THE POWER OF NOTHINGNESS by Alexandra & Lama Yongden David-Neel


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A curious Buddhist fable, colorful and intriguing in a modest way. Originally written in Tibetan, reshaped and turned into French by the redoubtable Mine David-Neel (who died in 1968, age 100, after an adventurous international life), the story concerns Munpa, ""disciple-attendant"" of a great lama, Gyalwai Odzer, who is murdered in his hermitage by a thief. Upon discovering his master's corpse, Munpa sets out to catch the criminal (one Lobsang), who has evidently stolen Gyalwai Odzer's fabulous magical turquoise, a gift from the water gods, which is reputed to have the power to grant all wishes. Munpa leaves his native province of Tsinghai and wanders around China and Mongolia in a fruitless search for Lobsang (who is already dead, devoured by vengeful spirits disguised as wolves). But on his travels Munpa meets a number of foreign monks who variously prepare him for his ultimate enlightenment--which occurs when he chances upon the woman who ran away with Lobsang and learns that the miraculous turquoise never existed. . . except in the minds of the generations of gurus who handed ""it"" down, to wonder-working effect. (""All this activity caused by nothingness, by the power of that-which-is-empty."") Expatriate Dutchman van de Wetering--author of Zen--ish mysteries--does some quirky things with English idioms here, but his translation never lacks for energy. And whether or not, as he claims, Yongden (d. 1955) was the first Tibetan novelist, the eccentric lady and her lama protÉgÉ make a distinctly interesting literary team.

Pub Date: May 26th, 1982
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin