Sexuality, Magic, and Politics in Tibetan Buddhism





Readers Comment

Critical Links to Buddhism and Lamaism

A must read for everyone.


This is Victor and Victoria Trimondi's groundbreaking book The Shadow of the Dalai Lama - Sexuality, Magic and Politics in Tibetan Buddhism (2003) which exposes in detail the cultic background of Tibetan Buddhism and its clerical leader, the Dalai Lama. In this original work of analysis, interpretation and critique, the authors not only provide surprising, previously largely ignored factual information but also undertake a philosophically well-grounded interpretation of Lamaism, rendering the Tibetan-Buddhist worldview understandable for Western readers through a comparison with European religious traditions. V. and V. Trimondi have succeeded in combining history, politics, religion and psychology in an impressive cultural-historical presentation. They have paid particular attention to rendering Tibetan culture understandable to “laypeople” who have not dealt with it before. This study measures up to all the criteria of a classic reference text and could well be described as a seminal work on the topic. Despite numerous initial calls for a boycott by the pro-Lamaist wing, the book has led to a fierce, ever-expanding discussion, and has in the meantime become a standard work on the critical examination of Lamaism and the metapolitics of the Dalai Lama. Politicians, journalists, artists, theologians - no one who deals with the Dalai Lama and his religion will be able to ignore the facts and arguments in this sensational yet sound study, today representing a standard critique of Tibetan Buddhism. Find out all about the cult of the "charismatic" Dalai Lama and how does he magically enchant millions of believers all over the world to follow him blindly.

 BBC-News - What books would you pass on to the next generation?


Comment Nr. 141: Here are a few good books that should be passed on Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World, Animal Farm, 1984, None Dare call it Conspiracy, Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand) and The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama. Get it?" If you like these great books, try getting hold of a copy of 'The Shadow of the Dalai Lama (Victor & Victoria Trimondi) A tremendously interesting read for those wishing to have their beliefs challenged!


Pathological submission does lead to spiritual abuse!


So well put by the fellow reviewer! My father, a Korean Buddhist, was a Professor of Eastern Philosophy up until the mid 1970's when he quit to direct the college library instead. His frustration stemmed from what he saw as a terminal lack of criticality in his Western students, a stubborn romantic need to whole-heartedly buy into the charms of Eastern mysticism. He was raised in a Japanese Zen military school system, and he wanted to write and to explore the exploitation of Buddhism for political gain --alas, Ram Das and Ginsberg and Chogyam Trungpa were the "cool" brands that the scholarly market bought-up. No one wanted to have his or her fantasy of eden/heaven/nirvana/shambhala/ (….) questioned. I'm so happy for this book, which I am sending to my father, who now, at 80 years old, might be relieved to find Western critical thought being applied where Western counter-culture's pathological submission to "cool" was worked before.


A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes


Thank you very much for this book. It is critical and thoroughly researched. It unravels one of the biggest deceptions the world has experienced in its recent history. The West thirst for spirituality has one again encountered an “alien” religion, which is full of violence and deeply intertwined with the state and nasty power struggles, yet carefully concealed with charm, smile and narcissism to the “other”. The end goal of Tibetan Buddhism seems to conquer the world with violence in the pretext of mythical Shangri-la by seeding deep inclination toward religious fundamentalism. No wonder there is a Nazi connection with this deceptively calculated and violent religion! It has once again confirmed my suspicion that the Western World has misunderstood “this man of peace”—The Dalai Lama.


This book is an essential reader. A practical message of this book is that take a deep breath and get prepared for psychological control and deceit before you enter into the spiritual, ethical and political realm of this seemingly gentle, warm and innocent religion.  Wow! What a profound deception.


