skin, he was permitted to return to Lhasa and once again take on the role.

Behind the “scapegoat ritual” — an event which can be found in ancient cultures all over the world — there is the idea of purification. The victim takes on every repulsiveness and all possible besmirchment so as to free the community of these. As a consequence he must become a monster which radiates with the power of darkness. According to tradition, the community has the right, indeed the duty, to kill or drive off with an aggressive act this monster who is actually nothing more than the repressed shadowy side of his persecutors. The sacrificers are then freed of all evil, which the scapegoat takes to its death with him, and society returns to a state of original purity. Accordingly, the ritual power applied is not a matter of self-interest, but rather a means of attaining the opposite, social peace and an undisturbed state. The scapegoat — René Girard writes — has to “take on the evil power in total so as to transform it via his death into benevolent power, into peace and fruitfulness. ... He is a machine which changes the sterile and contagious power into positive cultural values” (Girard, 1987, pp. 143, 160).

The scapegoat of Gyantse, adorned with animal intestines

Yet it is not just an annual psycho-purification of Lamaism which is conducted through the Tibetan Monlam feast, but also the collective cleansing of the historical defilement which bleeds as a deep wound in the subconscious of the monastic state. The driving off or killing of the scapegoat is, just like the cham dance, a ritual of atonement for the murder of King Langdarma. In fact, numerous symbolic references are made to the original deed in the scenario of the festivities. For example, the “ox demon” (one of the names for the scapegoat) appears colored in black and white and flees on a white horse just like the regicide, Palgyi Dorje. The “ox” was also Langdarma’s totem animal. During the feast, from a mountain where the grave of the apostate king could be found, units of the Tibetan Artillery fired off three cannons, two of which were called the “old and the young demoness”. “Since the Dalai Lamas are actually, in a broad historical sense, beneficiaries of Palgyi Dorje's [Langdarma’s murderer] crime,” the ethnologist Robert A. Paul writes, “we may suppose that part of the purpose of the annual scapegoat ritual is to allow the guilt for that act to be expressed through the figure of the Ox-demon; and then to reassert the legitimacy of the Dalai Lama's reign by demonstrating his ability to withstand this challenge to his innocence” (R. Paul, 1982, p. 296).

Authors like James George Frazer and Robert Bleichsteiner are even of the opinion that the “king of impurity” in the final instance represents the Dalai Lama himself, who indeed became the “illegitimate” successor of the killed regent as the worldly ruler of Tibet. “The victim in older times was certainly the king himself,” Bleichsteiner informs us, “who was offered up at the beginning of a new epoch as atonement and guarantee for the well-being of the people. Hence the lamaist priest-kings were also considered to be the atoning sacrifice of the New Year ... " (Bleichsteiner, 1937, p. 213). It also speaks in favor of this thesis that in early performances of the rite the substitute was required to be of the same age as the god-king and that during the ceremony a doll which represents the Dalai Lama is carried along (Richardson, 1993, p. 64). The evil, dark, despotic, and unfortunate shadow of the hierarch would then be concentrated in the scapegoat, upon whom the populace and the hordes of monks let loose could let out their rage.

Then, once the “Great Fifth” had institutionalized the celebrations, anarchy reigned in Lhasa during the period of the New Year’s festivities: 20,000 monks from the most varied monasteries had cart blanche. Everything which was normally forbidden was now permitted. In bawling and wildly gesticulating groups the “holy” men roamed the streets. Some prayed, others cursed, yet others gave vent to wild cries. They pushed each other around, they argued with one another, they hit each other. There were bloody noses, black eyes, battered heads and torn clothes. Meditative absorption and furious rage could each become the other in an instant. Heinrich Harrer, who experienced several feasts at the end of the forties, describes one of them in the following words: “As if awakened from a hypnosis, in this instant the tens of thousands plunge order into chaos. The transition is so sudden that one is stunned. Shouting, wild gesticulation ... they trample one another to the ground, almost murder each other. The praying [monks], still weeping and ecstatically absorbed, become enraged madmen. The monastic soldiers begin their work! Huge blokes with padded shoulders and blackened faces — so that the deterrent effect is further enhanced. They ruthlessly lay into the crowd with their staffs. ... Howling, they take the blows, but even the beaten return again. As if they were possessed by demons” (Harrer, 1984, p. 142).

The Tibetan feast of Monlam is thus a variant upon the paradoxes we have already examined, in which, in accordance with the tantric law of inversion, anarchy and disorder are deliberately evoked so as to stabilize the Buddhocracy in total. During these days, the bottled-up anti-state aggressions of the subjects can be completely discharged, even if only for a limited time and beneath the blows of the monastic soldiers’ clubs.

It was once again the “Great Fifth” who recognized the high state-political value of the scapegoat play and thus made the New Year’s festival in the year 1652 into a special state occasion. From the Potala, the “seat of the gods”, the incarnation of Avalokiteshvara could look down smiling and compassionately at the delirium in the streets of Lhasa and at the sad fate of his disgraceful doppelganger (the scapegoat).

The scapegoat mechanism can be considered part of the cultural heritage of all humanity. It is astonishingly congruent with the tantric pattern in which the yogi deliberately produces an aggressive, malicious fundamental attitude in order to subsequently transform it into its opposite via the “law of inversion”: the poison becomes the antidote, the evil the cure. We have indicated often enough that this does not at all work out to plan, and that rather, after practicing the ritual the “healing priests” themselves can become the demons they ostensibly want to drive out.

Summarizing, we can thus say that, over and above the “tantric female sacrifice”, Tibetan Buddhism has made all possible variants of the symbolic sacrifice of humans an essential element of its cultural life. This is also no surprise, as the whole tantric idea is fundamentally based upon the sacrifice of the human (the person, the individual, the human body) to the benefit of the gods or of the yogi. At least in the imaginations of the lamas there are various demons in the Tibetan pantheon who perform the sacrificial rites or to whom the sacrifices are made. The fiends thus fulfill an important task in the tantric scenario and serve the teaching as tutelary deities (dharmapalas). As reward for their work they demand still more human blood and still more human flesh. Such cannibal foods are called kangdza in Tibetan. They are graphically depicted as dismembered bodies, hearts that have been torn out, and peeled skins in ghastly thangkas, which are worshipped in sacred chambers dedicated to the demons themselves. Kangdza means “wish-fulfilling gifts”, unmistakably indicating that people were of the opinion that they could fulfill their greatest wishes through human sacrifices. That this really was understood thus is demonstrated by the constant use of parts of human corpses in Tibetan magic, to which we devote the next chapter.

Ritual murder as a current issue among exile Tibetans:

The terrible events of February 4, 1997 in Dharamsala, the Indian seat of government of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, demonstrate that ritual human sacrifice among the Tibetans is in no way a thing of the past but rather continues to take place up until the present day. According to the police report on that day six to eight men burst into the cell of the 70-year-old lama, Lobsang Gyatso, the leader of the Buddhist dialectic school, and murdered him and two of his pupils with numerous stab wounds. The bloody deed was carried out in the immediate vicinity of the Dalai Lama's residence in a building which forms part of the Namgyal monastery. The Namgyal Institute is, as we have already mentioned on a number of occasions, responsible for the ritual performance of the Kalachakra Tantra. The world press — in as far as it reported the crime at all — was horrified by the extreme cruelty of the murderers. The victims' throats had been slit and according to some press reports their skin had been partially torn from their bodies (Süddeutsche Zeitung, 1997, No. 158, p. 10). There is even a rumor among the exile Tibetan community that the perpetrators had sucked out the victims' blood in order to use it for magical purposes. All this took place in just under an hour.

The Indian criminal police and the western media were united in the view that this was a matter of a ritual murder, since money and valuable objects, such as a golden Buddha which was to be found there for example, were left untouched by the murderers. The “mouthpiece” for the Dalai Lama in the USA, Robert Thurman, also saw the murder as a ritual act: “The three were stabbed repeatedly and cut up in a way that was like exorcism.” (Newsweek, May 5, 1997, p. 43).

In general the deed is suspected to have been an act of revenge by followers of the protective deity, Dorje Shugden, of whom Lobsang Gyatso was an open opponent. But to date the police have been unable to produce any real evidence. In contrast, the Shugden followers see the murders as an attempt to marginalize them as criminals by the Dalai Lama. (We shall discuss this in the next chapter.)

As important as it may be that the case be solved, it is not of decisive significance for our analysis who finally turns out to have committed the deed. We are under any circumstances confronted with an event here, in which the tantric scheme has become shockingly real and current. The ritual murders of 4 February have put a final end to the years of “scientific” discussion around the question of whether the calls to murder in the tantras (which we have considered in detail in the first part of this study) are only a symbolic directive or whether they are to be understood literally. Both are the case. On this occasion, this has even been perceived in the western press, such as, for example, when the Süddeutsche Zeitung asks: “Exorcist ritual murders? Fanatics even in the most gentle of all religions? For many fans of Buddhism in the West their happy world falls a part.” (Süddeutsche Zeitung, 1997, No. 158, p. 10). It nonetheless remains unclear which metaphysical speculations were involved in the bloody rite of February 4.

The ritual sacrifice of Tibet:

In dealing with the occupation of Tibet by the Chinese, the otherwise most “mystical” lamas prefer to argue in exclusively western and non-mythological terms. There is talk of breaches of human rights, international law, and “cultural genocide”. If, however, we consider the subjugation of the Land of Snows and the exodus of the Dalai Lama from a symbolic/tantric viewpoint, then we reach completely different conclusions.

Primarily, as we have extensively demonstrated, a politically oriented tantra master (especially if he practices the Kalachakra Tantra as does the Dalai Lama) is not at all interested in strengthening and maintaining an established and orderly state. Such a conservative position is valid only for as long as it does not stand in the way of the final goal, the conquest of the world by a Buddhocracy. This imperial path to world control is paved with sacrifices: the sacrifice of the karma mudra (the wisdom consort), the sacrifice of the pupil’s individual personality, the symbolic sacrifice of worldly kingship, etc.

Just as the guru is able to evoke mental states in his sadhaka (pupil) which lead to the fragmentation of the latter’s psyche so that he can be reborn on a higher spiritual plane, so too he applies such deliberately initiated practices of dismemberment to the state and society as well, in order for these to re-emerge on a higher level. Just as the tantra master dissolves the structures of his human body, he can likewise bring down the established structures of a social community. Then the Buddhist/tantric idea of the state has an essentially symbolic nature and is fundamentally no different to the procedures which the yogi performs within his energy body and through his ritual practices.

From the viewpoint of the Kalachakra Tantra, all the important events in Tibetan history point eschatologically to the control of the universe by a Chakravartin (world ruler). The precondition for this is the destruction of the old social order and the construction of a new society along the guidelines laid down in the Dharma (the teaching). Following such a logic, and in accordance with the tantric “law of inversion”, the destruction of a national Tibet could become the requirement for a higher transnational Buddhocratic order.

Have — we must now ask ourselves — the Tibetan people been sacrificed so that their life energies may be freed for the worldwide spread of Lamaism? As fantastic and cynical as such a mythical interpretation of history may sound, it is surreptitiously widely distributed in the occult circles of Tantric Buddhism. Proud reference is made to the comparison with Christianity here: just as Jesus Christ was sacrificed to save the world, so too the Tibet of old was destroyed so that the Dharma could spread around the globe.

In an insider document which was sent to the Tibetologist Donald S. Lopez, Jr. in 1993, it says of the Chinese destruction of Tibetan culture: “From an esoteric viewpoint, Tibet has passed through the burning ground of purification on a national level. What is the 'burning ground'? When a developing entity, be it a person or a nation (the dynamic is the same), reaches a certain level of spiritual development, a time comes for the lower habits, old patterns, illusions and crystallized beliefs to be purified so as to better allow the spiritual energies of inner being to flow through the instrument without distortion ..... After such a purification the entity is ready for the next level of expansion in service. The Tibetans were spiritually strong enough to endure this burning ground so as to pave the way for its defined part in building the new world”. In this letter, the authors assure us, the “first Sacred Nation” will become a “point of synthesis” of “universal love, wisdom and goodwill” (quoted by Lopez, 1998, p. 204).

Or was the exodus of the omnipotent l and the killing of many Tibetan believers by the Chinese even “planned” by the Buddhist side, so that Tantrism could conquer the world? The Tibetologist Robert Thurman (the “mouthpiece of the Dalai Lama” in America) discusses such a theory in his book Essential Tibetan Buddhism. “The most compelling, if somewhat dramatic [theory],” Thurman writes, “is that Vajrapani (the Bodhisattva of power) emanated himself as Mao Tse-tung and took upon himself the heinous sin of destroying the Buddha Dharma's institutions [of Tibet], along with many beings, for three main reasons: to prevent other, ordinarily human, materialists from reaping the consequences of such terrible acts; to challenge the Tibetan Buddhists to let go the trapping of their religion and philosophy and force themselves to achieve the ability to embody once again in this terrible era their teachings of detachment, compassion, and wisdom, and to scatter the Indo-Tibetan Buddhist teachers and disseminate their teachings throughout the planet among all the people, whether religious or secular, at this apocalyptic time when humanity must make a quantum leap from violence to peacefulness in order to preserve all life on earth” (quoted in Lopez, 1998, p. 274).

Such visions of purification and sacrifice may sound bizarre and fantastic to a western historian, but we must nevertheless regard them as the expression of an ancient culture which recognizes the will and the plan of a supreme being behind every historical suffering and every human catastrophe. The catastrophe of Tibet is foreseen in the script of the Kalachakra Tantra. Thus for the current Dalai Lama his primary concern is not the freedom of the nation of Tibet, but rather the spread of Tantric Buddhism on a global scale. “My main concern, my main interest, is the Tibetan Buddhist culture, not just political independence”, he said at the end of the eighties year in Strasbourg (Shambhala Sun, Archive, November 1996).

How deeply interconnected politics and ritual are felt to be by the Kundun’s followers is shown by the vision described by a participant at a conference in Bonn ("Mythos Tibet”) who had traveled in Tibet: he had suddenly seen the highlands as a great mandala. Exactly like the sand mandala in the Kalachakra Tantra it was then destroyed so that the whole power of Tibet could be concentrated in the person of the Dalai Lama as the world teacher of the age to come.

As cynical as it may sound, through such imaginings the suffering the Tibetans have experienced under Chinese control attain a deeper significance and spiritual solemnity. It was the greatest gift for the distribution of Tibetan Buddhism in the West. [1]

The spectacular self-sacrifice has since the spring of 1998 become a new political weapon for both the Tibetans who remained and those in exile: in 1997, the majority of monks from the Tibetan Drepung monastery were convinced that the Dalai Lama would soon return with the support of the US in order to free Tibet. Thus, now would be the right moment to sacrifice oneself for His Holiness, for the religion, and for Tibet (Goldstein, 1998, p. 42). To bring the situation in their home country to the world’s attention and above all to raise the question of Tibet in the UN, Tibetan monks protested in India with a so-called “hunger strike to the death”. When the Indian police admitted the protesters to a hospital after a number of days, the 50-year-old monk, Thubten Ngodub, publicly self-immolated, with the cry of “Long live the Dalai Lama!” on his lips. [2] He was declared a martyr of the nation and his funeral in Dharamsala was a moving demonstration which went on for hours. Youths wrote Free Tibet on their chests in their own blood. In a public communiqué from the youth organization (TYC) it was said that “The Tibetan people have sent a clear message to the world that they can sacrifice themselves for the cause of an independent Tibet ... More blood will flow in the coming days” (AFP, New Delhi, April 29, 1998). The names of many more Tibetans who were prepared to die for their country were placed on a list.

On the one hand, the Dalai Lama condemned such proceedings because they were a resort to violent means (suicide is violence directed against the self), on the other hand he expressed that he admired the motivation and resolve of these Tibetans (who sacrifice themselves) (The Office of Tibet, April 28, 1998). He visited the hunger strikers and blessed the national martyr, Ngodub, in a special ritual. The grotesque aspect of the situation was that, at the same time and under American pressure, the Kundun was preparing for an imminent encounter with the Chinese. Whilst he repeatedly stresses in public that he renounced an “independent Tibet”, his subjects sacrifice themselves for exactly this demand. We shall come to speak later of the discordance which arises between Lamaism and the national question.

Real violence and one’s own imaginings:

Is perhaps the violence which the Land of Snows has had to experience under Chinese occupation a mirror image of its own culture? If we look at the scenes of unbounded suffering and merciless sadism which are depicted upon countless thangkas, then we have before our eyes an exact visual prognosis of what was done to the Tibetans by the Chinese. In just casting a glance in the Tibetan Book of the Dead one is at once confronted with the same infernal images as are described by Tibetan refugees. The history of horrors is — as we know — codified in both the sacred iconography of Tantric Buddhism and in the unfolding scenes of the tantras.

In light of the history of Tibet, must Lamaism’s images of horror just be seen as a prophecy of events to come, or did they themselves contribute to the production of the brutal reality? Does the deed follow the meditative envisioning, like thunder follows lightning? Is the Tibetan history of suffering aligned with a tantric myth? Were the Buddhist doctrine of insight applied consistently, it would have to answer this question with “yes”. Joseph Campbell, too, is one of the few western authors to describe the Chinese attacks, which he otherwise strongly criticizes, as a “vision of the whole thing come true, the materialization of the mythology in life” and to have referred to the depiction of the horrors in the tantras (Joseph Campbell, 1973, p. 516).

If one spins this mythological net out further, then the following question at once presents itself: Why were Tibet and the “omnipotent” lamas not protected by their deities? Were the wrathful dharmapalas (tutelary deities) too weak to repel the “nine-headed” Chinese dragon and drive it from the “roof of the world”? Perhaps the goddess Palden Lhamo, the female protective spirit of the Dalai Lama and the city of Lhasa, had freed herself from the clutches of the andocentric clergy and turned against her former masters? Had the enchained Srinmo, the mother of Tibet, joined up with the demons from the Middle Kingdom in order to avenge herself upon the lamas for nailing her down? Or was the exodus of the omnipotent lamas intentional, in order to now conquer the world?

Such questions may also appear bizarre and fantastic to a western historian; but for the Tibetan/tantric “discipline of history”, which suspects superhuman forces are at work behind politics, they do make sense. In the following chapter we would like to demonstrate how decisively such an atavistic view influences the politics of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama through a consideration of the Tibetan oracle system and the associated Shugden affair.



[1] On the other hand, the “sacrificing” of Tibet is lamented on all sides or even linked to the fate of all humanity: “If one allows such a spiritual society to be destroyed,” writes the director Martin Scorcese, “we lose a part of our own soul” (Focus, 46/1997, p. 168).

[2] There is a passage in the Lotus Sutra in which a Bodhisattva burns himself up as a sacrifice for a Buddha.
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The Tibetans can be described without exaggeration as being “addicted to oracles”. The most varied methods of augury and clairvoyance have been an everyday presence in the Land of Snows since time immemorial. The following types of oracle, all of which are still employed (among the Tibetans in exile as well), are described on an Internet site: doughball divination, dice divination, divination on a rosary, bootstrap divination, the interpretation of “incidental” signs, clairvoyant dreams, examining flames, observing a butter lamp, mirror divination, shoulder-blade divination, and hearing divination (HPI 10). When the “Great Fifth” seized worldly power in Tibet in the 17th century, he founded the institution of a state oracle so as to be able to obtain divinatory advice about the business of government. This is a matter of a human medium who serves as the mouthpiece of a particular deity. Still today, this form of “supernatural” consultation forms an important division within the Tibetan government in exile. The opinions of oracles are obtained for all important political events, often by the Fourteenth Dalai Lama in person. He is — in the accusations of his opponents — all but obsessed by divinations; it is primarily the prophecies of the state oracle which are mentioned. But before we examine this accusation, we should take a closer look at the history and character of this “state oracle”.

The Tibetan state oracle:

In the Tibet of old, the state oracle (or rather its human medium) lived as one of the highest ranking lamas in the Nechung residence. “It” had at its command a considerable “court” and celebrated its liturgies in a temple of its own. The predominant color of the interior temple was black. On the walls of the gloomy shrine hung mysterious weapons, from which great magical effects were supposed to emanate. In the corners lurked stuffed birds, tigers, and leopards. Pictures of terror gods looked back at the visitor, who suddenly stood in front of a mask of dried leather feared across the whole country. Among the chief iconographic motifs of the temple was the depiction of human ribcages.

At the beginning of an oracle session, the Nechung Lama is sent into a trance via all manner of ritual song and incense. After a while his eyes close, his facial muscles begin to twitch, his brow becomes dark red and glistens with sweat. The prophet god then visibly enters him, then during his trance the medium develops — and this is confirmed by photographs and western eyewitness reports — almost superhuman powers. He can bend iron swords and, although he carries a metal crown weighing over 80 pounds (!) on his head, perform a wild dance. Incomprehensible sounds come from his foaming lips. This is supposed to be a sacred language. Only once it has been deciphered by the priests can the content of the oracle message be recognized.

The deity conjured up by the Nechung Lama is called Pehar or Pedkar. However, often only his adjutant is invoked, Dorje Drakden by name. This is because a direct appearance by Pehar can be so violent that it threatens the life of his medium (the Nechung Lama). Pehar has under his command a group of five wrathful gods, who together are called the “protective wheel”. It seems sensible to make a few thoughts about this prophesying god, who has for centuries exercised such a decisive influence upon Tibetan politics and still continues to do so.

In iconographic representations, Pehar has three faces of different colors. He wears a bamboo hat which is crowned with a vajra upon his head. In his hands he holds a bow and arrow, a sword, a cleaver, and a club. His mount is a snow lion.

Pehar’s original home lay in the north of Tibet, there where in the conception of the old Tibetans (in the Gesar epic) the “devil’s country” was to be found. In earlier times he reigned as war god of the Hor Mongols. According to the sagas, this wild tribe was counted among the bitterest opponents of the pre-Buddhist Tibetans and their national hero, Gesar of Ling.

Old documents from Tunhuang describe the Hor as “flesh-eating red demons” (Stein, 1993, p. 36). Their martial king had laid waste to the Land of Snows and stolen its queen, the wife of Gesar of Ling. After terrible battles the Tibetan national hero defeated the rapacious Hors, to whom we are indebted for the word horde, and won their commitment and that of their chief god, Pehar, with an eternal oath of loyalty. Over the centuries the term Hor was then used to refer to various Mongolian tribes, including those of Genghis Khan. Hence, Pehar (the principal oracle god of the Dalai Lama) was originally a bitter arch-enemy of the Tibetans.

Where Gesar had rendered the Mongol god harmless, it was the Maha Siddha Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) who brought Buddhism to Tibet who first succeeded in actually putting Pehar to work. The saga tells how Guru Rinpoche pressed a vajra upon the barbaric god’s head and thus magically mastered him. After this act, Pehar was able to be incorporated into the Buddhist pantheon as a servant. For seven hundred years his chief residence was the founding monastery Samye, by the construction of which he had to assist as a “forced laborer”. About 900 years later the “Great Fifth” transported him (i.e., his symbol) to Nechung in the vicinity of the Drepung monastery and advanced the former war god of the Hor to state oracle. Since, after his “Buddhization”, he did not want to be reminded of his former defeat (by the national hero, Gesar), not a single verse from the Gesar epic was allowed to be cited in the Drepung monastery or at any other location where he had stayed.

The question soon arises as to why of all gods Pehar, the former ferocious and cruel opponent of the Land of Snows, was given the delicate office of being a supernatural governmental advisor to the Tibetan “god-king”. Surely this would have sooner been the entitlement of a Bodhisattva like Avalokiteshvara or a national hero like Gesar of Ling.

With this question too, the key is to be sought in the “political theology” of the “Great Fifth”. We may recall that both the conferring of the title of Dalai Lama and the establishment of the hierarch’s secular power were the actions of the Mongolians and not of the Tibetan people. In contrast, as we have reported, in the 17th century the national forces of the country were actually gathered under the kings of Tsang and around the throne of the Karmapa (the leader of the “red” Kagyupa sect). Thus, it does not take much fantasy to be able to sketch out why Pehar was chosen as the advisor of the “yellow” Buddhist state (then represented by the Fifth Dalai Lama). It was expected of the former Mongolian god and opponent of Tibet that he tame the recalcitrant Tibetans (who supported the Karmapa). In this his interests were in complete accord with those of the “god-king”. Additionally, the “Great Fifth” himself was a descendant of an aristocratic family which traced its lineage back to the Hor Mongols. Pehar, the later state oracle, is thus a foreign deity imposed upon the Tibetan people.

It is true that the oracle god has sworn an oath of loyalty, but it is — in the lamas’ opinion — by no means ruled out that he may one day break this and unleash his full vengeance upon the Tibetans who defeated him in times gone by. He has in his own words explained to Padmasambhava what will then happen. He will destroy the houses and the fields. The children of the Land of Snows will have to endure famine and will be driven insane. The fruit of the land will be destroyed by hail and swarms of insects. The strong will be carried off and only the weak shall survive. Wars shall devastate the roof of the world. Pehar himself will interrupt the meditations of the lamas, rob their spells of their magic power, and force them to commit suicide. Brothers will rape their sisters. He will make the wisdom consorts (the mudras) of the tantra masters bad and heretical, yes, transform them into enemies of the teaching who emigrate to the lands of the unbelievers. But first he shall copulate with them. “I,” Pehar proclaims, “the lord of the temples, the stupas and scriptures, I shall possess the fair bodies of all virgins” (Sierksma, 1966, p. 165).

In the sphere of practical politics the recommendations of the Mongolian martial god have also not always been advantageous for the Tibetans. For example, he gave the Thirteenth Dalai Lama the catastrophic advice that he should attack the British army under Colonel Younghusband which led to a massacre of the Tibetan soldiers.

Current politics and the oracle system:

One would think that the Tibetans in exile would these days have distanced themselves from such a warlike deity as Pehar, who constantly threatens them with bloody acts of revenge, especially after their experiences at the hands of the Chinese occupying forces. One would further assume that, given the Kundun’s strident professions of democracy, the oracle system as such would be in decline or have even been abandoned. But the opposite is the case: in Dharamsala the divinatory arts, astrology, the interpretation of dreams, and even the drawing of lots still have a most decisive (!) influence upon the politics of the Tibetans in exile. Every (!) politically significant step is first taken once the mediums, soothsayers, and court astrologers have been consulted, every important state-political activity requires the invocation of the wrathful Mongolian god, Pehar. This tendency has increased in recent years. Today there are said to be three further mediums (who represent different deities) whose services are made use of. Among these is a young and attractive girl from an eastern province of Tibet. Some members of the community of Tibetans in exile are therefore of the opinion that the various oracles misuse His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama for their own ends and force their will upon him.

Now, how does the “god-king” see this through his own eyes? “Even some Tibetans,” we learn from the Kundun, “mostly those who consider themselves 'progressive', have misgivings about my continued use of this ancient method of intelligence gathering. But I do so for the simple reason that as I look back over the many occasions when I have asked questions of the oracle, on each one of them time has proved that his answer was correct” (Dalai Lama XIV, 1993 I, p. 312). “I not only believe in spirits, but in various kinds of spirits!”, His Holiness further admits, “... To this category belongs the state oracle Nechung (Pehar). We consider these spirits reliable, then they have a long history without any controversy in over 1000 years” (Tagesanzeiger (Switzerland), March 23, 1998). Pehar determined the point in time in which the Dalai Lama had to flee Tibet and with the statement “that the shine of the 'wish-fulfilling jewel' [one of the Dalai Lama’s names] will light up in the West” predicted the spread of Buddhism in Europe and North America. (Dalai Lama XIV, 1993a, p. 154).

Even the aggression of his oracle god is not denied by the Kundun: “His [task], in his capacity as protector and defender, is wrathful. [!] However, although our functions are similar, my relationship with Nechung is that of commander to lieutenant: I never bow down to him. It is for Nechung to bow to the Dalai Lama” (Dalai Lama XIV, 1993 I, p. 312). This statement confirms once again that from a tantric viewpoint, the politics of the Tibetans in exile is not conducted by people, but by gods. As Avalokiteshvara and the Kalachakra deity, the Dalai Lama commands the Mongolian god, Pehar, to make predictions about the future. [1] The Kundun’s comment in this quotation that his functions and the “functions” of Pehar are “similar” is ambiguous. Does he want to allude to his own “wrathful aspect” here? On September 4, 1987 a new Nechung medium was enthroned in Dharamsala, since the old one had died three years before. His official confirmation was attained following a demonstrative trance session at which the Kundun, cabinet members of the Tibetan government in exile and the parliamentary chairman were present. About two months later another séance was held before the Council of Ministers and a number of high lamas. This illustrious assembly of the highest ranking representatives of the Tibetan people shows how the political prophecies and instructions of the god Pehar are taken seriously not just by the Dalai Lama but also by the “people’s representatives” of the Tibetans in exile. Thus, in political decisions neither reason nor the majority of votes, nor even public opinion have the last word, but rather the Mongolian oracle god.

Dorje Shugden—a threat to the Fourteenth Dalai Lama’s life?

Since 1996 at the latest, Pehar and his Nechung medium have met with embittered competition from among the Tibetan’s own ranks. This is a matter of the tutelary and divinatory deity, Dorje Shugden. In pictures, Dorje Shugden is depicted riding grim-faced through a lake of boiling blood upon a snow lion. It is primarily conservative circles among the Gelugpas (the “Yellow Hats”) who have grouped around this figure. They demand the exclusive supremacy of the yellow sect (the Gelugpas) over the other Buddhist schools.

