An Interview with Glenn H. Mullin, Tibetologist
From the Gobi Dunes to the Top of this World... and Beyond, a Jewel among Men, Glenn.

Glenn lived in the Indian Himalayas between 1972 and 1984, where he studied philosophy, literature, meditation, yoga, and the enlightenment culture under thirty-five of the greatest living masters of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism. His two principal tantric gurus were the late great masters Kyabje Ling Dorjechang and Kyabje Trijang Dorjechang, who were best known as Yongdzin Che Chung, the two main gurus of the present Dalai Lama. The list of Glenn’s other teachers and initiation masters includes the Dalai Lama, Sakya Trizin Rinpoche, Kalu Rinpoche, Ngakpa Yeshe Dorje Rinpoche, Tai Situ Rinpoche, Khenchen Konchok Gyaltsen, Geshe Ngawang Dargyey, Geshey Rabten, and Gongsar Tulku.

Glenn is the author of " twenty-five or so" books on Tibetan Buddhism. Many of these (published by Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca, NY) focus on the lives and works of the early Dalai Lamas. Some of his other titles include Tsongkhapa's Six Yogas of Naropa and The Practice of Kalachakra (Snow Lion); Death and Dying: The Tibetan Tradition (Arkana/Viking Penguin); Mystical Verses of a Mad Dalai Lama (Quest Books); The Mystical Arts of Tibet (Longstreet Press); and The Fourteen Dalai Lamas, as well as The Female Buddhas (Clear Light Books). He has also worked as a field specialist on three Tibet-related films and five television documentaries, and has co-produced five audio recordings of Tibetan sacred music. In 2002 his book The Fourteen Dalai Lamas was nominated for the prestigious NAPRA award for best book, and in 2004 his book The Female Buddhas won a Best Book Award from Foreword Magazine.

As well as leading tour groups to the Buddhist power places of Nepal and Tibet, Glenn acts as consultant and advisor to independent groups wanting to travel safely and meaningfully through these sacred sites.

You can contact Glenn by email at the following address:


TMMS: Could you tell us something about your personal background, and how it was that you began your journey as a Tibetologist, Buddhist writer, translator and meditation teacher?

GLENN: In Buddhism we say that all things are interdependent, and all experiences are born from causes of a similar nature. Karma is a force that ripens and increases lifetime upon lifetime, and we can use this to benefit self and others, or we can fail to understand the process and consequently cause increasing unhappiness for self and others. I had the good fortune that my positive karma from past lives ripened and I was carried into the surging waters of the enlightenment tradition.

In terms of the facilitating conditions of this lifetime, my mother was British and claimed that we were descended from Sir Francis Bacon, who wrote the Shakespeare plays. She always stressed that her children should look for less trodden paths, and for ways to make a contribution to world civilization, rather than make job or career the priorities. I suppose in that sense she was something of a bodhisattva.

Years later, when I wrote from India that I had met the Dalai Lama she replied saying, "Even if you die tomorrow, you have brought a greater honor to this family than could ever have been imagined." She wasn't a Buddhist, but somehow instinctively knew that the Dalai Lama was a great man.

TMMS: In addition to sharing with the world your travels and insights on Tibetan spiritual culture, you also reveal to us the sacred art of the region. Most recently, your "Portals to Shangri-La: Masterpieces from Buddhist Mongolia" made headlines by what was characterized as a collapse in Mongolia's government. Can you elaborate more on the circumstances that nearly thwarted your exhibit?

The great Jampa-la, one of the Dalai Lama's main artists

GLENN: I fell in love with Buddhist art in my youth, and became intimately involved with it in my early days in Dharamsala. Our school there at the Tibetan Library also had a great museum.

In addition, I happened to live across the street from Jampa-la, one of the Dalai Lama's main artists. He also was the only art master in Dharamsala who accepted Western disciples. Because I lived across the street from him, I was asked to come over and translate several times a week for visiting students. Generally he would give them a task, supervise them at it for a few hours, and them send them away to work on it themselves for a few weeks.