A standard critique of  Tibetan Buddhism


Politicians, journalists, artists, theologians — no one who deals with the Dalai Lama and his religion will be able to ignore the facts and arguments in this sensational yet sound study. It is a standard critique of Tibetan Buddhism. The subject areas encompassed by V. and V. Trimondi’s book, which also reveal potential target audiences, include the history of culture and religion, cross-cultural comparison, comparative religious studies, philosophy, political theory, international politics, state theory, inter-religious dialogue, the sociology of religion, Buddhism, fascism, anarchism, ecological studies, feminism, gender studies, postmodernism, ethics, occultism, esotericism , mysticism, ritualism, mythology, magic, Oriental studies, history, anthropology, psychology, sexual theory, and consciousness studies.

A Firecracker


I was raised, and to some extent remain, a Buddhist. I admire both Tibetan Buddhism, generally, and the Dalai Lama specifically. Nevertheless, I found this book fascinating and absolutely essential reading.


On one level, this is just a jaw-dropping, sensational page-turner. I read the whole book in one sitting, and repeatedly had to call my wife into the room to tell her about one aspect of the book or another.


On another level it is a deeply important text. Too often, in approaching Eastern wisdom traditions, Westerners "check" their individuality "at the door," in pathological submission to the guru or lama. Too often, this leads to an abusive/exploitative spiritual relationship (e.g Osel Tenzin, Adi Da). This potential has been noted by many commentators, but the extent to which it is a tendency latent in Tibetan Buddhism has never been explored in the West. The authors of this book make the case that it is a danger inherent in Vajrayana properly understood - it is not a misinterpretation. I am tempted to compare this book to "Darkness at Noon," Arthur Koestler's classic re-appraisal of Communism, from the perspective of a former devotee. But, rather than heralding the end of an ideology, this book represents the beginning of a cultural watershed: the critical appropriation of Buddhism in a uniquely Western incarnation. If dharma is the East's cultural gift to the West, the sort of scepticism that infuses this book is the West's gift to the East. As Einstein said: "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."


Most importantly, reading this book was, for me, a spiritual experience. The one thing I had never questioned in my life was the essential goodness and correctness of Buddhist dharma. It was the last fixed point of belief in my world. This book cast even that in doubt, leaving me in a wonderful state of spiritual detachment. This was itself enlightening. As the Zen proverb says: "If you meet Buddha on the road, kill him." This book does just that. And I think Gautama Buddha would have approved.

(An English translation of this book is -as far as I can tell- not yet available in print, but several Internet sites have the full text. Google and enjoy.)


An In Depth Critical Analysis of Tibetan Spiritual Culture


The authors have gone through several phases mentioned in their online autobiographies. This book is a product of the "Culture Critical" phase where the different spiritual, political, and social (as an interrelated set) cultures are critically evaluated. One aspect of their analysis is to see how the social institutions apply the philosophical or theological ideas which form the culture and to see if those ideas and they are applied honour woman, promote egalitarian and democratic ways of interacting, and offer perspectives that help humans grow further through the challenges of our time period.

The book looks at Tibetan Buddhism and the spiritual views that deify the Dalai Lama. They provide in depth view of the Kalachakra teachings and quote a vast array of writings about Buddhism from many sources. The number of references at the basis of their research and analysis is very impressive and large. They point out some themes that have been overlooked in the mystique built up around Tibetan Buddhism in the west. They show the apocalyptic side of the Kalachakra teachings and how it is filled with violence images and has final clash between believers and nonbelievers, how females are symbolically sacrificed in Tantric rituals, and how certain visualizations seem to hypnotically make the Lama into an authoritative deity in the mind of the students.

While perhaps many of these teachings and images can be interpreted in different ways, I feel the authors raise important questions and require us to take a critical look at what we might be buying into when we accept the Tibetan Buddhist worldview. It may be at the expense of certain hard won values that were gained in western civilization through a long historical road, many revolutions, and a lot of philosophical questioning. The authors give enough information and quotes for us to make up our own minds about some of these issues. Whether or not we agree with the authors, I feel the issues that they raise are important for us to consider.


