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Tibetan Buddhism and the Dalai Lama
This annotated bibliography list, a subset derived from the Adherents.com Religion in Literature database, is intended as a resource for literary research. It lists mainstream science fiction and fantasy novels, short stories and movies (speculative fiction) which contain references to the Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhism and/or Tibet in general. It is not necessarily a comprehensive list of such literature, but all Hugo- and Nebula-winning novels have been indexed.
This list does not necessarily include every reference to Tibetan Buddhism within each work. Each novel or story is listed only once, with a brief explanation or sample quote. Most works include only one reference, which is given. If a work contains multiple references, this is noted in the listing. Additional references are listed in the main database.
Although numerically much smaller than the two major branches of Buddhism (Theravada and Mahayana), Tibetan Buddhism is one of the best known forms of Buddhism in the West. This is due in part to the pacifistic resistance of the Tibetans to Chinese occupation of Tibet, and to the prominence of the current Dalai Lama. Many films have been made focusing on Tibetan Buddhism. In the minds of many Westerners, Buddhism is synonymous with the Tibetan form, even though there are only approximately 6 million adherents (less than 2% of all Buddhists in the world).
When Buddhism is mentioned in science fiction literature, it is usually only in passing, and usually only in a generic sense. The Buddha is frequently mentioned by name, but only rarely are specific Buddhist doctrines or practices mentioned. When a reference is made to a specific form (sect or branch) of Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism is actually the form which is most frequently mentioned.
Most "references to Tibetan Buddhism," however, are actually references to either the Dalai Lama or the Tibetan Book of the Dead. In referring to these, the authors probably do not have Tibetan Buddhism as a religious group in mind.
Of the books and stories listed,
| We Tibetans are pretty persistent, and our philosophical system is too. This isn't the first time the Chinese have tried to smash Tibet, but Tibetan Buddhism is extremely hardy. It's survived other areas of Chinese domination, for longer than this one.
- from The Bones of Time
by Kathleen Ann Goonan
Current number of novels, movies and stories in list: 44.
Titles in bold face are those with extensive references to Tibetan Buddhism and/or the Dalai Lama.
|Sample Quote and/or Description|
|Poul Anderson||The Boat of a Million Years. New York: Tor (1989)||19 C.E.||[Tibetans mentioned, briefly, but nothing about religion.] Pg. 21:
...to yonder frontier, to the realms of the Tibetans and Mongols and other barbarians...
|Greg Bear||Legacy. New York: Tor (1995)||3000||Pg. 73:
The tallest building rose from the city's center on a low hill, four rounded stories, each eccentric from a central axis, beneath cantilevered pagoda roofs and porches that to me seemed lovely if ancient: Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Neutra, I thought, a touch of Tibet, Shangri-la, trying to remember fragments of terrestrial art history that I had explored before all my memory supplements had been removed.
|Alexander Besher||Mir: A Novel of Virtual Reality. New York: Simon & Schuster (1998)||2036||Pg. 34:
The Serbs were chafing to win the prize, but they couldn't be trusted further than they could toss a brain-grenade.Pg. 110:
"The moon rises and the moon sets"--he'd try that mantra for a while, before resorting to more industrial-strength potions. Maybe he'd give Dorje a call to see if the demons were in the mood to be pacified.Pg. 166:
"...How do you know what being dead is? You know what they say about the Tibetan Book of the Dead? For that matter, what they say about all those sacred texts, including the Egyptian Book of the Dead. They're guidebooks to the stages of the afterlife. But they're also pretty accurate about the different stages of this life, too. There's a double message there."[Many other references, including pg. 64, 110-111, 140, 210-211.]
|Michael Bishop||The Secret Ascension; or, Philip K. Dick is Dead, Alas. New York: Tor (1987)||1968||Pg. 116:
Thomas Merton... [had] been touring the Far East discussing monasticism and meditation with the Dalai Lama and other Buddhists.
|Ben Bova||"The Great Moon Hoax or A Princess of Mars" in Twice Seven. New York: Avon Books (1998; c. 1996)||1996||Pg. 76:
The Martians are extremely sensitive about their dealings with other living creatures. Not hurt a fly? Hell, they'd make the Dalai Lama look like a bloodthirsty maniac.
|John Brunner||The Sheep Look Up. New York: Harper & Row (1972)||2010||Pg. 97:
He [Austin Train] had given up books, even his favorites: the Bible, the Bhagavad-Gita, the Precepts of Patanjali, the I Ching, the Popul Vuh, the Book of the Dead . . .