I was able to learn a lot from these sessions. Of course many of those students knew a lot on art history, identification, cross fertilization of influences through the Silk Road, the anthropology of pigments, and many subjects that Tibetan painters rarely think of, so in a sense I learned almost as much from them as I did from him. That said, he really did embody the enlightenment qualities of a master artist as well as anyone I have ever met before or since. He was an exceptional man and teacher.

Later the Tibetan Library director had me do a few projects with their museum. Again, these were great learning experiences. After that I became involved with Tibet House in New Delhi, which has perhaps the best Tibetan collection in India. One of my gurus, Venerable Doboom Tulku, is its director, and he kept throwing art projects my way. One of them was curatorial. He asked me to create an exhibit, "The Art of Compassion," to tour Europe, and to write a catalog for it. That was my first curatorial experience.

When I came back to North America in the late 1980s I mostly did lecture tours and meditation workshops around the States and Canada. I was often asked to visit a local museum and help identify any Asian Buddhist art that they had. Often the museum had no knowledge of their Central Asian holding at all, other than the record of the kindly soul or souls who had left them the collection. This was exciting for me because it put me in touch with the Asian art scholars associated with the specific museum. Of course nobody had experts on Tibetan or Mongolian art; usually the emphasis was either China or Japan. These visits were fun, because I learned from them and they from me. I was also invited on numerous occasions to advise their curators on how to hang and show some of the pieces, and this was a great honor.

At that time very little serious work had been done on Central Asian Buddhist art. The field was very embryonic. Probably the best work had been done by the Newark Museum in New Jersey and the Tibet Museum on Staten Island. Again, of course, twenty years later this landscape has completely changed. People like David Jackson, Andy Weber, Robert Baer, Jeff Watt, Valrai Reynolds, Marylin Rhie and others have accomplished centuries of great work in two short decades.

OUMA Director Prof. Lloyd Nick with the two Mongol yoginis Khijiidma and Soyolma at "Portals to Shangri-La Exhibit."

Then in 1994 I was asked by Lloyd Nick of Oglethorpe University Museum in Atlanta and Geshey Lobsang Tenzin Negi of Emory to curate an exhibit from the Dalai Lama's personal favorites for an exhibit in honor of the 1996 Summer Olympics, and also to write an accompanying reader.

Also between 1986 and 1994 I brought over a half dozen groups of Tibetan lamas to tour North America and Europe to perform sacred music and dance. Museums often hosted us, and of course the curators were always anxious to get the lamas into the basement to look at their stuff. Tibetan lamas generally have no art training, and only recognize what is in a painting if the subject is connected to their personal practices. And of course they have no talents for dating, identifying schools of art, or any of the other usual skills associated with the art world. Nonetheless some gems would occasionally turn up.

This connection with Lloyd Nick and Oglethorpe Museum proved significant. A year or so later the university learned that Don Rubin, one of their graduates from the class of 1956, had become North America's biggest collector of Central Asian Buddhist art. Somehow they had mysteriously been sending the alumnus mail to the wrong Don Rubin for some forty years, and just learned of their mistake when this second Don Rubin wrote and told them he didn't know why he was on their mailing list, but anyway he liked the looks of their school and planned to send his granddaughter there.

Curiously, I had known the art collector Don Rubin earlier, but had no reason to associate him with Oglethorpe. Moke Moketoff, a Buddhist art enthusiast friend of mine in New York had been working on a website funded by Don and his wife Shelley, called the Himalayan Art Project. The site hoped to get all the large institutional and private collections in the world to post images of their pieces, for free use by scholars and art researchers.

TMMS: This site is really an amazing breakthrough for Central Asian art.

Glenn: Yes, and will lift the field from obscurity to the heights it deserves. Generally I do teaching tours for several months each year, and a few years ago my tour brought me to Mongolia at the invitation of The Young Buddhist Club of Mongolia. Young Asians often like to hear Buddhism from Westerners, to get a modern perspective on it. Don Rubin suggested that I try to get some of the museums to participate in the website project.

