Secret Lives of Alexandra David-Neel: A Biography of the Explorer of Tibet and Its Forbidden Practicesby Barbara Foster, Michael Foster
In Tibet and Sikkim, David-Neel lived/i>
The Secret Lives of Alexandra David-Neel is the definitive biography of the explorer Lawrence Durrell called "the most astonishing woman of our time." Alexandra David-Neel was the first European to explore Tibet at a time when foreigners were banned; few have led a life of adventure to equal hers or made so much of it.
In Tibet and Sikkim, David-Neel lived among hermits and shamans while studying first hand the secret mystical practices of Tibetan Buddhism, including out-of-body travel, telepathy, vampiric shamanism, and tantric sex. After returning to France, she wrote more than thirty books, among them My Journey to Lhasa and Magic and Mystery in Tibet. She has had a profound influence on Beat culture and the emergence of American Buddhism.
Drawing from rare source material, including information obtained from the secret files of the India office, Barbara and Michael Foster have written a vividly detailed chronicle-of both David-Neel's quest to conquer her personal demons and of the outer journey that made her one of the most celebrated figures of her day.
-Hugh Richardson, Britain's last diplomat in Tibet and author of A Cultural History of Tibet
-Arlene Blum, author of Annapurna: A Woman's Place
The biography opens as a movie might, on David-Neel's surreptitious departure from Lhasa in May 1924, after having entered illegally following a perilous journey. Succeeding chapters flash back to her childhood, marriage, and first journeys east, culminating in the great trek by foot to Lhasa. The final chapters on the end of her life, back in France, also review her major writings, which include autobiography, novels, translations of Tibetan texts, and studies of Buddhism. The many epithets used throughout the book, in lieu of the heroine's namethe seeker, adventurer, pilgrim, scholar, orientalist, iconoclastgive some feel for the scope of her character and work. The authors present her as a Tantric mystic who scorned mystification; an ascetic who laid carpets in her Tibetan cave-dwelling; a radical democrat who, a colonialist still, condescended to her adopted Sikkimese son: in short, as the union of opposites that many deeply religious people are. The authors' principal concern is that David-Neel be remembered for her part in preserving Tibet'sreligious legacy, especially now that it is under attack, through the texts she translated and saved for the West, including Tibetan versions of works no longer available in the original Sanskrit from the early Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna.
From the joint talents of the authors (a librarian and a novelist) comes a winsome biography that takes its subject more seriously than itself.
- Overlook Press, The
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.58(w) x 8.56(h) x 0.87(d)
Meet the Author
Barbara Foster has written extensively in women's studies. She is assistant professor in the library department at Hunter College, City University of New York. Michael Foster is the author of Freedom's Thunder and other novels.
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