|Paddy Chayefsky||Altered States. New York: Harper & Row (1978)||1967||Pg. 19:
He had been interested in Buddhism and yoga lately, ever since he had been struck by the similarity in encephalographic patterns between his own tank states and those of yogis and Zen monks in meditation. He was in correspondence with two young Indian physiologists at the University of Calcutta, G. K. Mishan and B. S. Chhan, who were doing EEG work on yogis. They were going to a lamasery north of Delhi that summer to do more intensive studies, and they had asked Jessup to join them. It was a Tibetan lamasery which had moved down into India after the Chinese invasion, an unusual opportunity to study Northern Yoga. The prospect fascinated Jessup. He had decided to go...
|C.J. Cherryh||Downbelow Station. New York: Daw Books (1981)||2352||[A starship is named Tibet.] Pg. 169:
Keu of India, silk-soft and confident; Sung of Pacific, all efficiency; Kant of Tibet, another of Sung's stamp.The starship Tibet is also mentioned on pages 170, 180, and elsewhere in book.
|Arthur C. Clarke||The Hammer of God. New York: Bantam (1993)||2032||Excerpt from papal encyclical signed by "John Paul XXV, Easter 2032: Earth-Moon-Mars New Network. Pg. 94:
...which emphasizes that the Catholic Church now supports artificial birth control (in light of new techniques that extend human life and years of fertility), but still opposes abortion: "'The Church is wise enough not to fight against the inevitable, especially in this radically changed situation. I will shortly be issuing an encyclical that will contain guidance on these matters. It has been drawn up, I might add, after full consultation with my colleagues the Dalai Lama, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Chief Rabbi, Imam Mahommud, and the Prophet Fatima Magdelene. They are in complete agreement with me.Pg. 85:
After her expulsion from college, Ruby Goldenberg virtually disappeared for more than twenty years. Tibetan monasteries, Catholic orders, and a host of other claimants later advanced proofs of hospitality, none of which stood up to investigation.
|Arthur C. Clarke||"The Nine Billion Names of God" (first published 1953). Reprinted in Mayo Mohs (editor), Other Worlds: Other Gods: Adventures in Religious Science Fiction. Garden City, NY: Doubleday (1971)||?||Pg. 163:
"Call it ritual, if you like, but it's a fundametal part of our belief. All the many names of the Supreme Being--God, Jehovah, Allah, and so on--they are only man-made labels. There is a philosophical problem of some difficulty here, which I do not propose to discuss, but somewhere among all the possible combinations of letters which can occur are what one may call the real names of God. By systematic permutation of letters, we have been trying to list them all."Pg. 165:
The view from the parapet was vertiginous, but in time one gets used to anything. After three months, George Hanley was not impressed by the two-thousand-foot swoop in to the abyss or the remote checkerbord of fields in the valley below... This, thought George, is the craziest thing that had ever happended to him. 'Project Shangri-La,' some wit at the labs had christened it.Pg. 166:
One of his recurring nightmares was that there would be some change of plan, and that the High Lama... would suddenly announce that the project would be extended to approximately 2060 A.D.
|John DeChance||MagicNet. New York: William Morrow and Co. (1993)||1993||Pg. 183:
I looked again. It no longer looked like a castle. More like a Tibetan monastery. I began to wish that the demigod in charge would make up his or her mind.
|Philip K. Dick||The Man in the High Castle. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons (1962)||1990||Pg. 216:
Bardo Thodol existence, Mr. Tagomi thought. Hot winds blowing me who knows where. This is visio--of what? Can the animus endure this? Yes, the Book of the Dead prepare us: after death we seem to glimpse others, but all appear hostile to us...
|Philip K. Dick||Ubik. Garden City, NY: Doubleday (1969)||1992||Pg. 11:
"I was dreaming," Ella said. "I saw a smoky red light, a horrible light. And yet I kept moving toward it. I couldn't stop."Pg. 122:
But this old theory--didn't Plato think that something survived the decline, something inner not able to decay? The ancient dualism: body separated from soul. The body ending as Wendy did, and the soul--out of its nest the bird, flown elsewhere. Maybe so, he thought. To be reborn again, as the Tibetan Book of the Dead says. It really is true.
|Terry England||Rewind. New York: Avon Books (1997)||2008||Pg. 65:
"...Our own government had prepared an elaborate [landing] site [for the alien visitors] at Edwards Air Force Base where access could be controlled despite pleas from scientists, New Agers, UFO believers, science fiction writers, and the Dalai Lama..."Pg. 194:
I am a mythological beast! I have seen the perfect clarity of Nothing, the Tibetan temple bell pinging out in the void--and survived!
