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Walter Yeeling Evans-Wentz (February 2, 1878 –
July 17, 1965) was an anthropologist and writer who was a pioneer
in the study of Tibetan Buddhism. He was born in Trenton,
New Jersey, and as a teenager read Madame Blavatsky's
Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine and became
interested in the teachings of Theosophy. He received both his B.A. and M.A.
from Stanford University, where he
studied with William
James and William Butler Yeats. He then
mythology and folklore at Jesus College, Oxford
(1907); there he adopted the form Evans-Wentz for his name. He
travelled extensively, spending time in Mexico, Europe, and the Far East. He spent the years of
the First World War in Egypt. He later travelled to Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) and India, reaching Darjeeling in 1919; there he enountered
Tibetan religious texts firsthand.
Evans-Wentz is best known for four texts translated from the
Tibetan, especially The Tibetan Book of the Dead.
Evans-Wentz credited himself only as the compiler and editor of
these volumes. The actual translation of the texts was performed by
Tibetan Buddhists, primarily Lama Kazi Dawa-Samdup (1868–1922), a
teacher of English at the Maharaja's Boy's School in Gangtok, Sikkim who had also done translations for Alexandra David-Neel and Sir John
Evans-Wentz was a practitioner of the religions he studied. He
became Dawa-Samdup's "disciple" (E-W's term), wore robes and ate a
simple vegetarian diet.
He met Ramana
Maharshi in 1935, and meant to settle permanently in India, but
returned to the U.S. when World War II compelled him to do so. He
passed his final twenty-three years in San Diego, and provided
finanancial support to the Maha Bodhi Society, Self-Realization
Fellowship, and the Theosophical Society. His
Tibetan Book of the Dead was read at his funeral.
The Department of Religious Studies at Stanford
University has hosted The Evans-Wentz Lectureship in Asian
Philosophy, Religion, and Ethics since 1969, funded by a
bequest from Evans-Wentz.
Evans-Wentz died in 1965.
- The fairy-faith in Celtic countries, London, New York,
H. Frowde, 1911 ..
- The Tibetan book of the dead; or, The after-death
experiences on the Bardo plane, according to Lāma Kazi
Dawa-Samdup’s English rendering, with foreword by Sir John Woodroffe,
London, Oxford University Press, H. