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.
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