As a practicing Buddhist, I do not feel that the authors represent an antibuddhist propaganda but a serious questioning into what Tibetan Buddhism may be offering to us. The Buddha himself in his final words admonished people to question everything and to not believe something merely because of authority, heresy, and tradition but to thoroughly question everything and only hold on to what makes sense in your own reason and experience. I feel a healthy Buddhism invites this kind of critical questioning and such questioning is therefore honouring of the kind of philosophical, ethical, and psychological integrity that keeps any religion healthy and growing. Such inquiry, to me, is therefore highly respectful. It shows in the enormous research that the authors did in order to create this book. I found a lot in the book that helped clarify things that helped my meditation go deeper and become truer to my actual experience.

Carry on your good work!


Sincere thanks!, and carry on your often lucid, outstanding, highly interesting and truly educative work! Your website provides a wealth of information on Tibetan Buddhism! Considering myself a friend of Bhutan and Tibet and their peoples, and although I think that - just one example - the title of your book "Hitler, Buddha, Krishna - an unholy alliance", in stark contrast to the clarity and even brilliance of much of your writing, is unspeakably stupid, as it implies that Buddha and Krishna were allies of Hitler, and in spite of the fact that I disagree with you on many other points, I am nonetheless agreeing with you on just as many and am convinced that the issues you address absolutely must be discussed more widely and more openly.

Intelligent, well-researched, unafraid criticism and open, courageous and honest, truthful debate of the mysogynic, apocalyptic, messianic, theo- respectively buddhocratic, fascistoid, romanticising, megalomaniac, psychopathic delusions, either associated with or, worse even, to a greater or lesser extent, intrinsic part of ALL!!! the world's religions, will hopefully promote views which support life and happiness and all that which is truly relevant and essential of their teachings and also of the cherished and hard fought for values and results of the European Enlightenment and
modern rationalism!

Let me mention here, however, for those readers who may not be aware of  this, and who, after a superficial look, may take your writing as a general condemnation of Buddhism, that the historical Buddha, to my humble knowledge, at no time ever encouraged or demanded worship, rituals, sorcery or magic of any kind whatsoever, nor allowed his followers or himself to have any possessions other than what was required for their bare survival, nor performed any miracles or demonstrated any signs of omnipotence, nor talked about or named what is imperceptible and inconceivable other than by its manifestations for us common humans, apart from the workings of karma and reincarnation. (How difficult it is for the human mind to live without an image of the Absolute, is shown by the introduction of omnipotent beings in the form of the Primordial Buddhas and the "deification" of Emptiness during the consecutive evolution of Buddhism, after the historical Buddha's death.) Hence, to me, the teachings of the historical Buddha, of all I know, and - considering that Jesus unfortunately appears to have spoken mainly in metaphors, unfortunately taken literally by many devout Christians, but most often not immediately understandable to the uninitiated - to be those which are the most clear, comprehensive, rational and practical. That the Buddha appeared to have been of a somewhat averse inclination towards sex and women, was probably grounded in his conviction that women are for most (heterosexual) men the strongest fetter of attachment, which I personally believe to be quite so, although I don't consider it a problem, or if it should really be one then it certainly is a beautiful one. But disregard or hatred, or even abuse - which are all in stark contrast to the Buddha's prudence (!) -  of what, as men, we desire most, and hence may feel, whether consciously or not, most dependant of!, of women, certainly is an immense problem - it is a sacrilege against life itself.


I used to be convinced since 1991, when I had the opportunity to first visit Cameroon, that Tibetan Buddhism with its integrative approach would be much better for Africa than Christianity or Islam. I'm not so sure anymore now, but I still tend to think so.

However, to my humble knowledge and limited experience, Tibetans generally certainly are not a people of overly morbid inclination, and women in their various societies, by all comparable standards, could and can certainly stand their ground next to the men. Let us consider also that Tibetans are no more and no less materialistic than we all are, and that most of their magical efforts, just as ours were when magical thinking was more prevalent in our culture, are directed at materialistic results: health, wealth, happiness!

