From the Jacket
Wings of the White Crane are unquestionably the most unusual and sensational of all the books by or about Tibetan Buddhists yet to appear in English. Westerners previously baffled by the strangely esoteric cast of the Tibetan mind will have no difficulty in finding sympathy with the Sixth Dalai Lama, a spiritual "pope" to the Tibetan Buddhists of his time, who poured out his very human heart into these simple, eloquent, often erotic songs of lovers lost and found, and of his inner conflicts as a monk.
This book lets us peer into the heart of a sensitive and religious figure who struggled with the Spirit in a manner not unlike St. Francis of Assisi. Older Tibetans know all these fifty-three poems by memory since all humans everywhere know what the strife of love can bring.
The translation by Dr. G.W. Houston is wonderfully clean and graceful, a clear channel that brings the reader into intimate contact with the 17th century Tibetan author. And, for the historically or esoterically inclined, Dr. Helmut Hoffman offers a fascinating introduction, explaining the sixth Dalai Lama's secret, heretical involvement in Tantric sexual cults and the political circumstances surrounding his tragically early death. Wings of the White Crane thus promises to be the single best-selling original Tibetan text in modern times.
About the Author
G.W. Houston has a Ph.D. in Inner Asian Studies (Tibetan and Mongol) form Indiana University and a M. Div. From the School of Theology, the University of south. He has written numerous articles, reviews and books on religious topics. He is presently a full time United Methodist clergyman and sometime professor at Indian University at Kokomo. He was formerly Professor of Philosophy at Ball State University.
The reason for the title of this book is obvious to those who have studied Tibetan culture. The Sixth Dalai Lama promised his love that he would only go to Lithang and return. And, he prayed, if that be the word, for the wings of the white crane. Instead, he never returned. Whether he was killed by his captors who did not like his religion, or whether he escaped to live his love, no one knows. I like to think that he joined his love.
The style of these Tibetan poems is simple, but tricky, and often humorous. They may or may not all have Tantric meanings. Some obviously do. If these poems were not written by the Sixth Dalai Lama, then we do not know who wrote them. He is remembered as the author by present-day Tibetans. And, it is my sincere hope that these little poems may be enjoyed by reader in the west. Perhaps they will open up Tibet to the western mind as something other than 'strange'.
I would like to acknowledge help given me by Thubten Norbu, the former Abbot of Kumbum, elder brother of the present Dalai Lama and one of my Tibetan teachers and friends. Many interpretations of difficult colloquial expressions are his. Since many consider his brother to be a reincarnation of the author of these poems every shade of meaning was important to establish. He has helped me much.
These poems and the Sixth Dalai Lama remind me of my own religious struggles. I hope they mean something to every reader.
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