This indeed came to pass, and we managed to get several hundred great paintings from the Zanabazar National Fine Arts Museum on the site (Collection of Zanabazar and "Jatakamala: Garland of Stories"). Later Don and Shelley also funded us to help the Zanabazar Museum build their own website ( and also The idea was that this would act as a vehicle to carry them into the modern world of international museum culture.

With Mongolian President Enkhbayr

During this work the museum director, a wonderful man by the name of Batdorj Damdensuren, lamented that Europe and Japan were hosting exhibits in 2006 in honor of the 800th anniversary of Mongolian modern statehood, but nothing was happening in America. He suggested I look into the possibility of the Zanabazar Museum sending over a traveling exhibit.

Over the next year I came and went from Mongolia four times, spending a couple of months each time to get this exhibit together. The 77 year old curator Khaidav Mijidiin worked furiously with me on it.

Unfortunately the growing instability of the Mongolian government brought us numerous problems. In particular, some of the mid-level bureaucrats saw the situation as an opportunity to try and force us to change several of the conditions in the loan agreement. This had been established a year earlier, so changing anything at such a late date was not a very attractive idea.

Anyway, we re-negotiated, and it seemed that everything had been settled amicably. But then a few days later the government collapsed. The next morning I had a call from the woman at the Cultural Ministry saying that we would have to postpone the planned Feb 12th opening until things settled down.

I banged out an email to Don Rubin. He replied instantly, and asked me to call him. I did, and stated that I felt delaying the opening was unfair to Lloyd Nick and the OUMA museum in Atlanta, who had put tremendous effort into the show. Moreover, the exhibit was all part of a grand Atlanta Mongolia fest, with Emory University and Georgia Tech having major programs in coordination with our exhibit. Thus delaying or canceling would be a major headache for everyone.

I also mentioned that there was no specific timeline on the delays, because it all depended on whom would be appointed as the new Culture Minister and what his attitude would be.  I felt it was better to look at American collections, and call on the powers of magic and American ingenuity to make it all happen.

Don laughed and said, "Glenn, we're taking down three shows and putting up two over the next weeks at our museum, so we are really strapped. But let's give it a try."

Don personally called around to the big collectors, and also agreed to have anything from his personal collection made available if it was not already contracted to another exhibition somewhere around the world.

Everything worked like magic, I must say. In ten days we had an amazing show ready to fly. We ran into a bit of a hitch with finding proper shipping from the participating New York collectors, because all the trucks were booked within out tight timeline. Again Don made a few calls and somehow was able to do the impossible.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter Among Friends
Khachupa Kuntu Zangpo and Lama Baasan

We sent over two great lamas for the opening, Baasan Lama and Kuntu Zangpo. The former was the main chantmaster from 1979 to 1989 in Ganden, the main monastery in the country. The latter lama is the best trained teacher in the country, and is the personal translator for the Dalai Lama on his public teachings Mongolia. President Jimmy Carter arrived back in Atlanta a day or two after the opening, and invited both lamas to a formal power breakfast in the Carter Center, with the heads of all his Carter Center Projects for Democracy.

A month later we sent over two Mongolian yoginis to lead chanting and meditation sessions in the museum. They also were very well received. The next in the list to go over is the Zanabazar Museum director. He'll be bringing a couple of dinosaur eggs, to give the buddhas and bodhisattvas a run for top billing on the publicity circuit. Lufthansa has kindly sponsored all these various activities, which has been a blessing.

The show has been very well received by the public and has had great reviews. And probably the actual artwork is better than what we could have brought from Mongolia. So much was destroyed over here during the seven decades of the Soviet occupation. All but two or three of their 1,000 monasteries and temples were razed to the ground and the artwork burned or otherwise destroyed. Some was hidden, of course, but the repositories are small compared to the Western collections.