Finally, I must say that I have a very, very, very high respect and regard for H.H. the Dalai Lama (and also for other Tibetan monks), who, wrought from his family as a little boy, caught up in the midst of so many, very often conflicting human, social, traditional and cultural, religious, economical, political and spiritual interests, expectations and demands, has consistently maintained such an enlightening, radiating, magnificent, wholesome, integrating, inspiring and tireless presence, and who has undoubtedly and amazingly achieved so much for his people! Yet I believe also that nobody is perfect, all other eventual claims, serious or not, notwithstanding. He himself, if I am not mistaken, roughly quoted, said once that the institution of the Dalai Lamas (or certain beliefs associated with them) belongs into the museum of religious history. And: a strong light naturally casts a strong shadow, and you are obviously doing your best to make it visible. It is a natural phenomenon also that power draws criticism, and fortunately so. Also, I find it fascinating that exponents of a medieval culture can discuss on a par with modern scientists, but the same would be the case, of course, if the historical Buddha or exponents of the classical Greek or Roman period would still be alive, as in fact they are, as their thoughts live on in our science.

Now, the historical Buddha died or chose to die a natural death, just as most of us probably will (I have to keep convincing myself that a rainbow body is not necessarily better than the biolomagical wonder we have all been so graciously gifted with!), and Jesus has been or has chosen to be crucified. (I am not mentioning Mohammed here as a role model or Messiah, because he was just a prophet, and after reading several passages of the Quran, I cannot take him entirely seriously, but from what I've read I figure he would have made an acceptably good Shambala-warrior! And Moses was a bit too strict for my taste, but we must consider that he carried a huge responsibility in a continuing emergency situation - ending with the genocide of Jericho - and he was probably quite dizzy from walking 30 years in circles in a really dry country. And regarding Krishna you are the expert!) So, if someone today, whether due to their bad Karma or due to lack of a better education, follower of whichever religion or belief or ideology, still wants to continue to believe in omnipotent human beings, who will choose to exercise their omnipotence as Messiahs and worldly rulers of various creeds and denominations in this world, then let that first of all be their own bloody problem! But because these poor people certainly might and already do cause problems, not only to themselves but unfortunately also to us privileged and more enlightened others, for their lack of alternatives blowing themselves up with bombs in our midst, stoning us to death when we commit adultery, killing their own daughters and sisters when they have been raped,  excommunicating us or burning us on wooden pyres when we celebrate the wonder of life in other ways than theirs, or threatening our integrity in more subtle ways, in foreign language and with a smile publicly declaring their intent "as the incarnation of universal democracy" to gruesomely butcher us all as followers of false teachings! (if what you claim is true), or as monks having sex with the daughters of our neighbours, enlightening them or not, but calling them "mattresses" (not maitresses!) behind their backs, then, because of all that, in spite of eventual discordant notes, I am very happy and truly greatful for your relentlessly researched and inquisitive writings and your brave and loud and clear voice! – brave because it is brave to criticise someone, and a cause rightly so admired and supported as the Dalai Lama and the freedom of Tibet. And I agree with you, and with many Tibetans - and maybe even with the Dalai Lama - that freedom here would have to imply also freedom from theocratic, respectively "Buddhocratic" rule! When you are through with the Dalai Lama you could then take on the Pope and the Ayatollahs and Muftis!

I'm quoting you ( "We are prepared to undeservedly (should it maybe read unreservedly?) claim that a "rational" and "honest" discourse between the two cultures (Western science and Tibetan Buddhism) does not nor ever has taken place, since in such encounters the magic, the sexual magic practices, the mythology (of the gods), the history, the cosmology, and the political "theology" of Buddhist Tantrism remain completely omitted as topics. But together they all constitute the reality of Tibetan culture, far more than the epistemological theories of Yogachara or the Madhyamika philosophy, or the constant professions of love of Mahayana Buddhism do. That which awaits humanity if it were to adopt the paradigm of Vajrayana, would be the gods and demons of the Tibetan pantheon and eschatology and cosmogony laid out in the Kalachakra Tantra and the Shambhala myth." I believe that this really is one of the core questions. I hope you are wrong with your prediction but I am convinced that your reservations are utterly necessary and absolutely justified!