|Richard Garfinkle||Celestial Matters. New York: Tor (1996)||500 C.E.||Tibet mentioned, such as on pages 110 and 130. Also, many references to Buddhism learned by one of the main characters while in Tibet, but it is not necessarily the same as actual Tibetan Buddhism, as this is an alternative history. The Buddhism in this novel's Tibet is heavily mixed with Chinese Taoism more than Lamaism or Hinduism. See entries under "Buddhism" in main database.|
|Patricia Geary||Strange Toys. New York: Bantam (1989; c. 1987)||1987||Pg. 172:
"I am Templa Una."
|Kathleen Ann Goonan||The Bones of Time. New York: Tor (1996)||1940 - 2034||One of the main characters in this book is the future Dalai Lama, a female convert to Buddhism. There are extensive references to her role as Dalai Lama. Example, pg. 150:
It took Lynn's eyes a long time to travel across it, for it was a behemoth, a legacy of the age when lamas ruled Tibet with their exotic blend of Buddhism, superstition, and raw power. It seemed quite as splended as pictures of the Potalaoma in Lhasa, her archetype of Tibetan architecture.Pg. 172-173:
"We Tibetans are pretty persistent, and our philosophical system is too. This isn't the first time the Chinese have tried to smash Tibet, but Tibetan Buddhism is extremely hardy. It's survived other areas of Chinese domination, for longer than this one... As for me being the Dalai Lama, I certainly have a strong sense of duty toward humanity, in terms of feeling it necessary to help all people in any way that I possibly can. Of course, the traditional role of the lamas was to bring all people still living in the cycle of death and rebirth to enlightenment so that they could forsake the cycle..."
|Jon Courtenay Grimwood||Red Robe (2001)|
|Elizabeth Hand||Glimmering. New York: HarperCollins (1997)||1999||Pg. 15:
Nineteen ninety-eight was the year during which Jack was certain that The Gaudy Book, after a century, and more incarnations than the Dalia Lama, would finally expire.Pg. 88:
"His room was your typical Tibetan monk's cell. But he had set up this sort of--laboratory--in it. Not exactly state-of-the-art, either... he's just sort of jury-rigged everything with--well, you can imagine the kind of sh-- you'd find in a Tibetan monastery, right? No electricity whatsoever..."pg. 89:
"He's a kind of saint, Jack. I mean, a real, live saint, like Mother Teresa, or--well, I don't know. Thomas Merton, maybe? The Dalai Lama? I mean, I've met the Dalai Lama, Jack, and it wasn't like this."pg. 90:
"Padmasambhava. He's a Tibetan magician, this legendary yogi. Anyway, that's who Dr. Hanada looks like."pg. 208:
"The only persons who it appeared would not be at the Pyramid on New Year's Eve were the Pope, the Dalai Lama, and John "Jack" Finnegan, if he chose not to go.
|Robert A. Heinlein||Stranger in a Strange Land. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons (1961)||2087||Pg. 290:
She came back to their flat one day to find him doing nothing, surrounded by books--many books: The Talmud, the Kama-Sutra, Bibles in several versions, the Book of the Dead, the Book of Mormon,... the Koran, the unabridged Golden Bough, the Way, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, sacred writings of a dozen other religions major and minor...
|Alexander Jablokov||Nimbus. New York: Avon Books (1993)||2087||Pg. 164:
There was a time when Club Le Moustier became outrageously forward shock, and everyone was desperate for an invitation. Incensed, since he knew that only a small fraction of the people who wanted to get in were interested in the music, Sheldon let everyone in and then oppressed them with an endless concert of droning Tibetan chants performed by alcoholic alley nomads. The climax came when the white-bearded priest directing the choir...
|Eileen Kernaghan||Dance of the Snow Dragon. Saskatoon, Sask.: Thistledown Press (1995)||1750||Dance is not science fiction, but may be classified as religious fantasy. From promotional material for the book:
Set in eighteenth century Bhutan, Dance of the Snow Dragon is based on Tibetan Buddhist accounts of the mystical journey to Shambhala, beyond the furthest snow peaks.