Batdorj Damdensuren — Director National Fine Arts Museum

Batdorj is one of Mongolia's most honored, respected and prolific artists. As well as creating hundreds of his own masterpieces, over the years he has helped organize over 350 art exhibitions in museums and galleries around the country. He has also designed, created and installed numerous public art works under the sponsorship of the National Cultural Ministry, including sculptures, historical commemoratives, sacred mountain peak monuments, and more.

Batdorj graduated from the Fine Arts Department of the Mongolian College of Art, Music and Dance in 1972, and went on to do post graduate studies at the Strogonov Art Academy in Moscow. Thereafter he worked as head artist for the Mongolian Tsergii Museum, and during this period led a team of painters in creating landscapes, portraits and other art forms. Many of these works became recognized as masterpieces, and are kept today in museums around the country.

The mid-eighties saw a surge of artistic liberalization in Mongolia, and his talents as master artist were recognized.  For the next decade he interspersed his own painting work and his responsibilities as head artist of a large team of painters with contract work for designing newly created museums around the country, as well as installing their first exhibitions.

In 2001 Batdorj was appointed to the prestigious position of Director of the Mongolia National Fine Arts Museum, popularly known as the Zanabazar Museum, which is the most important institution in the country for the collection, preservation and exhibition of the nation's traditional Buddhist art.

While fulfilling this responsibility he has continued to produce his own artworks, as well as assist other artists and art institutions with their individual projects.


Nonetheless I still have a tinge of sadness that we couldn't get over our Zanabazar Museum exhibit. A serious problem these days is that a lot of Mongolian Buddhist art is being taken to China and Hong Hong, where it is sold as Tibetan. Tibetan art brings four or five times what Mongolian art does, because of the popularity of Tibet and the Dalai Lama.

This practice of purposely misrepresenting the source of the art in order to gain a greater profit is very disconcerting. It could have a devastating effect on how art history is written.

I would say that as much as 25 % of all art sold as Tibetan in the last fifteen years is in fact Mongolian. And of course once a Mongolian painting is published in an art book and described as Tibetan, all pieces with the same characteristics that surface in future will be similarly misidentified in exhibitions and publications.

Glenn and Wrestler Champs

TMMS: Setting the record straight is the very reason we have an on-line exhibit. In addition to offering a showcase for museums to sample their collections for our readers, we also seek out misidentified art, purchase it if need be to obtain rights, then re-post it correctly captioned. But, getting back to the OUMA exhibit, the generous loan of artwork by Donald and Shelley Rubin was not the first time you worked with them. Can you tell us about your past efforts to assist with their museum?

GLENN: As I mentioned above, I had originally connected with them through Moke Moketoff in New York. Then when Oglethorpe discovered that they had been writing to the wrong Don Rubin for forty years and that the right Don was an art collector, they asked him to create an exhibit for the OUMA Museum. Because I had previously done two Tibet shows for OUMA, Lloyd invited me to curate it and to write the accompanying reader. I chose "The Female Buddhas" as the theme. The accompanying book won a Best Book award from Foreword magazine.  

Don and Shelley liked both the show and the book, and asked me to do another. This time I chose "The Flying Mystics in Tibetan Buddhism." The show and the book are a look at the history of Buddhist flight through the powers of meditation. Serindia in Chicago did the book. The exhibit opened in New York on March 31st, I believe. The premiere had been in Atlanta a year or so ago.

TMMS: Some time after that exhibit opened, you were quoted as saying, "Paranormal abilities of this nature are considered secondary to the primary goal of Tantric Buddhism, which is the inner realization of mahamudra." Can you further explain the complexities of such philosophical realizations?

Take to the Sky: FLYING MYSTICS in Himalayan Art

GLENN: Some of the curators at the Rubin Museum had argued against the "Flying Mystics" theme, because usually the flyers are shown as small vignettes in the background of a painting, as opposed to the central image. To me this is part of the charm of the exhibit, and not a flaw in it.

