Shengren – Chapter – Albert Gruenwedel

The “Indiana Jones” of German Sino-Tibetan studies was Albert Grünwedel. The travel writer was obsessed with “Heilige”. Heilige were everywhere in Tibet and India; he saw “buddhistische Heilige”, “Heiligenbilder”, “die heilige Gemeinde” (sangha), “das Herabsteigen des Heiligen” (bhagavan), “heilige Schriften”, “Gautama, der Heilige”, “Die Heiligen des alten Buddhismus in Tibet”, and “der Heilige Lehrer and die heiligen Lamas” (the Holy Teachers and the holy Lamas). For Grünwedel, every stone flipped in Asia begets holiness:

Eines ist zweifellos: jeder hier ruhende Stein ist in den Augen des wahrhaft gottesfürchtigen Asiaten etwas Heiliges.[1] [There can be no doubt: in the eyes of the truly god-fearing Asian every sitting stone here is holy!]

In Tibetan language lama (root: “lam“) means sages, not saints. Tibetan Buddhism is not Christianity. Should anyone call the Christian saints lamas, we would cry for the Lord. Technically, lamas could not be biblical saints or Heilige, yet nothing escaped the Christian might of this Grünwedel: The German explorer continued to call rishis (Hindu sages) “die Heiligen”, too. At one point, he described lamas as “die sichtbaren Vertreter der Heiligen, or die Heiligen auf Erden” (the visible agents of the Holy, or the saints on earth). Holy saints and saints on earth clearly evoked biblical images of salvation and Christendom.[2] Grünwedel undeniable did a great service to the German/Christian cause. He also utterly believed in the existence of the hidden kingdom of the Heiligen, the legendary Shambhala in Tibet. Unfortunately, the obsession with the Holy found a tragic end. Reportedly, while writing on some Shambhala text, the lonely and irritated man lost his rest sanity and jumped to his premature dead in 1936, at the height of the Third Reich.

[1] Grünwedel, 1900, p. xvm

[2] Ibid., pp. xxx, xxxi, 11, 14, 17, 29-43, 43, 50, 77, 79, 108, 205