Thor bu - Curiosia Indo-Tibetica

Textual and visual odds and ends from India, Tibet, and around.

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Location: Kolozsvár/Cluj, Budapest, Oxford, ibi ubi

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The tormented life of a `Buddhist abbot'

Protestant missionary, Anglican priest, British MP, spy (double or triple), Nazi, pacifist, fraudster, businessman in Balkan oil, adviser to several Chinese warlords, mystic, Buddhist abbot. Any combination of the above would suffice to make one famous or infamous, and yet Ignatius/Ignaz/Ignác Timothy Trebitsch Lincoln Chao Kung managed to be all of the above and more. He was born in 1879 in Paks, Hungary (now best known for an atomic power plant) to an Orthodox Jewish family, and died as a Buddhist abbot (apparently the first Westerner to achieve this) in Shanghai while the war was in full swing in 1943. In between lies a life that is tormented to say the least. The Wikipedia references are enough for an amusing and sometimes shocking read should you have half an hour to spare.

His links to Tibet are equally strange: he at one point claimed to be the simultaneous incarnation of the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama, and threatened Nazi Germany that if they don't stop the war three wise men of Tibet will appear and reduce them to a pulp with powers unimaginable. All this while chasing nuns, plotting to overthrow British India at the head of a Buddhist army, condemning Japanese aggression on China, and - just for good measure - working for the Japanese.

Sounds like a pulp fiction hero? Well, if you are Hungarian, chances are that that's where you met this strange man for the first time. The `real' Trebitsch giving all that good advice to a certain sailor who managed to become the king of Happiness Islands? Sounds a bell?