Buddhism always stresses inner accomplishment over external show. Thus in both Buddhist art and literature the performance of miraculous demonstrations is given a back seat to the inner miracle of enlightenment, which in tantra is called mahamudra.

That said, Buddhist sages throughout the centuries have stepped out and spread their wings a bit from time to time. Buddha flew on numerous occasions, as did his two main disciples Shariputra and Maudgalyayana, as well as numerous members of the Sixteen Arhats. Then there was Nagarjuna, who seemed strained to keep his feet on the ground; and Asanga, who flew on a regular basis after his twelve year retreat. Shantideva continued the tradition by levitating out a window and disappearing in front of five hundred gaping monks.

Tibet, Bhutan and Mongolia very much continued the tradition, with Padma Sambhava, Yeshey Tsogyal, Namkha Nyingpo, Marpa, Milarepa, Machik Labdon and so forth.

Flying has always been big with the Mongolians. Back in the eleventh century, when the female mystic Machik Labdon was making waves in Tibet and the stories of a beautiful woman meditating naked in the snow mountains filtered down to India, the Nalanda abbot decided to send two monks to test the validity of her enlightenment. The only Nalanda monks who could fly were two Mongols, so he sent them. Paintings of Machik often have depict one or both of these flying Mongols somewhere in the upper corners of the canvas.

TMMS: I understand that you have studied philosophy, literature, meditation, yoga, and other such matters of enlightenment under thirty-five masters of Tibetan Buddhism. Is it possible to share with us who may have been your most influential mentor?

GLENN: I felt a deep connection to Buddhist literature from my childhood. I grew up in a small town in French Canada, but my mother always kept an international library. Her books on Asian spiritual culture fascinated me. Her dad had been a major in the British army in India, and she deeply loved all things Asian.

As a young man I moved to London, and while there I heard that the Dalai Lama was opening a Buddhist school in Dharamsala for Western students. I packed my bags and went.

Over the fifteen years to follow I studied with some thirty-five lamas from all the four great sects of Tibetan Buddhism. Probably a quarter of them were from Mongolian regions, and had been training in the monasteries in Tibet when the Chinese take-over occurred.  Because Mongolia had already fallen to Communism, the fled into exile in India with the Tibetans

Kyabje Yongdzin Ling Dorjechang

Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang

I suppose the most impressive masters in my early days of Buddhist training were Kyabje Ling Rinpoche and Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang, the two gurus of the Dalai Lama. They were the sun and moon of the Yellow School in India. All of us in those days received most of our major Tantric initiations from them. When they died in the early 1980s, the light of the world went markedly dim, and still has not come back to its full radiance. 

Of course they were very old by then and did not do the work of the daily instructions. The Dalai Lama had appointed two great gesheys to teach to do this: Geshey Dargyey and Geshey Rabten. The enlightenment tradition shone in both of these men with an amazing clarity. They gave us our line-by-line readings of all the principal Indian Buddhist treatises, unpacking the meanings and bringing the texts into living experience. Lama Yeshey and Lama Zopa also came to Dharamsala twice a year in those days, and their main guru, Kyabje Trijang Rinpochey always pressed them into teaching us when they were there. Lama Yeshe had the most powerful public persona of anyone I ever met. It was hard to look at him without feeling like you were in the center of an earthquake.

Lamas of all schools came to Dharamsala to meet with the Dalai Lama, and he always had them give initiations and teach for a few days. Thus we were able to receive teachings and initiations from the heads of all the schools: Sakya Trizin, Karmapa, Dilgo Khyentsey, Drigung Chetsang, and many more. In addition, every winter we would all go down to Bodh Gaya or Sarnath, where lamas from all schools would come to escape the snows of the mountains. Naturally while there they would give teaching and initiations. I especially appreciate the links I established on those occasions with Kalu Rinpoche, Tai Situ Rinpoche, and Beru Khyentsey Rinpochey, all of whom represent the Karma Kargyu tradition.