This traditional political position of the Shugden worshippers is not acceptable to the Fourteenth Dalai Lama (although he himself is a member of the yellow sect) because he is working towards an integration of all Tibet’s religious orientations, including the Bonpos. With the same resolve as the “Great Fifth” he sees a one-off chance to multiply the power of his own institution in a collective movement involving all schools. It is therefore not surprising that even the early history of Dorje Shugden features an irreconcilable confrontation between the protective god and the Fifth Dalai Lama, which appears to be repeating itself today.

What took place on that occasion, and what has been the history of the recalcitrant Shugden? The “pan-Buddhist” program of the “Great Fifth”, but especially his occult tendency towards the Nyingmapa sect, led the abbot of the powerful Drepung (Yellow Hat) monastery, Drakpa Gyaltsen, to organize a rebellion against the ruler in the Potala. The conspiracy was discovered and was not carried out.

The two oracle gods at daggers drawn: Shugden [l] and Nechung [r]

Most probably at the command of the in such matters unscrupulous god-king, the rebel was murdered first. Whilst the corpse was being burned on a pyre, a threatening cloud which resembled a huge black hand, the hand of the avenger, was formed by the ascending smoke. After his death the murdered lama, Drakpa Gyaltsen, transformed into a martial spirit and took on the fearsome name of Dorje Shugden, which means the “Bellower of the Thunderbolt”. He continued to pursue his political goals from the beyond.

Shortly after his death — the legend reports — all manner of unhappy incidents befell the country. Towns and villages were afflicted with sicknesses. The Tibetan government constantly made wrong decisions, even the Fifth Dalai Lama was not spared. Every time he wanted to have a meal in the middle of the day, his victim (Dorje Shugden) manifested himself as an invisible evil force, up-ended the dinner tables and damaged “His Holiness’s possessions”. [2] Ultimately it proved possible to subdue the vengeful spirit through all manner of rituals, but he did not therefore remain inactive.

With the assistance of a human medium, through whom he still today communicates with his priests, the abbot who had transformed into a protective god organized (from the beyond, so to speak) a oppositional grouping within the Yellow Hat (Gelugpa) order, who wanted (and still want) to enforce the absolute supremacy of their order by magical and practical political means. For example, at the beginning of the 20th century the invocation of Shugden by the powerful Yellow Hat lama, Pabongka Rinpoche, was used to suppress the Nyingmapas and Kagyupas in eastern Tibet. An outright ritual war was fought out: “... whenever this [Shugden] ritual was practiced in the Gelugpa monasteries, the surrounding monasteries of the other schools [performed] certain practices so as to check the negative forces again” (Kagyü Life 21-1996, p. 34).

Nonetheless the “reactionary” Shugden movement constantly gained in popularity, especially among members of the Tibetan nobility too. Later, this “sub-sect” of the Yellow Hats came to understand itself as a secret nest of resistance against the Chinese occupation force, since the traditional protectors of Tibet (Palden Lhamo or Pehar, for example) had allegedly betrayed and left the country. One of the chief representatives of the secret conservative alliance (Trijang Rinpoche) was a teacher of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, who himself initiated his divine pupil into the Shugden cult.

The reverence for Shugden is likewise high among the Tibetans in exile, and is well distributed worldwide (everywhere where Gelugpas are to be found). A fifth, in some other versions even two-thirds, of the yellow sect are said to pray to the reactionary dharmapala (tutelary spirit). But in the meantime the movement has also spread among Westerners. These are primarily from the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT), an English-based grouping around the lama Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. The declaration of exclusion from his former monastery says of the latter that, “this demon with broken commitments, Kelsang Gyatso, burns with the flame of unbearable spite toward the unsurpassed omniscient XIV Dalai Lama, the only staff of life of religious people in Tibet, whose activities and kindness equal the sky” (Lopez, 1998, p. 195). His supporters provide online information about their conflict with Dharamsala under the name of the Shugden Supporters Community (SSC).

The Kundun and Shugden:

It is true that in the year 1976 the Fourteenth Dalai Lama had already declared that he did not wish for his person to associated in any way with Dorje Shugden, especially because the worship of this “reactionary” spirit had come into conflict with three other dharmapalas (tutelary gods) which he revered highly, the oracle god Pehar, the terrible Palden Lhamo, and the protective god Dharmaraja. Rumors report of a dream of the Kundun in which Shugden and Pehar had fought with one another. On a number of occasions Pehar prophesied via the Nechung Lama that Shugden was attempting to undermine the sovereignty of the Kundun and thus deliver Tibet into the hands of the Chinese. The Mongolian god received unexpected support in his accusations through a young attractive female medium by name of Tsering Chenma, who, during the preparations for a Kalachakra initiation (!) in Lahaul Spiti announced that 30 members of the Dorje Shugden Society would attack the Dalai Lama in the course of the initiation. Thereupon the Kundun’s security staff searched all present for weapons. Nothing was found and not a single representative of the Shugden society was in attendance (Burns, Newsgroup 1).

Yet another, female (!) oracle was questioned about the Shugden affair. During the session and in the presence of the Dalai Lama, the woman is supposed to have fallen upon a monk and whilst she tore at his clothes and shook his head cried out: “This Lama is bad, he is following Dorje Shugden, take him out, take him out” (Burns, Newsgroup 9).

The majority of the Tibetans in exile were naturally not informed about such incidents, which were more or less played out behind closed doors, and were thus most surprised at the sharpness and lack of compromise with which the Kundun repeated his criticisms of the Shugden movement in 1996.

On March 21, during the initiation into a particular tantra (Hayagriva) he turned to those present with the following words: “I have recently said several prayers for the well-being of our nation and religion. It has become fairly clear that Dolgyal [another name for Shugden] is a spirit of the dark forces. ... If any of you intend to continue to invoke Dolgyal [Shugden], it would be better for you to stay away from this authorization, to stand up and leave this place. It is unfitting if you continue to sit here. It will be of no use to you. It will in contrast have the effect of shortening the life of the Gyalwa Rinpoche [of the Dalai Lama, that is, his own life]. Which is not good. If there are, however, some among you who want that Gyalwa Rinpoche [he himself] should soon die, then just stay” (Kagyü Life 21-1996, p. 35).

At another location the Kundun announced his fear that Shugden was seeking to spoil all his pleasure in life via psychic terror: “You should not think that dangers for my life come only from someone armed with a knife, a gun or a bomb. Such an event is extremely unlikely. But dangers to my life may arise if my advice is constantly spurned, causing me to feel discouraged and to see no further purpose in life” (Kashag, HPI 11).

Such statements by His Holiness may imply that the Dalai Lama (and behind him the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara) is very fearful of this vengeful spirit, which induced the Indian Associated Press to make the mocking comment that, “a 350-year old ghost is haunting the Dalai Lama” (Associated Press, August 21, 1997, 2:54 a.m.). At any rate, the god-king’s security service which protects his residence in Dharamsala in the meantime consists of 100 police officers.

The following statement by the Kundun has been leaked from a secret meeting of influential exiled Tibetan politicians and high lamas which the Dalai Lama called to discuss the Shugden case in Caux (Switzerland): “Everyone who is affiliated with the Tibetan Society of Ganden Phodrang government (Tibetan Government) should relinquish ties with Dhogyal (Shugden). This is necessary since it poses danger to the religious and temporal situation in Tibet. As for foreigners, it makes no difference to us if they walk with their feet up and their head down. We have taught Dharma to them, not they to us. ... We should do it [carry out this ban] in such a way to ensure that in future generations not even the name of Dholgyal [Shugden] is remembered” (Burns, Newsgroup 1).

Numerous Tibetans who had in the past been initiated into the Shugden cult by the personal teacher of the Kundun, Trijang Rinpoche, and believed that through this they enjoyed His Holiness’s favor, saw themselves all at once betrayed after the ban and felt deeply disappointed. For the sophisticated Dalai Lama, however, the sectarian position of the “yellow fundamentalists” and “sectarians” was no longer bearable and quite obviously a significant obstacle on his mission to compel all sects to accept his absolute control and thus limit the supremacy of the Gelugpas. “This Shugden spirit”, the Kundun has said, “has for over 360 years created tensions between the Gelug tradition and the other schools. ... Some may [because of the ban] have lost trust in me. But at the same time numerous followers of the Kagyupa or Nyingma schools have recognized that the Dalai Lama is pursuing a truly non-sectarian course. I believe this Shugden worship has been like an agonizing boil for 360 years. Now like a modern surgeon I have undertaken a small operation” (Tagesanzeiger (Switzerland), March 23, 1998).

He then also branded the Shugden cult as “idolatry” and as a “relapse into shamanism” (Süddeutsche Zeitung, 1997, No. 158, p. 10). On March 30, 1996 the ban on the worship of Shugden was pronounced by governmental decree. The “mouthpiece” of the Kundun in the USA, Robert Thurman, emotionally denounced the “sectarians” and publicly disparaged them as the “Taliban of Buddhism”.

In the meantime the accusations coming out of Dharamsala against the Shugden worshippers fill many pages: they were cooperating with the Chinese and received funding from Beijing; they were fouling their own nest; they were playing “Russian roulette”, because they dragged the whole exile Tibetan case (and thereby themselves) into the depths. They were trying to kill the Kundun.

The accusations made by the Shugden worshippers:

On the other hand, the Shugden followers, whose leader has meanwhile been officially declared to be an “enemy of the people”, speak of a true witch hunt directed against them which has already been in progress for a number of months. They accuse the Dalai Lama of a flagrant breach of human rights and the right to freedom of religion and do not shy from drawing comparisons with the Chinese occupation force and the Catholic Inquisition. Houses belonging to the sect are said to have been illegally searched by followers of the Kundun, masked bands of thugs to have attacked defenseless Shugden believers, images of and altars to the protective god to have been deliberately burned and thrown into rivers. Lists of the names of Dorje Shugden practitioners ("enemies of the people”) are said to have been drawn up and pictures of them and their children to have been hung out in public buildings so as to defame them. It is said that followers of the protective deity have been completely refused entry to the offices of the government in exile and that the children of their families no longer have access to the official schools. Following a resolution of the so-called Tibetan Cholsum Convention (held between August 27 and 31, 1998) Shugden followers were unable to travel internationally or draw pensions, state child assistance, or social security payments. In it, Tibetans are forbidden to read the writings of the cult and they were called upon to burn them.

A militant underground organization with the name of the “secret society for the destruction of internal and external enemies of Tibet” threatened to murder two young lineage holders, the lamas Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche (13-years-old) [3] and Song Rinpoche (11-years-old), who (under the influence of their teacher) performed rites in honor of Dorje Shugden: “… we will destroy your life and your activities” (Swiss Television, SF1, January 6, 1998). In a document from this group tabled by Shugden followers, it says: “Anyone who goes against the policy of the government must be singled out one-pointedly, opposed and given the death penalty. ... As for the reincarnations of Trijang and Song Rinpoche, if they do not stop practicing Dhogyal [Shugden] and contradict with the word of H.H. the Dalai Lama, not only will we not be able to respect them, but their life and their activities will suffer destruction. This is our first warning” (Burns, Newsgroup 1). Whilst a Western television crew were filming, a Tibetan monk who cooperated with the reporters received a death threat: “... in seven days you will be dead!” (Swiss Television, SF1, January 6, 1998).

In addition Dharamsala has exerted vehement psychological pressure on Buddhist centers in the West and forbidden them from performing Shugden rituals. In a word — the worshippers of the protective god had become the “Jews of Buddhism” (Newsweek, April 28, 1997, p. 26).

In London, where the sect has around 3000 members, there were protest demonstrations at which pictures of the Kundun were held high with the slogan, “Your Smiles Charm, Your Actions Harm”. He was referred to here as a “merciless dictator, who oppresses his people more than the Chinese do” (Kagyü Life 21, 1996, p. 34).

However, in an official communiqué from May 14, 1996, the government in exile denied all accusations. In contrast — they announced that death threats had been sent from Shugden to the offices of His Holiness and the Tibetan Women's Association. “If there comes division among prominent persons in the Yellow Hat Sect, there will be bloodshed in the monasteries and settlements across India”, one of the threatening letters is said to have stated (Newsweek, April 28, 1997, p. 26; retranslation). Both sides clearly fear that their lives are threatened by the other side.

All these mutual fears, accusations, and slander in the battle between the two oracle gods reached their climax in the ritual murder of the lama Lobsang Gyatso on February 4, 1997 which we have described above. Lobsang Gyatso was considered a special friend of the Dalai Lama and a pronounced opponent of the Shugden sect. A few days after the murder a press release from the government in exile coursed around the world in which Dorje Shugden followers were said to certainly be responsible for the murder. There was talk of confessions and arrests. This opinion remains current among a broad public to this day.

As evidence, among other things a letter to the murder victim (Lobsang Gyatso) was cited in which (it was said) the secretary of the Dorje Shugden Society had threatened the abbot with murder. Tashi Wangdu, a minister of the Tibetan government in exile, held this document, written in Tibetan, in his hand and showed it again on January 25, 1998 in Swiss Television (on the “Sternstunde”[Star Hour] program). However, this turned out to be a deliberate and very blatant attempt to mislead, when the Tibetan document, which was later translated, does not contain a single word of a murder threat. Rather, it contains a polite invitation to Lobsang Gyatso to discuss “theological” questions with the Dorje Shugden Society in Delhi (Gassner, 1999).

But this document was enough to arrest all known followers of the protective god (Shugden) in Delhi and illegally imprison them. However, they denied participating in the crime in any form whatsoever. [4] Indeed, despite interrogations lasting weeks by the Indian criminal police, nothing has been proven. The evidence is so meager that it is most likely that the crime was committed by another party. The matter was also seen so by a court in Dharamsala, which negated any connection between the Dorje Shugden Society and the murders of February 4.

For this reason, there are claims from the Shugden followers that the Dalai Lama’s circle tried to pin the blame on them in order to muzzle and marginalize them. In light of the power-political ambitions and relative strength of the sect — it is said to have over 20,000 active members in India alone — this version also makes sense. Some western worshippers of the protective god even go so far as to claim that a higher order from the Kundun lay behind the deed. Until the murderers are convicted, a good criminologist must keep his or her eye on all of these possibilities.

Reactions of the Tibetan parliament:

Within the Tibetan parliament in exile, the incidents have led to great nervousness and high tension. A resolution was passed demanding that “in essence government departments, organizations, associations, monasteries and their branches under the direction of the exile Tibetan government should abide by the ban against worship of Dhogyal” (Burns, Newsgroup 1).

In the further reactions of the people’s representatives one can read just how risky the whole matter is seen to be. Hence, during the parliamentary session of September 20, 1997 one of the members established that “an unprecedented amount of literature is being published everywhere that criticizes the Dalai Lama and belittles the Tibetan Exile Government” (Burns, Newsgroup 1). This is “extremely dangerous” and in the principal monasteries there was open talk of a schism. During the parliamentary session the government was strongly criticized for not having done anything to treat the Shugden affair as an internal Tibetan matter, but rather to have told the whole world about it, thus bringing it to the attention of an international public. We have to conclude from the committed discussions of the parliamentary members that the power and potential influence of the Shugden followers are actually more significant than one would have thought from the previous official statements out of Dharamsala.

On the third day of the session the situation in parliament had reached such a dead end that there seemed to be nothing more to say. What do the representatives of Tibetans in exile do in such a situation? — They consult the state oracle! It is not the members of parliament as the representatives of the people’s will but rather the oracle god Pehar who decides which course the government is to steer in the controversy surrounding the recalcitrant Dorje Shugden. The grotesqueness of the situation can hardly be topped, since Pehar and Shugden — as we learn from the writings of both parties — are the most bitter of enemies. How, then, is the Mongolian god (Pehar) supposed to provide an objective judgment about his arch-enemy (Shugden)? Indeed, it was Pehar, who in 1996 prophesied for the Dalai Lama that his life and hence the fate of Tibet wee endangered by the Shugden cult. In contrast , the Shugden oracle announced that the Kundun has been falsely advised by Pehar for years. Hence what the state oracle consulted by parliament would say was clear in advance. The advice was to combat the Shugden followers with uncompromising keenness.

This interesting case is thus a matter of a war between two oracle gods who seek control over the politics of Tibet. No other example since the flight of the Dalai Lama (in 1959) has so clearly revealed to the public that “gods” are at work behind the Tibetan state, the realpolitik of the Kundun, and the power groupings of the society of Tibetans in exile. One may well be completely skeptical about such entities, but one cannot avoid acknowledging that the ruling elite and the subjects of the Lamaist state are guided by just such an ancient world view. How these occult struggles are to be reconciled with the untiringly repeated professions of belief in democracy is difficult to comprehend from a western-oriented way of thinking.

Dharamsala is completely aware that antidemocratic methods must arouse disquiet in the West. For example, in contrast to before, since the mid-eighties reports about the pronouncements of oracles no longer play a large role in the Tibetan Review (the exile Tibetans’ most important foreign-language organ of the press). Only since the “Shugden affair” (1996) has the excessive use of oracle mediums in the politics of the Tibetans in exile been rediscovered and become known worldwide. In monastic circles it is openly joked that the Kundun employs more oracles than ministers. “Favorites and sorcerers manipulate the sovereign”, it says in a Spanish magazine, with “demons and deities fighting to control people's minds ...” (Más Allá de la Ciencia, No. 103, 1997).

Nevertheless, the Kundun has succeeded amazingly well in marginalizing the Shugden cult internationally and branding it as medieval superstition. For example, the German news magazine, Der Spiegel, which normally takes an extremely critical stance towards religious matters, was prepared to blindly take up the official version of the Shugden story from Dharamsala: the Shugden followers, Der Spiegel reported, were responsible for two (!) murders and their flight could be traced to China and the Chinese secret service (Spiegel, 16/1998, p. 119). Nearly all western media stereotypically repeat that the ritual murderers came from the ranks of the protective god (for example, Time Magazine Asia, September 28, 1998).

One of the arguments of the Shugden followers in this “battle of the gods” is the claim that the Dalai Lama is engaged in selling his own country to the Chinese. He (they argue) is not acting in the interests of his people at all, since in his Strasbourg Declaration he renounced the national sovereignty of Tibet as his goal.

It is not possible for us to form a final judgment about such a charge; however, what we can in any case assume is the fact that the Mongolian war god Pehar (the Nechung oracle) can have no interest in the (well-being of the)Tibetans and their nation, against whom he in former times grimly struggled as a Hor Mongol and who then enslaved him. Of course, the national interests of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama could also collide with his worldwide ambitions concerning the spread of Tantric Buddhism. We shall return to this topic in our article on his politics towards China.

If — as the tantric belief maintains- deities are pulling the strings behind the scenes of “human” politics, then a direct consequence of this is that magic (as an invocatory art of gaining influence over gods and demons) must be counted among the “political” activities par excellence. Magic as statecraft is therefore a Tibetan specialty. Let us take a closer look at this “portfolio”.



[1] Here we ought to ask how a lesser deity like Pehar is able to predict the future at all for the hierarchically superior Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara and the incarnated time god (Kalachakra) who are embodied in the Dalai Lama.

[2] According to statements by the followers of Shugden, the Fifth Dalai Lama is supposed to have later changed his mind and prayed to the protective deity. He is even said to have molded the first statue of Dorje Shugden with his own hands and have composed prayers to the protective god. This statue is said to currently be found in Nepal.

[3] Trijang Rinpoche is the reincarnation of the deceased lama who previously initiated the Fourteenth Dalai Lama into the Shugden cult whilst his teacher.

[4] Up until now (February 1998) the police claim to have identified two of the six murderers. These have slipped over the border into Nepal, however.
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Since his flight from Tibet (in 1959), the Fourteenth Dalai Lama has negotiated the international political and cultural stage like a sensitive democrat and enlightened man of the world. As a matter of course he lays claim to all the western “virtues” of humanism, freedom of opinion, rational argument, belief in technical and scientific progress, etc. One gains the impression that he is an open-minded and modern president of a modern nation, who masterfully combines his cosmopolitanism with an elevated, spiritually based, ethical system. But this practical, reasoning facade is deceptive. Behind it is hidden a deeply rooted belief in supernatural powers and magic practices which are supposed to exercise a decisive influence upon social and political events.

Invocation of demons:

Since time immemorial ritual magic and politics have been one in Tibet. A large proportion of these magic practices are devoted to the annihilation of enemies, and especially to the neutralizing of political opponents. The help of demons was necessary for such ends. And they could be found everywhere — the Land of Snows all but overflowed with terror gods, fateful spirits, vampires, ghouls, vengeful goddesses, devils, messengers of death and similar entities, who, in the words of Matthias Hermanns, “completely overgrow the mild and goodly elements [of Buddhism] and hardly let them reveal their advantages” (Hermanns, 1965, p. 401).

For this reason, invocations of demons were not at all rare occurrences nor were they restricted to the spheres of personal and family life. They were in general among the most preferred functions of the lamas. Hence, “demonology” was a high science taught at the monastic universities, and ritual dealings with malevolent spirits were — as we shall see in a moment — an important function of the lamaist state. [1]

For the demons to appear they have to be offered the appropriate objects of their lust as a sacrifice, each class of devil having its own particular taste. René von Nebesky-Wojkowitz describes a number of culinary specialties from the Lamaist “demon recipe books”: cakes made of dark flour and blood; five different sorts of meat, including human flesh; the skull of the child of an incestuous relationship filled with blood and mustard seeds; the skin of a boy; bowls of blood and brain; a lamp filled with human fat with a wick made of human hair; and a dough like mixture of gall, brain, blood and human entrails (Nebesky-Wojkowitz, 1955, p. 261).

Once the gods had accepted the sacrifice they stood at the ritual master’s disposal. The four-armed protective deity, Mahakala, was considered a particularly active assistant when it came to the destruction of enemies. In national matters his bloodthirsty emanation, the six-handed Kschetrapala, was called upon. The magician in charge wrote the war god’s mantra on a piece of paper in gold ink or blood from the blade of a sword together with the wishes he hoped to have granted, and began the invocation.

Towards the end of the forties the Gelugpa lamas sent Kschetrapala into battle against the Chinese. He was cast into a roughly three-yard high sacrificial cake (or torma). This was then set alight outside Lhasa, and whilst the priests lowered their victory banner the demon freed himself and flew in the direction of the threatened border with his army. A real battle of the spirits took place here, as a “nine-headed Chinese demon”, who was assumed to have assisted the Communists in all matters concerning Tibet, appeared on the battlefield. Both spirit princes (the Tibetan and the Chinese) have been mortal enemies for centuries. Obviously the nine-headed emerged from this final battle of the demons as the victor.

The Chinese claim that 21 individuals were killed in this enemy ritual so that their organs could be used to construct the huge torma. Relatives of the victims are supposed to have testified to this (Grunfeld, 1996, p. 29).Now, one could with good reason doubt the Chinese accusations because of the political situation between the “Middle Kingdom” and the “Roof of the World”, but not because they contradict the logic of Tibetan rites of war — these have been recorded in numerous tantric texts.

Likewise in the middle of last century, the Yellow Hats from the Samye monastery were commissioned by the Tibetan government with the task of capturing the army of the red tsan demons in four huge “cross-hairs” in order to then send them off against the enemies of the Land of Snows. This magic instrument, a right-angled net of many-colored threads, stood upon a multistage base, each of which was filled with such tantric substances as soil form charnel fields, human skulls, murder weapons, the tips of the noses, hearts, and lips of men who died an unnatural death, poisonous plants, and similar things. The repulsive mixture was supposed to attract the tsan like a moth to a candle, so that they would become inescapably caught in the spells said over the spirit trap (Nebesky-Wojkowitz, 1955, p. 258). Following the seven-day deep meditation of a high lama it was ready and the demons could be given the command to set out against the enemy.

Such a ritual is also said to have summoned up a terrible earthquake and great panic in Nepal in earlier times, when Tibet was at war with the Nepalese. Experience had shown, however, that it sometimes takes a long time before the effects of such harmful rites are felt. It took two decades after the successful occupation of Tibet by the English (in 1904) before there was an earthquake in the Indian province of Bihar in which a number of British soldiers lost their lives. The Tibetans also traced this natural disaster back to magical activities which they had conducted prior to the invasion.

“Voodoo magic”:

The practice widely known from the Haitian voodoo religion of making a likeness of an enemy or a doll and torturing or destroying this in their place is also widespread in Tibetan Buddhism. Usually, some substance belonging to the opponent, be it a hair or a swatch from their clothing, has to be incorporated into the substitute. It is, however, sufficient to note their name on a piece of paper. Even so, sometimes hard-to-find ingredients are necessary for an effective destructive ritual, as shown by the following Buddhist ritual: “Draw a red magic diagram in the form of a half-moon, then write the name and lineage of the victim on a piece of cotton which has been used to cover the corpse of a plague victim. As ink, use the blood of a dark-skinned Brahmin girl. Call upon the protective deities and hold the piece of material in black smoke. Then lay it in the magic diagram. Swinging a magic dagger made from the bones of a plague victim, recite the appropriate incantation a hundred thousand times. Then place the piece of material there where the victim makes his nightly camp” (Nebesky-Wojkowitz, 1955, p.260). This induces the death of the person. [2]

The same ritual text includes a recipe for the inducement of madness: “draw a white magic circle on the summit of a mountain and place the figure of the victim in it which you have to prepare from the deadly leaves of a poisonous tree. Then write the name and lineage of the victims on this figure with white sandalwood resin. Hold it in the smoke from burnt human fat. Whilst you recite the appropriate spell, take a demon dagger made of bone in your right hand and touch the head of the figure with it. Finally, leave it behind in a place where mamo demonesses are in the habit of congregating” (Nebesky-Wojkowitz, 1955, p. 261).

Such “voodoo practices” were no rare and unhealthy products of the Nyingmapa sect or the despised pre-Buddhist Bonpos. Under the Fifth Dalai Lama they became part of the elevated politics of state. The “Great Fifth” had a terrible “recipe book” (the Golden Manuscript) recorded on black thangkas which was exclusively concerned with magical techniques for destroying an enemy. In it there a number of variations upon the so-called gan tad ritual are also described: a man or a woman depicting the victim are drawn in the center of a circle. They are shackled with heavy chains around their hands and feet. Around the figures the tantra master has written harmful sayings like the following. “the life be cut, the heart be cut, the body be cut, the power be cut, the descent be cut” (Nebesky-Wojkowitz, 1993, p. 483). The latter means that the victim’s relatives should also be destroyed. Now the menstrual blood of a prostitute must be dripped onto the spells, the drawings are given hair and nails. According to some texts a little dirt scraped from a shoe, or some plaster from the victim’s house are sufficient. Then the ritual master folds the paper up in a piece of cloth. The whole thing is stuffed into a yak’s horn with further horrible ingredients which we would rather not have to list. Gloves have to be worn when conducting the ritual, since the substances can have most harmful effects upon the magician if he comes into contact with them. In a cemetery he entreats an army of demons to descend upon the horn and impregnate it with their destructive energy. Then it is buried on the land of the enemy, who dies soon afterwards.

The “Great Fifth” is supposed to have performed a “voodoo” ritual for the defeat of the Kagyupa and the Tsang clan in the Ganden monastery temple. He regarded them, “whose spirit has been clouded by Mara and their devotion to the Karmapa”, as enemies of the faith (Ahmad, 1970, p. 103). In the ritual, a likeness of the Prince of Tsang in the form of a torma (dough cake) was employed. Incorporated into the dough figure were the blood of a boy fallen in the battles, human flesh, beer, poison, and so on. 200 years later, when the Tibetans went to war with the Nepalese, the lamas had a substitute made of the commander of the Nepalese army and conducted a destructive ritual with this. The commander died soon after and the enemy army’s plans for invasion had to be abandoned (Nebesky-Wojkowitz, 1993, p. 495).

Among other things, Tibetan magic is premised upon the existence of a force or energy possessed by every living creature and which is known as la. However, this life energy does not need to be stored within a person, it can be found completely outside of them, in a lake, a mountain, a tree, or an animal for instance. A person can also possess several las. If one of his energy centers is attacked or destroyed he is able to regenerate himself out of the others. Among aristocrats and high lamas we may find the la in “royal” animals like the snow lion, bears, tigers, or elephants. For the “middle class” of society we have animals like the ox, horse, yak, sheep, or mule, and for the lower classes the rat, dog, and scorpion. The la can also keep alive a family, a tribe, or a whole people. For example, Lake Yamdrok is said to contain the life energy of the Tibetan nation and there is a saying that the whole people would die out if it went dry. There is in fact a rumor among the Tibetans in exile that the Chinese planned to drain the entire lake (Tibetan Review, January 1992, p. 4).

If a tantra master wants to put an enemy out of action through magic, then he must find his la and launch a ritual attack upon it. This is of course also true for political opponents. If the life energy of an enemy is hidden in a tree, for instance, then it makes sense to fell it. The opponent would instantly collapse. Every lama is supposed on principle to be capable of locating the la of a person via astrology and clairvoyance.

