Tibetan Book of the Bed

The following article is from the Winter, 1993 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.

Review of Tibetan Arts of Love by Ellen Pearlman reprinted fromThe Shambhala Sun. $14.95. Snow Lion Publications.

When I heard about this book, I thought, Hot new information, let me at it! After all, isn't orgasm traditionally one of the four ways to experience ordinary mind? As George Michael says, Sex is wonderful, sex is funnot everybody does it, but everybody should.

What I read was a savvy translation and commentary by Jeffrey Hopkins of an original Tibetan text. Hopkins has stepped down from his usual position somewhere in the realm of the immortals and uses plain English. He is completely un-squeamish discussing acts that I wouldn't dare describe in this review, but his commentary keeps you off the track of frivolous titillation. He's gone so far as to title one subsection Orgasm, Death and Spiritual Practice in Highest Yoga Tantra. You could swing two ways with a heading like that, and because of his rigorous scholarly training, it is not the wrong way.

Gedun Chopel, the author of the text, was born into the family of a Nyingma priest in 1905. He was ordained as a Gelugpa monk and became famed for his brilliance in both debate and scholarship. But the monk's life must have worn thin. He was known to deliver razor-sharp discourses while completely inebriated. He began consorting with women and said, Sex is disclaimed from the mouths of all but it alone is what is liked from the minds of all. Who knew?

He must have known, because he wrote his Treatise on Passion in 1938, while experimenting with the subject matter. He was equally provocative in the political sphere, which led to his downfall. In 1947 he was entangled in a web of intrigue between the British and the Chinese and imprisoned as a spy. Emerging in 1949 from prison a broken man, he died two years later from too many cigarettes and too much liquor.

His Treatise on Passion was based on Indian and Tibetan texts, an Indian informant and his own rather varied experience. It is a discourse on the 64 Arts of Love, which goes into much detail about what to kiss, where to put it, and how to move it.

He devotes pages and pages to the importance of female arousal. Light years ahead of Viennese psychoanalysts, he says about a woman's lower parts that there is a small bit of flesh, about the size of a fingerwhen passion is produced it rises and becomes hard. It is the equivalent of the male member.

The basic thrust of the text is that if one achieves a great orgasm, one is totally pleasure-stricken and separated from habitual mind. Then more subtle consciousness can manifest and the nature of emptiness can truly be perceived.

Related Topics
Back to all Snow Lion Articles