During my Dharamsala days I developed a very strong relationship with the Nyingma lama Ngakpa Yeshey Dorje and his consort, Jetsunma Tenzin Dolkar. Both of them are wonderful examples of Buddhist practice and dedication. Their influence on my life has been very rewarding. In addition, I loved to go to Tashi Jong, where the great Khamtrul Rinpochey used to teach and give initiations. This great master really embodied the full range of realizations of the Drukpa Kargyu lineage.

After Kyabje Ling Rinpoche and Trijang Dorje Chang passed away I met the great Mongolian lama Lharam Geshey Sengey. From that time onward I mainly relied upon him and Denma Lobchu Rinpochey, the main Dharma Heir of both Kyabje Ling Rinpochey and Kyabjey Trijang Dorjey Chang.

Of course throughout all these years the Dalai Lama gave numerous teachings and initiations on an annual basis. Some years we would receive five or six hours of teachings from him a day for a month or more at a time. These were always very exciting and rewarding intensives. He usually taught for a few weeks in both spring and autumn, and then in mid-winter would do a few more weeks in somewhere warm, either Bodh Gaya or South India. The smaller events in his private temple in Dharamsala - not Namgyal but inside his residence -- were especially engaging.

He usually gave one of these once a year to a select monastery. Other than that monastery only gesheys and tulkus were allowed to attend. In the mid-1970s I petitioned him directly and pointed out that this policy of qualifications for attendance was not fair and was in fact somewhat racist, because it automatically excluded all of us Westerners; no Westerner had been allowed to sit for a geshey exam at that time, nor had any been recognized as a tulku.

The Dalai Lama visits the OUMA exhibit, "Mystical Arts of Tibet," which was created in honor of the 1996 Summer Olympics.

The Dalai Lama laughed and replied, "Then I guess we'll have to open the sessions to any Westerner who can speak Tibetan and who has received the appropriate initiations." From that year onward a half dozen or so of us attended.

TMMS: Can you tell us about your personal relationship as a disciple of HH the Dalai Lama?

GLENN: The Dalai Lama was sort of like a godfather or big brother to all of us in Dharamsala. He established the training program for Westerners, appointed the lamas who were to teach us, chose what Indian texts and what Tibetan commentaries would be used, and oversaw the entire process. He even asked his own gurus to give us our initiations, and of course all visiting lamas from all schools of Buddhism were roped in. He watched over us like a captain over his ship.

Many of the older and more conservative members of the Tibetan community resented having their spiritual culture made available to us like this, but he always stood up to them for us. He even used his influence with the Indian government to see that we were all given good visas for the extent of our stay.

On a personal level I certainly received my fair share of blessings from him. In general Tibetans always treat writers well, and Dharma translators are granted something of a lama status. At least they were in the early days, when there were so few of us. Moreover, because in the early days the bulk of my research and writing was on the lives and works of the early Dalai Lamas - maybe my first dozen books or so - it created something of a unique link. 

The Dalai Lama was always very kind to all of us during those days of training in Dharamsala. He really did live up to the mythology of Chenrezig, the Buddha of Compassion. No doubt his kindness for all of us continues to flow ever onward on unseen levels from afar.

I had a letter the other day from Alan Wallace. I hadn't heard from him in years, and it brought back mental snapshots of that first class of 1972 in Dharamsala: Alan Wallace, Steve Batchelor, Alex Berxin, Jon Landau, Ruth Sonam, Brian Beresford, and of course myself. Everyone on that list has published over a dozen books on the enlightenment culture. Some have published two or three dozen. We all owe everything we learned to the Dalai Lama. There is no doubt about that.

As for me being a disciple, probably "devotee" is a better word. I love, admire and respect him very much. But the Dalai Lama is too big a figure on the world stage, and in terms of vision and enlightenment activity, to be weighed down by such a small concept as having me as disciple. I'm more like the cat that looks at the king, or in this case the Buddha.