Magic wonder weapons:

In the armories of the Kalachakra Tantra and of the “Great Fifth”, we find the “magic wheel with the sword spokes”, described by a contemporary lama in the following words: “It is a magic weapon of fearsome efficacy, a great wheel with eight razor-edge sharpened swords as spokes. Our magicians employed it a long time ago in the battle against foreign intruders. The wheel was charged with magic forces and then loosed upon the enemy. It flew spinning through the air at the enemy troops and its rapidly rotating spikes mowed the soldiers down in their hundreds. The devastation wrought by this weapon was so terrible that the government forbade that it ever be used again. The authorities even ordered that all plans for its construction be destroyed” (Nebesky-Wojkowitz, 1955, p. 257).

A further magic appliance, which was, albeit without success, still put to use under the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, was to be found in a Yellow Hat monastery near Lhasa (Kardo Gompa). It was referred to as the “mill of the death demons” and consisted of two small round stones resting upon each other, the upper one of which could be rotated. René von Nebesky-Wojkowitz reports how the lamas started up this killing machine in 1950 at the beginning of the conflict with China: “The 'Mill of the Death Demons' was employed by the Tibetan government to kill the leaders of the opposing party. A priest who was especially experienced in the arts of black magic was appointed by the authorities to operate the instrument. In meditations extending over weeks he had to try to transfer the life energy (la) of the people he was supposed to kill into a number of mustard seeds. If he noticed from curtains indications that he had succeeded, then he laid the seeds between the stones and crushed them. .... The exterminating force which emanated from this magic appliance is supposed to even have had its effect upon the magician who operated it. Some of them, it is said, died after turning the 'Mill of the Death Demons'" (Nebesky-Wojkowitz, 1955, pp. 257-258).

The “Great Fifth” as magician and the Fourteenth Dalai Lama:

The Fifth Dalai Lama was a enthusiast and a master of magic ritual politics. A distinction was drawn in the ceremonies he conducted between continuous, annually repeated state events, and special, mostly enemy-combating events. His “rituals [were] concerned with power; spiritual and political”, writes Samten Karmay, “... we stand in the arena of the dawn of modern Tibetan history” (Karmay, 1988, p. 26).

The god-king was firmly convinced that he owed his political victories primarily to “the profound potency of the tantric rites” and only secondarily to the intervention of the Mongolians (Ahmad, 1970, p. 134). According to a Kagyupa document, the Mongolian occupation of the Land of Snows was the work of nine terror gods who were freed by the Gelugpas under the condition that they fetch the Mongolian hordes into Tibet to protect their order. “But in the process they brought much suffering on our land”, we read at the close of the document (Bell, 1994, p. 98).

The visions and practices of the magic obsessed Fifth Dalai Lama are -as we have already mentioned — recorded in two volumes he wrote: firstly the Sealed and Secret Biography and then the Golden Manuscript. This abundantly illustrated book of rituals, which resembles the notorious grimoires (books of magic) of the European Middle Ages, was, in the master’s own words, written “for all those who wish to do drawings and paintings of the heavens and the deities” (Karmay, 1988, p. 19). [3]

Magic drawing from the Golden Manuscript of the Fifth Dalai Lama:

We have no direct knowledge of any modern “voodoo practices” performed by the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, who has chosen the magician prince from the 17th century, the “Great Fifth”, as his most important model. Here, the Kundun has just as skillfully succeeded in laying a veil over the shadowy world of his occult ritual life as with the sexual magic initiations of Tantrism. But there are rumors and insinuations which allow one to suspect that he too deliberately conducts or has conducted such tantric killing rites.

In one case this is completely obvious and he himself has confirmed this. Thus we may read in the most recent edition of his autobiography of how he staged a rite connected to the Kalachakra Tantra on the day of Mao Zedong’s death. „On the second the ceremony’s three days, Mao died. And the third day, it rained all morning. But, in the afternoon, there appeared one of the most beautiful rainbows I have ever seen. I was certain that it must be a good omen” we hear from the Dalai Lama’s own mouth (Dalai Lama XIV, 1990, 222). The biographer of His Holiness, Claude B. Levenson, reports of this ritual that it was a matter of “an extremely strict practice which demanded complete seclusion lasting several weeks combined with a very special teaching of the Fifth Dalai Lama” (Levenson, 1990, p. 242). Recalling the strange death of the Empress Dowager Ci Xi and her imperial adoptive son described above, one may well ask whether this “strict practice” may not have been a killing rite recorded in the Golden Manuscript of the “Great Fifth”. In Buddhist circles the death of Mao Zedong is also celebrated as the victory of spiritual/magic forces over the raw violence of materialism.

In such a context, and from a tantric/magic viewpoint, the visiting of Deng Xiaoping by Gyalo Thondup, one of the Dalai Lama’s brothers and himself a tulku, to may also have a momentous significance. Thondup negotiated with the Chinese party head over the question of Tibet. Deng died a few days after this meeting, on February 12, 1997 (Playboy [German edition], March 1998, p. 44).

Mandala politics:

In contrast, the Fourteenth Dalai constantly and quite publicly conducts a magic practice which is less spectacular, but from a tantric point of view just as significant as the killing of a political opponent — it is just that this is not recognized as a act of magic. We are talking about the construction of mandalas, especially the Kalachakra sand mandala.

We have already reported in detail on the homologies between a tantric mandala, the body of a yogi, the social environment, and the universe. Consistently thought through, this equivalence means that the construction of a mandala must be regarded as a magic political act. Through a magic diagram, a tantra master can “energetically” occupy and lay claim to the location of its construction and the corresponding environs. People within range of the power of such a magic architectural construction are influenced by the mandala’s energy and their consciousness is manipulated by it.

The Kalachakra sand mandala thus serves not only to initiate adepts but also likewise as a magic title of possession, with which control over a particular territory can be legitimated. Accordingly, the magic power of the diagram gives its constructors the chance to symbolically conquer new territories. One builds a magic circle (a mandala) and “anchors” it in the region to be claimed. Then one summonses the gods and supplicates them to take up residence in the “mandala palace”. (The mandala is so to speak “energized” with divine forces.) After a particular territory has been occupied by a mandala (or cosmogram), it is automatically transformed into a sacred center of Buddhist cosmology.[4] Every construction of a mandala also implies — if one takes it seriously — the magic subjugation of the inhabitants of the region in which the “magic circle” is constructed.

In the case of the Kalachakra sand mandala the places in which it has been built are transformed into domains under the control of the Tibetan time gods. Accordingly, from a tantric viewpoint, the Kalachakra mandala constructed at great expense in New York in 1991 would be a cosmological demonstration of power which aimed to say that the city now stood under the governing authority or at least spiritual influence of Kalachakra and Vishvamata. Since in this case it was the Fourteenth Dalai Lama who conducted the ritual as the supreme tantra master, he would have to be regarded as the spiritual/magic sovereign of the metropolis. Such fantastic speculations are a product of the ancient logic of his own magic system, and are incompatible with our ideas. We are nonetheless convinced that the laws of magic affect human reality proportional to the degree to which people believe in them.

Further, there is no doubt that the magic diagrams evoke an exceptional fascination in some observers. This is confirmed, for example, by Malcolm Arth, art director of an American museum in which Tibetan monks constructed a Kalachakra sand mandala: “The average museum visitor spends about ten seconds before a work of art, but for this exhibit, time is measured in minutes, sometime hours. Even the youngsters, who come into the museum and run around as if it were a playground — these same youngsters walk into this space, and something happens to them. They're transformed” (Bryant, 1992, pp. 245-246). The American Buddhist, Barry Bryant, even talks of an “electric kind of energy” which pervades the space in which the Kalachakra mandala is found (Bryant, 1992, p. 247).

However, what most people from the West evaluate as a purely artistic pleasure, is experienced by the lamas and their western followers as a numinous encounter with supernatural forces and powers concentrated within a mandala. This idea can be extended so far that modern exhibitions of Tibetan artworks can be conceived by their Buddhist organizers as temples and initiation paths through which the visitors knowingly or unknowingly proceed. Mircea Eliade has described the progression through a holy place (a temple) in ancient times as follows: “Every ritual procession is equivalent to a progression to the center, and the entry into a temple repeats the entry into a mandala in an initiation or the progress of the kundalini through the chakras” (Eliade, 1985, p. 253).

The major Tibet exhibition “Weisheit und Liebe” (Wisdom and Love), on view in Bonn in the summer of 1996 as well as at a number locations around the world, was designed along precisely these lines by Robert A. F. Thurman and Marylin M. Rhie. The conception behind this exhibition, Thurman writes, “is symbolically significant. It ... draws its guiding principle from the mandala of the “wheel of time” [Kalachakra], the mystic site which embodies the perfect history and cosmos of the Buddha. ... The arrangement of the individual exhibits reflects the deliberate attempt to simulate the environment of a Tibetan temple” (Thurman and Rhie, 1996, pp. 13–14).

At the entrance one passed a Kalachakra sand mandala. The visitor then entered the various historical phases of Indian Buddhism arranged into separate rooms, beginning with the legends from the life of Buddha, then Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. The simulated “initiatory path” led on to Tibet passing through the four main schools in the following order: Nyingmapa, Sakyapa, Kagyupa, and then Gelugpa. After the “visitor/initiand” had so to speak obtained the secret teachings of the various sects, he or she stepped into the final “hall” of the exhibition temple. This was again, like the start, dedicated to the Kalachakra Tantra.

Through the construction of this exhibition the history of Buddhism and of Tibet was presented as a mystery play played out over centuries. Every single epoch in the history of the Buddhist doctrine counted as a kind of initiatory stage in the evolutionary progression of humanity which was supposed to culminate in the establishment of a global Shambhala state. The same initiatory role was filled by the four Tibetan schools. They all stood — in the interpretation of the exhibitor — in a hierarchic relation to one another. Each step up was based on the one before it: the Sakyapas on the Nyingmapas, the Kagyupas on the Sakyapas, and the Gelugpas on the Kagyupas. The message was that the history of Buddhism, especially in Tibet, had had to progress like a initiand through the individual schools and sects step by step so as to further develop its awareness and then reach its highest earthly goal in the person of the Dalai Lama.

The visitor entered the exhibition through a room which contained a Kalachakra sand mandala (the “time palace”). This was supposed to proclaim that from now on he or she was moving through the dimension of (historical) time. In accordance with the cyclical world view of Buddhism, however, the journey through time ended there where it had begun. Thus at the end of the tour the visitor left the exhibition via the same room through which he or she had entered it, and once more passed by the sand mandala (the “time palace”).

If the Tibet exhibition in Bonn was in Thurman’s words supposed to have a symbolic significance, then the final message was catastrophic for the visitor. The final (!) image in the “temple exhibition” (before one re-entered the room containing the Kalachakra sand mandala) depicted the apocalyptic Shambhala battle, or (as the catalog literally referred to it) the “Buddhist Armageddon”.[5] We would like to quote from the official, enthusiastically written explanatory text which accompanied the thangka: “The forces of Good from the kingdom of Shambhala fight against the powers of Evil who hold the world in their control, centuries in the future. Phalanxes of soldiers go into combat, great carts full of soldiers, as small as Lilliputians are drawn into battle by huge white elephants, laser-like (!) weapons loose their fire and fantastic elephant-like animals mill together and struggle beneath the glowing sphere of the kingdom” (Thurman and Rhie, 1996, p. 482). With this doomsday vision before their eyes the visitors leave the “temple” and return to the Kalachakra sand mandala.

But who was the ruler of this time palace, who is the time god (Kalachakra) and the time goddess (Vishvamata) in one? None other than the patron of the Tibet exhibition in Bonn, His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. He destroyed the Kalachakra sand mandala in Bonn in the ritual we have described above and then absorbed its energies (the time gods residing in it). If we pursue this tantric logic further, then after the absorption of the mandala energies the Kundun assumed control over the region which had been sealed by the magic diagram (the sand mandala). In brief, he became the spiritual regent of Bonn! Let us repeat, this is not our idea, it is rather the ancient logic of the tantric system. That it however in this instance corresponded with reality is shown by the enormous success His Holiness enjoyed in the German Bundestag (House of Representatives) after visiting his “Kalachakra Temple” in Bonn (in 1996). The Kohl government had to subsequently endure its most severe political acid test in relations with China because of the question of Tibet.

Scattered about the whole world in parallel to his Kalachakra initiations, sand mandalas have been constructed for the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. What appears to a western observer to be a valuable traditional work of art, is in its intentions a seal of power of the Tibetan gods and a magic foundation for the striven-for world dominion of the ADI BUDDHA (in the figure of the Kundun).



[1] The discipline is indebted to the Austrian, René de Nebesky-Wojkowitz, for the most profound insight into Tibetan demonology, his great work, Oracles and Demons of Tibet. His early death, and his wife’s suicide shortly afterwards are seen by the Tantra researcher, John Blofeld ,as an act of revenge by the spirits whom he described.

[2] Of course, these killing practices stand in irreconcilable opposition to the Buddhist commandment to not harm any living being. To gloss over this discordance, the lamas have a clever excuse on hand: the ritual master prevents the victim from perpetrating further bad deeds which would only burden him with bad karma and bring him certain damnation.

[3] The Golden Manuscript is considered the precursor of the black thangkas, which otherwise first emerged in the 18th century. They were especially developed for the evocation of tantric terror gods. The background of the images is always of the darkest color; the illustrations are sparsely drawn, often in gold ink — hence the name of the Golden Manuscript. This technique gives the images a mysterious, dangerous character. The deities “spring out of the awful darkness of cosmic night, all aflame” comments Guiseppe Tucci (Karmay, 1988, p. 22).

[4] Such a magic occupation does not even need to be performed via an external act; a specially trained lama can mentally execute it through the power of imagination alone.

[5] The catalog text did indeed use the Hebrew term armageddon, just as the doomsday guru Shoko Asahara also spoke of “Armageddon”.
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When Buddhism is talked about today in the West, then the warlike past of Tibet is not a topic. The majority of people understand the Buddha’s teaching to be a religion with a program that includes inner and outer peace, humans living together in harmony, the rejection of any form of violence or aggression, a commandment against all killing, and in general a radically pacifist attitude. Such a fundamental ethical attitude is rightly demanded by Buddhists through an appeal to their founder. Admittedly, the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, was born as the descendant of a king from the warrior caste, however, he abandoned his family, became “homeless”, and distanced himself from every aspect of the art of war. He did so not just for moral reasons, but also because he recognized that wars are the expression of one’s own misdirected awareness and that the dualism taken to its limits in war contained a false view of the world. Reduced to a concise formula, what he wanted to say with this was that in the final instance the ego and its enemy are one. Shakyamuni was a pacifist because he was an idealist epistemologist. Only later, in Mahayana Buddhism, did the ethical argument for the fundamental pacifism of the dharma (the doctrine) emerge alongside the philosophical one. A strict ban on killing, the requirement of nonviolence, and compassion with all living beings were considered the three supreme moral maxims.

Both of these arguments against war, the epistemological and the human-political, today play a fundamental role in the international self-presentation of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. Tirelessly and upon countless occasions over the last decades His Holiness has done what he can for world peace. For this reason he received the Nobel peace prize in 1989. His pacifist sermons and political programs were not the least reason for the fact that the Tibet of old (prior to the Chinese occupation) was increasingly seen and admired in the West as a peaceful sanctuary, inhabited by unwarlike and highly ethically developed people, a paradise on earth. A western student of the dharma has summarized Tibet’s history in the following concise sentence: “Buddhism turned their [the Tibetan] society from a fierce grim world of war and intrigue into a peaceful, colorful, cheerful realm of pleasant und meaningful living” (quoted by Lopez, 1998, p. 7). With this longed-for image the Kundun seized upon a thread already spun by numerous Euro-American authors (since the nineteen-thirties), above all James Hilton, in his best-seller The Lost Horizon.

Under the leadership of their lamas, the Tibetans in exile have thus succeeded in presenting themselves to the world public as a spiritual people of peace threatened by genocide, who in a period rocked by conflicts wish to spread their pacifist message. “A confession with which one cannot go wrong”, wrote the German news magazine, Spiegel, in reference to Tibetan Buddhism, “Two-and-a-half thousand years of peaceableness in place of the inquisition, monks who always seemed cheerful rather than officious and impertinent religious leaders, hope for nirvana rather than the threat of jihad — Buddhism harms no-one and has become trendy” (Spiegel, 16/1998, p. 109). And the German Buddhist and actor Sigmar Solbach explained to his television audience that “a war has never been fought in the name of Buddhism” (Spiegel, 16/1998, p. 109). Regrettably, the opposite is the case — countless wars have been fought in the name of Buddhism just as they have in the name of Christianity. The Shambhala myth has rightly — as we shall demonstrate on the basis of historical events — been described as the “Buddhist jihad” (holy war).

The aggressiveness of the Tibetan tutelary gods (dharmapalas):

When we examine the iconography of Tantric Buddhism it literally swarms with aggressive warriors, demons, vampires, monsters, sword bearers, flame magicians, and avenging gods, who have at their disposal an overflowing arsenal of weapons: spears, spikes, darts, shields, clubs, hooks, slings, knives, daggers, and all manner of killing machines. This downright grotesque collection of repellant figures reflects on the one hand the social struggles which Indian Buddhism had to endure in the dispute with Hinduism and later with Islam. On the other it is a dogmatic part of the tantric project, which makes wrath, aggression, murder, and the annihilation of enemies the starting point of its system of rituals. A total of three types of warlike deities are distinguished in Vajrayana Buddhism:

The horror aspect of a peaceful Buddha, the so-called heruka.
The “flesh-eating” dakini who challenges the adept on his initiatory path.
Warlike foreign gods who have been incorporated in the tantric system as “protectors of the faith” (dharmapala).

In all three cases the “wrathful gods” direct their potential for aggression outwards, against the “enemies of the faith”, and without exaggerating one can say that the heruka aspect of a Buddha plays just as great a role in the cultural life of Tibetan Buddhism as the peaceful aspect of a compassionate Bodhisattva.

In Lamaism, Tibet’s mystic history and “civilization” has always been experienced and portrayed as the coercion and enslavement of the local gods and demons. If these wanted to remain alive after their magic struggle with the magician lamas then they had to commit themselves under oath to serve in future as a protective guard under Tibetan command. Their basic warlike attitude was thus neither reduced at all nor transformed by Buddhism, rather it was used as a means to achieve its own ambitions and thus increased. This metapolitics of the Lamaist clergy has led to a systematic extension and expansion of its grotesque pandemonium, which afflicted the country across the centuries. There was no temple in which these monsters were not (and still are) prayed to. In the gloomy gokhang, the chamber or hall where their cult worship took (and still takes) place, hung (and still hang) their black thangkas, surrounded by an arsenal of bizarre weapons, masks and stuffed animals. Dried human organs were discovered there, the tanned skin of enemies and the bones of children. Earlier western visitors experienced this realm of shadows as a “chaotic, contradictory world like the images formed in a delirium” (Sierksma, 1966, p. 166).

There are dreadful rumors about the obscure rituals which were performed in the “horror chambers” (Austin Waddell), and not without reason, then human flesh, blood, and other bodily substances were considered the most effective sacrificial offerings with which to appease the terror gods. If this flow of bloody food for the demons ever dries up, then according to Tibetan prophecies they fall upon innocent people, indeed even upon lamas so as to still their vampire-like thirst (Hermanns, 1956, p. 198).

Shrine of the tibetan war god Begtse

The number of “red and black executioners”, as the “protectors of the doctrine” are sometimes known, is legion, since every place in the land is served by its own regional demons. Nonetheless some among them are especially prominent, like the war god Begtse, for example, also known as Chamsrin. In the iconography he strides over corpses swinging a sword in his right hand and holding a human heart to his mouth with the left so that he can consume it. His spouse, Dongmarma the “red face”, chews at a corpse and is mounted upon a man-eating bear. Another “protective god”, Yama, the judge of the dead, king of hell and an emanation of Avalokiteshvara (and thus also of the Dalai Lama), threatens with a club in the form of a child’s skeleton in his right hand. Palden Lhamo, the Tibetan god-king’s protective goddess whom we have already introduced, gallops through a lake of blood using her son’s skin as a saddle.

Even for the “superhuman” lamas this hellish army is only with difficulty kept under control. Hence it is not rare that demons succeed in breaking free of their magical chains and then loosing their wrath upon even the pious believers. For instance, in the past women were not allowed to enter the main temple of the Kumbum monastery because the “terrible gods” worshipped there would then fall into a blind rage and there was a danger that they would take it out upon all of humanity. Sometimes the rebellious spirits even seized the body of a naive monk, possessed him with their destructive energy and then ran amok in this form. Or, the other way around, a disappointed lama who felt himself to have been unjustly treated in life upon dying transformed into a merciless vengeful spirit. [1] The Tibetan government (the Kashag) and the Dalai Lama must also defend themselves time and again against acts of revenge by opposing protective spirits. In connection with the Shugden affair described above, James Burns refers to a total of 11 historical examples (Burns, Newsgroup 9).

The clergy in the Tibet of old was busy day and night defending themselves from foreign demons and keeping their own under control. This was not motivated by fear alone, then the fees for defensive rituals against malevolent spirits counted as a lucrative source of income if not the most significant of all. As soon as something did not seem right, the superstitious peoples suspected that a demon was at work and fetched a lama to act as an exorcist for a fee and drive it out.

The Dutch psychologist and cultural critic, Fokke Sierksma, interpreted the cult of the terror gods as an “incomplete acculturation of a warrior nation that for the sake of Buddhism has had to give up a part of itself, of a Buddhism that for that warrior nation has also had to abandon an integral part, while the two have not found ultimate reconciliation” (Sierksma, 1966, p. 168). We do not find it difficult to agree with this judgment. Yet it must be added that the abandonment of Buddhist principles like nonviolence and peaceableness did not first begin in Tibet; it is, rather, implicit in the tantric doctrine itself. Thus it was not the case that a pacifist Buddhism came out of India to tame a warlike country, rather, the Indian founding fathers of Tibetan Buddhism themselves brought numerous terror gods with them and thereby significantly added to the already existing army of native demons. Mahakala, Vajrabhairava, Yama, Acala, or whatever their names may be, are all of Indian origin.

Gesar of Ling: The Tibetan “Siegfried”:

Anybody who wishes to gain further insight into the ancient warrior mentality of the Tibetans cannot avoid studying the pre-Buddhist Gesar epic. Old shamanic beliefs and “heathen” uses of magic play just as great a role in the adventures of this national hero as the language of weapons. The adventures of Gesar von Ling have been compared with the Germanic Nibelungen epic, and not without reason: daredevilry, braggadocio, intrepid courage, thirst for revenge, sporting contests, tumultuous slaughter, military strategy, tricks, deception, betrayal can be found in both, just like joy and suffering in love, courtly love, feminine devotion, rape, mighty amazons, sorceresses, marital infidelity, jealousy, revenge of the Furies. On the basis of the similarities spanning whole scenes it may not even be ruled out that the poets composing both epics drew upon the same sources. One difference lies perhaps in that in Gesar’s milieu it is even more barbarically eaten and drunk than among the Germanic warriors.

Even if the name of the hero may be historically derived from a Tibetification of the Latin Caesar ("emperor”), his mythic origin is of a divine nature. The old soldier was dispatched from heaven to fulfill a mission. His divine parents sent him to earth so that he could free the country of Ling (Tibet) from an evil demon which, after many superhuman deeds, he also succeeded in doing. We do not intend to report here on the fantastic adventures of the hero. What interests us is Gesar’s thoroughly aggressive mentality. The numerous episodes that tell of the proud self-awareness and physical strength of the women are especially striking, so that the epic can definitely not have been penned by a lama. In some versions (several widely differing ones are known) there are also quite heretical comments about the Buddhist clergy and a biting sarcasm which spares no aspect of monastic life. What remains beyond any criticism is, however, is an unbounded glorification of war. This made Gesar a model for all the military forces of central Asia.

As a sample of the bragging cruelty which dominates the whole epic, we quote a passage translated by Charles Bell — the song of a knight from Gesar’s retinue:

We do not need swords; our right hands are enough.
We split the body in the middle,
and cut the side into pieces.
Other men use clubs made of wood;
We require no wood;
our thumbs and forefingers are enough.
We can destroy by rubbing thrice with our fingers.....
The blood of the liver [of our enemies] will escape from the mouth.
Though we do not injure the skin,
We will take out all the entrails through the mouth.
The man will still be alive,
Though his heart will come to his mouth....
This body [of our enemy] with eyes and head
Will be made into a hat
for the king of the white tent tribe.
I offer the heart to the war god
of the white people of Ling

(Bell, 1994, pp. 13-14)

There is little trace of ethics, morality, or Buddhist compassion here! In an anthology edited by Geoffrey Samuel, Pema Tsering and Rudolf Kaschewsky also indicate that “the basic principle [of the epic] is to seek one's own advantage by any means available. Whether the opponent is led astray by deception, whether treachery is exploited or the other's weakness brutally made use of, scruples or any qualms of conscience are entirely lacking. If there is a basic idea that runs through the whole work it is the principle that might is right” (Tsering and Kaschewsky in Samuel, 1994, p. 64).

But this is precisely what makes the pre-Buddhist Gesar myth so interesting for the philosophy of the Tantrics. It is for this reason that Geoffrey Samuel also reaches the conclusion that the epic is “a classical expression of the shamanic Vajrayana religion of Tibet” (Samuel, 1993, 55). This would indeed mean that both systems, the Tantric Buddhism of India and the pre-Buddhist shamanism of Tibet, entered into a culture-bearing symbiosis with one another.

The Nyingmapas, for example, saw in the hero (Gesar) an incarnation of Padmasambhava, who returned to drive the demons out of the Land of Snows. Other Lamaist interpreters of the epic celebrate Gesar as “lord over the three-layered cosmos” and as Chakravartin (Hummel, 1993, p. 53). The belief that the “Great Fifth” was an incarnation of the semi-divine warrior was and is still widely distributed. In eastern Tibet at the start of last century the Thirteenth Dalai Lama was worshipped as Gesar reborn. In contrast, the supreme clerical incarnation in Mongolia, the Jabtsundamba Khutuktu, is considered to be an embodiment of Gesar’s miraculous horse.

A connection has also often been drawn between the rough daredevil and the Shambhala myth. Following his earthly demise he is supposed to have gone to the mythic country in order to wait for the prophesied final battle. After he “has left this mortal world once more, there is, according to the Tibetans, a connection between him and the Lamaist apocalypse” (Hummel, 1993, p. 37).

Even in the twentieth century, his archetype as a militant salvational figure played an important role for the Tibetan guerrillas in the fifties and sixties. In the struggle against the Chinese Communists the return of the war hero was longed for so that Tibet could be freed from the “red tyranny”. The myth is currently again experiencing a renaissance in Tibetan underground circles. In 1982 there was a movement in the province of Amdo whose leader, Sonam Phuntsog, proclaimed himself to be an incarnation of Gesar the war hero. The group’s activities were mostly of a magic nature and consisted above all in the invocation of the terror gods.

In good dualist form, these announced via a possession that „now is the time when the deities of the 'white side' hold their heads high and the demons of the ‘dark side’ are defeated” (Schwartz, 1994. p. 229). It is astounding how seriously the “atheist” Chinese take such magic séances and that they ban them as “open rebellion”.

The Gesar myth is experiencing a renaissance in the West as well. For example, the Red Hat lama Chögyam Trungpa, allows the barbarian to be worshipped by his pupils in the USA as a militant role-model. In the meantime, the hero has become a symbol for freedom and self-confidence worthy of emulation for many western Buddhists who have not made the slightest effort to examine his atavistic lifestyle.

Even the Fourteenth Dalai Lama ("the greatest living prince of peace”) does not criticize the war hero, but rather goes so far as to see him — this view must be regarded as a high point of tantric inversion — as a master of compassion: “Could Gesar return one day, as some people claim and others believe?” asks the Kundun, and answers, “The fact is that he promised this. ... Is it not also said that Gesar is an incarnation of Avalokiteshvara, the Buddha of boundless compassion? He is thus also a master and masters have much power ...” (Levenson, 1990, p. 83). There is speculation in Buddhist circles on the basis of such quotations as to whether His Holiness (likewise an incarnation of Avalokiteshvara) is not also an embodiment of the barbaric Gesar, particularly since the “Great Fifth” also claimed to be so. The question of how compatible such a martial past can be with the award of the Nobel peace prize remains unanswered, however.

According to Ronald D. Schwartz, in the current protest movements in Tibet the return of the mythic warrior Gesar, the appearance of the Shambhala king, and the epiphany of Buddha Maitreya are eschatologically linked with the „immediate and tangible possibility of the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet” (Schwartz, 1994, p. 231). Rainbows and earthquakes are supposed to show that superhuman forces are also at work in the rebellion. [2]

However, so that Gesar’s martial character does not scare off western souls or bring them into conflict with their Buddhist ideals, the lamas solve the problem — as always in such cases — with a subjectification of the myth. Hence, in the adventures of Gesar Tarthang Tulku sees every adept’s inner struggle with his bad self: “Interpreted symbolically, King Gesar, representing freedom and liberation from the bondage of ignorance, is the King of the human mind. The Kingdom of Ling is the realm of restless experience that must be unified and strengthened. The treasure to win and protect is our own understanding. The enemies that we must conquer are emotionality and ignorance” (quoted by Samuel, 1994, p. 65).

Western pupils, of whom hardly any may have read the violent epic, swallow such messages with shining eyes. But if it were consistently applied to the spiritual struggles, the Gesar pattern would imply that one would have to employ brutality, murder, underhandedness, disloyalty, rape, coarseness, boasting, mercilessness, and similar traits against oneself in order to attain enlightenment. What counts is victory, and in achieving it all means are allowed.