As a closing remark I should like to add that you should absolutely recommend to your readers to start your book with the closing chapter and the postscript!

Learn the shadows of Buddhism

Growing up in Taiwan, I watched my grandmother, a devoted Buddhist, host frequent meetings at her house for monks to explain scriptures to her friends.  She taught me it was good to be a vegetarian, to be kind to all animals and insects because they were living creatures, and compassion.  My father worked as an intern physician in a country far away from us – America. Being a good son in the Chinese tradition, each month he'd send most of his paycheck to my grandmother who told him she would save it for him so he could open up his own medical practice one day.  My mother got a small amount of allowance from my grandmother, who was the matriarch of the family, and much more trustworthy than a wife who might run away with another man.  When my father eventually returned to Taiwan upon completion of his medical studies, my grandmother told him she had donated most of the money to the monks.  Each month she paid for the purchase of live crabs, turtles and fish so the monks could throw them back into the river to build karma for her.  Those karmas were expensive to build. There were actually fishermen who made extra effort to capture fish and turtles for these ceremonies.  So now there was no money left for him to open up a practice. My parents were devastated.  Meanwhile, as a child I had watched many religions in Taiwan.  My impression was the Buddhist monks were always walking around with a wooden bowl in hand saying, "Hwa yuen." (Build karma.)  But when disasters happened such as flood, the newspaper reports would mention "Red Cross" and "Salvation Army", but never did a Buddhist organization come forth.  When I saw a leg-less man shrouded in a blanket, he told me the Salvation Army sent it to him.  Where were the monks? I wondered. The saddest thing for me about Western reverence toward the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhism for me is how many Westerners idealized Buddhism as perfection. In reality, Buddhism is no different from other religions that preach love and peace, yet have underlying corruption. Superstitions and psychological terrorization were used often to get followers.  One of the most vivid pictures my grandmother had shown me was a Buddhist drawing of "hell" where fork-tongued evil spirits would push people with bad karma into lava-filled pits.  Victor and Victoria Trimondi have gone through deep research to yield the reality of Buddhism.  I agree with all the other reader comments here that the book is outstanding work.  It explains the shadowy side of Buddhism to the Western readers in language that the West can understand, and serves as a great in-depth knowledge source for anyone that needs condensed information in one book.  For any Westerner who simply takes the word "compassion" at face value, I highly recommend reading "The Shadow of the Dalai Lama". Learn the shadows of Buddhism.

Alice Ewing

A paradox in religious discussion

The Shadow of the Dalai Lama is one of the most moving, riveting, far-reaching, and revolutionary non-fiction books I have read in recent years. This brilliant and comprehensive cultural analysis describes with clear-sightedness long overdue topics like the relation between ritual and politics, sexuality and spiritual/worldly power, the relation between myth and history, between aggression and religion, not just in Tibetan Buddhism, but in principle. Through their penetrating and systematically differentiated research and their multilayered but uncompromising critique this book poses numerous questions, the same aspects of which also demand the examination of other cultures and religions. The Shadow of the Dalai Lama ventures a paradox in religious discussion – on the one hand it questions the Tibetan Buddhist system at depth about its essential core, i.e., about its mysteries, rites, meditation and enlightenment practices, the power relation between the sexes in the spiritual and worldly world, between gods and believers, gurus and pupils, as well as their harmonious or disharmonious, ethical and unethical, humane and inhumane effects upon the history of Tibet and of Lamaism. On the other hand in closing it hazards the heretical suggestion of a wide-reaching , harmonizing reform on all these levels as a necessity for a humane world culture of peace. (This is) a book which, despite its cutting but justified criticism, shows a way out of the tantric labyrinth, and with its documented collection of facts and its scientific approach has already become a standard work, and which promises to become a "long-seller". The Shadow of the Dalai Lama is an original, significant, and visionary work of cultural and religious studies, which challenges in a radically new way the intercultural and inter-religious dialogue, which has lapsed into stagnation and superficiality, and forces it to conduct the discussion about world peace, respect for humanity, and equal rights more honestly than has been the case until now. (This is) a book which, despite the shocking exposure of the unknown shady side of Tibetan Buddhism, dares to combine with one another tradition and modernity, old revelations with new visions, past and future. To be brief: a crazy wisdom book, which has opened a completely new topic for the next century, avoided up until now as it is much too uncomfortable for many interest groups, and which can also no longer be concealed by its most bitter opponents. Above all, a rousing and necessary explanation for women fascinated by Tibetan Buddhism. We should keenly await further books, hopefully, from this pair of authors.