|John Kessel||Good News from Outer Space. New York: Tor (1990; c. 1989)||1999||Pg. 45:
"...The time and place will be determined by computer conflation of Western Hemisphere skin cancer rates and the Tibetan Book of the Dead--"
|Katherine Kurtz and|
Deborah Turner Harris
|Dagger Magic. New York: Ace Books (1996)||1996||This novel, fourth in the "Adept" series provides a well-researched, detailed look at actual, contemporary Tibetan Buddhism. The novel's "bad guys" are the Phurba, practitioners of black Tibetan magic. They are described as an evil offshoot of Tibetan Buddhism. But the novel isn't anti-Buddhist. The Adept (the hero of the series) and other "good guys" enlist the help of mainstream Tibetan Buddhists. A lengthy visit to a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Scotland is included, as well as visits with a very positively portrayed Rinpoche (abbot) and other monks. The book makes an effort to differentiate between the mainstrem Tibetan Buddhism, regular good Phurba practitioners, and the rogue Phurba group which is going against core Buddhist teachings by embracing violence and evil.|
|Ursula K. Le Guin||The Lathe of Heaven. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons (1971)||2002||Pg. 79:
China was in equally deep on the Iraq-Iran side, though she hadn't yet sent in Chinese soldiers, only Tibetans, North Koreans, Vietnamese, and Mongolians.Pg. 99:
Are there really people without resentment, without hate, she wondered. People who never go cross-grained to the universe? Who recognize evil, and resist evil, and yet are utterly unaffected by it?
|Elliot S. Maggin||Kingdom Come. New York: Time Warner (1998)||2020||Pg. 120:
This Green Arrow, the archer, the legendary urban warrior, was a man whose shadow passed through endless rumor and swashbuckle. I'd heard he was dead. I'd heard he lived on a South Pacific island with an old high school flame and a Tibetan guru. I'd heard he lost a limb, though he seemed intact. Maybe it was in the tabloids I'd read that he was on his way to Mars to found a colony...
|Julian May||The Many Colored Land in The Many-Colored Land & The Golden Torc (omnibus). Garden City, NY: Nelson Doubleday (copyright 1981)||2110||Pg. 155:
Had not the ancients told tales of subterranean Asar, Avalon, the Elysian Fields, Ratmansu, and Ultima Thule? Even Buddhist Agharta was supposed to be connected by tunnels to the lamaseries of Tibet.
|Eliot Pattison||The Skull Mantra. New York: St. Martin's Minotaur (1999)||1999||This novel strives to present an accurate, balanced view of the Tibet situation, and Chinese/Communist views are presented. But the overall (and accurate) picture that emerges is clearly pro-Tibetan. Although this is a crime/thriller novel with some fantastic religious elements, the novel has been praised for presenting an unparalleled detailed look at Tibetan Buddhist culture, attempting to do so from Chinese and Tibetan perspectives.
When a headless corpse is found by a prison work gang on a windy Tibetan mountainside, veteran police inspector Shan Tao Yun might seem the perfect man to solve the crime--except Shan himself is in that very Tibetan prison for offending the Party in Beijing. Desperate to close the case before an American tourist delegation arrives, the district commander has no choice but to grant a temporary release from prison to the brilliant and embittered Shan, while confronting him with an ultimatum: solve the case fast and in a politically expedient fashion or the Tibetan priests in Shan's work brigade will be punished.
|Tim Powers||Expiration Date. New York: Tor (1996)||1996||Pg. 141:
Kootie remembered that Kethoomba was the Tibetan pronunciation of the name of the mahatma his parents had named him after. She had never called Kootie that. "Gelugpa," she went on, "yellow-hatted monk! Come and get me!"
|Mack Reynolds||"The Adventure of the Extraterrestrial" in Sherlock Holmes Through Time and Space. (Isaac Asimov, ed.) USA: Bluejay Books (1984)||1950||Pg. 166:
"Of terrestrial plants, lichen might survive transplanting to Mars and one may imagine that some of the desert flora of Tibet could be adapted..."
|Kim Stanley Robinson||Green Mars. New York: Bantam (1994)||2101||Example, pg. 246 (there is more about lung-gom):
Also the rhythmic breathing, the bounce of his air tank on his back, the trancelike state that he had learned over the years, with help from the issei Nanao, who had been taught lung-gom back on Earth by a Tibetan adept.
|Kim Stanley Robinson||Blue Mars. New York: Bantam Books (1996)||2128||This book has an extensive passage involving the Dalai Lama's spirit being going to Mars and reincarnating into the countless bodies of a microscopic alien Martian lifeform. Example, pg. 92-93:
They need your help, the Dalai Lama said inside them all. Maybe you can help them.
|Mary Doria Russell||The Sparrow. New York: Ballantine (1996)||2060||Pg. 306:
And if he were Tibetan, he'd spin prayer wheels.