The political danger which can arise from such an undifferentiated glorification of Gesar may perhaps become obvious if we think back to the Nibelungen epic, which, as we have already mentioned, may according to several researchers draw upon the same mythic sources. For the majority of Germans the fateful glorification of Siegfried the dragonslayer by the national socialists (the Nazis) still raises a shudder. Yet in comparison to his barbaric Tibetan “brother”, the blond Germanic knight still appears noble, honest, good-natured, and pious.

The Tibetan warrior kings and their clerical successors:

In the guidelines for a new form of government after the liberation of the Land of Snows from the imposition of the Chinese will, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama wrote (in 1993) that, “under the control of its kings and the Dalai Lamas the political system of Tibet was firmly anchored in its spiritual values. As a consequence peace and happiness reigned in Tibet” (Dalai Lama XIV, 1993b, p. 24).

Whether this statement is true can only be proved by the events of history. Let us cast a glance back then, into Tibet’s past. As successful and brutal military leaders, the two most important kings of the Yarlung dynasty, Songtsen Gampo (617-650) and Trisong Detsen (742-803), extended their dominion deep into China with a thorough-going politics of war. Both were, at least according to the sagas, incarnations of Bodhisattvas, i.e., compassionate beings, although the Tibetan armies were feared throughout all of inner Asia for their merciless cruelty. Reports from the Tang annals also admire the highly developed art of war of the Tibetan “barbarians”. Even modern authors still today enthuse about the good old days when Tibet was still a major military power: „These armies were probably better run and disciplined than those of late Medieval Europe and would be recognisable in their general structure to Generals of the modern era like generals like Wellington and Rommel”, we can read in a 1990 issue of the Tibetan Review (Tibetan Review, October 1990, p. 15).

After the fall of the Yarlung dynasty there were indeed no more major military incidents for centuries. But this was in no way because the Tibetans had become more peaceful and compassionate. Completely the opposite was true, the individual sects in mutual dispute and the various factions among the people were so weakened by the frequent internecine wars that it was not possible for an overarching state to be formed. It was not at all rare for great lamas and their many monastic minions to wage outright war against one another. In such conflicts, none of the orientations shied away from inviting outsiders into the country so as to take to the field against the others with their help. Up until well into the twentieth century the Chinese and Mongolians could thus in any case intervene in Tibetan politics as the invited allies of particular monasteries.

For example, in 1290 the Brigung monastery of the Kagyupa sect was razed to the ground by armed Sakyapa monks with help from the Mongolians. “The misery was greater even than among those who have gone into Hell!” (Bell, 1994, p. 67), a Red Hat text records. The only reason the numerous military disputes in the history of the Land of Snows are not more widely known about is because they usually only involved smaller groups. Hence the battles neither continued for long, nor were they spread over a wide territory. In addition, the “pure doctrine” officially forbade any use of violence and thus all disputes between the orders were hushed up or repressed as soon as possible by both parties. As paradox as it may well sound, the country remained relatively “quiet” and “peaceful”, because all of the parties were so embroiled in wars with one another. But in the moment in which it came to the creation of a larger state structure under the Fifth Dalai Lama in the 17th century, a most cruelly conducted civil war was the necessary precondition.

The Dalai Lamas as supreme war lords:

These days there is an unwillingness to speak about this terrible civil war between the Gelugpas and the Kagyupas from which the “Great Fifth” emerged as the hero of the battlefield. We know that the Fifth Dalai Lama called up the war god Begtse against the Tibetans several times so as to force through his political will. Additionally, in eastern Tibet he was celebrated as an incarnation of the ancient hero, Gesar. He himself was the author of a number of battle hymns like the following:

Brave and tested are the warriors,
sharp and irresistible the weapons,
hard and unbreakable the shields,
Fleet and enduring the horses.

(Sierksma, 1966, p. 140)

This brutal call to absolutely annihilate the enemy into its third generation was also composed by him:

Make the lines like trees that have had their roots cut;
Make the female lines like brooks that have dried up in winter;
Make the children and grandchildren like eggs smashed against rocks;
Make the servants and followers like heaps of grass consumed by fire;
Make their dominion like a lamp whose oil has been exhausted;
In short, annihilate any traces of them, even their names.

(quoted by Sperling, 2001, p. 318)

With these instructions to batter his enemy’s children to death against the rocks and to make their women barren, the "Great Fifth” (the preeminent historical model for the current Fourteenth Dalai Lama) turned to the Mongolians under Gushri Khan and thus legitimated the terrible deeds they inflicted upon the Tibetans. "One may say with some confidence,” Elliot Sperling writes, "that the Fifth Dalai Lama does not fit the standard image that many people today have of a Dalai Lama, particularly the image of a Nobel Peace Prize laureate” (Sperling, 2001, p. 319). Barely two centuries later (at the end of the 18th century) a Red Hat lama sought revenge for the humiliation of his order by the Dalai Lama, and fetched the Indian gurkhas into the country.

The “Great Thirteenth” himself formed an army consisting of regular troops, a lay militia, and the “golden army” as the monastic soldiers were known. Warrior monks were nothing out of the ordinary in the Tibet of old, although their training and their military equipment was less than desirable. They firmly believed in the law of violence, worshipped their special deities, and maintained their own secret cults. Lama ‘Longear’ was the leader of the troops in the lamasery, it says in western travel report of a lama commander (at the start of the twentieth century). “Although a monk, he didn't know how to say his prayers and because he had killed several people was not allowed to have part in the chanting services. But he was considered a man of courage and audacity — greatly feared in the lamasery, a mighty friend and terror to his enemies” (quoted by Sierksma, 1966, p. 130).

The Tibetan army assembled by the Thirteenth Dalai Lama was composed of three services: the cavalry, equipped with lances and breastplates, the somewhat more modern infantry, and the artillery. Oddly enough, the name of Allah was engraved in the riders’ helmets. These came from a Mohammedan army which was said to have once moved against Lhasa. A terrible snowstorm surprised them and froze them all to death. Their weapons and armor were later brought into the capital and displayed there in an annual parade. It was probably believed that the helmets would offer protection in the battle against the Mohammedans — the arch-enemy from the Kalachakra Tantra — since they would not dare to fire at the holy name of their supreme god.

This army of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, to a large part composed of serfs, was more or less picturesque, which naturally did their warlike, “unBuddhist” performance no harm. Yet one did not just fight with weapons in the hand but also operated magically. During the “Great Prayer Festival” for example tormas (dough figures) of the cavalry and the infantry were thrown into a fire so as to do harm to the enemies of the land through this fire magic. Every single sacrificial offering was supposed to later “function [like a] bomb” in reality (Chö-Yang, vol. 1 no. 2, 1987, p. 93). [3]

Of even greater martial pomposity than the Tibetan army was the so-called “monks’ police”. Heinrich Harrer (the “best friend of the Dalai Lama”) describes the “dark fellows” who were responsible for law and order in Lhasa at the beginning of the fifties in the following words: “The figures in the red habits are not always gentle and learned brethren. The majority re coarse and unfeeling fellows for whom the whip of discipline cannot be strong enough. ... They tie a red band around their naked arm and blacken their faces with soot to as to appear really frightening. They have a huge key tucked into their belts which can serve as a knuckleduster or a throwing weapon as required. It is not rare for them to also carry a sharp cobblers’ knife hidden in their pocket. Many of them are notorious fighters; even their impudent stride seems provocative; their readiness to attack is well known, and one avoids aggravating them” (Harrer, 1984, pp. 216-217).

Just like the police from Lhasa, the officers and other ranks of the Tibetan armed forces tended towards excessive corruption and of a night committed all manner of crimes. Like the western mafia they demanded protection money from businesses and threatened to attack life and limb if not paid. This was certainly not the intention of their supreme military commander, the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, who still in his last will dreamed of “efficient and well-equipped troops ... as a sure deterrent against any adversaries” (Michael, 1982, p. 173).

Since the once mighty Tibet has been unable to develop itself into a great military power again since the fall of the Yarlung dynasty (in the ninth century), the country all but vibrates with bottled-up military energy. This has been confirmed by a number of western travelers. The British friend of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, Charles Bell, was also forced to ascertain “that the martial energy of the Tibetans, though sapped by Buddhism, has not even now been destroyed. Should Buddhism ever go, the combative spirit will return” (Bell, 1994, p. 77). Bell overlooks here that this spirit is already a part of tantric practice, yet he seems to have an inkling of this when he continues as follows: “Indeed, Tibet expects later to fight for her religion. You can sometimes read in Tibetan books about the country called Shambhala ... a mystical country which, three or four centuries hence, will be the scene of hostilities, fierce and decisive, between Buddhists and Muhammadans” (Bell, 1994, p. 77). It is a Tibetan saying that “for The Buddha faced by foemen his disciples don their armor” (Bell, 1994, p. 191).

The historical distortion of the “peaceful” Tibetans:

The impression, widely distributed in the West, of ancient Tibet as a peaceful country is thus a deliberate and gross misrepresentation of history. Even official texts from the Tibetan tradition are seldom tempted to such pacifist exaggerations as is the Dalai Lama today, above all since being awarded the Nobel peace prize. The local historians knew full well about the fighting spirit and aggressive potential which slumbered in the Tibetan soul. They did not deny that the lamas often enough had to use violence in their own interests. The Mani Kambum, a book about the mythic history of Tibet from the 13th century, reported already that its inhabitants had inherited faith, wisdom, and goodness from their father, Avalokiteshvara, and from their mother, Srinmo, however, “pleasure in killing, bodily strength, and courage” (Stein, 1993, p. 37).

Lamaism’s evaluation of war is fundamentally positive and affirmative, as long as it involves the spread of Buddhism. (We shall later demonstrate this through many examples.) This in no sense implicates a discontinuity between historical reality and the Buddhist/pacifist doctrine. Vajrayana itself cultivates an aggressive, warlike behavior and indeed not just so as to overcome it through mental control. Wars are declared — as is usual among other religions as well — so as to proceed against the “enemies of the faith”. The state religion of the Land of Snows (Vajrayana) has always been essentially warlike, and a Buddhist Tantric reaches for his weapon not just in desperation, but also so as to conquer and to eliminate opponents. The virtues of a soldier — courage, self-sacrifice, bravery, honor, endurance, cunning, even fury, hate, and mercilessness — are likewise counted among the spiritual disciplines of Buddhist Tantrism.

Yet the lamas do not conduct “wars” on real battlefields alone. Many more battles are fought in the imagination. Anyone can ascertain this, even if they only cast a fleeting glance over the aggressive tantric iconography. Likewise, all (!) tantras apply military language to religious events and describe the struggle of the spirit against its besmirchment as a “war”. Along the path to enlightenment it is fought, beaten, pierced through, burned up, cut to pieces, chained, decapitated, defeated, destroyed, won, and exulted. The Buddhas take to the battlefield of samsara (our so-called world of illusion) as “victors”, “heroes”, “fighters”, “generals”, and “army commanders”.

Accordingly, Tibetan society has always revered the “figure of the warrior” alongside the “figure of the saint” (Buddha, Bodhisattva, or tulku) as their supreme archetype. From the half mythical kings of the 7th century to the modern guerilla leaders of the Khampas, the “fighting hero” is the heroic archetype adopted even today by thousands of youths and young men in Tibet and in exile. Already from the beginnings of Tibetan history on the border between “warrior” and “saint” has been blurred. A good “pupil” of the Vajrayana and a Shambhala “warrior” are still identical today.

Is the Fourteenth Dalai Lama the “greatest living prince of peace”?:

Since being awarded the Nobel peace prize (in 1989) the Fourteenth Dalai Lama has been celebrated in the western press as the “greatest living prince of peace”. With a self-confident and kindly smile he accepts this appellation and modestly reminds his audience what an enormous debt he owes to Mahatma Gandhi. Armed with the latter’s doctrine of nonviolence (ahimsa), there is no topic which His Holiness speaks of more often or with more emotion than that of “outer” and “inner” peace. “For me, violence cannot possibly be the way” is in recent years the phrase most often heard upon his lips (Levenson, 1992, p. 349).

Ahimsa (the rejection of all violence) was originally not a Buddhist value, especially not in the context of the tantras. The Thirteenth Dalai Lama, for example, when Gandhi encouraged him in a letter to join in with his idea, did not at all know where he was at with the term. Be that as it may — the future Tibet, freed from the Chinese yoke, is in the words of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama supposed to be transformed into a “peace and ahimsa zone”. There will be no army, no weapons, above all no nuclear warheads any more in the Land of Snows after its liberation. Further, the Kundun considers the trade in military hardware to be something just as irresponsible as the aggressive and uncontrolled temper of an individual. In an exemplary fashion he invites the Israelis and the Palestinians to lay down their weapons. He proclaims the demilitarization of the entire planet as a desirable final goal.
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War toys:

Surprisingly, in opposition to this constantly publicly demonstrated basic pacifist attitude there stands a particular fascination for the art of warfare which captivated His Holiness whilst still a child. In Martin Scorsese’s film (Kundun) about the life of the Dalai Lama, this fondness is graphically depicted in a short scene. The child god-king is playing with some tin soldiers. Suddenly, with a sweep of his hand he knocks them aside and cries out emphatically, “I want power!”. This film anecdote could well be more realistic than the widespread and pious legend in which the young god-king had these tin soldiers melted down and then recast as toy monks.

As an adolescent the Kundun enjoyed target practice with an air gun he inherited from his predecessor and is still proud of being a good shot. Without embarrassment he reveals in his autobiography that he owns an air pistol and that he practices target shooting with it. One day he killed a hornet which was plundering a wasp’s nest. “A protector of the unprotected!” was the reverential comment of one of his biographers on this piece of sharp shooting (Hicks and Chögyam, 1985, p. 197).

The Kundun’s openly admitted weakness for war literature and war films has surprised not a few of his admirers. As a youth he enthused over English military books. They provided him with the images from which to construct models of fighter planes, ships, and tanks. Later he had passages from them translated into Tibetan. Towards the end of the forties the former member of the Nazi SS, Heinrich Harrer, had to recount for him the only recently played out events of the second world war. There has been little change in this passion for military objects since his youth. As late as 1997 the Kundun admitted his enthusiasm for uniforms in an interview: “but [they] are also very attractive. ... Every button on the jacket shines so prettily. And then the belt. The insignia” (Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin, March 21, 1997, p. 79). On a visit to Germany in 1998 the Nobel peace prize winner told how “even as a child I liked looking at illustrated books from my predecessor’s library, especially about the First World War. I loved all the instruments, the weapons and the tanks, the airplanes, the fantastic battleships and submarines. Later I asked for books about World War II. When I visited China in 1954 I knew more about it than the Chinese did” (Zeitmagazin, no. 44, October 22, 1998, p. 24). Asked (again in Germany) about his television viewing habits, he chatted about his preference for war films: “Earlier though, I had a favorite program. You won’t believe me! ‘M.A.S.H.’ — the US series about the Vietnam War. Very funny … (laughs) (Focus 44/1998, p. 272).

When he was visiting Normandy in 1986, he unexpectedly and in complete contradiction to the planned schedule expressed the wish to see the Allied bridgehead from the Second World War. “I also wanted to see the weapons, these mighty cannon and all these rifles which painfully moved me. In the vicinity of these machines, these weapons, and this sand I felt and shared the emotions of those who were there then ...” (Levenson, 1992, p. 291). Despite such pious affirmations of compassion with the victims of battle, here too his childlike enthusiasm for the machinery of war can be heard. Or is it only a mood of the “time god”, whose enthusiasm for various systems of weaponry is — as we have already reported — expressed at such length in the Kalachakra Tantra?

Even if such martial preferences and play may normally be harmless, we must never forget that, unlike an ordinary person, the Dalai Lama represents a symbolic figure. In the meantime, all the pious aspects which are otherwise known of the childhood and life of the god-king are, thanks to a powerful film propaganda, considered to be a wonderful omen and the indicators of a cosmic plan. Is it then not logically consistent to also interpret his fascination for the military milieu as a sign which flags the aggressive potential of his religion?

Reting Rinpoche and the murder of the Dalai Lama’s father:

The early life of the young Dalai Lama was anything but peaceful. In the forties his milieu was caught up in violent and bloody clashes which could in no way be blamed solely on the Chinese. Although the then regent, the discoverer and first teacher of the god-king, Reting Rinpoche, had transferred the business of state to his successor, Taktra Rinpoche, in 1941, he later wanted to regain the power he had lost. Thus, from 1945 on it came to ever more serious discordances between the Tibetan government and the ex-regent. Uncouth and feared for his escapades countrywide, the Dalai Lama’s father, Choekyong Tsering, counted among the latter’s faithful followers. In 1947 he died suddenly at the age of 47 during a meal. It is not just Gyalo Thondup, one of the Kundun’s brothers, who is convinced that he was poisoned by someone from government circles (Craig, 1997, p. 120).

Shortly after the poisoning, Reting Rinpoche decided to stage an open rebellion. His followers attempted to assassinate the regent, Taktra, and approached the Chinese about weapons and munitions. But they were soon overpowered by Tibetan government troops, who took captive the ex-regent. Monks from the Sera monastery rushed to his aid. First of all they murdered their abbot, a Taktra supporter. Then, under the leadership of an 18-year-old lama, Tsenya Rinpoche, who had been recognized as the incarnation of a wrathful tutelary deity (dharmapala) and was referred to by his fellow monks as a “war leader”, they stormed off to Lhasa in order to free Reting Rinpoche. But this revolt also collapsed under the artillery fire of the government troops. At least 200 Sera monks lost their lives in this monastic “civil war”. Reting’s residence was razed to the ground.

Soon afterwards he was charged with treason, found guilty, and thrown into the notorious Potala dungeons. He is said to have been cruelly tortured and later strangled. According to other reports he was poisoned (Goldstein, 1989, p. 513). A high-ranking official who was said to have sympathized with the rebels had his eyeballs squeezed out. Just how cruel and tormenting the atmosphere of this time was has been described later by a Tibetan refugee (!):"Rivalry, in-fighting, corruption, nepotism, it was decadent and horrible. Everything was a matter of show, ceremonial, jockeying for position” (quoted by Craig, 1997, p. 123).

Tibetan guerrillas and the CIA:

In the fifties and with the support of the USA, a guerilla army was developed in Tibet which over many years undertook military action against the Chinese occupation forces. A broad scale anti-Communist offensive was planned together with Taiwanese special units and indirect support from the Indian secret service. At the head of the rebellion stood the proud and “cruel” Khampas. These nomads had been feared as brigands for centuries, so that the word Khampa in Tibet is a synonym for robber. In the mid-fifties the American secret service (CIA) had brought several groups of the wild tribe to Taiwan via eastern Pakistan and later to Camp Hale in the USA. There they received training in guerilla tactics. Afterwards the majority of them were dropped back into Tibet with parachutes. Some of them made contact with the government in Lhasa at that stage. Others did not shy away from their traditional trade of robbery and became a real nuisance for the rural population whom they were actually supposed to liberate from the Chinese and not drive into further misery through pillaging.

Despite the Dalai Lama’s constant affirmations, still repeated today, that his flight took place without any external influence, it was in fact played out months in advance in Washington by high military officials. Everything went as planned. In 1959, the American-trained guerillas collected His Holiness from his summer residence (in Lhasa). During the long trek to the Indian border the underground fighters were in constant radio contact with the Americans and were supplied with food and equipment by aircraft. We learn from an “initiate” that “this fantastic escape and its major significance have been buried in the lore of the CIA as one of the successes that are not talked about. The Dalai Lama would never have been saved without the CIA” (Grunfeld, 1996, pp. 155-156).

In addition, the Chinese were not particularly interested in pursuing the refugees since they believed they would be better able to deal with the rebellion in Tibet if the Kundun was out of the country. Mao Zedong is thus said to have personally approved of the flight of the Dalai Lama after the fact (Tibetan Review, January 1995, p. 10). Yes — Beijing was convinced for months after the exodus that His Holiness had been kidnapped by the Khampas.

In fact, the Chinese had every reason to make such an assumption, as becomes apparent from a piece of correspondence between the Kundun and the Chinese military commander of Lhasa, General Tan Guansan. Only a few days before the god-king was able to flee the town, he had turned to the General with the most urgent appeal to protect him from the “reactionary, evil elements “ who “are carrying out activities endangering me under the pretext of protecting my safety” (Grunfeld, 1996, p. 135). What he meant by these “evil elements” were hundreds of Tibetans who had surrounded his summer palace day and night to cheer him on. This crowd was called upon a number of times by the Dalai Lama’s political staff to abandon their “siege” since it was provoking the Chinese and there was a real danger that they would answer with artillery fire at the illegal rally and in so doing quite possibly threaten the life of the Kundun. But the people nevertheless remained, on the pretext of caring for the security of their “god-king”. Thereupon the latter wrote the above request to General Tan Guansan. But in a furtive maneuver he was secretly collected by a group of Khampas and brought to the Indian border unharmed.

The flight, organized by the CIA and tolerated by the Chinese, was later mythologized by the western press and the Dalai Lama himself into a divine exodus. There was mysterious talk of a “mystic cloud” which was supposed to have veiled the column of refugees during the long trek to India and protected them from the view of and attack by the Chinese enemy. The CIA airplanes which gave the refugees air cover and provided them with supplies of food became Chinese “reconnaissance” flights which circled above the fleeing god-king but, thanks to wondrous providence and the “mystic cloud”, were unable to discern anything.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- “Resistance fighters escorted the Dalai Lama through guerrilla-held territory. The two CIA-trained men met up with the escape party halfway on their journey and accompanied them to the Indian border, keeping the Americans updated about their progress. The Dalai Lama’s escape triggered a massive military operation by the Chinese who brutally quelled the revolt in Lhasa and went on the offensive against the resistance bases in southern Tibet. The guerrillas suffered major setbacks. Andrug Gompo Tashi and the remainder of his force had no choice but to join the exodus of Tibetans who were streaming across the Himalaya, following their leader into exile.” (From the Film The Shadow Circus – The CIA in Tibet)


Even if the Kundun has for years publicly distanced himself from the Tibetan guerillas, he always showed great sympathy in the community of Tibetans in exile for “his” underground fighters. His Holiness has also valued the services of his guerillas in exile and on a number of occasions since 1959 publicly stood by them. “Despite my belief”, he says in his autobiography published in 1964 “I much admire their courage and their determination to take on the fierce struggle which they began for our freedom, our culture, and religion. I thank them for their strength and their daring, and also personally for the protection which they gave me. ... Hence I could not honorably give them the advice to avoid violence. In order to fight they had sacrificed their homes and all the comforts and advantages of a peaceful life. Now they could not see any alternative to continuing to struggle and I had nothing to oppose that with” (Dalai Lama XIV, 1964, p. 190). In the new edition of the autobiography of the in the meantime winner of the Nobel peace prize which appeared in 1990 (Freedom in Exile), this passage is no longer mentioned. It is too obvious a contradiction of the current image of the Kundun as “the supreme prince of peace of the century”.

Another statement, which can be read in the biography, The Last Dalai Lama by Michael Harris Goodman, shows even more clearly the god-king’s two-facedness concerning nonviolence: “In [the message]", he is supposed to have said, “I called the guerillas 'reactionaries', stated that the Tibetan people should not support them. At the same time the delegation was instructed to tell the guerillas to keep on fighting. We spoke in two tongues, the official and the unofficial. Officially we regarded their act as rebellion, and unofficially we regard them as heroes and told them so” (Goodman, 1986, p. 271).

Already in exile, at the beginning of the sixties the Dalai Lama bestowed on a distinguished rebel leader the same honors which normally accompany an appointment to the rank of general (Grunfeld, 1996, p. 142). At the same time a number of volunteer exile Tibetans flew to the USA in order to once again be trained in guerilla warfare under the supervision of the CIA. The action was mediated by Gyalo Thondup, a elder brother of the Dalai Lama.

Parallel to this, together with the Indian secret service Thondup established the Special Frontier Force (SFF) in 1962 with exile Tibetan recruits, a powerful and well-equipped mountain army which could be dropped into Tibet by parachute at any moment. It had 10,500 men under arms and its own officer corps. At the same time the “National Volunteer Defence Army” was founded. It can hardly be assumed that the Kundun was not very well informed about these ambitious military projects of his brother. Nonetheless it continues to be officially denied up to the present day. His Holiness is also not supposed to have known anything about the $1.7 million which the CIA provided annually to the Tibetans for military activities in the sixties.

The armed struggle of the Tibetans was prepared for at the highest political levels, primarily in Washington, Delhi, and Taipei. The only reason it was not brought into action was that at the start of the seventies Richard Nixon began with his pro-China politics and cancelled all military support for the Tibetans. But without American support the outlook for a guerilla war was completely hopeless, and from this point on the Dalai Lama publicly distanced himself from any use of violence.

Military action now no longer had any chance of success and in Dharamsala the work began of effectively reformulating the history of the Tibetan guerillas „in that one encouraged the fiction that the popular resistance had been nonviolent”, as Jamyan Norbu writes, before continuing, Tibetan officials, Buddhist followers, Western supporters and intellectuals […] regard the resistance movement as an embarrassment [...] because it somehow detracts from the preferred peace-loving image of Tibet as a Shangri-La” (Huber, 2001, p. 369).

The Nobel peace prize winner’s statements on the armed struggle of the Tibetans are most contradictory and were in the past more oriented to the political situation and constellations of power than fundamental principles. At times the Dalai Lama expressed the view that “it is quite appropriate to fight for a just cause and even to kill” (Levenson, 1992, p. 135). In an interview in 1980 he answered the question of whether violence and religion did not exclude one another as follows: „They can be combined. It depends on the motivation and the result. With good motivation and result, and if under the circumstances there is no other alternative, then violence is permissible” (Avedon, 1980, p. 34).

Only since 1989, after he was awarded the Nobel peace prize, has the god-king cultivated an exclusively pacifist retrospective on the violent history of his country. A few years ago one still heard from His Holiness that there was much which was aggressive in the Tibet of old, about which one could not exactly be happy. From 1989 on, the stereotypical message is that there had only been “peace and happiness” in the Land of Snows’ past. [4] Earlier, the Kundun had stated that “the Tibetans are predisposed to be fairly aggressive and warlike” and could only be tamed by Buddhism (Dalai Lama XIV, 1993a, p. 18). Today, we read from the same author that “The Tibetan people are of an upright, gentle, and friendly nature” (Dalai Lama XIV, 1993b, p. 34), whilst at the same time the Indian press describes Tibetan youths in Dharamsala as “militant”, “violent”, “impatient” and “restless” (Tibetan Review, May 1991, p. 19). In 1994 a Tibetan youth stabbed a young Indian which led to violence breaking out against the exile Tibetan community.

Marching music and terror:

Are the Tibetans a peaceful people? In the camp of the Tibetans in exile a somewhat different tone is struck than at the western press conferences of the Dalai Lama. Anyone who has ever participated in the official festivities of the Tibetan national holiday (March 10) in Dharamsala and seen the uniformed groups of youths parading past the Lion Throne of His Holiness, anyone who has been able to experience the ceremonies of the flag and hear the war and fighting songs sung there, must have gained the impression that this was a military parade and definitely not a peace festival of gentle monks. Admittedly, the Kundun also always introduces these festivities with a profession of nonviolence, but after his speech — in the words of the historian, Christiaan Klieger — „the tone of the event turns decidedly martial” (Klieger, 1991, p. 62). The Khampa warriors with whom we are already familiar appear in ancient leopard skin uniforms. Guards of honor salute the Tibetan flag, on which the two snow lions symbolize the twin pillars of church and state. Enthusiastically sounds the tune of “Song of the Uprising People” (Long shog), which was composed as a military march. Its two final verses go as follows:

Tibet follows its true leader ...
The Great Protector, His Holiness the Dalai Lama,
Accepted by Tibetans in and out.
The red-handed butcher – enemy,
The imperialistic Red Chinese,
Will surely be kicked out of Tibet.
Rise up, all patriots!
(Klieger, 1991, p. 63)

Such warlike marching songs may be of great importance for the formation of the poorly developed Tibetan national consciousness — they are also sung with the appropriate gusto by all present — but they have absolutely nothing to do with the much invoked principle of ahimsa. In contrast, they reify the concept of an enemy and glorify His Holiness ("the greatest living apostle of peace”) as the “supreme military commander”.

The warlike tendencies among the Tibetans in exile are not exhausted by marching music and ceremonial displays during the national holiday celebrations. Already at the start of the sixties a small group of militants resolved “that the time had come to employ terrorism in the fight for Tibet” (Avedon, 1985, p. 146). In 1998, at a press conference in Dharamsala, Kuncho Tender, a militant who spent 20 years in the Tibetan underground, argued for a renaissance of the guerilla movement in Tibet “which would kill one Chinese after another until the country [is] free” (Associated Press, Dharamsala, May 28, 1998).

Discussion about “terror as an instrument of politics” is also very current once more among radical Tibetan underground groups in the occupied Land of Snows, for example the Tiger-Leopard Youth Organization: „Our non_violent methods”, it says in a letter from this organization to the United Nations General Secretary, „have been taken as a sign of weakness. We are determined to regain our freedom, and the recent UN vote [in which a criticism of China was rejected] clearly shows us that without bloodshed, sabotage, and aggressive acts we will not gain publicity, sympathy and support. [...] So why should we not follow the destructive path?” (Schwartz, 1994, p. 224). Further the young patriots affirm that they are aware that these methods disagree with the politics of the Dalai Lama but no other option remained open to them.