A reader from Vienna

Regrettable but necessary

The timing of the appearance of this book could not have been better! Whoever, like me has been able to for years observe the Tibet scene, will be able to come up with experiences of his or her own for almost every aspect illuminated by the authors, the Trimondi couple... With this book, the Trimondis cast a great deal of light on this background, which is in evidence on all levels, such as politics, ritual, and the history of Tibet, and also in the community of exiles. In doing so the authors bring astounding things to light, which nonetheless show in an astonishingly logical connection to one another. ... I know many people who for similar reasons to myself have already withdrawn from this milieu (the Tibet supporter scene) and who regard the Trimondi’s book as a very important contribution to the opening up of a comprehensive public discussion. In our opinion, it should also sensitize people from outside the scene into adopting a critical stance towards everything which is currently being distributed about Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism. It’s about time!

The myth of peaceful Buddhism is dismantled

This book, which is being so controversially discussed, is a carefully researched and soberly presented work of religious study, whose core statement, "Tibetan Buddhism consists in the sacrifice of the feminine principle ... to obtain universal androcentric power" is bolstered by the authors with an abundance of information, so that after reading this book nothing of the peaceable and harmonic image of Buddhism remains. That the current Dalai Lama and co. also perform the unbelievably misogynist Kalachakra ritual makes this book all the more explosive. The knowledge gained goes along with the loss of illusions about Buddhism and its leading figure. Form your own opinion, and give this book a chance; all I can do is to recommend this.                     

Ruth Heinemann

"Political theology" of Tibetan Buddhism

Like a hammer this over 800-page strong work smashes the construct, known and nurtured in the West, of a "kitschified" image of Tibetan Buddhism and the living Fourteenth Dalai Lama. ...The work tries to draw a long bow between the empirical facts from the history of Tibet, the life of the present-day Tibetans in exile including the 14th Dalai Lama, and the theoretical foundations of (in particular Tantric) Buddhism. ... Thus, the great merit of this book consists in the powerful analysis of a reactionary view of the world which can no longer offer useful answers to the questions of our modern world.

A long overdue critique

This soundly argued work calls out for an already long due discussion. Dalai Lama sympathizers of all shades may try to conceal its existence, or to dress it down or depict it as dubious – but it will perform its task, a task of explanation and uncompromising analysis. A unique work! The authors have shown courage, and we can only be thankful to them for it.

Comprehensive eye-opener on the topic of Tibetan Buddhism

The work in hand is the most comprehensive book I know of on the topic of Tibetan Buddhism/Dalai Lama. Extremely thoroughly researched and, despite the many foreign words the topic involves, written in an easy-to-read manner; the authors acquaint the reader with a topic whose complete contents may for the most part be unknown here, even among followers of the Dalai Lama. It is a book very well worth reading, and rich in resources, for all those who want to get an accurate picture of Tibetan Buddhism which is currently so popular. In all, a successful, well-structured, extensive collection of facts with great potential to become a seminal work on Tibetan Buddhism.




© Copyright 2003 – Victor & Victoria Trimondi