The Life of Tantric Yogi Theos Bernard, Tibet's Lost Emissary to the New World
By Douglas Veenhof
(Harmony, Hardcover, 9780385514323, 480pp.)
Publication Date: May 10, 2011
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An amazing, often overlooked story of the man who brought Yoga and Tibetan culture to America. Theos Bernard’s colorful, enigmatic, and sometimes contradictory life captures an intersection of East and West that changed our world.
After years of forcibly stopping foreigners at the borders, the leaders of Tibet opened the doors to their kingdom in 1937 for Theos Bernard. He was the third American to set foot in Tibet and the first American ever initiated into Tantric practices by the highest lama in Tibet. When Bernard left that sacred land, he was sent home with fifty mule loads of priceless, essential Buddhist scriptures from government and monastery vaults. Bernard brought these writings to America, where he achieved celebrity as a spiritual master. Appearing four times on the cover of the largest-circulation magazine of the day, befriending some of the most famous figures of his era, including Charles Lindbergh, Lowell Thomas, Ganna Walska, and W. Y. Evans-Wentz, and working with legendary editor Maxwell Perkins, the charismatic and controversial “White Lama” introduced a new vision of life and spiritual path to American culture before mysteriously disappearing in the Himalayas in 1947.
Biography, travel and adventure, a history of Tibet’s opening to the West, and the story of Buddhism and Yoga’s arrival in America, White Lama: The Life of Tantric Yogi Theos Bernard, Tibet’s Lost Emissary to the West is the first work to tell his groundbreaking story in full and is a narrative that thrills from beginning to end.
Includes 15 photographs shot in Tibet in 1937 by Theos Bernard, part of a collection that has been described as the best photographic record of Tibet in existence.
DOUGLAS VEENHOF is a former mountain guide and an award-winning journalist. He has been practicing and studying Buddhism and Yoga for nearly forty years.
“Douglas Veenhof’s biography of the first great American yogi is a rare combination of impeccable research, refreshing literacy, and deep spiritual insight … Highly recommended for anyone who does yoga; I literally couldn’t put it down.” –Geshe Michael Roach, author of The Diamond Cutter and How Yoga Works
“This richly researched book is the never before told story of Theos Bernard, the fearless adventurer who lived during a time (the first part of the 20th Century) when finding a yoga teacher was not as easy as it is today. Like Alexandra David-Neel who traveled through India and Tibet before him, Theos journeyed far, both geographically and psychologically to find the teachings of yoga, tantra and Buddhism and more importantly teachers who could give him a taste of the amrit: the fruit, which destroys death. Theos’s story will take the reader to India and Tibet and introduce them to some of the greatest mystics who have ever lived including Glen Bernard (his father), Pierre Bernard (his uncle) Blance DeVries (his aunt), Ora and Inayat Khan (his aunt & uncle), Pir Vilayat (cousin) the famous spy, Nor Khan (cousin), the Russian artist theosophist, Nicholas Roerich, aviator, Charles Lindbergh, Paramahansayogananda, Geshe Ngawang Wangyal and The 13th Dalai Lama, to name a few, and illuminate their influence to the yoga which is practiced in the west today.” –Sharon Gannon, founder Jivamukti Yoga method
“I thought that I had read my last yoga-mystical-magical-wonderous-cliffhanging-historic-pageturning-lifechanging-adventure years ago. Theos Bernard belonged to a very eccentric and amazing family and any American Yogi should know as much about them as they know about Krishnamacharya or the Dalai Lama. This book fills in one vital missing link in the passage of knowledge and wisdom from an ancient culture to modern times through the hands of a skilled yogi, diplomat, adventurer and historian of Yoga and Tantra.” –Co-founder of Jivamukti Yoga, co-author of Living Liberated -Jivamukti Yoga and The Art of Yoga
“Meticulously researched and richly detailed, White Lama is a spiritual adventure story as compelling as a good novel. Theos Bernard's Himalayan odyssey in search of genuine yoga adepts and tantric masters in 1930s Tibet is a fascinating, long-forgotten chapter in the journey of Eastern spirituality to the West.” –Jack Forem, author of Transcendental Meditation: The Essential Teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
"Theos Bernard was an unsung hero. With this thoroughly researched and engaging biography, Douglas Veenhof makes a vital contribution to our knowledge of the great transmission of Eastern wisdom to the West." –Philip Goldberg, author of American Veda