Another underground organization from eastern Tibet calls itself the „Volunteer Army to Defend Buddhism” (Huber, 2001, p. 363). Calling themselves this shows that this group does not see the “destructive path” to liberation as being in contradiction to their religion. In contrast, an urgent prayer with which the terrible protective gods of the country are invoked and incited against the Chinese enemy counts as part of the daily work of the underground. In 1996 there were three bomb attacks in Lhasa.

Such activities cannot harm the Kundun at all, then by publicly criticizing them he furthers his image as an “apostle of peace”. This need not prevent him from secretly encouraging the “armed groups” as he already did with the Khampas. Even if this contradicts his pacifist professions, it does not contradict the principles of Tantric Buddhism.

In the meantime, discussions about Buddhism and the military are becoming an increasingly popular topic in Buddhist circles in the West. For example, there was an article in the journal Tricycle in 1996 with the title Apology of a Buddhist Soldier, in which the author gathered together arguments which are supposed to legitimate a “just” war for a Buddhist (Tricycle, V (3), p. 71). It is of course all very ethical, with reference to, among others, the Buddhist Emperor Ashoka (273–226 B.C.E.) who united India into a peaceful realm. Ashoka was, however, a great and cruel military commander who conducted the bloodiest of campaigns before he achieved power,. Some Buddhist traditions revere him without inhibition as a merciless war hero. “Thus the need to kill”, P. J. Tambiah writes in reference to the Emperor, “before becoming a great king who can the rule righteously is a Buddhist root dilemma. — Kings must be good killers before they can turn to piety and good works” (Tambiah, 1976, pp. 50, 522).

Political calculation and the Buddhist message of peace:

It is not the task of our analysis to make a personal choice between “armed rebellion” and the “ahimsa principle” or to answer the question whether violent action in Tibet is morally justified and makes sense in terms of national politics. We also do not want -as the Chinese attempt to do — to expose the Kundun as no more than a fanatical warmonger in sheep’s clothing. Perhaps, by and large he is personally a peace-loving person, but without doubt he represents a culture which has from its very origins been warlike and which does not even think of admitting to its violent past, let alone reappraising it.

Instead, Dharamsala and the current Dalai Lama make a constant propaganda project of presenting Tibetan Buddhism and the history of Tibet to the world public as a storehouse of eternal teachings about nonviolence and peace. There is thus a refusal to accept that the Kundun first acquired his pacifist ideas (e.g., under the influence of Mahatma Gandhi) after his flight; instead it is implied that they are drawn from the inexhaustible inheritance of a many hundred year old tradition and history. Even the aggressive “Great Fifth” and the “Great Thirteenth” with his strong interest in military matters now appear as the precursors of the current “Buddhism of peace”. On the basis of this distortion, the current Dalai Lama is able to fully identify with his fifth incarnation without having to mention his warlike and Machiavellian power politics and murderous magic: “By holding the position of the Fifth Dalai Lama I am supposed to follow what he did, this is the reason I have to interfere”, the Kundun explained in 1997 (HPI 006). Thus there is much which speaks for the pacifism of the Dalai Lama being nothing more than a calculated political move and never having been the expression of a principle. Jamyang Norbu, co-director of the Tibetan cultural institute, thus accuses his “revered leader” (the Kundun) and his exile Tibetan politicians of fostering the formation of the western myth of the good and peaceful Tibet of old. At no stage in history have the Tibetans been particularly pacifist — the terrible fighting out of the conflicts between individual monasteries proves this, as well as the bloody resistance to the occupation in the fifties. “The government in exile”, says Norbu, “capitalizes upon the western clichés, hampers a demythologization, a critical examination of its own history” (Spiegel, 16/1998).

There is also absolutely no intention of doing this. For the Dalai Lama the fundamental orientation to be adopted is dependent upon what is favorable in the prevailing power-political situation. Thus a immediate volte-face to a fighting lineage is thoroughly laid out in his system. Neither religious, nor ideological, and definitely not historical incarnational obstacles stand in the way of a possible decision to go to war. In contrast, the Tibetan war gods have been waiting for centuries to strike out and re-conquer their former extended empire. Every higher tantra includes a call to battle against the “enemies of the faith”. In any event, the Kalachakra ritual and the ideology at work behind it are to be understood as a declaration of war on the non-Buddhist world. Important members of the Tibetan clergy have already reserved their places in the great doomsday army of Shambhala. „Many of them already know the names and ranks they will have.” (Bernbaum, 1980, p. 29, 30).

When the political circumstances are ripe the “simple monk” from Dharamsala will have to set aside his personal pacifist tendencies and, as the embodied Kalachakra deity, will hardly shrink from summoning Begtse the god of slaughter or from himself appearing in the guise of a heruka. “The wrathful goddesses and the enraged gods are there,” we learn from his own mouth (before he was awarded the Nobel peace prize), “in order to demonstrate that one can grasp the use of violence as a method; it is an effective instrument, but it can never ever be a purpose” (Levenson, 1992, p. 284). There is no noteworthy political leader in the violent history of humankind who would have thought otherwise. Even for dictators like Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin violence was never an end in itself, but rather an “effective instrument” for the attainment of “honorable” goals.

Even some western voices these days no longer shrink from drawing attention to the dangerous and violent aspects of the figure of the Kundun in fascination: “This man has something of a pouncing wild cat, a snow leopard imbued with freedom and loneliness which no cage could hold back”, his biographer, Claude B. Levenson, has written (Levenson, 1992, p. 160).

“Buddha has smiled”: The Dalai Lama and the Indian atomic tests of 1998:

In the opinion of the Indian military as well, the religion of the Buddha appears to be not so pacifist as it is presented to us e here in the West. Why else would the first Indian nuclear weapons tests (in 1974) have been referred to under the secret code of “The Lord Buddha has smiled!”? Why were the spectacular tests in 1998 deliberately launched on the birthday of the Gautama Buddha? (Focus, 21/1998, p. 297; Spiegel, 21/1998, p. 162). In fact the sole “living Buddha” at this time, the Dalai Lama, has a profound interest in the Indian atomic tests. For him ("as the smiling third party”) a confrontation between the two Asian giants (China and India) would be of great political advantage. It was thus only logical that the “god-king” from Tibet gave the demonstration of a nuclear capability by his host country the Buddhist blessing. While the whole world, especially the heads of state of the G8 countries gathered at the time in Birmingham, protested sharply (President Bill Clinton spoke of “a terrible mistake”) the Tibetan “Nobel peace prize winner” approved of the Indian bomb. “India should not”, said the Dalai Lama “be pressured by developed nations to get rid of nuclear weapons. ... It should have the same access to nuclear weapons as developed countries. ... The assumption of the concept that few nations are ok to possess nuclear weapons and the rest of the world should not — that's undemocratic” [5] (Associated Press, May 13, 1998). But the disastrous implication of such a statement is that any nation ought to be able to acquire nuclear weapons simply because other countries also possess them. It should be obvious that the Indian public was enthusiastic about the Kundun’s approbation. “If a man of peace like Dalai Lama can approve of India's nuclear position,” one Mamata Shah wrote on the Internet, “Gandhi too would have no hesitation in approving it” (Nospamlchow, Newsgroup 8).

In addition, the whole nuclear display between India and Pakistan symbolically heralds the Shambhala war prophesied in the Kalachakra Tantra. The bomb of the smiling Buddha was “the signal for the Pakistanis to forcefully pursue the development of the Islamic bomb” and to test it (Spiegel, 21/1998) — a foretaste of what awaits us when (according to the Shambhala myth) Buddhists and Moslems face each other in the final battle.


Dalai Lama praises US approach to bombing Afghanistan: "At the same time, as a quiet fellow, I am amazed and admire that, at this moment, unlike First World War, Second World, Korean War and Vietnam War, I think the American side is very, very carefully selecting targets, taking maximum precautions about the civilian casualties." - "I think this is a sign of more civilization," said the Dalai Lama. He warned, however, that "bombing can eliminate only physical things, not thoughts or emotions. Talk and reasoning is the only long-term solution." (Strasbourg, Oct 24 – AFP)



[1] How current and far reaching such activities by “vengeful lamas” can be is shown by the Shugden affair described above in which the “protective god” (Dorje Shugden) has succeeded in overshadowing the public image of the Dalai Lama.

[2]During a cult ceremony in Kongpo in 1989, the “gods” Amitabha, Avalokiteshvara, and Padmasambhava appeared. Ever more mediums are emerging, through whom the dharmapalas (the tutelary deities) speak and announce the liberation from the Chinese yoke (Schwartz, 1994, p. 227).

[3] In 1954, Rudolf A. Stein took part in a martial ceremony in Sikkim, at which various war gods were invoked. There was one “recitation to incite the sword” and another for the rifle. The text ended with an “incitement” of the planet Rahu (Stein, 1993, p. 247). Such ceremonies were also performed in the Tibet of old.

[4] Only since 1997, under the influence of the Shugden affair has a self critical position begun to emerge. This too — as we shall later show — is purely tactically motivated.

[5] This statement stands, even if two days later the Dalai Lama, certainly under pressure from the West, stressed that he was in favor of a general disarmament. The news agency CND even reversed the statement by His Holiness into its opposite and reported on May 20 that the “Dalai Lama said on Tuesday that he was disappointed by India's nuclear test and backed China's call to ban all nuclear weapons” (CND, May 20, 1998). The unrestricted opportunism of the god-king, of which we still have numerous examples to mention, easily allows one to presume that he made both statements (both for and against India).
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War in the Tibet of old on a number of occasions meant the military intervention of various Mongolian tribes into the internal affairs of the country. Over the course of time a deep cultural connection with the warlike nomads from the north developed which ultimately led to a complete Buddhization of Mongolia. Today this is interpreted by Buddhist “historians” as a pacification of the country and its inhabitants. But let us examine more closely some prominent events in the history of Central Asia under Buddhist control.

Genghis Khan as a Bodhisattva:

The greatest conqueror of all humankind, at least as far as the expansion of the territory under his control is concerned, was Genghis Khan (1167–1227). He united the peoples of the Mongolian steppes in Asia and from them formed a horseback army which struck fear into the hearts of Europe and China just as much as it did in the Islamic states. His way of conducting warfare was for the times extremely modern. The preparations for an offensive usually took several years. He had the strengths and weaknesses of his opponents studied in detail. This was achieved by among other things a cleverly constructed network of spies and agents. His notorious cavalry was neither chaotic nor wild, nor as large as it was often said to be by the peoples that he conquered. In contrast, they were distinguished by strict discipline, had the absolutely best equipment, and were courageous, extremely effective, and usually outnumbered by their enemies. The longer the preparations for war were, the more rapidly the battles were decided, and that with a merciless cruelty. Women and children found just as little pity as the aged and the sick. If a city opposed the great Khan, every living creature within it had to be exterminated, even the animals — the dogs and rats were executed. Yet for those who submitted to him, he became a redeemer, God-man, and prince of peace. To this day the Mongolians have not forgotten that the man who conquered and ruled the world was of their blood.

Tactically at least, in wanting to expand into Mongolia, Tibetan Lamaism did well to declare Genghis Khan, revered as divine, to be one of their own. It stood in the way of this move that the world conqueror was no follower of the Buddhist teachings and trusted only in himself, or in the shamanist religious practices of his ancestors. There are even serious indications that he felt attracted to monotheistic ideas in order to be able to legitimate his unique global dominion.

Yet through an appeal to their ADI BUDDHA system the lamas could readily match their monotheistic competitors. According to legend a contest between the religions did also took place before the ruler’s throne, which from the Tibetan viewpoint was won by the Buddhists. The same story is recounted by the Mohammedans, yet ends with the “ruler of the world” having decided in favor of the Teachings of the Prophet. In comparison, the proverbial cruelty of the Mongolian khan was no obstacle to his fabricated “Buddhization”, since he could without further ado be integrated into the tantric system as the fearful aspect of a Buddha (a heruka) or as a bloodthirsty dharmapala (tutelary god).Thus more and more stories were invented which portrayed him as a representative of the Holy Doctrine (the dharma).

Among other things, Mongolian lamas constructed an ancestry which traced back to a Buddhist Indian law-king and put this in place of the zoomorphic legend common among the shamans that Genghis Khan was the son of a wolf and a deer. Another story tells of how he was descended from a royal Tibetan family. It is firmly believed that he was in correspondence with a great abbot of the Sakyapa sect and had asked him for spiritual protection. The following sentence stands in a forged letter in which the Mongol addresses the Tibetan hierarch: “Holy one! Well did I want to summon you; but because my worldly business is still incomplete, I have not summoned you. I trust you from here, protect me from there” (Schulemann, 1958, p. 89). A further document “from his hand” is supposed to have freed the order from paying taxes. In the struggle against the Chinese, Genghis Khan — it is reported — prayed to ADI BUDDHA.

The Buddhization of Mongolia:

But it was only after the death of the Great Khan that the missionary lamas succeeded in converting the Mongolian tribes to Buddhism, even if this was a process which stretched out over four centuries. (Incidentally, this was definitely not true for all, then a number took up the Islamic faith.) Various smaller contacts aside, the voyage of the Sakya, Pandita Kunga Gyaltsen, to the court of the nomad ruler Godän Khan (in 1244), stands at the outset of the conversion project, which ultimately brought all of northern Mongolia under Buddhist influence. The great abbot, already very advanced in years, convinced the Mongolians of the power of his religion by healing Ugedai’s son of a serious illness. The records celebrate their subsequent conversion as a triumph of civilization over barbarism.

Some 40 years later (1279), there followed a meeting between Chögyel Phagpa, likewise a Tibetan great abbot of the Sakyapa lineage, and Kublai Khan, the Mongolian conqueror of China and the founder of the Yuan dynasty. At these talks topics which concerned the political situation of Tibet were also discussed. The adroit hierarch from the Land of Snows succeeded in persuading the Emperor to grant him the title of “King of the Great and Valuable Law” and thus a measure of worldly authority over the not yet united Tibet. In return, the Phagpa lama initiated the Emperor into the Hevajra Tantra.

Three hundred years later (in 1578), the Gelugpa abbot, Gyalwa Sonam Gyatso, met with Althan Khan and received from him the fateful name of “Dalai Lama”. At the time he was only the spiritual ruler and in turn gave the Mongolian prince the title of the “Thousand-Golden-Wheel turning World Ruler”. From 1637 on the cooperation between the “Great Fifth” and Gushri Khan began. By the beginning of the 18th century at the latest, the Buddhization of Mongolia was complete and the country lay firmly in the hand of the Yellow Church.

But it would be wrong to believe that the conversion of the Mongolian rulers had led to a fundamental rejection of the warlike politics of the tribes. It is true that it was at times a moderating influence. For instance, the Third Dalai Lama had demanded that women and slaves no longer be slaughtered as sacrificial offerings during the ancient memorial services for the deceased princes of the steppe. But it would fill pages if we were to report on the cruelty and mercilessness of the “Buddhist” Khans. As long as it concerned the combating of “enemies of the faith”, the lamas were prepared to make any compromise regarding violence. Here the aggressive potential of the protective deities (the dharmapala) could be lived out in reality without limits.
Yet to be fair one has to say that both elements, the pacification and the militarization developed in parallel, as is indeed readily possible in the paradoxical world of the tantric doctrines. It was not until the beginning of the 20th century that the proverbial fighting spirit of the Mongolians would once more really shine forth and then, as we shall see, combine with the martial ideology of the Kalachakra Tantra.

Before the Communists seized power in Mongolia in the twenties, more than a quarter of the male population were simple monks. The main contingent of lamas belonged to the Gelugpa order and thus at least officially obeyed the god-king from Lhasa. Real power, however, was exercised by the supreme Khutuktu, the Mongolian term for an incarnated Buddha being (in the Tibetan language: Kundun). At the beginning of his term in office his authority only extended to religious matters, then constitutionally the steppe land of Genghis Khan had become a province of China.

In the year 1911 there was a revolt and the “living Buddha”, Jebtsundamba Khutuktu, was proclaimed as the first head of state (Bogd Khan) of the autonomous Mongolian peoples. At the same time the country declared its independence.
In the constitutional decree it said: “We have elevated the Bogd, radiant as the sun, myriad aged, as the Great Khan of Mongolia and his consort Tsagaan Dar as the mother of the nation” (Onon, 1989, p. 16). The great lama’s response included the following: “After accepting the elevation by all to become the Great Khan of the Mongolian Nation, I shall endlessly strive to spread the Buddhist religion as brightly as the lights of the million suns ...” (Onon, 1989, p. 18).

From now on, just as in Tibet a Buddhocracy with the incarnation of a god at its helm reigned in Mongolia. In 1912 an envoy of the Dalai Lama signed an agreement with the new head of state in which the two hierarchs each recognized the sovereignty of the other and their countries as autonomous states. The agreement was to be binding for all time and pronounced Tibetan Buddhism to be the sole state religion.

Jabtsundamba Khutuktu (1870–1924) was not a native Mongol, but was born in Lhasa as the son of a senior civil servant in the administration of the Dalai Lama. At the age of four his monastic life began in Khüre, the Mongolian capital at the time. Even as a younger man he led a dissolute life. He loved women and wine and justified his liberties with tantric arguments. This even made its way into the Mongolian school books of the time, where we are able to read that there are two kinds of Buddhism: the “virtuous way” and the “mantra path”. Whoever follows the latter, “strolls, even without giving up the drinking of intoxicating beverages, marriage, or a worldly occupation, if he contemplates the essence of the Absolute, ... along the path of the great yoga master.” (Glasenapp, 1940, p. 24). When on his visit to Mongolia the Thirteenth Dalai Lama made malicious comments about dissoluteness of his brother-in-office, the Khutuktu is said to have foamed with rage and relations between the two sank to a new low.

The “living Buddha” from Mongolia was brutal to his subjects and not rarely overstepped the border to cruelty. He is accredited with numerous poisonings. It was not entirely without justification that he trusted nobody and suspected all. Nonetheless he possessed political acumen, an unbreakable ambition, and also a noteworthy audacity. Time and again he understood how, even in the most unfathomable situations, to seize political power for himself, and survived as head of state even after the Communists had conquered the country. His steadfastness in the face of the Chinese garnered him the respect of both ordinary people and the nobility.

There had barely been a peaceful period for him. Soon after its declaration of independence (in 1911) the country became a plaything of the most varied interests: the Chinese, Tsarist Russians, Communists, and numerous national and regional groupings attempted to gain control of the state. Blind and marked by the consumption of alcohol, the Khutuktu died in 1924.
The Byelorussian, Ferdinand Ossendowski, who was fleeing through the country at the time attributes the following prophecy and vision to the Khutuktu, which, even if it is not historically authenticated, conjures up the spirit of an aggressive pan-Mongolism: “Near Karakorum and on the shores of Ubsa Nor I see the huge multi-colored camps. ... Above them I see the old banners of Jenghiz Khan, of the kings of Tibet, Siam, Afghanistan, and of Indian princes; the sacred signs of all the Lamaite Pontiffs; the coats of arms of the Khans of the Olets; and the simple signs of the north-Mongolian tribes. .... There is the roar and crackling of fire and the ferocious sound of battle. Who is leading these warriors who there beneath the reddened sky are shedding their own and others’ blood? ... I see ... a new great migration of peoples, the last march of the Mongols …" (Ossendowski, 1924, pp. 315-316).

In the same year that Jabtsundamba Khutuktu died the “Mongolian Revolutionary People’s Party” (the Communists) seized complete governmental control, which they were to exercise for over 60 years. Nonetheless speculation about the new incarnation of the “living Buddha” continued. Here the Communists appealed to an old prediction according to which the eighth Khutuktu would be reborn as a Shambhala general and would thus no longer be able to appear here on earth. But the cunning lamas countered with the argument that this would not hamper the immediate embodiment of the ninth Khutuktu. It was decided to approach the Fourteenth Dalai Lama and the Ninth Panchen Lama for advice. However, the Communist Party prevailed and in 1930 conducted a large-scale show trial of several Mongolian nobles and spiritual leaders in connection with this search for a new incarnation.

There were attempts in Mongolia at the time to make Communist and Buddhist ideas compatible with one another. In so doing, lamas became excited about the myth that Lenin was a reincarnation of the historical Buddha. But other voices were likewise to be heard. In a pamphlet from the twenties we can also read that “Red Russia and Lenin are reincarnation of Langdarma, the enemy of the faith” (Bawden, 1969, p. 265). Under Josef Stalin this variety of opinion vanished for good. The Communist Party proceeded mercilessly against the religious institutions of Mongolia, drove the monks out of the monasteries, had the temples closed and forbade any form of clerical teaching program.

The Mongolian Shambhala myth:

We do not intend to consider in detail the recent history of Mongolia. What primarily interests us are the tantric patterns which had an effect behind the political stage. Since the 19th century prophetic religious literature has flourished in the country. Among the many mystic hopes for salvation, the Shambhala myth ranks as the foremost. It has always accompanied the Mongolian nationalist movement and is today enjoying a powerful renaissance after the end of Communism. Up until the thirties it was almost self-evident for the Lamaist milieu of the country that the conflicts with China and Russia were to be seen as a preliminary skirmish to a future, worldwide, final battle which would end in a universal victory for Buddhism. In this, the figures of the Rudra Chakrin, of the Buddha Maitreya, and of Genghis Khan were combined into an overpowering messianic figure who would firstly spread unimaginable horror so as to then lead the converted masses, above all the Mongols as the chosen people, into paradise. The soldiers of the Mongolian army proudly called themselves “Shambhala warriors”. In a song of war from the year 1919 we may read

We raised the yellow flag
For the greatness of the Buddha doctrine;
We, the pupils of the Khutuktu,
Went into the battle of Shambhala!

(Bleichsteiner, 1937, p. 104).

Five years later, in 1924, the Russian, Nicholas Roerich, met a troop of Mongolian horsemen in Urga who sang:

Let us die in this war,
To be reborn
As horsemen of the Ruler of Shambhala

(Schule der Lebensweisheit, 1990, p. 66).

He was informed in mysterious tones that a year before his arrival a Mongol boy had been born, upon whom the entire people’s hopes for salvation hung, because he was an incarnation of Shambhala.

The Buriat, Agvan Dorjiev, a confidante of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama -- about him we still have much to report -- persistently involved himself in every event which has affected Mongolia since the beginning of the twentieth century. “It was his special contribution”, John Snelling writes, “to expand pan-Mongolism -- which has been called 'the most powerful single idea in Central Asia in the twentieth century' -- into the more expansive pan-Buddhism, which, as we have already noted, he based upon the Kalachakra myths, including the legend of the messianic kingdom of Shambhala” (Snelling, 1993, p. 96).

The Shambhala myth lived on in the underground after Communist accession to power, as if a military intervention from out of the mythic kingdom were imminent. In 1935 and 1936 ritual were performed in Khorinsk in order to speed up the intervention by the king of Shambhala. The lamas produced postcards on which could be seen how the armies of Shambhala poured forth out of a rising sun. Not without reason, the Soviet secret service suspected this to be a reference to Japan, whose flag carries the national symbol of the rising sun. In fact, the Japanese did make use of the Shambhala legend in their own imperialist interests and attempted to win over Mongolian lamas as agents through appeals to the myth.

Dambijantsan, the bloodthirsty avenging lama:

To what inhumanity and cruelty the tantric scheme can lead in times of war is shown by the story of the “avenging lama”, a Red Hat monk by the name of Dambijantsan [Tushegoun Lama]. He was a Kalmyk from the Volga region who was imprisoned in Russia for revolutionary activities. “After an adventurous flight”, writes Robert Bleichsteiner, “he went to Tibet and India, where he was trained in tantric magic. In the nineties he began his political activities in Mongolia. An errant knight of Lamaism, demon of the steppes, and tantric in the style of Padmasambhava, he awakened vague hopes among some, fear among others, shrank from no crime, emerged unscathed from all dangers, so that he was considered invulnerable and unassailable, in brief, he held the whole Gobi in his thrall” (Bleichsteiner, 1937,p. 110).

Dambijantsan [Tushegoun Lama] believed himself to be the incarnation of the west Mongolian war hero, Amursana. He succeeded over a number of years in commanding a relatively large armed force and in executing a noteworthy number of victorious military actions. For these he was awarded high-ranking religious and noble titles by the “living Buddha” from Urga. The Russian, Ferdinand Ossendowski, reported of him, albeit under another name (Tushegoun Lama) [1], that “Everyone who disobeyed his orders perished. Such a one never knew the day or the hour when, in his yurta or beside his galloping horse on the plains, the strange and powerful friend of the Dalai Lama would appear. The stroke of a knife, a bullet or strong fingers strangling the neck like a vise accomplished the justice of the plans of this miracle worker” (Ossendowski, 1924, p. 116). There was in fact the rumor that the god-king from Lhasa had honored the militant Kalmyk.

Dambijantsan’s [Tushegoun Lama] form of warfare was of a calculated cruelty which he nonetheless regarded as a religious act of virtue. On August 6, 1912, after the taking of Khobdo, he had Chinese and Sarten prisoners slaughtered within a tantric rite. Like an Aztec sacrificial priest, in full regalia, he stabbed them in the chest with a knife and tore their hearts out with his left hand. He laid these together with parts of the brain and some entrails in skull bowls so as to offer them up as bali sacrifices to the Tibetan terror gods.
Although officially a governor of the Khutuktu, for the next two years he conducted himself like an autocrat in western Mongolia and tyrannized a huge territory with a reign of violence “beyond all reason and measure” (Bawden, 1969, p. 198). On the walls of the yurt he lived in hung the peeled skins of his enemies.

It was first the Bolsheviks who clearly bothered him. He fled into the Gobi desert and entrenched himself there with a number of loyal followers in a fort. His end was just as bloody as the rest of his life. The Russians sent out a Mongolian prince who pretended to be an envoy of the “living Buddha”, and thus gained entry to the camp without harm. In front of the unsuspecting “avenging lama” he fired off six shots at him from a revolver. He then tore the heart from the body of his victim and devoured it before the eyes of all present, in order — as he later said — to frighten and horrify his followers. He thus managed to flee. Later he returned to the site with the Russians and collected the head of Dambijantsan [Tushegoun Lama] as proof. But the “tearing out and eating of the heart” was in this case not just a terrible means of spreading dread, but also part of a traditional cult among the Mongolian warrior caste, which was already practiced under Genghis Khan and had survived over the centuries. There is also talk of it in a passage from the Gesar epic which we have already quoted. It is likewise found as a motif in Tibetan thangkas: Begtse, the highly revered war god, swings a sword in his right hand whilst holding a human heart to his mouth with his left.

In light of the dreadful tortures of which the Chinese army was accused, and the merciless butchery with which the Mongolian forces responded, an extremely cruel form of warfare was the rule in Central Asia in the nineteen twenties. Hence an appreciation of the avenging lama has arisen among the populace of Mongolia which sometimes extends to a glorification of his life and deeds. The Russian, Ossendowski, also saw in him an almost supernatural redeemer.

Tushegoun Lama [Dambijantsan]! How many extraordinary tales I had heard about him. He is a Russian Kalmuck, who because of his propaganda work for the independence of the Kalmuck people made the acquaintance of many Russian prisons under the Czar and, for the same cause, added to his list under the Bolsheviki. He escaped to Mongolia and at once attained to great influence among the Mongols. It was no wonder, for he was a close friend and pupil of the Dalai Lama in Potala (Lhasa), was the most learned among the Lamites, a famous thaumaturgist and doctor. He occupied an almost independent position in his relationship with the Living Buddha and achieved to the leadership of all the old wandering tribes of Western Mongolia and Zungaria, even extending his political domination over the Mongolian tribes of Turkestan. His influence was irresistible, based as it was on his great control of mysterious science, as he expressed it; but I was also told that it has its foundation largely in the panicky fear which he could produce in the Mongols. Everyone who disobeyed his orders perished. Such an one never knew the day or the hour when, in his yurta or beside his galloping horse on the plains, the strange and powerful friend of the Dalai Lama would appear. The stroke of a knife, a bullet or strong fingers strangling the neck like a vise accomplished the justice of the plans of this miracle worker.

Without the walls of the yurta the wind whistled and roared and drove the frozen snow sharply against the stretched felt. Through the roar of the wind came the sound of many voices in mingled shouting, wailing and laughter. I felt that in such surroundings it were not difficult to dumbfound a wandering nomad with miracles, because Nature herself had prepared the setting for it. This thought had scarcely time to flash through my mind before Tushegoun Lama [Dambijantsan] suddenly raised his head, looked sharply at me and said:

“There is very much unknown in Nature and the skill of using the unknown produces the miracle; but the power is given to few. I want to prove it to you and you may tell me afterwards whether you have seen it before or not.”

He stood up, pushed back the sleeves of his yellow garment, seized his knife and strode across to the shepherd.

“Michik, stand up!” he ordered.

When the shepherd had risen, the Lama quickly unbuttoned his coat and bared the man’s chest. I could not yet understand what was his intention, when suddenly the Tushegoun [Dambijantsan] with all his force struck his knife into the chest of the shepherd. The Mongol fell all covered with blood, a splash of which I noticed on the yellow silk of the Lama’s coat.

“What have you done?” I exclaimed.

“Sh! Be still,” he whispered turning to me his now quite blanched face.