|Carl Sagan||Contact. New York: Simon & Schuster (1985)||1985||Pg. 133-134:|
|Robert J. Sawyer||Calculating God. New York: Tor (2000)||2000||Pg. 187:
Of course, phone calls poured in requesting interviews with me--approximately one every three minutes, according to the logs... I'd told Dana, the departmental assistant, that unless the Dalai Lama or the pope called, not to bother me. I'd been joking, but representatives of both were on the phone to the ROM within twenty-four hours of Salbanda's revelations in Brussels.
|Elizabeth Ann Scarborough||Last Refuge. New York: Bantam (1992)||2050||
was a kind of mirror in which each person sees his or her own beliefs challenged or confirmed... a new Bodhisattva proclaimed herself in Tibet.
|Robert Shea &|
Robert Anton Wilson
|Illuminatus, Vol. III: Leviathan. New York: Dell (1975)||1975||A pun on 'Dalai Lama', pg. 7-8:
...another vast conspiracy, headed by the Dealy Lama, an old mystic who lives in the sewers below Dealy Plaza, Dallas, and seemingly plots irrationality, mysticism, anarchy, and Total Liberation of Everybody.Pg. 205:
It was Hassan's cynical judgment (and many Illuminated beings, such as the Lamas of Tibet, have agreed with him) that most people have no aspiration or capacity for much spiritual and intellectual independence.Pg. 206:A sympathetic account of the Tibetan system, which goes far toward justifying it, can be found in Alexandra David-Neel's The Hidden Teachings of Tibetan Buddhism; an unsympathetic account by a skeptical mystic is available in The Confessions of Aleister Crowley.
|Lucius Shepard||Green Eyes. New York: Ace Books (1984)||1987||Pg. 213:
"I have a friend who's compiling a Tibetan dictionary," she said. "She's working in Nepal."
|Robert Silverberg||The Stochastic Man. New York: Harper & Row (1975)||2000||Pg. 36:
I wanted to rule. I wanted power. I wanted to be President, King, Emperor, Pope, Dalai Lama.
|Robert Silverberg||"Good News from the Vatican" (published 1971) in Ursula K. Le Guin & Brian Atterbery (editors), The Norton Book of Science Fiction, New York: W. W. Norton & Co. (1993)||2075||Pg. 243:
"If he's elected [to be pope]," says Rabbi Mueller, "he plans an immediate time-share agreement with the Dalai Lama and a reciprocal plug-in with the head programmer of the Greek Orthodox Church, just for starters."
|Dan Simmons||The Rise of Endymion. New York: Bantam (1997)||3031||This is the 4th and final book in Simmons award-winning Hyperion series. The book features a galaxy almost entirely dominated by Catholicism, but in Part II the characters visit a world populated entirely by people of minority religions. Most of their time is spent within a Tibetan Buddhist culture. This part, as well Part III (out of three), features extensive and detailed references to Tibetan Buddhism. The treatment is almost entirely positive. One major section features an audience of many characters with the boy Dalai Lama. Yellow Hat and Red Hat sects are specifically mentioned.|
|Neal Stephenson||The Diamond Age. New York: Bantam (1995)||2050||[Tibetans are mentioned in passing here as a tribal-ethnic-religious group. No mention is made specifically of Tibetan Buddhism.] Pg. 447:
...strolled through encamptments of Ashantis, Kurds, Armenians, Navajos, Tibetans, Senderos, Mormons, Jesuits, Lapps, Pathans, Tutsis...
|Bruce Sterling||Holy Fire. New York: Doubleday (1988)||2096||Pg. 258:
He was reading aloud from an Italiano translation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and had reached page 212.
|Michael Swanwick||"The Edge of the World" in Modern Classics of Science Fiction. (Gardner Dozois, ed.) New York: St. Martin's Press (1991; story c. 1989)||2010||Pg. 650:
"This wasn't sophisticated stuff like the Tantric monks in Tibet or anything, remember..."
|Connie Willis||"Time Out" in Impossible Things. New York: Bantam (1994; story copyright 1989)||1989||Pg. 312:
"I've got to pick up Andrew Simons."[Other references, pages 327, 331, 351, 365, 368.]
Note: Tibetan Buddhism is just one branch of Buddhism. There are hundreds of references to Buddhism in general, as well as references to other specific branches (Mahayana, Theravada, Zen, etc.) in the main Religion in Literature database.
Page created 18 May 2000. Last modified 15 January 2002.
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