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Alexandra David-Néel

Alexandra David-Néel (October 24, 1868 - September 8, 1969) was a French explorer, anarchist, spiritualist, Buddhist and writer. She is most known for her visit to the forbidden (to foreigners) city of Lhasa, capital of Tibet (1924). She was born in Paris, France and died in Digne[?], Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. She wrote more than 30 books, about Eastern religion, philosophy, and her travels. Her well-documented teachings influenced the beat writers Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, and philosopher Alan Watts.

Her real name was Louise Eugenie Alexandrine Marie David. During her childhood she had a strong desire for freedom and spirituality. At the age of 18, she had already visited England, Switzerland and Spain on her own, and she was studying in Madame Blavatsky's Theosophical Society.

In 1890 and 1891, she traveled through India, returning only when running out of money. In Tunis she met the railroad engineer Philippe Néel, whom she married in 1904.

In 1911 Alexandra traveled for the second time to India, to further her study of Buddhism. She was invited to the royal monastery of Sikkim, where she met Maharaj Kumar (crown prince) Sidkeon Tulku. She became Sidkeong's "confidante and spiritual sister" (according to Ruth Middleton), perhaps his lover (Foster & Foster). She also met the thirteenth Dalai Lama twice in 1912, and had the opportunity to ask him many questions about Buddhism—a feat unprecedented for a European woman at that time.

In the period 1914-1916 she lived in a cave in Sikkim, near the Tibetan border, learning spirituality, together with the Tibetan monk Aphur Yongden, who became her lifelong traveling companion, and whom she would adopt later. From there they trespassed into Tibetan territory, meeting the Panchen Lama[?] in Shigatse[?] (August 1916). When the British authorities learned about this—Sikkim was then a British protectorate—Alexandra and Yongden had to leave the country, and, unable to return to Europe in the middle of World War I, they traveled to Japan.

There Alexandra met Ekai Kawaguchi, who had visited Lhasa in 1901 disguised as a Chinese doctor, and this inspired her to visit Lhasa disguised as pilgrims. After traversing China from east to west, they reached Lhasa in 1924, and spent 2 months there.

In 1928 Alexandra separated from Philippe. Later they would reconcile, and Philippe kept supporting her till his death in 1941. Alexandra settled in Digne, and during the next 10 years she wrote books.

In 1937, Yongden and Alexandra went to China, traveling there during the second World War, returning to France only in 1946. She was then 78 years old.

In 1955 Yongden died. Alexandra continued to study and write till her death at age 100.


  • 1898 Pour la vie
  • 1911 Le modernisme bouddhiste et le bouddhisme du Bouddha
  • 1927 Voyage d'une Parisienne à Lhassa (1927, My Journey to Lhasa)
  • 1929 Mystiques et Magiciens du Tibet (1929, Magic and Mystery in Tibet)
  • 1930 Initiations Lamaïques (Initiations and Initiates in Tibet)
  • 1931 La vie Surhumaine de Guésar de Ling le Héros Thibétain (The Superhuman Life of Gesar of Ling)
  • 1933 Grand Tibet; Au pays des brigands-gentilshommes
  • 1935 Le lama au cinq sagesses
  • 1938 Magie d'amour et magic noire; Scènes du Tibet inconnu (Tibetan Tale of Love and Magic)
  • 1939 Buddhism: Its Doctrines and Its Methods
  • 1940 Sous des nuées d'orage; Recit de voyage
  • 1949 Au coeur des Himalayas; Le Nepal
  • 1951 Ashtavakra Gita; Discours sur le Vedanta Advaita
  • 1951 Les Enseignements Secrets des Bouddhistes Tibétains (The Secret Oral Teachings in Tibetan Buddhist Sects)
  • 1951 L'Inde hier, aujourd'hui, demain
  • 1952 Textes tibétains inédits
  • 1953 Le vieux Tibet face à la Chine nouvelle
  • 1954 La puissance de néant, by Lama Yongden (The Power of Nothingness)
  • Grammaire de la langue tibetaine parlée
  • 1958 Avadhuta Gita
  • 1958 La connaissance transcendante
  • 1961 Immortalite et reincarnation: Doctrines et pratiques en Chine, au Tibet, dans l'Inde
  • L'Inde où j'ai vecu; Avant et après l'independence
  • 1964 Quarante siècles d'expansion chinoise
  • 1970 En Chine: L'amour universe! et l'individualisme integral: les maitres Mo Tse et Yang Tchou
  • 1972 Le sortilège du mystère; Faits étranges et gens bizarre rencontrés au long de mes routes d'orient et d'occident
  • 1975 Vivre au Tibet; Cuisine, traditions et images
  • 1975 Journal de voyage; Lettres à son Mari, 11 août 1904 - 27 decembre 1917. Vol. 1. Ed. Marie-Madeleine Peyronnet
  • 1976 Journal de voyage; Lettres à son Mari, 14 janvier 1918 - 31 decembre 1940. Vol. 2. Ed. Marie-Madeleine Peyronnet
  • 1979 Le Tibet d'Alexandra David-Neel
  • 1986 La lampe de sagesse

External link


  • The Secret Lives of Alexandra David-Neel - A Biography of the Explorer of Tibet and Its Forbidden Practices, Barbara and Michael Foster. ISBN 1-58567-329-3
  • Alexandra David-Neel, Ruth Middleton. Boston, Shambala, 1989.

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