There is no wonder that Cassidy enjoys writing about the works of Theos Bernard…
There is no wonder that Cassidy enjoys writing about the works of Theos Bernard, as he sees himself similar as Buddhist scholar and explorer, and having married into the Vietnamese community times over (no divorces are on file, however many marriages), in the like of Bernard’s life in the Tibetan culture. Bernard is by and large described as an American scholar and explorer who was fascinated with the culture and traditions of the Tibetans, years ago prior to the occupation by the Chinese. The story goes that Bernard was given unprecedented access to the monastics in Temples across Tibet. He spent much of his time taking photographs, shooting film, and recording Tibetan civilization. His collection is now available at the University of California in Berkeley.
Bernard’s background was in law, but soon after receiving his bachelor’s degree became overwhelmed with interests about Tibetan Buddhism. He gave himself the name, “the White Lama,” much in the same way that William Cassidy gave himself the name, “Tenpa Rinpoche.”
Theos Bernard was married, and he and wife traveled extensively in Tibet as well as India, experimenting with Yoga and upon his return to the United States, much of his travels were documented by various syndicates. He participated in lectures, telling the story of his travels, and people were marveled. He was featured in popular magazines, and soon became a well known author of that time (1930s). We can connect how this would be appealing to Cassidy, who has authored several books about knife fighting and money laundering.
We are not here to discuss whether Theos Bernard was anything more than a man who traveled the land of Tibet and brought back interesting and fascinating material about the culture and civilization of Tibet, but rather how Cassidy likes to promote these various people to pump himself up as such great and well travelled “scholar” when he rarely leaves the desert except when arrested by federal marshals for criminal behavior (or breaking his parole).
You can learn more about Theos Bernard, a white and ordinary man who traveled much of Tibet with his wife and brought back a collection of beautiful and fascinating art, and understanding about the Tibetan culture of the 1930s at http://quod.lib.umich.edu/t/tap/7977573.0002.105?rgn=main;view=fulltext.
Speaking of Berkeley; it is of interest in many ways, not only the University of California at Berkeley, Buddhists Centers (J), and of course great shopping, but it is also home to several of Cassidy’s old friends and stomping grounds. Cassidy spent a fair amount of time in the area before being swayed to go South and get involved with Vietnamese refugee rings. Ironically, and interestingly enough it is also home to an old memory of Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo, Michael Burroughs.
Jetsunma was born in Brooklyn, New York on October 12, 1949 to an Austrian/ Dutch Jewish mother and Italian father. When Jetsunma was 14, the family moved to Florida, and there Jetsunma lived in physical and verbal abuse for four years, until she graduated high school and married her first husband. By the time Jetsunma was 19, she began mediation practices and independent spiritual training. At age 30, and with two sons, she studied with Jim Gore, a New Age teacher, and it was discovered that she could and did channel psychic readings. This took place in North Carolina. A year later, and at age 31, Jetsunma met Michael Burroughs, a graduate student who attended the University of Virginia. Eventually, Jetsunma married Michael, and changed her name to Catharine Burroughs. They moved to Maryland, and together formed the Center For Discovery and New Life. The group began a 24-hour prayer vigil in the basement of Jetsunma’s (Catharine) and Michael’s Kensington home. Jetsunma became inspired by her spiritual experiences to search for a place to pray and found locked doors.
In 1984, Jetsunma’s growing group of students met a Tibetan man named Kunzang, His Holiness Penor Rinpoche’s main lay attendant. The students began to sponsor Namdroling monks, and a few months later, HH Penor Rinpoche stayed with the Burroughs. He interviewed Jetsunma’s students as well as Jetsunma, and concluded that she had been “teaching Mahayana Buddhism without any formal instruction,” and attributed it to a very high level of practice accomplished in previous lifetimes. Penor Rinpoche then gave Jetsunma’s students the traditional Refuge and Bodhisattva, which constitute formal entry into the Hinayana and Mahayana Buddhist paths respectively. Rinpoche visited the meditation and prayer center operated by the Burroughs, which at the time was nonsectarian rather than Buddhist.
In 1986, Jetsunma, despite health issues, traveled to visit Venerable Gyatrul Rinpoche, one of Penor Rinpoche’s other hosts on his American tour the previous year. While there she formed a “strong and immediate” connection with Gyatrul Rinpoche, himself recognized as the incarnation of Palyul Monastery’s First Throneholder, Rigdzin Kunzang Sherab. Gyatrul Rinpoche echoed the sentiment that the practices and teachings that naturally arose in Jetsunma’s mind were due to many past lifetimes as a Buddhist Lama, and encouraged her to visit Penor Rinpoche in India to investigate the matter further.
In 1985, the Center for Discovery and New Life formed a corporation and purchased an antebellum style mansion in Poolesville, Maryland, and instituted the 24 hour prayer vigil at the new location, which has been in existence now for over 26 years. The vigil is dedicated to the end of suffering and has remained largely unbroken. In 1988, the Rinchen Terdzod was given by HH Penor Rinpoche, and Jetsunma was formally recognized and enthroned as Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo (note…it was not a recognition she arbitrarily gave to herself), the reincarnation of Genyenma Ahkon Lhamo.
In 1991, Jetsunma and Michael Burroughs separated. Jetsunma began building a Temple, ordained community, Stupas, and giving countless teachings to her students and visitors of Kunzang Palyul Choling. Michael moved to Berkeley, via Colorado and it is unknown at this time of his livelihood or family.