With a few strokes of the knife he opened the chest of the Mongol and I saw the man’s lungs softly breathing and the distinct palpitations of the heart. The Lama touched these organs with his fingers but no more blood appeared to flow and the face of the shepherd was quite calm. He was lying with his eyes closed and appeared to be in deep and quiet sleep. As the Lama began to open his abdomen, I shut my eyes in fear and horror; and, when I opened them a little while later, I was still more dumbfounded at seeing the shepherd with his coat still open and his breast normal, quietly sleeping on his side and Tushegoun Lama [Dambijantsan] sitting peacefully by the brazier, smoking his pipe and looking into the fire in deep thought.

“It is wonderful!” I confessed. “I have never seen anything like it!”

“About what are you speaking?” asked the Kalmuck.

“About your demonstration or ‘miracle,’ as you call it,” I answered.

“I never said anything like that,” refuted the Kalmuck, with coldness in his voice.

“Did you see it?” I asked of my companion.

“What?” he queried in a dozing voice.

I realized that I had become the victim of the hypnotic power of Tushegoun Lama [Dambijantsan]; but I preferred this to seeing an innocent Mongolian die, for I had not believed that Tushegoun Lama [Dambijantsan], after slashing open the bodies of his victims, could repair them again so readily.

The following day we took leave of our hosts. We decided to return, inasmuch as our mission was accomplished; and Tushegoun Lama [Dambijantsan] explained to us that he would “move through space.” He wandered over all Mongolia, lived both in the single, simple yurta of the shepherd and hunter and in the splendid tents of the princes and tribal chiefs, surrounded by deep veneration and panic-fear, enticing and cementing to him rich and poor alike with his miracles and prophecies. When bidding us adieu, the Kalmuck sorcerer slyly smiled and said:

“Do not give any information about me to the Chinese authorities.”

Afterwards he added: “What happened to you yesterday evening was a futile demonstration. You Europeans will not recognize that we dark-minded nomads possess the powers of mysterious science. If you could only see the miracles and power of the Most Holy Tashi Lama, when at his command the lamps and candles before the ancient statue of Buddha light themselves and when the ikons of the gods begin to speak and prophesy! But there exists a more powerful and more holy man. . .”

“Is it the King of the World in Agharti?” I interrupted.

He stared and glanced at me in amazement.

“Have you heard about him?” he asked, as his brows knit in thought.

After a few seconds he raised his narrow eyes and said: “Only one man knows his holy name; only one man now living was ever in Agharti. That is I. This is the reason why the Most Holy Dalai Lama has honored me and why the Living Buddha in Urga fears me. But in vain, for I shall never sit on the Holy Throne of the highest priest in Lhasa nor reach that which has come down from Jenghiz Khan to the Head of our yellow Faith. I am no monk. I am a warrior and avenger.”

He jumped smartly into the saddle, whipped his horse and whirled away, flinging out as he left the common Mongolian phrase of adieu: “Sayn! Sayn-bayna!”

On the way back Tzeren related to us the hundreds of legends surrounding Tushegoun Lama [Dambijantsan]. One tale especially remained in my mind. It was in 1911 or 1912 when the Mongols by armed force tried to attain their liberty in a struggle with the Chinese. The general Chinese headquarters in Western Mongolia was Kobdo, where they had about ten thousand soldiers under the command of their best officers. The command to capture Kobdo was sent to Hun Baldon, a simple shepherd who had distinguished himself in fights with the Chinese and received from the Living Buddha the title of Prince of Hun. Ferocious, absolutely without fear and possessing gigantic strength, Baldon had several times led to the attack his poorly armed Mongols but each time had been forced to retreat after losing many of his men under the machine-gun fire. Unexpectedly Tushegoun Lama arrived. He collected all the soldiers and then said to them:

“You must not fear death and must not retreat. You are fighting and dying for Mongolia, for which the gods have appointed a great destiny. See what the fate of Mongolia will be!”

He made a great sweeping gesture with his hand and all the soldiers saw the country round about set with rich yurtas and pastures covered with great herds of horses and cattle. On the plains appeared numerous horsemen on richly saddled steeds. The women were gowned in the finest of silk with massive silver rings in their ears and precious ornaments in their elaborate head dresses. Chinese merchants led an endless caravan of merchandise up to distinguished looking Mongol Saits, surrounded by the gaily dressed tzirik or soldiers and proudly negotiating with the merchants for their wares.

Shortly the vision disappeared and Tushegoun [Dambijantsan] began to speak.

“Do not fear death! It is a release from our labor on earth and the path to the state of constant blessings. Look to the East! Do you see your brothers and friends who have fallen in battle?”

“We see, we see!” the Mongol warriors exclaimed in astonishment, as they all looked upon a great group of dwellings which might have been yurtas or the arches of temples flushed with a warm and kindly light. Red and yellow silk were interwoven in bright bands that covered the walls and floor, everywhere the gilding on pillars and walls gleamed brightly; on the great red altar burned the thin sacrificial candles in gold candelabra, beside the massive silver vessels filled with milk and nuts; on soft pillows about the floor sat the Mongols who had fallen in the previous attack on Kobdo. Before them stood low, lacquered tables laden with many dishes of steaming, succulent flesh of the lamb and the kid, with high jugs of wine and tea, with plates of borsuk, a kind of sweet, rich cakes, with aromatic zatouran covered with sheep’s fat, with bricks of dried cheese, with dates, raisins and nuts. These fallen soldiers smoked golden pipes and chatted gaily.

This vision in turn also disappeared and before the gazing Mongols stood only the mysterious Kalmuck with his hand upraised.

“To battle and return not without victory! I am with you in the fight.”

The attack began. The Mongols fought furiously, perished by the hundreds but not before they had rushed into the heart of Kobdo. Then was re-enacted the long forgotten picture of Tartar hordes destroying European towns. Hun Baldon ordered carried over him a triangle of lances with brilliant red streamers, a sign that he gave up the town to the soldiers for three days. Murder and pillage began. All the Chinese met their death there. The town was burned and the walls of the fortress destroyed. Afterwards Hun Baldon came to Uliassutai and also destroyed the Chinese fortress there. The ruins of it still stand with the broken embattlements and towers, the useless gates and the remnants of the burned official quarters and soldiers’ barracks.

-- Beasts, Men and Gods, by Ferdinand Ossendowski

Von Ungern Sternberg: The “Order of Buddhist Warriors”:

In 1919 the army of the Byelorussian general, Roman von Ungern Sternberg, joined up with Dambijantsan [Tushegoun Lama]. The native Balt was of a similar cruelly eccentric nature to the “avenger lama”. Under Admiral Kolchak he first established a Byelorussian bastion in the east against the Bolsheviks. He saw the Communists as “evil spirits in human shape” (Webb, 1976, p. 202). Later he went to Mongolia.

Through his daredevilry he there succeeded in building up an army of his own and positioning himself at its head. This was soon to excite fear and horror because of its atavistic cruelty. It consisted of Russians, Mongolians, Tibetans, and Chinese. According to Ossendowski, the Tibetan and Mongolian regiments wore a uniform of red jackets with epaulettes upon which the swastika of Genghis Khan and the initials of the “living Buddha” from Urga were emblazoned. (In the occult scene von Ungern Sternberg is thus seen as a precursor of German national socialism.)

Occasionally one saw the soldiers of Baron Ungern rushing about in long blue coats; Mongols and Tibetans in red coats with yellow epaulets bearing the swastika of Jenghiz Khan and the initials of the Living Buddha; and Chinese soldiers from their detachment in the Mongolian army.

-- Beasts, Men and Gods, by Ferdinand Ossendowski

In assembling his army the baron applied the tantric “law of inversion” with utmost precision. The hired soldiers were firstly stuffed with alcohol, opium, and hashish to the point of collapse and then left to sober up overnight. Anyone who now still drank was shot. The General himself was considered invulnerable. In one battle 74 bullets were caught in his coat and saddle without him being harmed. Everyone called the Balt with the shaggy moustache and tousled hair the “mad baron”. We have at hand a bizarre portrait from an eyewitness who saw him in the last days before his defeat: “The baron with his head dropped to his chest, silently rode in front of his troops. He had lost his hat and clothing. On his naked chest numerous Mongolian talismans were hanging on a bright yellow cord. He looked like the incarnation of a prehistoric ape man. People were afraid even to look at him” (quoted by Webb, 1976, p. 203).

This man succeeded in bringing the Khutuktu, driven away by the Chinese, back to Urga. Together with him he staged a tantric defense ritual against the Red Army in 1921, albeit without much success. After this, the hierarch lost trust in his former savior and is said to have made contact with the Reds himself in order to be rid of the Balt. At any rate, he ordered the Mongolian troops under the general’s command to desert. Von Ungern Sternberg was then captured by the Bolsheviks and shot. After this, the Communists pushed on to Urga and a year later occupied the capital. The Khutuktu had acted correctly in his own interests, then until his death he remained at least pro forma the head of state, although real power was transferred step by step into the hands of the Communist Party.

All manner of occult speculations surround von Ungern Sternberg, which may essentially be traced to one source, the best-seller we have already quoted several times by the Russian, Ferdinand Ossendowski, with the German title of Tiere, Menschen, Götter [English: Beasts, Men and Gods]. The book as a whole is seen by historians as problematic, but is, however, considered authentic in regard to its portrayal of the baron (Webb, 1976, p. 201). Von Ungern Sternberg quite wanted to establish an “order of military Buddhists”. “For what?”, Ossendowski has him ask rhetorically. “For the protection of the processes of evolution of humanity and for the struggle against revolution, because I am certain that evolution leads to the Divinity and revolution to bestiality” (Ossendowski, 1924, p. 245). This order was supposed to be the elite of an Asian state, which united the Chinese, the Mongolians, the Tibetans, the Afghans, the Tatars, the Buriats, the Kyrgyzstanis, and the Kalmyks.

“Now I shall tell you about myself, who and what I am! My name is surrounded with such hate and fear that no one can judge what is the truth and what is false, what is history and what myth. Some time you will write about it, remembering your trip through Mongolia and your sojourn at the yurta of the ‘bloody General.’”

He shut his eyes, smoking as he spoke, and tumbling out his sentences without finishing them as though some one would prevent him from phrasing them.

“The family of Ungern von Sternberg is an old family, a mixture of Germans with Hungarians—Huns from the time of Attila. My warlike ancestors took part in all the European struggles. They participated in the Crusades and one Ungern was killed under the walls of Jerusalem, fighting under Richard Coeur de Lion. Even the tragic Crusade of the Children was marked by the death of Ralph Ungern, eleven years old. When the boldest warriors of the country were despatched to the eastern border of the German Empire against the Slavs in the twelfth century, my ancestor Arthur was among them, Baron Halsa Ungern Sternberg. Here these border knights formed the order of Monk Knights or Teutons, which with fire and sword spread Christianity among the pagan Lithuanians, Esthonians, Latvians and Slavs. Since then the Teuton Order of Knights has always had among its members representatives of our family. When the Teuton Order perished in the Grunwald under the swords of the Polish and Lithuanian troops, two Barons Ungern von Sternberg were killed there. Our family was warlike and given to mysticism and asceticism.

“During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries several Barons von Ungern had their castles in the lands of Latvia and Esthonia. Many legends and tales lived after them. Heinrich Ungern von Sternberg, called ‘Ax,’ was a wandering knight. The tournaments of France, England, Spain and Italy knew his name and lance, which filled the hearts of his opponents with fear. He fell at Cadiz ‘neath the sword of a knight who cleft both his helmet and his skull. Baron Ralph Ungern was a brigand knight between Riga and Reval. Baron Peter Ungern had his castle on the island of Dago in the Baltic Sea, where as a privateer he ruled the merchantmen of his day.

“In the beginning of the eighteenth century there was also a well-known Baron Wilhelm Ungern, who was referred to as the ‘brother of Satan’ because he was an alchemist. My grandfather was a privateer in the Indian Ocean, taking his tribute from the English traders whose warships could not catch him for several years. At last he was captured and handed to the Russian Consul, who transported him to Russia where he was sentenced to deportation to the Transbaikal. I am also a naval officer but the Russo-Japanese War forced me to leave my regular profession to join and fight with the Zabaikal Cossacks. I have spent all my life in war or in the study and learning of Buddhism. My grandfather brought Buddhism to us from India and my father and I accepted and professed it. In Transbaikalia I tried to form the order of Military Buddhists for an uncompromising fight against the depravity of revolution.”

He fell into silence and began drinking cup after cup of tea as strong and black as coffee.

“Depravity of revolution! . . . Has anyone ever thought of it besides the French philosopher, Bergson, and the most learned Tashi Lama [Panchen Lama] in Tibet?”

The grandson of the privateer, quoting scientific theories, works, the names of scientists and writers, the Holy Bible and Buddhist books, mixing together French, German, Russian and English, continued:

“In the Buddhistic and ancient Christian books we read stern predictions about the time when the war between the good and evil spirits must begin. Then there must come the unknown ‘Curse’ which will conquer the world, blot out culture, kill morality and destroy all the people. Its weapon is revolution. During every revolution the previously experienced intellect-creator will be replaced by the new rough force of the destroyer. He will place and hold in the first rank the lower instincts and desires. Man will be farther removed from the divine and the spiritual. The Great War proved that humanity must progress upward toward higher ideals; but then appeared that Curse which was seen and felt by Christ, the Apostle John, Buddha, the first Christian martyrs, Dante, Leonardo da Vinci, Goethe and Dostoyevsky. It appeared, turned back the wheel of progress and blocked our road to the Divinity. Revolution is an infectious disease and Europe making the treaty with Moscow deceived itself and the other parts of the world. The Great Spirit put at the threshold of our lives Karma, who knows neither anger nor pardon. He will reckon the account, whose total will be famine, destruction, the death of culture, of glory, of honor and of spirit, the death of states and the death of peoples. I see already this horror, this dark, mad destruction of humanity.”...

Well, there isn’t much left and this happens to be the most interesting. I was telling you that I wanted to found an order of military Buddhists in Russia. For what? For the protection of the processes of evolution of humanity and for the struggle against revolution, because I am certain that evolution leads to the Divinity and revolution to bestiality. But I worked in Russia! In Russia, where the peasants are rough, untutored, wild and constantly angry, hating everybody and everything without understanding why. They are suspicious and materialistic, having no sacred ideals. Russian intelligents live among imaginary ideals without realities. They have a strong capacity for criticising everything but they lack creative power. Also they have no will power, only the capacity for talking and talking. With the peasants, they cannot like anything or anybody. Their love and feelings are imaginary. Their thoughts and sentiments pass without trace like futile words. My companions, therefore, soon began to violate the regulations of the Order. Then I introduced the condition of celibacy, the entire negation of woman, of the comforts of life, of superfluities, according to the teachings of the Yellow Faith; and, in order that the Russian might be able to live down his physical nature, I introduced the limitless use of alcohol, hasheesh and opium. Now for alcohol I hang my officers and soldiers; then we drank to the ‘white fever,’ delirium tremens. I could not organize the Order but I gathered round me and developed three hundred men wholly bold and entirely ferocious. Afterward they were heroes in the war with Germany and later in the fight against the Bolsheviki, but now only a few remain.”...

“During the War we saw the gradual corruption of the Russian army and foresaw the treachery of Russia to the Allies as well as the approaching danger of revolution. To counteract this latter a plan was formed to join together all the Mongolian peoples which had not forgotten their ancient faiths and customs into one Asiatic State, consisting of autonomous tribal units, under the moral and legislative leadership of China, the country of loftiest and most ancient culture. Into this State must come the Chinese, Mongols, Tibetans, Afghans, the Mongol tribes of Turkestan, Tartars, Buriats, Kirghiz and Kalmucks. This State must be strong, physically and morally, and must erect a barrier against revolution and carefully preserve its own spirit, philosophy and individual policy. If humanity, mad and corrupted, continues to threaten the Divine Spirit in mankind, to spread blood and to obstruct moral development, the Asiatic State must terminate this movement decisively and establish a permanent, firm peace. This propaganda even during the War made splendid progress among the Turkomans, Kirghiz, Buriats and Mongols....”

“Russia turned traitor to France, England and America, signed the Brest-Litovsk Treaty and ushered in a reign of chaos. We then decided to mobilize Asia against Germany. Our envoys penetrated Mongolia, Tibet, Turkestan and China. At this time the Bolsheviki began to kill all the Russian officers and we were forced to open civil war against them, giving up our Pan-Asiatic plans; but we hope later to awake all Asia and with their help to bring peace and God back to earth. I want to feel that I have helped this idea by the liberation of Mongolia.”

He became silent and thought for a moment.

“But some of my associates in the movement do not like me because of my atrocities and severity,” he remarked in a sad voice. “They cannot understand as yet that we are not fighting a political party but a sect of murderers of all contemporary spiritual culture. Why do the Italians execute the ‘Black Hand’ gang? Why are the Americans electrocuting anarchistic bomb throwers?
and I am not allowed to rid the world of those who would kill the soul of the people? I, a Teuton, descendant of crusaders and privateers, I recognize only death for murderers!”

-- Beasts, Men and Gods, by Ferdinand Ossendowski

After calculating his horoscope the lamas recognized in von Sternberg the incarnation of the mighty Tamerlan (1336-1405), the founder of the second Mongolian Empire. The general accepted this recognition with pride and joy, and as an embodiment of the great Khan drafted his vision of a world empire as a “military and moral defense against the rotten West…" (Webb, 1976, p. 202). “In Asia there will be a great state from the Pacific and Indian Oceans to the shore of the Volga”, Ossendowski presents the baron as prophesying. “The wise religion of Buddha shall run to the north and the west. It will be the victory of the spirit. A conqueror and leader will appear stronger and more stalwart than Jenghiz Khan .... and he will keep power in his hands until the happy day when, from his subterranean capital, shall emerge the king of the world” (Ossendowski, 1924, p. 265).

“I want to have my fortune told once more,” said Baron Ungern, as though he were justifying himself. “For the good of our cause it is too early for me to die. . . .”

Djam Bolon came back with a little woman of middle years, who squatted down eastern style before the brazier, bowed low and began to stare at Baron Ungern. Her face was whiter, narrower and thinner than that of a Mongol woman. Her eyes were black and sharp. Her dress resembled that of a gypsy woman. Afterwards I learned that she was a famous fortune teller and prophet among the Buriats, the daughter of a gypsy woman and a Buriat. She drew a small bag very slowly from her girdle, took from it some small bird bones and a handful of dry grass. She began whispering at intervals unintelligible words, as she threw occasional handfuls of the grass into the fire, which gradually filled the tent with a soft fragrance. I felt a distinct palpitation of my heart and a swimming in my head. After the fortune teller had burned all her grass, she placed the bird bones on the charcoal and turned them over again and again with a small pair of bronze pincers. As the bones blackened, she began to examine them and then suddenly her face took on an expression of fear and pain. She nervously tore off the kerchief which bound her head and, contracted with convulsions, began snapping out short, sharp phrases.

“I see . . . I see the God of War. . . . His life runs out . . . horribly. . . . After it a shadow . . . black like the night. . . . Shadow. . . . One hundred thirty steps remain. . . . Beyond darkness. . . . Nothing . . . I see nothing. . . . The God of War has disappeared. . . .”

Baron Ungern dropped his head. The woman fell over on her back with her arms stretched out. She had fainted, but it seemed to me that I noticed once a bright pupil of one of her eyes showing from under the closed lashes. Two Buriats carried out the lifeless form, after which a long silence reigned in the yurta of the Buriat Prince. Baron Ungern finally got up and began to walk around the brazier, whispering to himself. Afterwards he stopped and began speaking rapidly:

“I shall die! I shall die! . . . but no matter, no matter. . . . The cause has been launched and will not die. . . . I know the roads this cause will travel. The tribes of Jenghiz Khan’s successors are awakened. Nobody shall extinguish the fire in the heart of the Mongols! In Asia there will be a great State from the Pacific and Indian Oceans to the shore of the Volga. The wise religion of Buddha shall run to the north and the west. It will be the victory of the spirit. A conqueror and leader will appear stronger and more stalwart than Jenghiz Khan and Ugadai. He will be more clever and more merciful than Sultan Baber and he will keep power in his hands until the happy day when, from his subterranean capital, shall emerge the King of the World. Why, why shall I not be in the first ranks of the warriors of Buddhism? Why has Karma decided so? But so it must be! And Russia must first wash herself from the insult of revolution, purifying herself with blood and death; and all people accepting Communism must perish with their families in order that all their offspring may be rooted out!”

The Baron raised his hand above his head and shook it, as though he were giving his orders and bequests to some invisible person.

Day was dawning.

“My time has come!” said the General. “In a little while I shall leave Urga.”

He quickly and firmly shook hands with us and said:

“Good-bye for all time! I shall die a horrible death but the world has never seen such a terror and such a sea of blood as it shall now see. . . .”

The door of the yurta slammed shut and he was gone. I never saw him again.

-- Beasts, Men and Gods, by Ferdinand Ossendowski

Here he had uttered the key phrase which continues to this day to hold the occult scene of the West enthralled, the “king of the world”. This figure is supposed to govern in a kingdom below the ground somewhere in Central Asia and from here exercise an influence on human history. Even if Ossendowski refers to his magic empire under the name of Agarthi, it is only a variant upon or supplement to the Shambhala myth.[2] His “King of the World” is identical to the ruler of the Kalachakra kingdom. He “knows all the forces of the world and reads all the souls of humankind and the great book of their destiny. Invisibly he rules eight hundred million men on the surface of the earth and they will accomplish his every order” (Ossendowski, 1924, p. 302). Referring to Ossendowski, the French occultist, René Guénon, speculates that the Chakravartin may be present as a trinity in our world of appearances: in the figure of the Dalai Lama he represents spirituality, in the person of the Panchen Lama knowledge, and in his emanation as Bogdo Khan (Khutuktu) the art of war (Guénon, 1958, p. 37).

The Fourteenth Dalai Lama and Mongolia:

Since the end of the fifties the pressure on the remainder of the “Yellow Church” in Mongolia has slowly declined. In the year 1979 the Fourteenth Dalai Lama visited for the first time. Moscow, which was involved in a confrontation with China, was glad of such visits. However it was not until 1990 that the Communist Party of Mongolia relinquished its monopoly on power. In 1992 a new democratic constitution came into effect.

Today (in 1999) the old monasteries destroyed by the Communists are being rebuilt, in part with western support. Since the beginning of the nineties a real “re-Lamaization” is underway among the Mongolians and with it a renaissance of the Shambhala myth and a renewed spread of the Kalachakra ritual. The Gelugpa order is attracting so many new members there that the majority of the novices cannot be guaranteed a proper training because there are not enough tantric teachers. The consequence is a sizeable army of unqualified monks, who not rarely earn their living through all manner of dubious magic practices and who represent a dangerous potential for a possible wave of Buddhist fundamentalism.

The person who with great organizational skill is supervising and accelerating the “rebirth” of Lamaism in Mongolia goes by the name of Bakula Rinpoche, a former teacher of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama and his right hand in the question of Mongolian politics. The lama, recognized as a higher tulku, surprisingly also functions as an Indian ambassador in Ulan Bator alongside his religious activities, and is accepted and supported in this dual role as ambassador for India and as a central figure in the “re-Lamaization process” by the local government. In September of 1993 he had an urn containing the ashes of the historical Buddha brought to Mongolia for several weeks from India, a privilege which to date no other country has been accorded by the Indian government. Bakula enjoys such a great influence that in 1994 he announced to the Mongolians that the ninth incarnation of the Jabtsundamba Khutuktu, the supreme spiritual figure of their country, had been discovered in India.

The Dalai Lama is aware of the great importance of Mongolia for his global politics. He is constantly a guest there and conducts noteworthy mass events (in 1979, 1982, 1991, 1994, and 1995). In Ulan Bator in 1996 the god-king celebrated the Kalachakra ritual in front of a huge, enthusiastic crowd. When he visited the Mongolian Buriats in Russia in 1994, he was asked by them to recognize the greatest military leader of the world, Genghis Khan, as a “Bodhisattva”. The winner of the Nobel peace prize smiled enigmatically and silently proceeded to another point on the agenda. The Kundun enjoys a boundless reverence in Mongolia as in no other part of the world (except Tibet). The grand hopes of this impoverished people who once ruled the world hang on him. He appears to many Mongolians to be the savior who can lead them out of the wretched financial state they are currently in and restore their fame from the times of Genghis Khan.



[1] It must be the same person, since the author refers to him as a Kalmyk Russian and as the “avenging lama”.

[2] Marco Pallis is of the opinion that Ossendowski has simply substituted the name Agarthi for Shambhala, because the former was very well known in Russia as a “world center”, whilst the name Shambhala had no associations (Robin, 1986, pp. 314-315).
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The spread of the Shambhala myth and the Kalachakra Tantra in the West has a history of its own. It does definitely not first begin with the expulsion of the lamas from Tibet (in 1959) and their diaspora across the whole world, but rather commences at the beginning of the twentieth century in Russia with the religious political activity of an ethnic Buriat by the name of Agvan Dorjiev.

The Shambhala missionary Agvan Dorjiev:

Even in his youth, Agvan Dorjiev (1854–1938), who trained as a monk in Tibet, was already a very promising individual. For this reason he was as a young man entrusted with caring for the Thirteenth Dalai Lama. The duties of the Buriat included among other things the ritual cleansing of the body and bedroom of the god-king, which implies quite an intimate degree of contact. Later he was to be at times the closest political adviser of His Holiness.

Dorjiev was convinced that the union of Tibet with Russia would provide the Highlands with an extremely favorable future, and was likewise able to convince the hierarch upon the Lion Throne of the merits of his political vision for a number of years. He thus advanced to the post of Tibetan envoy in St. Petersburg and at the Russian court. His work in the capital was extremely active and varied. In 1898 he had his first audience with Tsar Nicholas II, which was supposed to be followed by others. The Russian government was opening up with greater tolerance towards the Asian minorities among whom the Buriats were also to be counted, and was attempting to integrate them more into the Empire whilst still respecting their religious and cultural autonomy, instead of missionizing them as they had still done at the outset of the 19th century.

Even as a boy, Nicholas II had been fascinated by Tibet and the “yellow pontiff” from Lhasa. The famous explorer, Nikolai Przhevalsky, introduced the 13-year-old Tsarevitch to the history and geopolitics of Central Asia. Przhevalsky described the Dalai Lama as a „powerful Oriental pope with dominion over some 250 million Asiatic souls” and believed that a Russian influence in Tibet would lead to control of the entire continent and that this must be the first goal of Tsarist foreign policy (Schimmelpennink, 1994, p. 16). Prince Esper Esperovich Ukhtomsky, influential at court and deeply impressed by the Buddhist teachings, also dreamed of a greater Asian Empire under the leadership of the “White Tsars”.

Since the end of the 19th century Buddhism had become a real fashion among the Russian high society, comparable only to what is currently happening in Hollywood, where more and more stars profess to the doctrine of the Dalai Lama. It was considered stylish to appeal to Russia’s Asiatic inheritance and to invoke the Mongolian blood which flowed in the veins of every Russian with emotional phrases. The poet, Vladimir Solovjov declaimed, “Pan-Mongolism — this word: barbaric, yes! Yet a sweet sound” (Block, n.d., p. 247).

Agvan Dorjiev

The mysto-political influences upon the court of the Tsar of the naïve demonic village magician, Rasputin, are common knowledge. Yet the power-political intrigues of an intelligent Asian doctor by the name of Peter Badmajev ought to have been of far greater consequence. Like Dorjiev, whom he knew well, he was a Buriat and originally a Buddhist, but he had then converted to Russian Orthodox. His change of faith was never really bought by those around him, who frequented him above all as a mighty shaman that was “supposed to be initiated into all the secrets of Asia” (Golowin, 1977, p. 219).

Badmajev was head of the most famous private hospital in St. Petersburg. There the cabinet lists for the respective members of government were put together under his direction. R. Fülöp-Miller has vividly described the doctor’s power-political activities: “In the course of time medicine and politics, ministerial appointments and 'lotus essences' became more and more mingled, and a fantastic political magic character arose, which emanated from Badmajev’s sanatorium and determined the fate of all Russia. The miracle-working doctor owed this influence especially to his successful medical-political treatment of the Tsar. ... Badmajev’s mixtures, potions, and powders brewed from mysterious herbs from the steppes served not just to remedy patient’s metabolic disturbances; anyone who took these medicaments ensured himself an important office in the state at the same time” (Fülöp-Miller, 1927, pp. 112, 148). For this “wise and crafty Asian” too, the guiding idea was the establishment of an Asian empire with the “White Tsar” at its helm.

In this overheated pro-Asian climate, Dorjiev believed, probably somewhat rashly, that the Tsar had a genuine personal interest in being initiated into the secrets of Buddhism. The Buriat’s goal was to establish a mchod-yon relationship between Nicholas II and the god-king from Lhasa, that is, Russian state patronage of Lamaism. Hence a trip to Russia by the Dalai Lama was prepared which, however, never eventuated.

Bolshevik Buddhism:

One would think that Dorjiev had a compassionate heart for the tragic fate of the Tsarist family. At least, Nicholas II had supported him and the Thirteenth Dalai Lama had even declared the Russian heir to the throne to be a Bodhisattva because a number of attempts to give him a Christian baptism mysteriously failed. At Dorjiev’s behest, pictures of the Romanovs adorned the Buddhist temple in St. Petersburg.

