Arya Sangha or Assembly of the Wise

Fictitious Tibet: The Origin and Persistence of Rampaism

Agehananda Bharati with H.H. the Dalai Lama

Agehananda Bharati was not only a professor of Anthropology at Syracuse University for 30 years and the Ford/Maxwell Professor of South Asian Studies, but also a world-renowned expert in the cultural anthropology of South Asia.

Professor Bharati was born Leopold Fischer on April 20, 1923, in Vienna, Austria. His interest in South Asia began when he was a young boy in Vienna learning classical Sanskrit and Hindi. He graduated Akademisches Gymnasium, Vienna, in 1941 and Oriental Institute and Ethological Institute of the University of Vienna in 1948. He received the name Agehananda Bharati in 1951 when he was ordained in the Dasanami Sanyasi order of Hindu monks. He earned his acharya, the equivalent of a PhD., from Sanyasa Mahavidyalaya in Varanasi, India, that same year.

Early in his career, Prof. Bharati became a noted scholar of Indian culture, teaching linguistics, comparative philosophy, anthropology, and South Asian studies at universities and institutions in India, Japan, Thailand, and the United States. In the 1950s, he was a lecturer in German at Delhi University, a reader in philosophy at Banaras Hindu University in India, a guest professor of comparative religion at the Nalanda Institute of Post-graduate Buddhist Academy in Bangkok, Thailand, Asia Foundation Visiting Professor at the universities of Tokyo and Kyoto in Japan, and research associate for the Far Eastern Institute at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Prof. Bharati joined the Maxwell faculty in 1961 as an assistant professor of anthropology. He was promoted to associate professor in 1964 and to full professor in 1968. He chaired the anthropology department from 1971 to 1977 and was acting chair during the spring semester of 1985. In 1991, he was named the Ford/Maxwell Professor of South Asian Studies and also was presented with the Chancellor's Citation for Exceptional Academic Achievement.

An outstanding Sanskritist who spoke fifteen classical and modern European and Indian vernacular languages, he is recognized as one of the leading pioneers in the field of tantric studies. He is perhaps best known for his books The Tantric Tradition (The Hutchinson University Publishers, 1966) and The Ochre Robe (Ross-Erikson Press, 1980). Prof. Bharati also wrote hundreds of articles for publications distributed worldwide, was an editor for several international publications, and presented numerous lectures and papers at national and international professional conventions.

Tibet Society Bulletin, Vol. 7, 1974

by Agehananda Bharati
Part I

Let me first of all stake my claim and explain some terms in the title: an apparently unexterminable tradition of sheer fiction taken as holy fact originated in Europe and America slightly before the turn of the century--the brainchild of some fertile writers and orators, a number of core tales about inaccessible Tibetan and Himalayan mystics took shape in contrivedly esoteric writings which gained steady momentum until its culmination in Lama Lobsang Rampa’s, alias Mr. Hoskins’, fantastically fraudulent output beginning with The Third Eye and its sequels.

I call this whole phony tradition "Rampaism" after its phony consummator, Rampa-Hoskins, and his all-too-numerous followers in North America and Europe. This depressing crowd of partly well-meaning, totally uninformed, and seemingly uninformable votaries holds something like this as its modal view: that there is, somewhere hidden in the Himalayas (invariably mis-stressed on the penultimate ‘a’), a powerful, mystical, initiate brotherhood of lamas or similar guru adepts, who not only know all the mysteries of the world and the superworld, who not only incorporate and transcend the teachings of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity, but who also master all the occult arts--they fly through the air, at enormous speeds, they run 400 miles at a stretch without break, they appear here and there, and they are arch-and-core advisers to the wise and the great who hide these ultimate links to supreme wisdom and control. In addition, they know all their previous incarnations, and can tell everyone what his incarnations were and are going to be.


Geographically, the area where those supergurus reside is nebulously defined as "Tibet," "Himalaya," and it often includes the Ganges and India. This, very briefly, is the somewhat auto-erotic credo of a large, and unfortunately still growing, crowd of wide-eyed believers in the mysterious East, apropos which my colleague Professor Hurvitz at the University of British Columbia sagaciously remarked that "for these people, the East must be mysterious, otherwise life has no meaning." To put this somewhat less succinctly and more technically, the enormous, pervasive alienation of Euro-American from the religious themes of the Western world, matched with the general disgruntlement, with the superciliously religious in the established churches, the surfeit with scientific models which seem to generate war and destruction, and most recently, the proliferation fascination with the exotic for its own sake--about which later in greater detail--all these contribute to the desperate quest for ideas, rituals, and promises that are different from those of the West, that are distant from the West, and that are easily accessible, without any intellectual effort, without any discursive input.