Hello again, it’s been a while hasn’t it? I’ve been busy, sick, out of town, you name it. But I’m back now, with a blast from the past.
Many years ago I had this friend. He was into all things occult and mystical, even joining the Rosicrucian Order and trying Breatharianism. One time he spent 40 days in a cabin in the desert during midsummer, only drinking water and meditating. He said he had severe chest pains the last week or so, and was proud of his “detox.” I was fairly certain the only thing he was purging was healthy heart muscle, as starvation causes muscle breakdown first.
One year he got really into these books about a Tibetan lama called T. Lobsang Rampa.
I read all the ones he had, and towards the end, they got a little samey and preachy, but the first one stuck in my memory so vividly that I decided to revisit it.
With the benefit of around 16 years’ distance, it’s amazing how much better the book was in my memory than on the page.
I apologise if at any point I step on any legitimate religious toes here, but Rampa’s idea of lamaism was so far off reality I doubt that will be an issue. I am not picking on actual Tibetan Buddhism – rather, Rampa’s fictionalised version of it.
Here’s a good article about the man behind the monk: http://thesanghakommune.org/tag/lamaism/
We start in what is ostensibly the 1950s, or 2081 by the Phugpa calendar(Tibet has complex calendar systems- astrology, skip-days, and lunisolar), and the imposition of Chinese standards later in the 20th century didn’t make matters any simpler.) Somehow, this 7 year old prince who has never left Tibet knows what year it is outside the Himalayas, and also that the Chinese are coming.
Also, the T in his name apparently stands for “Tuesday,” claiming he was named for the day of the week on which he was born.
Excuse me while I laugh my ass off. Tuesday is an Old English word, coming from “Tiw’s Day,” a Germanic translation of “dies Marti,” meaning “Day of Mars.” The Tibetan word for that day of the week is གཟའ་མིག་དམར་ – roughly pronounced Mikmar.
If he’d just bothered to say “Mikmar Lobsang Rampa,” he could have sold the “day of the week” theory. In fact, there are a few day-names which are also used as forenames, like “Dawa” and “Lhakpa.’ But by insisting on the English word “Tuesday,” he left the door wide open for Actual Tibetans to call bullshit.
Next it’s his big birthday feast, though really the party is for his parents to show off to everyone in town just how much of a party they can afford to throw, and also to bring the monks to read his astrological charts and tell him what he’ll be when he grows up. He’s promptly informed that he’s to be a monk, and a week later, he’s kicked out to join the lamasery. If he fails to get accepted, his father says, he’ll be disowned.
He gets in, and within mere days, one of the senior lamas takes notice of him and declares he will get special training and treatment based on the astrology report. He was apparently a lama in his previous life, one who was very advanced. And – what are the odds – he and the senior lama were BFFs in that previous life!
Now, Previous Incarnations are a thing in Tibetan Buddhism, and a valid one insofar as their religion goes. It doesn’t mean that all small boys who are marked as PIs will, in fact, stick it out – some leave the lamasery in a kind of rumspringa fit and never return. Which, if the astrologers are honest with themselves, they really should have seen coming…
But apparently, for ol’ Lobsang, this is just the thing he wanted to hear, because now he gets 1 on 1 tutoring from Lama
Dumbledore Dondup, and life gets a little easier for a while.
Until his 8th birthday, which is apparently celebrated with fucking trepanation.
They drill a hole in his forehead, stick a magic herb toothpick in the hole, seal it up and leave him in the dark for a few weeks. And when he comes out, he’s not dead or irreversibly brain damaged, nope – he’s got fucking superpowers.
Now, the idea of a Third Eye that could give one extrasensory perception, telepathy, aura-seeing, etc isn’t a new one nor is it unique to Tibetan religion, but what is unique is the idea of inflicting a potentially-fatal wound in order to achieve it.
The most likely location of such a place in humans is the pineal gland, which is a little oddball in the center of the brain that’s affected by light, generates melatonin, and is implicated in circadian rhythm dysfunction. Its location corresponds to that of the Crown Chakra, which is considered critical to attaining enlightenment/kundalini/the third eye.
Being that it is so deep within the brain, you could not possibly trepan yourself deep enough to touch the pineal gland without slicing through your frontal lobe, which would do permanent, if not fatal damage.
So Lobsang survives the head-stabby, wakes up and can immediately see everyone’s aura in full Technicolor, Lama Dumbledore laughs and then they go off to talk about how Western people are dumb and literally suck rocks. (No, seriously. He spends a lot of the book ranting about the evils of the West, and how they lost their powers because of materialism. He also opens the second book with a chapter that is pretty much the same thing, but with bonus Atlantis!)
As our youngling grows, the language begins to more and more resemble that of a middle-aged man, and this is handwaved. Not by the fact that the author is writing from his middle-aged-reminiscing POV, which would makes sense, but by the fact that this 10 year old child is actually an old guy reincarnated.
He also becomes – by benefit of “hypnotic training,” an herbalist, a surgeon, and able to recite every scripture perfectly from memory.
Then they go kite-flying. Of course, no ordinary kites for this boy, but man-sized box kites! A fellow monk falls to his death and all they say is, “well, he was kind of a dick.” And Lobsang, being a naturally gifted (and by now, pre-teen) avionics engineer, figures out all by himself how to make the kites controllable and safe, and wouldn’t you know it, the Kite Master has just such a kite in his storage but he’s never been able to make it work. Yes, the lifetime of learning and practice has given him just enough knowledge to build the controllable kite, but not to make it fly! Oh woe! Whatever shall he do? How lucky for him that Lobsang is there to show him his failings and make the kite fly!
Of course it all works perfectly the first time and not only that, but the other monk who tries to fly it falls and dies. Only Lobsang can fly it. He is the magic boy.
I think this was the part where I threw the book across the room shouting “HE’S A GOD DAMN MARY SUE!”
And it just gets weirder. He’s also become besties with not only Dumbledore and the Abbot of the lamasery – now the Dalai Lama wants in on this! (Not the current one, but his predecessor.) Dalai Lama is super impressed with Lobsang and puts his name in the
Triwizard Cup list of People He Trusts To Help Him Deal With The Chinese Invaders. He recruits Lobsang as a spy to read the auras and thoughts of the Chinese visitors, and later the English ones, finally sending him out of the country on a Sooper Seekrit Spy Mission to those evil backwards unenlightened Western places.
Which is where the story ends.
Not quite. There’s also massive Siamese cats that guard tombs, and Yetis.