Hence, it is extremely surprising that the Buriat greeted the Russian October Revolution and the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks with great emotion. What stood behind this about-face, a change of attitude or understandable opportunism? More likely the former, then at the outset of the twenties Dorjiev, along with many famous Russian orientalists, was convinced that Communism and Buddhism were compatible. He publicly proclaimed that the teaching of Shakyamuni was an “atheistic religion” and that it would be wrong to describe it as “unscientific”. Men in his immediate neighborhood even went so far as to celebrate the historical Buddha as the original founder of Communism and to glorify Lenin as an incarnation of the Enlightened One. There are reliable rumors that Dorjiev and Lenin had met.

Initially the Bolsheviks appreciated such currying of favor and made use of it to win Buddhist Russians over to their ideas. Already in 1919, the second year of the Revolution, an exhibition of Buddhist art was permitted and encouraged amidst extreme social turmoil. The teachings of Shakyamuni lived through a golden era, lectures about the Sutras were held, numerous Buddhist books were published, contacts were established with Mongolian and Tibetan scholars. Even the ideas of pan-Mongolism were reawakened and people began to dream of blood-filled scenes. In the same year, in his famous poem of hate Die Skythen [The Scythians], Alexander Block prophesied the fall of Europe through the combined assault of the Russians and the Mongolians. In it we can read that

We shall see through the slits of our eyes
How the Huns fight over your flesh,
How your cities collapse
And your horses graze between the ruins.

(Block, n.d., p. 249)

Even the Soviet Union’s highest-ranking cultural official of the time, Anatoli Vassilievich Lunacharski, praised Asia as a pure source of inexhaustible reserves of strength: “We need the Revolution to toss aside the power of the bourgeoisie and the power of rationality at the same time so as to regain the great power of elementary life, so as to dissolve the world in the real music of intense being. We respect and honor Asia as an area which until now draws its life energy from exactly these right sources and which is not poisoned by European reason” (Trotzkij, 1968, p. 55).

Yet the Buddhist, pan-Asian El Dorado of Leningrad transformed itself in 1929 into a hell, as the Stalinist secret service began with a campaign to eradicate all religious currents. Some years later Dorjiev was arrested as a counterrevolutionary and then put on trial for treason and terrorism. On January 29, 1938 the “friend of the Dalai Lama” died in a prison hospital.

The Kalachakra temple in St. Petersburg:

There is a simple reason for Dorjiev’s enthusiasm for Russia. He was convinced that the Kalachakra system and the Shambhala myth had their origins in the Empire of the Tsar and would return via it. In 1901 the Buriat had received initiations into the Time Tantra from the Ninth Panchen Lama which were supposed to have been of central significance for his future vision. Ekai Kawaguchi, a Buddhist monk from Japan who visited Tibet at the turn of the last century, claims to have heard of a pamphlet in which Dorjiev wrote “Shambhala was Russia. The Emperor, moreover, was an incarnation of Tsongkhapa, and would sooner or later subdue the whole world and found a gigantic Buddhist empire” (Snelling, 1993, p. 79). Although it is not certain whether the lama really did write this document, it fits in with his religious-political ideas. Additionally, the historians are agreed: “In my opinion,” W.A. Unkrig writes, “the religiously-based purpose of Agvan Dorjiev was the foundation of a Lamaist-oriented kingdom of the Tibetans and Mongols as a theocracy under the Dalai Lama ... [and] under the protection of Tsarist Russia ... In addition, among the Lamaists there existed the religiously grounded hope for help from a ‘Messianic Kingdom’ in the North ... called 'Northern Shambhala’” (quoted by Snelling, 1993, p. 79).

At the center of Dorjiev’s activities in Russia stood the construction of a three-dimensional mandala — the Buddhist temple in St. Petersburg. The shrine was dedicated to the Kalachakra deity. The Dalai Lama’s envoy succeeded in bringing together a respectable number of prominent Russians who approved of and supported the project. The architects came from the West. A painter by the name of Nicholas Roerich, who later became a fanatic propagandist for Kalachakra doctrine, produced the designs for the stained-glass windows. Work commenced in 1909. In the central hall various main gods from the Tibetan pantheon were represented with statues and pictures, including among others Dorjiev’s wrathful initiation deity, Vajrabhairava. Regarding the décor, it is perhaps also of interest that there was a swastika motif which the Bolsheviks knocked out during the Second World War. There was sufficient room for several lamas, who looked after the ritual life, to live on the grounds. Dorjiev had originally intended to triple the staffing and to construct not just a temple but also a whole monastery. This was prevented, however, by the intervention of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The inauguration took place in 1915, an important social event with numerous figures from public life and the official representatives of various Asian countries. The Dalai Lama sent a powerful delegation, “to represent the Buddhist Papacy and assist the Tibetan Envoy Dorjiev” (Snelling, 1993, p. 159). Nicholas II had already viewed the Kalachakra temple privately together with members of his family several days before the official occasion.

Officially, the shrine was declared to be a place for the needs of the Buriat and Kalmyk minorities in the capital. With regard to its occult functions it was undoubtedly a tantric mandala with which the Kalachakra system was to be transplanted into the West. Then, as we have already explained, from the lamas’ traditional point of view founding a temple is seen as an act of spiritual occupation of a territory. The legends about the construction of first Buddhist monastery (Samye) on Tibetan soil show that it is a matter of a symbolic deed with which the victory of Buddhism over the native gods (or demons) is celebrated. Such sacred buildings as the Kalachakra temple in St. Petersburg are cosmograms which are — in their own way of seeing things — employed by the lamas as magic seals in order to spiritually subjugate countries and peoples. It is in this sense that the Italian, Fosco Maraini, has also described the monasteries in his poetic travelogue about Tibet as “factories of a holy technology or laboratories of spiritual science” (Maraini, 1952, p. 172). In our opinion this approximates very closely the Lamaist self-concept. Perhaps it is also the reason why the Bolsheviks later housed an evolutionary technology laboratory in the confiscated Kalachakra shrine of St. Petersburg and performed genetic experiments before the eyes of the tantric terror gods.

The temple was first returned to the Buddhists in June 1991. In the same year, a few days before his own death, the English expert on Buddhism, John Snelling, completed his biography of the god-king’s Buriat envoy. In it he poses the following possibility: “Who knows then but what I call Dorjiev's Shambhala Project for a great Buddhist confederation stretching from Tibet to Siberia, but now with connections across to Western Europe and even internationally, may well become a very real possibility” (Snelling, 1993, xii). Here, Snelling can only mean the explosive spread of Tantric Buddhism across the whole world.

If we take account of the changes that time brings with it, then today the Kalachakra temple in Petersburg would be comparable with the Tibet House in New York. Both institutions function(ed) as semi-occult centers outwardly disguised as cultural institutions. In both instances the spread of the Kalachakra idea is/was central as well. But there is also a much closer connection: Robert Alexander Farrar Thurman, the founder and current leader of the Tibet House, went to Dharamsala at the beginning of the sixties. There he was ordained by the Dalai Lama in person. Subsequently, the Kalmyk, Geshe Wangyal (1901-1983), was appointed to teach the American, who today proclaims that he shall experience the Buddhization of the USA in this lifetime. Thurman thus received his tantric initiations from Wangyal.

This guru lineage establishes a direct connection to Agvan Dorjiev. Namely, that as a 19-year-old novice Lama Wangyal accompanied the Buriat to St. Petersburg and was initiated by him. Thus, Robert Thurman’s “line guru” is, via Wangyal, the old master Dorjiev. Dorjiev — Wangyal — Thurman form a chain of initiations. From a tantric viewpoint the spirit of the master live on in the figure of the pupil. It can thus be assumed that as Dorjiev’s “successor” Thurman represents an emanation of the extremely aggressive protective deity, Vajrabhairava, who had incarnated himself in the Buriat. At any rate, Thurman has to be associated with Dorjiev’s global Shambhala utopia. His close interconnection with the Kalachakra Tantra is additionally a result of his spending several months in Dharamsala under the supervision of Namgyal monks, who are specialized in the time doctrine.

Madame Blavatsky and the Shambhala myth:

Yet, as the real pioneering deed in the spread of the Shambhala myth in the West we have to present the life and work of a woman. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831–1891), the influential founder of Theosophy, possibly contributed more to the globalization of a warlike Buddhism than she was aware of. The noble-born Russian is supposed to have already been a gifted medium as a child. After an adventurous life (among other things she worked as a rider in a circus) her spiritual career as such began in the 1870s in the USA. At first she tried her hand at all kinds of spiritualist séances. Then she wrote her first occult book, later world famous, Isis Unveiled (first published in 1875). As the title reveals, at this stage she oriented herself to secret Egyptian teachings. There is almost no trace of Buddhist thought to be found in this work. In 1879 together with her most loyal follower, Colonel Henry Steele Olcott, Blavatsky made a journey to Bombay and to the teachings of Buddha Gautama. There too, the doctrine of the “great White Brotherhood of Tibet” and the mysterious spiritual masters who determine the fate of humanity was invented, or rather, in Blavatsky’s terms, “received” from the higher realms.

Tibet, which, her own claims to the contrary, she had probably never visited, was a grand obsession for the occultist. She liked to describe her own facial characteristics as “Kalmyk-Buddhist-Tatar”. Even though her esoteric system is syncretized out of all religions, since her work on the Secret Doctrine Tibetan/Tantric Buddhism takes pride of place among them.

A detailed comparison of the later work of the Theosophist with the Shambhala myth and the Kalachakra Tantra would reveal astounding similarities. Admittedly she only knew the Time Tantra from the brief comments of the first western Tibetologist, the Hungarian, Csoma de Körös, but her writings are permeated by the same spirit which also animates the “Highest Tantra of all”. The mystic Secret Book of Dzyan, which the Russian claimed to have “received” from a Tibetan master and which she wrote her Secret Doctrine as a commentary upon, is central to her doctrine. It is supposed to be the first volume of the 21 Books of Kiu te, in which all the esoteric doctrines of our universe are encoded according to Blavatsky. What are we dealing with here? The historian David Reigle suspects that by the mysterious Books of Kiu te she means the tantra section of the Tibetan Tanjur and Kanjur, the officially codified Tibetan collections of Buddhist doctrinal writings, about which only little was known at the time. But this is not certain. There is also supposed to be a Tibetan tradition which claims that the Books of Kiu te were all to be found in the kingdom of Shambhala (Reigle, 1983, p. 3). Following such opinions Madame Blavatsky’s secret directions would have been drawn directly from the kingdom.

In her philosophy the ADI BUDDHA system is of central importance, and likewise the fivefold group of the Dhyani (or meditation) Buddhas and the glorification of Amitabha as the supreme god of light, whom she compares with the “Ancient of Days” of the Jewish Cabala. Astutely, she recognizes the Chinese goddess Guanyin as the “genius of water” (Spierenburg, 1991, p. 13). But as “mother, wife, and daughter” she is subordinate to the “First Word”, the Tibetan fire god Avalokiteshvara. The result is — as in the Kalachakra Tantra — an obsessive solar and fire cult. Her fire worship exhibits an original development in the principal deity of our age, Fohat by name. Among other things he is said to emanate in all forms of electricity.

Madame Blavatsky was not informed about the sexual magic practices in the tantras. She herself supported sexual abstinence as “occult hygiene of mind and body” (Meade, 1987, p. 398). She claimed to be a virgin all her life, but a report from her doctors reveals this was not the truth. “To Hades with the sex love!”, she cursed, “It is a beastly appetite that should be starved into submission” (Symonds, 1959, p. 64). When the sexes first appeared — we learn from the Secret Book of Dzyan — they brought disaster to the world. The decline into the material began with a sexual indiscretion of the gods: “They took wives fair to look upon. Wives from the mindless, the narrow-headed. … Then the third eye acted no longer” (Blavatsky, 1888, vol. 2, p. 13).

Blavatsky was probably convinced that her female body was being borrowed by a male Tibetan yogi. At any rate her closest co-worker, Henry Steele Olcott, who so admired her works that he could not believe they could be the work of a woman, suspected this. Hence, thinking of Madame, he asked an Indian guru, “But can the atman [higher self] of a yogi be transferred into the body of a woman?”. The Indian replied, “He can clothe his soul in her physical form with as much ease as he can put on a woman's dress. In every physical aspect and relation he would then be like a woman; internally he would remain himself” (Symonds, 1959, p. 142). As in the Kalachakra Tantra, androgyny is also considered the supreme goal along the path to enlightenment in Theosophy. The gods are simultaneously “male-female”. Their bisexuality is concentrated in the figure of Avalokiteshvara, the cosmic Adam.

Through her equation of the ADI BUDDHA with the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara Madame Blavatsky clears the way for a cosmologization of the latter’s earthly embodiment, the Dalai Lama. For her, the Bodhisattva is “the powerful and all-seeing”, the “savior of humanity” and we learn that as “the most perfect Buddha” he will incarnate in the Dalai Lama or the Panchen Lama in order to redeem the whole world (Blavatsky, 1888, vol. 2, p. 178).

As in the Shambhala myth, the Russian presumes that a secret world government exists, whose members, the Mahatmas, were brought together in an esoteric society in the 14th century by the founder of the Gelugpa order, Tsongkhapa. The “White Brotherhood”, as this secret federation is known, still exists in Tibet, even if hidden from view, and influences the fate of humanity. It consists of superhumans who watch over the evolution of the citizens of the earth.

Likewise, the catastrophic destruction of the old eon and the creation of a new paradisiacal realm are part of the Theosophical world view. Here, Blavatsky quotes the same Indian source from which the Kalachakra Tantra is also nourished, the Vishnu Purana. There it says of the doomsday ruler that, “He ... shall descend on Earth as an outstanding Brahman from Shambhala ... endowed with the eight superhuman faculties. Through his irresistible power he will ... destroy all whose hearts have been relinquished to evil. He will re-establish righteousness on earth” (Blavatsky, 1888, vol. 1, p. 378).

Of course, the Russian was able to read much into the Tibetan Buddhist doctrine, since in her time only a few of the original texts had been translated into a western language. But it is definitely wrong to dismiss her numerous theses as pure fantasy, as her speculative world brings her closer to the imagination and occult ambience of Lamaism than some philologically accurate translations of Sanskrit writings. With an unerring instinct and a visionary mastery she discovered many of the ideas and forces which are at work in the tantric teachings. In that she attained these insights more through intuition and mediumism than through scientific research, she can be regarded as the semi-aware instrument of a Buddhist-Tibetan world conquest. At any rate, of all the western “believers in Tibet” she contributed the most to the spread of the idea of the Land of Snows as a unfathomable mystery. Without the occult veil which Madame Blavatsky cast over Tibet and its clergy, Tantric Buddhism would only be half as attractive in the West. The Fourteenth Dalai Lama is also aware of the great importance of such female allies and has hence frequently praised Blavatsky’s pioneering work.

Nicholas Roerich and the Kalachakra Tantra:

A further two individuals who won the most respect for the Shambhala myth in the West before the flight of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, were also Russians, Nicholas Roerich (1874–1947) and his wife Helena Ivanovna (1879–1955). Roerich was a lifelong painter, influenced by the late art nouveau movement. He believed himself to be a reincarnation of Leonardo da Vinci. Via his paintings, of which the majority featured Asian subjects, especially the mountainous landscapes of the Himalayas, he attempted to spread his religious message. He became interested in the ideas of Theosophy very early on; his wife translated Madame Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine into Russian. The occultist led him to Buddhism, which was as we have said en vogue in the society of St. Petersburg at the time. We have already briefly encountered him as a designer of Agvan Dorjiev’s Kalachakra temple. He was a close friend of the Buriat. In contrast, he hated Albert Grünwedel and regarded his work with deep mistrust. Between the years of 1924 and 1928 he wandered throughout Central Asia in search of the kingdom of Shambhala and subsequently published a travel diary.

In 1929 he began a very successful international action, the Roerich Banner of Peace and the Peace Pact, in which warring nations were supposed to commit themselves to protecting each other’s cultural assets from destruction. In the White House in 1935 the Roerich Pact was signed by 21 nations in the presence of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The migrant Russian succeeded in gaining constant access to circles of government, especially since the American agricultural minister, Henry Wallace, had adopted him as his guru. In 1947 the painter died in the Himalayan foothills of northern India.

With great zeal his wife continued her husband’s religious work up until the nineteen-fifties. Helena Ivanovna had from the outset actively participated in the formation of her husband’s ideas. Above all it is to her that we owe the numerous writings about Agni Yoga, the core of their mutual teachings. Roerich saw her as something like his shakti, and openly admitted to her contribution to the development of his vision. He said in one statement that in his understanding of the world “the duty of the woman [is] to lead her male partner to the highest and most beautiful, and then to inspire him to open himself up to the higher world of the spirit and to import both valuable and beautiful aspects and ethical and social ones into life” (Augustat, 1993, p. 50). In his otherwise Indian Buddhist doctrinal system there was a revering of the “mother the world” that probably came from the Russian Orthodox Church.

Roerich first learned about the Kalachakra Tantra from Agvan Dorjiev during his work on the temple in St. Petersburg. Later, in Darjeeling, he had contact to the lama Ngawang Kalzang, who was also the teacher of the German, Lama Govinda, and was well versed in the time teachings. It is, however, most unlikely that Roerich received specific initiations from him or others, as his statements about the Kalachakra Tantra do not display a great deal of expertise. Perhaps it was precisely because of this that he saw in it the “happy news “ of the new eon to come. He thus took up exactly the opposite position to his contemporary and acquaintance, Albert Grünwedel, who fanatically denounced the supreme Buddhist doctrinal system as a work of the devil. “Kalachakra”, Roerich wrote, “is the doctrine which is attributed to the numerous rulers of Shambhala. ... But in reality this doctrine is the great revelation brought to humankind ... by the lords of fire, the sons of reason who are and were the lords of Shambhala” (Schule der Lebensweisheit, 1990, pp. 79, 81).

According to Roerich, the “fiery doctrine was covered in dust “ up until the twentieth century. (Schule der Lebensweisheit, 1990, p. 122). But now the time had come in which it would spread all over the world. As far as their essential core was concerned, all other religions were supposed to be included in the Time Tantra already: “There are now so many teachers — so different and so hostile to one another; and nonetheless so many speak of the One, and the Kalachakra expresses this One”, the Russian has a Tibetan lama say. “One of your priests once asked me: Are the Cabala and Shambhala not parts of the one teaching? He asked: Is the great Moses not a initiate of the same doctrine and a servant of its laws?” (Schule der Lebensweisheit, 1990, p. 78).

Agni yoga:

For Roerich and his wife the Time Tantra contains a sparkling fire philosophy: „This Teaching of Kalachakra, this utilization of the primary energy, has been called the Teaching of Fire. The Hindu peoples know the great Agni — ancient teaching though it be, it shall be the new teaching for the New Era. We must think of the future; and in the teaching of Kalachakra we know there lies all the material which may be applied for greatest use. […] Kalachakra is the Teaching ascribed to the various Lords of Shambhala […] But in reality this Teaching is the Great Revelation brought to humanity at the dawn of its conscious evolution in the third race of the fourth cycle of Earth by the Lords of Fire, the Sons of reason who were an are the Lords of Shambhala” (Reigle, 1986, p. 38). The interpretation which the Russian couple give to the Kalachakra Tantra in their numerous publications may be described without any exaggeration as a “pyromaniac obsession”. For them, fire becomes an autocratic primary substance that dissolves all in its flames. It functions as the sole creative universal principle. All the other elements, out of the various admixtures of which the variety of life arises, disappear in the flaming process of creation: “Do not seek the creative fire in the inertia of earth, in the seething waves of water, in the storms of the air (H. I. Roerich, 1980, vol. I, p. 5). Keep away from the other “elements” as “they do not love fire” (H. I. Roerich, 1980, vol. I, p. 7). Only the “fiery world” brings blessing. Everyone carries the “sparks of the fiery world in their hearts” (H. I. Roerich, 1980, vol. II, p. 8). This announces itself through “fiery signs”. “Rainbow flames” confirm the endeavors of the spirit. But only after a “baptism of fire” do all the righteous proceed with “flaming hearts” to the “empire of the fiery world” in which there are no shadows. They are welcomed by “fire angels”. “The luminosity of every part of the fiery world generates an everlasting radiance” (H. I. Roerich, 1980, vol. II, p. 8). The “song of fire sounds like the music of the spheres” (H. I. Roerich, 1980, vol. II, p. 8). At the center of this world lies the “supreme fire”. Since the small and the large cosmos are one, the “fiery chakras” of the individual humans correspond to “the fiery structures of space” (H. I. Roerich, 1980, vol. I, p. 240).

This fire cult is supposed to be ancient and in the dim and distant past its shrines already stood in the Himalayas: „Beyond the Kanchenjunga are old menhirs of the great sun cult. Beyond the Kanchenjunga is the birthplace of the sacred Swastika, sign of fire. Now in the day of Agni Yoga, the element of fire is again entering the spirit.” (N. Roerich, 1985, p. 36, 37). Madame Blavatsky’s above-mentioned god of electricity, Fohat, is also highly honored by the Roerichs.

The Roerichs’ fiery philosophy is put into practice through a particular sacred system which is called Agni Yoga. We were unable to determine the degree to which it follows the traditions of the already described Sadanga Yoga, practiced in the Kalachakra Tantra. Agni Yoga gives the impression that is conducted more ethically and with feelings than technically and with method. Admittedly the Roerich texts also talk of an unchaining of the kundalini (fire serpent), but nowhere is there discussion of sexual practices. In contrast -the philosophy of the two Russians requires strict abstinence and is antagonistic to everything erotic.

In 1920 the first Agni Yoga group was founded by the married couple. The teachings, we learn, come from the East , indeed direct from the mythical kingdom: „And Asia when she speaks the Blessed Shambhala, about Agni Yoga, about the Teaching of Flame, knows that the holy spirit of flame can unite the human hearts in a resplendent evolution” (N. Roerich, 1985, p. 294). Agni Yoga is supposed to join the great world religions together and serve as a common basis for them.

With great regret the Roerichs discover that the people do not listen to the “fiery tongues” that speak to them and want to initiate them into the secrets of the flames. They appropriated only the external appearances of the force of fire, like electricity, and otherwise feared the element. Yet the “space fire demands revelation” and whoever closes out its voice will perish in the flames (H. I. Roerich, 1980, p. 30).

Even if it is predicted in the cosmic plan, the destruction of all dark and ignorant powers does not happen by itself. It needs to be accelerated by the forces of good. It is a matter of victory and defeat, of heroic courage and sacrificial death. Here is the moment in which the figure of the Shambhala warriors steps into the plan and battles with the inexorably advancing Evil which wants to extinguish Holy Flame: “They shall come — the extinguishers; they shall come — the destroyers; they shall come — the powers of darkness. Corrosion that has already begun cannot be checked” (H. I. Roerich, 1980, vol. I, p. 124).


We hear from Helena Ivanova Roerich that “the term Shambhala truly is inseparably linked to fiery apparitions” (H. I. Roerich, 1980, vol. I, p. 26). “Fire signs introduce the epoch of Shambhala”, writes her spouse (Schule der Lebensweisheit, 1990, p. 29). It is not surprising that the Russian visionaries imagined the temple of Shambhala as an “alchemic laboratory”, then a fire oven, the athanor, also stood at the heart of the hermetic art, as western alchemy was known.

The couple consider Shambhala, the “city of happiness”, to be the “geographic residence or workplace of the brotherhood and seat of the interplanetary government in the trans-Himalaya” (Augustat, 1993, p. 153). In an official fundamental declaration of the two it says: “The brotherhood is the spiritual union of highly developed entities from other planets or hierarchs, which as a cosmic institution is responsible to a higher institution for the entire evolution of the planet Earth. The interplanetary government consists of cosmic offices, which are occupied by the hierarch depending on the task and the age” (Augustat, 1993, p. 149). The Mahatmas, as these hierarchs are called in reference to Madame Blavatsky, have practical political power interests and are in direct contact with certain heads of state of our world, even if the ordinary mortals have no inkling of this.

Then it is impossible for normal humans to discover the main lodge of the secret society: “How can one find the way to our laboratories? Without being called no-one will get to us”, Roerich proclaims (Schule der Lebensweisheit, 1990, p. 9). From there the Mahatmas coordinate an army of in part paid agents, who operate here on Earth in the name of the hidden kingdom. In the meantime the whole planet is covered by a net of members, assistants, contacts, and spies of the “international government” who are only waiting for the sign from their command center in Shambhala in order to step into the light and reveal themselves to humanity.

Likewise, the activities and resolutions of the “invisible international government” are all but impenetrable for an outsider. There is a law which states that each earthly nation will only be visited and “warned” by an envoy from Shambhala once in a century. An exception was probably made during the French Revolution, then “hierarchs” like the Comte de Saint Germain for example were extremely active at this troubled time. Sadly he died in the year 1784 “as a result of the undisciplined thinking of one of his assistants”. (Schule der Lebensweisheit, 1990, p. 117). The dissolute life of his sadhaka (pupil), Cagliostro, was probably to blame for his not being able to participate in the great events of 1789 (the storming of the Bastille).

According to Roerich the members of the government of Shambhala have the ability to telepathically penetrate into the consciousness of the citizens of Earth without them realizing where particular ideas come from: “Like arrows the transmissions of the community bore into the brains of humanity” (Schule der Lebensweisheit, 1990, p. 10). Sometimes this takes place using apparatuses especially constructed for this purpose. But they are not permitted to openly reveal their amazing magical abilities: “Who can exist without food? Who can get by without sleep? Who is immune to heat and cold? Who can heal wounds? Truly only one who has studied Kalachakra” (Schule der Lebensweisheit, 1990, p. 77).

Tableau of N. Roerich: “The command of Rigden-jyepo”

For the Russian couple all the interventions of the governing yogi caste have just one goal, to prepare for the coming of the future Buddha Maitreya Morya or Rigden-jyepo, who shall then make all important decisions. According to the Roerichs both names are synonyms for the Rudra Chakrin, the “wrathful wheel turner” and doomsday ruler of the Kalachakra Tantra. We thus await a fairytale oriental despot who cares about his subjects: “Just like a diamond the light shines from the tower of Shambhala. He is there — Rigden-jyepo, untiring, ever watchful for the sake of humanity. His eyes never close. In his magic mirror he sees everything which happens on Earth. And the power of his thoughts penetrates through to the distant countries. ... His immeasurable riches lay waiting to help all the needy who offer to serve the cause of uprightness” (Augustat, 1993, p. 11).

In passing, this doomsday emperor from Shambhala also reveals himself to be the western king of the Holy Grail, who holds the Holy Stone in his hands and who emigrated to Tibet under cover centuries ago. He is returning now, messengers announce him. True Knights of the Holy Grail are already incarnated on Earth, unrecognized . The followers of the Roerichs even believe that their master himself protected the grail for a time and then returned it to Shambhala on his trip to Asia (Augustat, 1993, p. 114).
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Apocalypse now:

"Why do clouds gather when the Stone [the Grail] becomes dull? If the Stone becomes heavy, blood shall be spilled”, we learn mysteriously (Schule der Lebensweisheit, 1990, p. 88). Behind this secret of the grail lies the apodictic statement known from almost all religions that total war, indeed the destruction of the world, is necessary in order to attain paradise. It is essential because in a good dualist cliché the “brotherhood of Good” is always counterposed by the “brotherhood of Evil”. The “sons of darkness” have succeeded in severing humanity’s connection to the “higher world”, the “bright hierarchy”. The forces of the depths lurk everywhere. Extreme caution is required since an ordinary mortal can barely distinguish the Evil from the Good, and further, “the brotherhood of Evil attempts to imitate the Good’s method of action” (Schule der Lebensweisheit, 1990, p. 126).

The final battle between Light and Darkness is — the Roerichs say- presaged in the prophecies of the ancestors and the writings of the wise and must therefore take place. When natural disasters and crimes begin to pile up on Earth, the warriors from Shambhala will appear. At the head of their army stands the Buddha Maitreya Morya, who “ [combats] the prince of darkness himself. This struggle primarily takes place in the subtle spheres, whereas here [on earth] the ruler of Shambhala operates through his earthly warriors. He himself can only be seen under the most exceptional circumstances and would never appear in a crowd or among the curious. His appearance in fiery form would be disastrous for everybody and everything since his aura is loaded with energies of immense strength” (Schule der Lebensweisheit, 1990, p. 152). It could be thought that this concerned an atomic bomb. At any rate the battle will be conducted with a fire and explosive power which allows of comparison only to the atomic detonations in Hiroshima and Nagasaki:

Fiery the battle
with blazing torches,
Blood red the arrows
against the shining shield

(Schule der Lebensweisheit, 1990, p. 110)

Thus the armies of Shambhala storm forth. „Space is filled with fire. The lightning of the Kalki avatar [Rudra Chakrin] — the preordained Maitreya — flashes upon the” (N. Roerich, 1985, p. 76). Even if Kalki also goes by the epithet of “Lord of Compassion”, with his enemies he knows no mercy. Accompanied by Gesar, the mythic war hero of the Tibetans, he will storm forward mounted on a “white horse” and with a “comet-like, fiery sword” in his hand. Iron snakes will consume outer space with fire and frenzy (N. Roerich, 1988 p. 12). “The Lord”, we read, “ strikes the people with fire. The same fiery element presides over the Day of Judgment. The purification of evil is performed by fire. Misfortunes are accompanied by fires” (H. I. Roerich, 1980, vol. I, 46).

