[Notes on Tibet and its Lamas]
Theosophist, August, 1882
Article Selections by Captain A Banon | Notes by H.P.B.
During the month of May, I was in the Gungotri Valley, and wish to relate a few things, that struck me as very curious while there . . .
There is a great Lamasery at Thuling, belonging to the Dugpas, or red-capped Tibetan monks . . . The Thuling Lamas are great sorcerers; and can kill people at a distance by simply willing it.1 . . . At times they get very drunk and riotous; and lately some young Lamas polished off their guru in a drunken frolic. One of these Lamas also, quite recently, demolished a bridge, and levelled a hill at Nilang. My informant, who was an eye-witness, says he saw a ball of fire strike the hill and bridge, and demolish them instantly. . . .
1. That they are possessed of great mesmeric powers is a fact. A month passed in their edifying company is conducive neither to spiritual enlightenment, nor purification of morality.—Ed. [H.P.B.]
. . . During my stay at Gungotri I made many enquiries from Tibetan traders. There can be no doubt that, in Tibet, there are an immense number of Lamas, who can do the most wonderful miracles. Tibet, I was told, is infested with a race of thieves, or rather armed banditti called Chakpas; they bring trade to a stand-still, and render travelling dangerous. This year there is a tremendous mela going on at Lake Manasarowar, and people from every part of Central Asia will attend it. The place is not far from Kumaon; those attending would probably be rewarded by seeing many miracles performed by the Lamas.2
2. Not by the high Lamas, or “Yellow-Caps,” who will never perform anything before a promiscuous crowd. But there will be “religious mysteries” in every great and small Lamasery, and the “Ban-chhen-rin-po-chhe” [Panchen Rinpoche] or the High Lama of Teshu-Lhumpo, with all his gen-dun (clergy), will be investing newly-initiated gelungs with ngo-dhüb [ngo grub], or spiritual powers: for this year marks the end of an important cycle. But this is never performed publicly, but only behind the impassable barrier of the private sanctuaries of the Lamaseries, the Lha-khang, or inner temple.—Ed. [H.P.B.]
The people of Tibet are much oppressed, as the eldest son in every family is made a Lama.3
3. Our friend and correspondent was misinformed. This custom is a religious one, and weighs upon the Tibetans less than that of the Hindus in the performance of their caste and religious duties. They would not give it up, if they could.—Ed. [H.P.B.]
When officials or others use the people of the country for begaree (forced labour), they never renumerate them. Ratehr it is their habit in passing through the country to loot the people.4
4. True; but only in regard to Chinese officials, not to Tibetans.
The people are kind, gentle and humane; and though giants in physique, they submit to all this patiently. In spite of the miraculous powers of the Lamas, the country is misgoverned, and they seem a helpless lot.5
5. How does our correspondent know? Is it by relying on the information of a few illiterate native traders he might have talked with?—Ed. [H.P.B.]
At the beginning of the present century, they could not prevent the Nepaulese army, sacking and pillaging the great Lamasery of Teshu-Lumbo.6
6. Again, an error based upon the European ignorance about the real state of affairs in Tibet. In the first place, the Gelukpas, or Yellow-Caps, would rather submit to any sacrifice than to kill people—even their greatest enemies; such brutality is left to the Dug-pa sorcerers. Then it was not “at the beginning of the present century,” that the Nepaulese army sacked and pillaged the great Lamasery of Teshu-Lhumpo, but in 1792; and in that year the Teshu Lama was a child hardly ten years old, and his Regent, Chan-tyu Kusho, the brother of the late Teshu Lama, was no “miracle-producing” Lama, but a layman; and, in the presence of a “Reincarnation,” or a reincarnated Bodhisattva (such as was the Teshu Lama’s successor), no subordinate Lama, however high may be his powers, can, under their laws, take the responsibility of any initiatory step in a difficult political medley, unless the Teshu Lama gives personally his orders—and the little Lama did not give any. The details are well known. and the reasons plain.
A year or two ago, three Chinese (?) Lamas came to Nilang, and, after being well-treated, commenced to kill and eat the cattle, and ended up by ravishing some Jad women.7 This was too much for the Jads of Nilang, who killed the three Lamas and afterwards compounded with the Chinese governor at Chapran for three thousand rupees.
7. Again, these Lamas were probably of the Dug-pa sects and were not Tibetans, since they were Chinese, and our belief is that it would be difficult to find any “Yellow-Cap” guilty of such a crime. Therefore, this is no case in point.—Ed. [H.P.B.]