I should also note, because you said HH the Dalai Lama, that I grew up as an Irish Protestant, and dislike these ostentatious honorifics that Tibetans have adopted from the Catholics. I find titles like "His Holiness" and "His Eminence" extremely distasteful and inappropriate. These days Dharma centers seems to add "His Holiness" as a prefix to the name of every visiting lama with a few dozen admirers.

The original Tibetan names for the Dalai Lama are so much better : Yishin Norbu, or "Wishfulfilling Gem"; Gyalwa Rinpochey, or "Precious Master"; and Kundun, or "Sublime Presence." Even the Mongolian translation of his ordination name "Gyatso," or "Oceanic," which in Mongolian became "Dalai," has a nice ring to it.

It is unfortunate that somehow the Tibetans looked to the Catholics for their translations of these charming and delightful epithets, and came up with such insipid and uninspiring proxies.

From his book, "The Fourteen Dalai Lamas: A Sacred Legacy of Reincarnation."

TMMS: I understand how the cat before the king must have felt -- feeling that way now. I understood that "His Holiness" was a western twist and quite honestly, we were not exactly sure if it was proper to use here, so I visited your web site and under the profile page, there was a marvelous photograph of you escorting the Dalai Lama. The caption read, "Glenn with HH the Dalai Lama," so I respectfully followed suit. This actually brings to light a rather wonderful phenomenon that I have noticed occurring frequently as we establish the Society. Sometimes by design we plan and execute well, other times we, well, sort of blunder our way into something much greater than we ever expected. I believe that has occurred here with HH and we can all greatly benefit from knowing your feelings about this. Have you, before now, publicly voiced your opinion on the subject of the Catholic influence in Tibet?

GLENN:  Friends put up that website for me, so I can't take much credit or blame. I think they just lifted the photo and caption from the back of one of my books, The Fourteen Dalai Lamas: A Sacred Legacy of Reincarnation. The publishers ran it like that without my seeing it. I rarely get to see or pre-approve such matters with my publishers. The photo was taken by Marcia Keegan, who uses HH in her conversations and publications. Anyway, there is freedom of speech in America, so people have the right to do so. I nonetheless find the Catholicisms distasteful.

I'm not sure when the Tibetans began to adopt them. Probably in the 1960s, I presume, after coming into exile. One doesn't see it in books or articles prior to that time. They might have indirectly picked it up from the Indians. Some Hindu swamis use it, I guess to send Christians the message that they are equal to the Pope. Of course to me that's not a compliment, but there you go. Hindu also might have done it to irritate the British, who in India were Anglican Protestant.

TMMS: Your background knowledge is remarkable. I wonder, having lived in the Indian Himalayas from 1972 to 1984, and having spent much of your time since then living in, or else writing about the greater region, what would you say over the years has most significantly changed in the landscape and in the Buddhist population at large?

GLENN: Certainly the growth of Tibetan Buddhism in the West is remarkable. There were no study or practice centers in America or Europe of any significance whatsoever when the Tibetans fled into India in 1959. There now are almost a thousand on each side of the pond, with many being remarkably active. Similarly, at that time there were almost no authoritative books on Tibetan Buddhism, nor translations of Tibetan classics, whereas now there are well over a thousand. For example, there was not a single translation of any major work of any of the early Dalai Lamas when I began my work, even though those Dalai Lamas were amazingly prolific and popular writers in Central Asia, with an audience of tens of millions.

It is wonderful to see how the lamas have risen to the occasion. They really did take baby steps in the early days of teaching Westerners. Everyone is far more open and efficient now.


"The Olympics in China offers the Tibetans another golden oportunity and an open door. Perhaps they will be wise and open enough to take it. Of course the situation in Tibet is much worse now that two decades ago, when they had their first chance at a solution. But better late than never."

