by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu
Translated from the Tibetan to Italian and edited by Enrico Dell’Angelo
English translation by Nancy Simmons
The spiritual history and terrestrial vicissitudes of the remarkable reincarnate lama and tertön Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Wangchug (1909-1960) are explored in this book, which also provides a chronicle whose ample historical references give a detailed picture of Tibet on the verge of vast changes brought about by the invasion and occupation by Chinese forces in the decades leading up to 1959. Moreover, this biography holds particular interest for those familiar with the complex and often convoluted history of the lineages of reincarnate lamas in general, and, in particular, of the descendants of the great Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820-1892), among whom, importantly, is the protagonist of this book.
The author of this namthar, or traditional Tibetan biography, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, himself a high-ranking tulku, and thus privy to the world he describes, is the maternal nephew and disciple of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Wangchug. A privileged observer of his uncle’s life as well as of the events circumscribing it, the author reveals with marked candor the internecine maneuvering in the arcane world of the Tibetan Buddhist hierarchy. This is the inspiring story of one man’s victory on the highest spiritual plane in an existence beset by difficulties, and whose death was as exceptional as his life. These knots, which did not succeed in interrupting the flow of Chökyi Wangchug’s spiritual advancement, were caused not only by foreign invaders, the common fate of those of his nationality and calling, but also by people close to him, fellow countrymen, members of factions conditioned by bigotry and personal greed.
The very title of the book, The Lamp that Enlightens Narrow Minds, refers to the sectarianism which poisoned the atmosphere around this great spiritual figure, and to “The Lamp,” that is, the author’s hope that this text with its straightforward account of these matters will shed light on and diminish the recurrence of a still-existent problem in some circles on the borders of Tibetan religiosity. Khyentse Yeshe (b. 1970), the son of the author, is the present reincarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Wangchug, his great-uncle.