LIGHT OF KAILASH LECTURE #3: Readings in the auto/biographies of Adzom Drukpa
Readings in the auto/biographies of Adzom Drukpa (1842-1924) with Learned Foote
Adzom Drukpa Drodul Pawo Dorje (1842-1924) was one of the most influential Dzogchen teachers in eastern Tibet of the 19th and 20th centuries. His associates included famous figures such as Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820-1892) and Sera Khandro (1892-1940). He founded the camp Adzom Gar which produced a number of publications associated with Nyingma writers. His legacy has been carried into the 21st century by the recognized reincarnations of his children, and also by one of his own recognized reincarnations, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu (1938-2018), one of the founding figures of modern Tibetan studies.
This talk looks in particular at auto/biographical writings related to Adzom Drukpa’s life, including two books (a 1926 autobiography, and a 1945 biography by his son Gyurme Dorje (1895-1959?) and a short biographical prayer about Adzom Drukpa’s life written by Lhundrup Tso (1864-1946), who was Namkhai Norbu’s grandmother. The talk will examine the textual relations between the various accounts, analyzing how the conventions of autobiographical and biographical writing do not make for disparate but rather intimately linked accounts, in a way that troubles contemporary academic treatments of hagiography. We will learn about the political events described in the auto/biographies, including Adzom being held captive as a young man by the warlord Gonpo Namgyel (1799-1865), and his expressed affiliation with ecumenical (ris med) ideals including appreciation of Geluk and Bön traditions. Placing this Tibetan literature in conversation with women’s, queer and trans studies, Learned will examine how Adzom Drukpa developed an identity as a non-celibate treasure revealer who relied on consorts. This journey involves intriguing treatments of sexuality and gender, inspired by figures both human and divine.
About the Speaker
Learned Foote is now completing his dissertation about the auto/biographies of Adzom Drukpa under the supervision of Anne C. Klein and Jeffrey J. Kripal.