The White Lama


The White Lama is a multi-media work performed by two musicians and one actor, about the quest for the sacred, framed by the adventurous life and death of Theos Bernard. Both biography and invocation, the piece is a concert with visuals, soundscape, text and a live score by Composer Phillip Glass and Tenzin Choeygal.

In 1937 after years of stopping foreigners at the border, the Tibetan government welcomes a young American and initiates him into their secret world. He’s greeted as a reincarnation of their most beloved saint and returns to America to great acclaim carrying hundreds of sacred texts. He travels the country as showman, celebrity and spiritual teacher. In 1947 he sets out again for Tibet…and never returns. Theos Casmir Hamati Bernard (b.1908) was many things including a religious pioneer, an early yoga practitioner, and one of the first westerners to set foot in Lhasa, Tibet.  He garnered positive public feedback, but also scorn and private dismissal as a fraud and imposter. He played a role in the surprising story of Hatha yoga and Asian religious practices coming to America – these centuries-old spiritual disciplines, once dangerous and alien, now commonplace on Main Street or at the mall. The White Lama is about a commitment to carving a path into the unknown and “the seeker” in all of us. It’s inspired by the life and disappearance of Theos Bernard as his journey intersects with eastern religion, western spiritualism, and the tabloid environment of early 20th century America.

The White Lama -The Life and Death of Theos Bernard