Four Lamas of Dolpo, tibetan biographies
This volume presents in English translation the autobiographies of four Tibetan lamas in the land of Dolpo, which was part of Western Tibet until the end of the 18th century. Three of them were born in the 16th century, and one in the 17th.
In every case the substance of these biographies was dictated by the lamas themselves, in response to the entreaties of their disciples. After the lamas had died, the material was edited and compiled as an authoritative account of their lives and one hand-written copy of each copy biography was preserved in the libraries of the local monasteries.
Dr. Snellgrove first made the long and arduous journey into Dolpo in 1956, as described in Himalayan Pilgrimage; in 1960 and 1961 he returned there and among many other interesting documents, discovered the copies of these four biographies.
Realising the difficulties presenting by the many strange dialectical forms of Dolpo Tibetan, he stayed in one remote Dolpo monastery, known as the 'Residence of Great Happiness', long enough to work through the whole material with the help of a knowledgeable local lama, who was well read in normal literary Tibetan, while naturally familiar with his own local dialect. On his return to England the author was thus able to prepare the careful translation presented here.
The introduction provides the general background of conditions in Dolpo, including an account of religious beliefs, which, like the social conditions there, have remained practically unchanged over the last thousand years. Thus this book, read by itself, presents a unique account of Tibetan religion as lived in an enclosed Tibetan-speaking community, while at the same time serving as an additional volume to the author's previous reports on Tibetan religion in Himalayan areas, viz. Buddhist Himalaya and Himalayan Pilgrimage.
The Land and its People
Philosophy and Religion
Life in Dolpo 1960-61
The Four Biographies
The Biography of Lama Merit Intellect
The Biography of Lama Religious Protector Glorious and Good
The Biography of Lama Glorious Intellect
The Biography of Lama Lord of Merit
Texts & Rituals
Traccia di una intervista del 2004
Born in 1920 in Portsmouth as father a naval officer; moved to Hampshire countryside; parents; brother also in the Navy but died during the war; got scholarship to Christ’s Hospital, Horsham; went to Southampton University to study French and German; war came and entered the army; went to India; got there by boat via Cape Town; officers and other ranks
Landed in Bombay in 1943; in charge of a reconnaissance group; sent to Barrakpore, Calcutta; working in intelligence; during leave went to Sikkim; at that time nobody went there; did tour on two occasions.
Became interested in Tibetan religion; met the Maharaja of Sikkim and family; at that time simple Himalayan country but more advanced than Dolpo; attached to an American unit by the end of the war.
Had been in touch with Sir Basil Gould who was in charge of the mission in Gangtok; applied to join Indian Civil Service to get into the political service to get into Tibet; back in England took examinations at India Office and accepted; lasted three months due to Indian Independence.
With knowledge of India and Tibetan decided to continue academically; met Sir Harold Bailey in Cambridge; went to Queen’s to study Sanskrit and Tibetan; Bailey was tutor, he only had three students; had already past the Government of India examination in Tibetan; had learnt both to speak and write Tibetan with the help of a Lama who had been at Calcutta University; also had a Tibetan servant whom I found in Kalimpong; was my batman and accompanied me through all tours.
Memories of Sir Harold Bailey; graduated and offered a post in London in Tibetan at School of Oriental and African Studies; post originally at Readership level but eventually got personal Professorship; started in 1950, before which went to Rome to study with Guiseppe Tucci for a year.
First went to Nepal in 1953-4; large part of Northern Nepal Tibetan in religion and culture; Tucci had been to Mustang and had travelled extensively in Western Tibet; Pasang personal assistant; first went to Solo Khumbu; in Nepal when Everest first climbed; in 1953 walked into Nepal over the hills; then Nepal an enclosed Himalayan Kingdom; large stocks of Sanskrit manuscripts in libraries, nothing comparable in India as all destroyed; had to get permission to travel within Nepal.
Name of Dolpo unknown at that time, but wanted to explore in the Tibetan frontier area; Ekai Kawaguchi had been through it earlier and written about it but he thought Dolpo was name of one town, not the area; went there in 1956 with Pasang and back in 1960-1; Pasang had no problem in communicating with Dolpo people; never learnt Nepali properly but relied on Pasang; he could manage with any Tibetan dialect; had originally met him in Kalimpong where he was the disciple of a Mongolian Lama; had had trouble with my Christian servant and wanted to find a Tibetan as I had during the war; Pasang, a Sherpa, was recommended
To get to Dolpo walked all the way up the Gandaki valley; lack of maps; longest tour took 8 months in 1956; fortunate to be able to spend long periods on research leave
At S.O.A.S. could teach as I liked; never had to give general courses; did series of general lectures on Tibet with the British Museum.