Those who fight for Shambhala are the precursors of a new race who take control of the universe after Armageddon, after the “wheat has been separated from the chaff” (Augustat,1993, p. 98). That is, to put it plainly, after all the inferior races have been eradicated in a holocaust.

Distribution in the west:

As far as the fate of Tibet is concerned, the prophecies that Roerich made at the end of the twenties have in fact been fulfilled: „We must accept it simply, as it is: the fact that the true teaching shall leave Tibet”, he has a lama announce, „and shall again appear in the South. In all countries, the covenants of Buddha shall be manifested. Really, great things are coming.” (N. Roerich, 1985, p. 3) In 1959 the Fourteenth Dalai Lama fled to India in the south and from this point in time onwards Tibetan Buddhism began to be spread all around the world.

Roerich and his wife saw themselves as agents of Shambhala who were supposed to make contact with those governing our world in order to warn them. They could at any rate appeal to a meeting with Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Their followers, however, believe that they were higher up in the hierarchy and that they were incarnated Mahatmas from the kingdom.

In the meantime the Roerich cult is most popular in Eastern Europe, where even before the fall of Communism it had penetrated the highest circles of government. The former Bulgarian Minister for Culture, Ludmilla Shiffkova, daughter of the Communist head of state Todor Shiffkov, was almost fanatically obsessed with the Agni master’s philosophy, so that she planned to introduce his teachings as part of the official school curriculum. For a whole year, cultural policy was conducted under the motto “N. K. Roerich — A cultural world citizen”, and she also organized several overseas exhibitions including works by her spiritual model as well.

Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife also supported numerous Roerich initiatives. In Russia, the renaissance of the visionary painter was heralded for years in advance in elaborate symposia and exhibitions, in order to then fully blossom in the post-Communist era. In Alma Ata in October 1992, a major ecumenical event was organized by the international Roerich groups under the patronage of the president of Kazakhstan, at the geographical gateway, so to speak, behind which the land of Shambhala is widely believed to have once lain. The Fourteenth Dalai Lama hesitated as to whether he ought to visit the Congress before deciding for scheduling reasons to send a telegram of greeting and a high-ranking representative.

The “Shambhala warrior” Chögyam Trungpa:

In 1975 the Tibetan, Chögyam Trungpa (1940–1987), gathered several of his western pupils around himself and began to initiate them into a special spiritual discipline which he referred to as “Shambhala Training”. As a thirteen-month-old infant the Rinpoche from the Tibetan province of Kham was recognized as the tenth reincarnation of the Trungpa and accepted into the Kagyupa order. In 1959 he had to flee from the Chinese. In 1963 he traveled to England and studied western philosophy and comparative religion at Oxford. Like no other Tibetan lama of his time, he understood how to make his own contribution to western civilization and culture. As a brilliant rhetorician, poet, and exotic free spirit he soon found numerous enthusiastic listeners and followers.

What’s the difference between a foreign accent and an exotic one? Chogyam Trungpa knew. He claimed to have an “Oxonian accent,” acquired during his “matriculation” at Oxford College. At least that’s how Diana, the first of Trungpa’s eight wives, put it in her Dragon Thunder memoir, that details her maturation from child bride into den mother of a global cult devoted to the worship of her man, during a breathless two decades that passed in a whirl of booze, ménages-of-however-many, producing children from multiple unions who were uniformly recognized as reincarnated Tibetan saints and tossed to the winds.

Well, not the winds, precisely. Diana’s children, whether sired by Trungpa or Mitchell Levy, Trungpa’s close disciple, were cared for by devotees who treated them like born spiritual athletes –- asking them for spiritual advice, deferring to their presumed wisdom, etc. This did not do them much good, since they were mostly bemused by the unearned respect from clueless Buddhists, and didn’t take to the job of pretending to be founts of Eastern wisdom. Diana certainly taught them little enough, while she sought shelter from domestic chaos by jetsetting from one horsey event to another, buying dressage horses with donor funds as the natural right of ecclesiastical royalty.

As for her much-declared devotion to her husband, Diana greased the skids to Trungpa’s grave, enabling his sordid fate –- death by self-induced coma due to drug abuse and organ failure -- one more rock star sucked dry by the American celebrity-killing machine. Harsh as the assessment seems, evidence for it can be found on every page of Dragon Thunder, that has some of the candor that only the truly dissolute can exhibit. Their goalposts have moved so far, their judgment is faulty –- they can’t quite see when they’re confessing to scandal.

This poor judgment can lead to over-embellishing a cherished myth, as Diana did when she claimed that Trungpa “matriculated” at Oxford College in Dragon Thunder. Because that is a fact subject to verification or disproof, and I have obtained documents that disprove it, and I will share them with the reader. But before I proceed to that reveal, allow me to point out that these documents were not particularly difficult to obtain. It required only a modicum of research, emailing, and persistence in making followup inquiries to obtain them from Oxford College officials. Since virtually all formally published writing about Trungpa is mere hagiographic propaganda, we do not expect fact checking from the Dharma hacks who crank out these obligatory tomes. However, two books on Freda Bedi that pretend to be scholarly works were recently published, and they both repeated the apparent fable that she helped Trungpa get the Spalding sponsorship that "sent him to Oxford." So my question is -– why was I the first to make the enquiry of Oxford?

Trungpa has been the subject of dozens of articles in major periodicals. The Shambhala Publishing empire was built on Trungpa’s oeuvre. The story of his being a student or graduate of Oxford College has been repeated by reputable publications dozens of times, and no one has ever fact checked this? The signs were there all along. Look at the origin of the myth -– Trungpa’s own memoir, Born in Tibet, where he says he went to Oxford on a “Spalding fellowship,” but does not specify which of the twenty-seven Oxford colleges he attended. Searching for objective evidence of Trungpa’s Oxford academic career at The Chronicles of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche turns up absolutely nothing. People talk about his Oxford days as if they knew, but not a soul ever says they saw him attending classes, studying, or any other familiar Oxford collegiate activities. Granted, during the period he was ostensibly attending Oxford, Trungpa was fond of drinking to excess, and crashed his car, crippling himself for life. Since rakish Oxonians have been known to do wild things in drunken sprees, this may have been an attempt by the young Trungpa to fit into Oxford life. However, we cannot give academic credit for vehicular negligence.

-- The Absent Oxonian -- Musings on Trungpa’s Faux Academic Credentials & Why So Few Cared to Inquire, by Charles Carreon

In 1967 he founded the first European tantric monastery in Scotland. He gave it the name and the ground-plan of Samye Ling — in remembrance of the inaugural Tibetan shrine of the same name that Padmasambhava erected at the end of the 8th century despite resistance from countless demons.

[1965/1966/1967] Venerable Ananda Bodhi returned to England in the Fall of 1961, at the invitation of the English Sangha Trust, becoming the Resident Teacher of the Camden Town Vihara. He was a special guest speaker at the Fifth International Congress of Psychotherapists in London, where he met Julian Huxley, Anna Freud and R.D. Laing, among others. For the next three years he taught extensively throughout the UK, founding the Hampstead Buddhist Vihara in London and the Johnstone House Contemplative Community—a retreat centre in southern Scotland. During this period he also joined a Masonic lodge. In 1965, when he decided to move to Toronto with two of his British students, Johnstone House was entrusted to Venerable Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Akong Tulku, becoming Kagyu Samye Ling—the first Vajrayana centre to be established in the West.

-- Ven. Namgyal Rinpoche [Venerable Ananda Bodhi/Leslie George Dawson], by Dharma Centre of Winnipeg

In the opinion of Trungpa’s followers the demonic resistance was enormous in Scotland too: In 1969 the young lama was the victim of a serious car accident which left him with a permanent limp. There is an ambiguous anecdote about this unfortunate event. Trungpa had reached a fork in the road in his car — to the right the road led in the direction of his monastery, the road to the left to the house in which his future wife lived. But he continued to drive straight ahead, plowing right into a shop selling magic and joke articles. Nevertheless, his meteoric rise had begun. In 1970 he went to the United States.

Trungpa’s charming and initially anarchic manner, his humor and loyalty, his lack of respect and his laugh magnetically attracted many young people from the sixties generation. They believed that here the sweet but dangerous mixture of the exotic, social critique, free love, mind-expanding drugs, spirituality, political activism and self-discovery, which they had tasted in the revolutionary years of their youth, could be rediscovered. Trungpa’s friendship with the radical beatnik poet Allan Ginsberg and other well-known American poets further enhanced his image as a “wild boy” from the roof of world. Even the first monastery he founded, Samye Ling, was renowned for the permissive “spiritual” parties which were held there and for the liberal sex and drug consumption.

But such excesses are only one side of things. Via the tantric law of inversion Trungpa intended to ultimately transform all this abandon (his own and that of his pupils) into discipline, goodness, and enlightened consciousness. The success of the guru was boundless. Many thousands cam to him as pilgrims. All over America and Europe spiritual centers (dharmadhatus) were created. The Naropa Institute (near Denver, Colorado) was established as a private university, where alongside various Buddhist disciplines fine arts could also be studied.

The Shambhala warrior:

Trungpa had told one of his pupils that during deep meditation he was able to espy Shambhala. He also said he had obtained the teachings for the “Shambhala training” directly from the kingdom. The program consists of five levels: 1. The art of being human; 2. Birth of the warrior; 3. Warrior in the world; 4. Awakened heart; 5. Open sky: The big bang. Anyone who had completed all the stages was considered a perfect “Shambhala warrior”. As a spiritual hero he is freed from the repulsiveness which the military trade otherwise implies. His characteristics are kindness, an open heart, dignity, elegance, precision, modesty, attentiveness, fearlessness, equanimity, concentration, and confidence of victory. To be a warrior, one of Trungpa’s pupils writes, irrespective of whether as a man or a woman, means to live honestly, also in regard to fear, doubt, depression, and aggression which comes from outside. To be a warrior does not mean to conduct wars. Rather, to be a warrior means to have the courage to completely fathom oneself (Hayward, 1997, p. 11). This subjectification of the warrior ethos brings with it that the weapons employed first of all represent purely psycho-physical states: controlled breathing, the strict stance, walking upright, clear sight.

The first basic demand of the training is, as in every tantric practice, a state of "egolessness”. This is of great importance in the Shambhala teachings, writes Trungpa. It is impossible to be a warrior if you have not experienced egolessness. Without egolessness, your consciousness is always filled with your ego, your personal plans and intentions (Hayward, 1997, p. 247). Hence the individual ego is not changed through the exercises, rather the pupil tries solely to create an inner emptiness. Through this he allows himself to be transformed into a vessel into which the cult figures of the Tibetan pantheon can flow. According to Trungpa these are called dralas. Translated literally, that means “to climb out over the enemy” or in an further sense, energy, line of force, or “gods”.

The “empty” pupils thus become occupied by tantric deities. As potential “warriors” they naturally attract all possible forms of eager to fight dharmapalas (tutelary gods). Thus a wrathful Tibetan “protector of the faith” steps in to replace the sadhaka and his previous western identity. This personal transformation takes place through a ritual which in Trungpa’s Shambhala tradition is known as “calling the gods”. The supernatural beings are summoned with spells and burning incense. When the thick, sweet-smelling white smoke ascends, the pupils sing a long incantation, which summons the dralas. At the end of the song the warrior pupils circle the smoke in a clockwise direction and constantly emit the victory call of the warrior (Hayward, 1997, p. 275). This latter is “Lha Gyelo — victory to the gods” — the same call which the Dalai Lama cried out as he crossed the Tibetan border on his flight in 1959.

Trungpa was even more fascinated by the ancient national hero, Gesar, whose barbaric daredevilry we have already sketched in detail, than he was by the dharmapalas. The guru recommended the atavistic war hero to his followers as an example to imitate. Time and again he proudly indicated that his family belonged to the belligerent nomadic tribe of the “Mukpo”, from whose ranks Gesar also came. For this reason he ennobled his pupils as the “Mukpo family” and thus proclaimed them to be comrades-in-arms of Gesar. The latter — said Trungpa — would return from Shambhala, “leading an army to conquer the forces of darkness in the world” (Trungpa, 1986, p. 7).

But Trungpa did not just summon up Tibetan dharmapalas and heroes with his magic, rather he also invoked the deceased spirits of an international, on closer examination extremely problematic, warrior caste: the Japanese samurai, the North American plains Indians, the Jewish King David, and the British King Arthur with his round table — all archetypal leading figures who believed that justice could only be achieved with a sword in the hand, who were all absolutely ruthless in creating peace. These “holy warriors” always stood opposed to the “barbarians” of another religion who had to be exterminated. The non-dualist world view which many of the original Buddhist texts so forcefully demand is completely cancelled out in the mythic histories of these warlike models.

Trungpa led his courses under the name of “Dorje Dradul” which means “invincible warrior”. Completely in accord with an atavistic fighter tradition only beasts of prey were accepted as totem animals for his pupils: the snow lion, the tiger, the dragon. Dorje Dradul was especially enthusiastic about the mythic sun bird, the garuda, about its fiery redness, wildness, and its piercing cry commanding the cessation of thought like a lightning bolt (Hayward, 197, p. 251). Garuda is the sun bird par excellence, and since time immemorial the followers of the warrior caste have also been worshippers of the sun. Thus in the center of Trungpa’s Shambhala mission a solar cult is fostered. But it is not the natural sun which lights up all, but rather the “Great Eastern Sun” which rises at the beginning of a new world era when the Shambhala warriors seize power over the world. It sinks as a mighty cult symbol into the hearts of his pupils: “So, we begin to appreciate the Great Eastern Sun, not as something outside from us, like the sun in the sky, but as the Great Eastern Sun in our head and shoulders, in our face, our hair, our lips, our chest” (Trungpa, 1986, p. 39). Why of all people it was the chairman of the Communist Party of China, Mao Zedong, who was worshipped by the Red Guard as the Great Eastern Sun is a topic to which we shall return.


The basic ideology of the Shambhala program divides the world into two visions: Great Eastern Sun, which corresponds to enlightenment in the Buddhist path, and setting sun, which corresponds to samsara. [...] Great Eastern Sun is cheering up; setting sun is complaining and criticizing. Great Eastern sun is elegant and rich; setting sun is sloppy and poor. To paraphrase George Orwell: “Great Eastern Sun good, setting sun bad.” (Butterfield, 1994, p. 96).


From anarchy to despotism:

Trungpa played brilliantly with the interchangeability of reality and non-reality, even regarding his own person, he was especially a master of the tantric law of inversion. He thus simply declared his excessive alcoholism and his sexual cravings to be the practicing of the tantra path. Whether alcohol is a poison or a medicine depends on one’s own attentiveness. Conscious drinking — that is when the drinker remains self-aware — changes the effect of the alcohol. Here the system is steeled through attentiveness. Alcohol becomes an intelligent protective mechanism. But it has a destructive effect if one abandons oneself to comfort (Hayward, 1997, pp. 306–307). Yet Dorje Dradul was not free of the aggressive moods which normally occur in heavy alcoholics. He thus spread fear and horror through his frequent angry outbursts. But his pupils forgave him everything, proclaimed him a “holy fool” and praised his excesses as the expression of a “crazy wisdom”. They often attempted to emulate his alcoholism: I think there is a message for us in his drinking, Dennis Ann Roberts believed, “I know his drinking has certainly encouraged all of us to drink more” (Boucher, 1985, p. 243). Another pupil enthusiastically wrote: “He's great. I love the fact that he works on his problems the way he does. He doesn't hide it. He drinks, and it's almost killed him. So he is working on it. I find that great” (Boucher, 1985, p. 243).

Similar reasons are offered for his sexual escapades. In 1970 he abandoned his vow of celibacy and married a young British aristocrat. His bride is said to have been thirteen years old in 1969 (Tibetan Review, August 1987, p. 21). In addition he had a considerable number of yoginis, who were obviously uninformed about the andocentric manipulations of Tantrism. There was admittedly a minor rebellion among the female followers when the Karmapa insisted on talking only with the men during his visit to a Trungpa center, but essentially the western karma mudras occupied by Tibetan deities behaved loyally towards their lord and master. A lot of women have been consorts of Rinpoche — one of them tells that “The Tibetans are into passion, they think sexuality is an essential energy to work with. You don't reject it. So it's a whole other perception of sexuality anyway” (Boucher, 1985, p. 244).

Such affirmations of tantric practice by the female pupils are definitely not exceptions and they most clearly testify to the charisma which the tantra master projects. Thus we learn from another of Trungpa’s lovers, “My first meeting with him was a real turn-off. I mean, I didn't want a guru who did things like that. The irony was that I had left my other Tibetan Buddhist teacher partly because he was coming on to me. And I just couldn't handle it. And Rinpoche is very much into alcohol and having girl friends. Now it makes total sense to me” (Boucher, 1985, p. 241).

Chögyam Trungpa has obviously succeeded in keeping his western karma mudras under control. This was much more difficult for the Tibetan Tantric, Gedun Chöpel, who died in 1951. He left behind an amusing estimation of the “women of the west” from the thirties which shows how much has changed in the meantime: “In general a girl of the west is beautiful, splendorous, and more courageous than others. Her behavior is coarse, and her face is like a man's. There is even hair around her mouth. Fearless and terrifying, she can be tamed only by passion. Able to suck the phallus at the time of play, the girl of the west is known to drink regenerative fluid. She does it even with dogs, bulls and any other animals and with father and son, etc. She goes without hesitation with whoever can give the enjoyment of sex” (Chöpel, 1992, p. 163).

Towards the end of his life, Trungpa the “indestructible warrior” moved further and further away from his Hippie past. As the head of his lineage the Karmapa is said to have not been at all pleased to observe the permissive practices in the “wild” guru’s centers. However, in accordance with the tantric “law of inversion”, after a few years the pendulum swung from anarchy to the other pole of despotism and all at once Trungpa abandoned himself to his fascistoid dreams. His protective troops, Dorje Kasung, initially a kind of bodyguard composed of volunteers was transformed within a short period into a paramilitary unit in khaki uniforms. The guru himself put aside his civilian clothing for a time and appeared in high-ranking military dress as a “Shambhala general”. We do not know whether, alongside the warlike ethos of the tantric tradition, the physical handicap which he sustained in his car accident in England did not also trigger his unusual interest in military things as a counter-reaction. At any rate his “military parades” became a fixed part of the Shambhala training.

On other occasions the former “freak” donned a pinstripe suit with a colorful tie and looked like nothing more than an Asian film gangster. Thus he really did play brilliantly through the ambivalent spectrum completely laid out in the tantric repertoire, from poetic anarchist and flower power dancer to saber-rattling dictator and underworld boss. In 1987 the master warrior died and his body was committed to the flames in Vermont (USA).


“’May I shrivel up instantly and rot,’ we vowed, ‘if I ever discuss these teachings with anyone who has not been initiated into them by a qualified master.’ As if this were not enough, Trungpa told us that if we ever tried to leave Vajrayana, we would suffer unbearable, subtle, continuous anguish, and disasters would pursue us like furies. Heresy had real meaning in this religion, and real consequences. Doubting the dharma or the guru and associating with heretics were causes for downfall. In Tibetan literature, breaking faith with the guru must be atoned by such drastic measures as cutting off your arms and offering it at the door of his cave in hopes that he might take you back.” – “To be part of Trungpa’s inner circle, you had to take a vow never to reveal or even discuss some of the things he did. This personal secrecy is common with gurus, especially in Vajrayana Buddhism. It is also common in the dysfunctional family system of alcoholics and sexual abusers. This inner circle secrecy puts up an almost insurmountable barrier of a healthily skeptical mind.” (Butterfield, 1994, p. 11, 100) Trungpa’s Shambhala Warriors see: and ... une12.html


The inheritance:

The immediate inheritance which Trungpa left behind him was catastrophic. Completely in the spirit of his Tibetan guru, the American, Thomas Rich, who succeeded him under the name of “Vajra Regent Ösel Tendzin”, continued the carefree permissiveness of his master with a tantric justification. However, in 1988 there was a scandal from which the organization has not fully recovered to this day. The “Vajra Regent” had been HIV positive for three years and had infected numerous members with the AIDS virus in the meantime. He died in 1991. Trungpa’s son, Sawang Ösel Rangdroel, then took over the leadership.


“From Vajrayana point of view, passion, aggression, and ignorance, the sources of human suffering, are also the well-spring of enlightenment. Afflictions like AIDS are not merely disasters, but accelrations toward wisdom, and opportunities to wake up. They can be transformed into buddha-mind. Trungpa was a Vajra master who had empowered Tendzin to guide students on this path” (Butterfield, 1994, p. 7).


Even if Trungpa’s Shambhala warriors have forfeited quite a deal of their attractiveness in recent years, thousands still revere the master as the “holy fool” and “indestructible warrior”, who brought the “Eastern sun” to the West. For this reason he is said to also be prayed to in the whole of Asia as a great Bodhisattva and Maha Siddha (Hayward, 1997, p. 319). “For ten years he presented the Shambhala Teachings”, summarizes one of his sadhakas, “In terms of time and history, that seems insignificant; however in that short span he set in motion the powerful force of goodness that can actually change the world” (Trungpa, 1986, p. 157). Only rarely does a “deserter” go public, like P. Marin for example, a strong critic of the Naropa Institute, for whom this western Tibetan Buddhist organization is “a feudal, priestly tradition transplanted to a capitalist setting” (quoted by Bishop, 1993, p. 101).

On the other hand it goes without saying that the Tantric Trungpa time and again draws attention to the fact that the warlike figures he invokes are illusionary reflections of the human ego and that even the Shambhala kings are projections of one’s own consciousness. But if everything really can be reduced to forms of consciousness, then it remains totally unclear why it is time and again the phantoms of a destructive black-and-white mode of thought which are summoned up to serve as examples along the personal initiation path. Wouldn’t it make more sense, indeed be more logical, to directly conjure up those “peace gods” who have surmounted such dualist thought patterns? What is the reason for this glorification of an atavistic warrior caste?

It goes without saying that in Trungpa’s system no-one is entitled to even dream of critically examining the dralas (gods). Although only projections of one’s own consciousness according to the doctrine, they are considered sacrosanct. They are pure, good, and exemplary. Since Trungpa’s Shambhala Training unquestioningly incorporates all of the established tantric deities, the entire martial field of Tibetan Buddhism with its entrenched concept of “the enemy” and its repellant daemonic power is adopted by people who naively and obligingly set out to attain personal enlightenment.

We thus have the impression that the pupils of the tantra masters are exposed to a hypnotic suggestion so as to make them believe that their own spiritual development was the agenda whereas they have long since become the pawns of Tibetan occultism in whose unfathomable net of regulations (tantra means ‘net’) they have become entrapped. Once their personal ambitions have been dissolved into nothingness they can be enslaved as the loyal lackeys of a spiritual power politics which no longer sees the “higher self” in the “universal monarch” but rather a real political “wrathful wheel turner” (Rudra Chakrin) who lays waste to the world with his armies from Shambhala so as to then establish a global Buddhocracy.

Other Western Shambhala visions:

James Hilton's novella, Lost Horizon, published in 1933, counts among the best-sellers of the last century. It tells of a monastery in the Land of Snows whose name, Shangri-La, is reminiscent of the kingdom of Shambhala. The term has in the meantime become a synonym for leisure, refinement, and taste, at least in the English-speaking world, and is employed by an Asian luxury hotel chain. The idyll described in the book concerns people who had retreated from the hustle and bustle of the modern world to the Himalayas and now devote themselves to exclusively spiritual enjoyments. It is, however, no Tibetan tulku but rather a Catholic missionary who collects together those tired of civilization in a hidden valley in the Land of Snows so as to share with them a study of the fine arts and an extended lifespan. The “monks” from the West do not even need to do without European bathtubs — otherwise unknown in the Tibet of the thirties. The essence of the Shangri- La myth ultimately consists in the transportation of “real” products of European culture and civilization to the “roof of the world”.

The most recent western attempt at spreading the Tibetan myth is Victoria LePage's book, Shambhala. The author presents the secret kingdom as an overarching mystery school, whose high priests are active as “an invisible, scientific and philosophical society which pursues its studies in the majestic isolation of the Himalayas” (LePage, 1996, p. 13). For LePage Shambhala is the esoteric center of all religions, the secret location from which every significant occult, and hence also religious, current of the world has emanated. Esoteric Buddhism, and likewise the ancient Egyptian priestly schools, the Pythagoreans, Sufism, the Knights Templar, alchemy, the Cabala, Freemasonry, Theosophy — yes even the witches cults — all originated here. Accordingly, the Kalachakra Tantra is the overarching “secret doctrine” from which all other mystery doctrines may be derived (LePage, 1996, p. 8).

The mythic kingdom, which is governed by a sun ruler, is to be found in Central Asia, there where the axis of the world, Mount Meru, is also to be sought. This carefree adoption of Buddhist cosmology does not present the author with any difficulties since the axis mundi is said to only be visible to the initiated. In accordance with the mandala principle her Shambhala has distributed numerous copies of itself all over the world — the Pyramids of Giza, the monastery at Athos, Kailash, the holy mountain. Sites of the Grail like Glastonbury and Rennes le Chateau are such “offshoots” of the hidden imperium — likewise only perceivable through initiated eyes. Together they form the acupuncture points of a cosmic body which corresponds to the mystic body of the Kalachakra master (i.e., taken literally, in the energy body of the Dalai Lama). LePage too, sees a great “mystic clock” in the Time Tantra. The segments of this time machine record the cyclical periods of the course of the world. A “hidden directorate”, a mysterious brotherhood of immortal beings in the Himalayas, ensures that the cosmic hours marked on the clockface are adhered to.

The Fourteenth Dalai Lama and the Shambhala myth:

LePage's global monopolization of the entire cultic life of our planet by the Kalachakra Tantra could be regarded as an important step in a worldwide Shambhalization plan of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. Nonetheless, the Kundun deliberately prefers to leave such esoteric speculations (which are in no way at odds with his doctrine) to others, best of all “hobby Buddhists” like the author. So as not to lose political respectability, the Kundun keeps his statements about the Shambhala question enigmatic: “Even for me Shambhala remains a puzzling, even paradox country”, the highest Kalachakra master reassures his listeners (Levenson, 1992, p. 305). All that we hear from him concretely is the statement that “the kingdom of Shambhala does indeed exist, but not in the usual sense” (Dalai Lama Fourteenth, 1993a, p. 307).

Can we expect a total world war in circa 300 years in accordance with the prophecy? His Holiness has no doubts about this either: “That lies in the logic of circulation!” (Levenson, 1992, p. 305). But then he modifies his statement again and speculates about whether the final battle is not to be interpreted as a psychological process within the individual. For dreamers for whom such a psychological interpretation is too dry, however, the Kundun subsequently hints that Shambhala could perhaps concern another planet and the soldiers of the kingdom could be extraterrestrials (Levenson, 1992, p. 305).

He understands how to rapidly switch between various levels of reality like a juggler and thus further enhance the occult ambience which already surrounds the Shambhala myth anyway. „Secrets partly revealed are powerful”, writes Christiaan Klieger, and continues, „The ability of the Dalai Lama to skillfully manipulate a complex of meaning and to present appropriate segments of this to his people and the world is part of his success as a leader” (Klieger, 1991, p. 76). Ultimately, everything is possible in this deliberate confusion, for example that the Shambhala king in person stands before us in the figure of His Holiness as some worshippers believe, or that Lhasa is the capital of the mythic country of “Kalapa” albeit not visible to mortal eyes. Should the Kundun some day return to Tibet as a savior — some people believe — then the veil would be lifted and the earthly/supernatural kingdom (Shambhala) would reveal itself to the world.

Similar speculations are in fact very popular in the Buddhist scene. On the official (!) homepage of the Kalachakra Tantra the “dharma master”, Khamtrul Rinpoche, explains to his readers that the current Dalai Lama is an incarnation of Kulika Pundarika, the eighth Shambhala king famed as the first commentator on the Time Tantra. But it gets better: “My companion [the goddess Tara, who led him through Shambhala in a dream]", Khamtrul writes, “told me that the last Kulika King will be called Rudra with a wheel, 'the powerful and ferocious king who holds an iron wheel in his hand' ... and he will be none other than His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who will subdue everything evil in the universe” (Khamtrul, HPI 005). Following this revelation, which prophecies the Kundun as the military commander of an apocalyptic army, Rinpoche worries whether the Shambhala army is a match for the modern armaments industry with its missiles and nuclear bombs. Here the kindly Tara comforts and reassures him that no matter what weapons of mass destruction may be produced in our world, a superior counter-weapon would automatically be created by Shambhala’s magic armaments industry (Khamtrul, HPI 005).

In the words of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama “world peace” is supposed to be strengthened with every Kalachakra ritual. He repeats this again and again! But is this really his intention?

With an ironic undertone, the Tibetologist Donald L. Lopez (formerly one of the closest followers of the Kundun), writes in the final section of his book, Prisoners of Shangri-La, that “this peace may have a special meaning, however, for those who take the initiation are planting the seeds to be reborn in their next lifetime in Shambhala, the Buddhist pure land across the mountains dedicated to the preservation of Buddhism. In the year 2245 [?], the army of the king will sweep out of Shambhala and defeat the barbarians in a Buddhist Armageddon,[!] restoring Buddhism to India and to the world and ushering in a reign of peace” (Lopez, 1998, p. 207).
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