LORD OF THE DANCE: The Autobiography of a Tibetan Lama Chagdud Tulku
Padma Publishing: Johnson City, CA, 1992.
248 pp., $16.95 (paperback).

THE GREAT VIRTUE of Lord of the Dance, Chagdud Tulku’s autobiography, is the utter straightforwardness with which events in his life are related. In the Tibetan tradition, those events mostly take the form of stories. Many of these stories contain, as a matter of course, magical occurrences which regularly conduct the Western reader into the realm of myth and fairytale, “in a time beyond the reckoning of time.” Iron swords are tied into knots, figures appear in dreams directing the dreamer to hidden treasures, deities speak directly to those able to listen.

Incidents of telepathy and teleportation are related without fanfare or qualifying explanation since, as Chagdud Tulku reminds us, the most extraordinary siddhi (spiritual ability) of all is attaining unwavering recognition of mind’s true nature. However, pure intention and great realization may themselves result in the ability to charm the normal laws of cause and effect, as in the following interaction between the author’s aged sister and her Chinese tormentors, “witnessed by at least a hundred people”:

The Chinese had ordered everyone to pay homage to a photograph of Mao Zedong. T’hrinlay Wangmo refused, and instead reviled Mao as one who had caused the death of her relatives and friends. This public rebellion could not go unpunished, so the Chinese seized her, stripped her naked, drew a target on her chest, and stood her before an executioner. As the crowd watched silently, the executioner fired. His gun merely clicked-no bullet shot forth. He fired a second time and again there was only a click. Then he test-fired his weapon in the air and the gun fired normally. Once more, he leveled the gun at T’hrinlay Wangmo and once more it did not fire. Thoroughly disgusted, he threw the gun on the ground and turned away.

The military officials seized T’hrinlay Wangmo, handcuffed her, and marched her toward the prison. Suddenly, in front of the whole crowd, the iron handcuffs shattered into small pieces and fell to the ground. Her captors shoved her into prison, where they held her overnight, then released her, ordering her to get out of their sight.

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