the fully qualified tantric lama

Recently I was reading about Alexandra David-Neel (1868-1969), described as an anarchist, occultist, opera singing late bloomer. What a fabulous woman. Here, Janwillem Van De Wetering reviews a biography of her…..

image found here

“Setting out on this review, I feel a slight tremor of fear. Alexandra David-Neel, a bourgeois Parisian, became a fully qualified tantric lama in Tibet when she was 52 years old. Tantric Buddhism has been known to follow the left-handed, or demonic, way.

image found here

Do I dare to discuss a magic entity that is calmly gazing through the screen of my word processor, wearing a rosary necklace of 108 pieces of human skull, an apron of carved human bones, and holding a phurba, the higher-sphere crystal dagger that kills ghosts but may also seriously disturb or even switch off the regular flesh-and-blooded, by penetrating our astral bodies?

image found here

Mme. David-Neel was a compulsive traveler, an explorer, a feminist, a prolific and internationally popular writer and an acknowledged authority on Buddhist ritual. Her stay at Kum Bum monastery in Amdo Province made her familiar with spells. She did cause a sudden thunderstorm out of the blue to frighten bandits off while traveling across the arid highlands of the ”roof of the world,” she did warm herself by tumo, or ”pit of the stomach,” meditation, making flames embrace her when she ran out of fuel and food in deep snow, and on a lower spiritual plane, she did carry a modern automatic seven-shot pistol that she fired at least once, aiming at a brigand who tried to steal her last tin spoon.

museum near the monastery found here

Fortunately, she didn’t kill him. Practicing Buddhists try to avoid taking life. David-Neel did eat meat products, though, including the soles of her boots, and in a drafty tent at 50 degrees below zero she slurped maggoty stew cooked by a substance-abusing butcher. David-Neel traveled in a time when Britain ruled not only waves but also mountains. The British secret service was wary of the mysterious Frenchwoman who hobnobbed with Oriental princes and high lamas in palaces and fortresses where political plans were hatched.

image found here

She endlessly milked money out of Philip Neel, her hardworking husband. Showing a prudish image to her royalty-paying public, she hid an affair with a stagehand, a live-in relationship with a fellow artist in France and an invitation to be seduced on her future husband’s yacht in Tunisia. Perhaps, if we may follow her biographers’ hint, she participated in tantric sex, the free-for-all physical activity in which masters and disciples partake in order to raise their spirits toward detachment. She disapproved of this ”promiscuity of embarrassments,” but then, you see, she wasn’t really there, she was just hiding in a hayloft. (She peeked.) She had a violent temper that very few – indeed, only Aphur Yongden, her faithful associate, and, in her old age, her secretary, Marie-Madeleine Peyronnet -were able to handle.

homes for sale in Tunisia here

Calling herself a rational Buddhist, she tried to live well, taking a hot bath every day (a coolie carried the bathtub), eating gourmet meals (she never cooked herself), riding good horses and being carried by sturdy bearers. When Lhasa, the political and spiritual capital, couldn’t be reached that way, she walked, crawled, lived on boiled water and dirt, became seriously ill, begged, and pretended to be a servant to her servant (who later became her adopted son and companion, Lama Yongden, a source of much jealousy to her husband). She reached the forbidden holy city, the first foreign woman to ever do so.

Lama Yongden found here

In 1928 Alexandra legally separated from Philippe, but they continued to exchange letters and he kept supporting her till his death in 1941. Alexandra settled in Provence, and continued to study and write till her death at age nearly 101.

Published in: on May 22, 2012 at 8:57 am  Comments (46)  
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46 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. wow. what a life she had lived. funny, as i was reading the first bit, i thought she was being a rational Buddhist!

  2. Demonic practitioners who don’t like to take life. What is the fun in that?

    • there are other demonic practices you know bearman…….

      • I don’t hang with the demon crowd so no..haha

      • Ask jennygoth666 😉

  3. Kum Bum monastery? It is not 1 April, but can it really be true?

    • Afraid so. And another sad truth is that Porn is a popular name for girls in Thailand. I’ve worked with two of them at the Gimcrack. I could never call them by name without inwardly cringing

  4. 108 pieces of human skull? I’m quite intrigued by the number 108, though – it’s also used in the religion my mom practices.

    • Which religion is that Terra?

      • Hinduism

  5. maggot stew? even i can do better than that…

    • Cockroach casserole?

  6. Yet another female with an adventurous spirit who puts my mundane life to shame. While I doubt I could achieve qualified tantric status – or slurp maggoty stew – I could always give tantric sex a try.
    Right. Like that’s ever gonna happen…you know, with my bad back and all… 😉

    • we can’t all be adventurers. Who’s going to stay home and raise strapping young men? 🙂

  7. Isn’t the world full of wonderfully interesting characters? And you manage to find many of them…I too am concerned by Kum Bum in your passage

    • You need not concern yourself with my passage 😉

  8. That is one interesting broad. Thank you for introducing us to her!

    • you’re welcome Madame

  9. Even if I were in a drafty tent at 50 degrees below zero there’s no way I would slurp maggoty stew. I have my standards.

    • I would have frozen to death before the barometer got that low

  10. Doesn’t sound as if age slowed her down much.

    • she was pretty amazing

  11. I’m totally adding “seduction on a yacht” to my bucket list.

    • (Can you believe it hasn’t happened yet for me?!)

      • Maybe I could arrange “seduction on a tinny on Sydney harbour” for you. None of my friends own yachts.

  12. My favourite of your posts so far…love your blend of words and images 🙂

  13. I agree with Anne. I love this post. Kum Bum is hilarious. How did these people support themselves because there are many parts of this life I might like to replicate?

    • It was mostly thanks to the rich stay-at-home husband.

      • Damn! I need one of those.

      • Oh don’t we all…..

  14. Tantric sex involves detachment!!!?! … blimey

    • Not that kind of detachment you silly duffer

  15. Interesting woman, to say the least!

    You know that “not taking life” tenet has always amused me. Because you’re taking life no matter what you eat. Plants are every bit as alive as animals. This is one reason why veganism makes no sense. Pick a tomato, shoot a deer–either way, you’re taking life. Any living thing thrives on the death of another living thing. It is inescapable–we could not live if we didn’t take life.

  16. But would you describe a plant as a sentient being?

    • No. But neither is a deer. We humans are the only sentient beings on Earth, at this time.

      • (By my definition of “sentient”, of course.)

  17. 101 is quite an innings for a risk-taking personality? Do you know if she had any children?

    • She adopted Lama Yongden as her son but she had no natural children

  18. That tin spoon was SECURE!
    This makes me want to watch ‘Seven Years in Tibet’ again…

  19. Kum Bum…teehee.

    Oh, and yet another book to add to my reading list…thank you.

  20. A skull rosary? That’s the sort of thing some of the nuns who taught me as an infant would have worn to scare us naughty kids witless!

  21. Fascinating and driven, apparently. Quite a bit of dedication to go through all of that.

  22. I’m so tired, I read that title as “tantric llama,” and got some very strange images from that, let me tell you.

    That’s plomik soup McCoy is looking at, I believe. Nasty Vulcan stuff.

  23. So. Step one: find Sugar Daddy. Step two: dominate at everything.

    Got it.

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