The White Lama


In 1947, American Theos Bernard set out on a rugged mountain trail for the monasteries of Tibet. He was never seen nor heard from again. It would be the tragic, final chapter of a life whose exploits continue to ripple through America’s cultural landscape to this day.
Mostly unknown to Americans now, Bernard was, at the height of his fame, regarded as a national celebrity. As the first westerner accepted to study with yogis in the secretive monasteries of Tibet, tales of his exploits graced the pages of leading publications across the nation from the New York Times to Family Circle Magazine. He would ultimately be recognized by his Tibetan mentors as The White Lama, a reincarnated spirit destined to bring Tibetan teachings to the west.
He would go on to give sold out lectures across the country, teach and author books about the practices of Tibet and Hatha yoga that inspired generations of seekers to follow in his footsteps in the ’50s,’60s and beyond.
Conceived by Nikki Appino, The White Lama is a new experimental work about the quest for the sacred, framed by the adventurous life and death of Theos Bernard. Both biography and invocation, the piece is a blend of music, prose, and visuals performed by Kevin Joyce, with a live score by Philip Glass and Tenzin Choeygal.
Bernard grew up at a time when eastern spirituality was shrouded in mystery and exploited by charlatans and con men. He was an explorer, mystic, yoga teacher and showman who played a surprising role in the growth of America’s religious counterculture. Stories of his life once captured the imagination before he faded into obscurity. Today, The White Lama revives the spirit of his exploration and quest to attach meaning and social value to his existence.

The White Lama -The Life and Death of Theos Bernard