There have been disappointments, of course. I think we all expected the Tibet situation to turn out better than it has. And the Tibetans had their chance back in the 1980s. But they failed to see the great opportunities of the moment, tucked away as they were in remote village situations in India, and the opportunity came and went. I think that by then the Tibetan government in Dharamsala had spent twenty-five years in an ideological struggle, with almost none of them knowing English, Hindi or Chinese. They had lost touch with the real dynamics of the confrontation, and become locked in a struggle with imaginary issues. They failed altogether to see what lay on the table before them.

I had an audience with the Dalai Lama at that time, maybe 1985 or 86. I suggested to him that he immediately and unconditionally return to Tibet and set up an apparatus to run for chairmanship of China. In those days the Chinese press always criticized him, and that made him the most popular man in the country. The propaganda machine and its steady stream of falsehoods for the fifteen years of the Cultural Revolution had people believing the opposite of whatever was said in the public media.

Of course this is no longer the case. People in China today pretty well accept whatever the media tells them. Thus today it is rare to meet a Chinese person who respects the Dalai Lama. Anyway, on the bright side, they all love the Panchen Lama and those lamas who have worked inside of Tibet and China over the past twenty years to rebuild the culture.

It is interesting to see how strong Tibetan Buddhism has become throughout China these days. There are small study and practice centers almost everywhere in the country. Some have become explosively huge, like Khenpo Jigmey Puntsok's place in Kham, which always has well over 10,000 full time students and trainees in residence.

Glenn & Batbold

TMMS: What advice would you offer Mongolians, or for that matter, any individual seeking a greater understanding of meditation and the enlightened lifestyle?

GLENN: Study well and practice consistently. And of course read all twenty-five or so of my books.

TMMS: Will do! Now, if I may ask somewhat of a loaded question, what advice can you offer our group as it sets out to form an alliance of those in appreciation of Buddhist art and culture?

GLENN: Don't forget to bring along the vodkha.

TMMS: Laughter. Well, maybe when my charming wife and I return to Mongolia in early June, we could share some vodka with you, maybe a silver cup or two?

GLENN: I have a Tibet trip to Lhasa and the sacred caves of Mt. Everest in June. But I'll be back in Mongolia in mid-July. Sounds like a date.

June 2006: Pilgrimage to Tibet (June 2nd - 17th) • June 2006: Lhasa, Everest and Beyond (June 24th - July 11th)

Pilgrimage to Tibet

Lynne Wiggins invites you to travel with her on two week journey to Tibet. We will be joined by our special internationally renowned Tibetologist and teacher of Tantric Buddhist meditation, Glenn Mullin. The focus of our trip will be a pilgrimage and a cultural insight. Our trip will begin in Xining, the birthplace of Je Tsongkhapa, and then we fly to Lhasa. During our five days in Lhasa, we will visit the Jokhang, the Barkhor, the Potala Palance and the Sera and Drepung Monasteries. We will also make outings to the great places of the region; Reting and Pha Bong Kha where we will have the opportunity to follow the pilgrims trail on foot and to meditate in caves where Great Tibetan Buddhist masters have lived for many years. After this we will drive to Gyantse via the Turquoise Lake, continuing to Shigatse, the second largest city of Tibet and home to Tashilunpo Monastery, the seat of the Panchen Lama. We end our pilgrimage in Tsedang visiting the sites in the Yarlung Valley including Samye, the first monastery of Tibet. Click here for details.

Lhasa, Everest and Beyond

This more comfortable undertaking is for the young at heart yet camping-averse. We stay in hotels throughout, including on the north face of Everest.

The tour will fly into Tibet, and we will drive to Tsetang for a few days acclimatization to the altitude, visiting the fabulous Yambhu Lagang and Dradruk Temples. After this we spend four days in Lhasa, visiting the Potala AND Jokhang, as well making day trips to nearby power sites, such as Terdrom and Reting.

We then drive to Gyangtse, Shigatse and Everest. On Everest we will meditate in the Guru Rinpoche Cave, drink water from Yeshe Tsogyal's sacred spring, and much much more. Click here for itinerary.

Official site of Glenn H. Mullin— Photographs © 2006

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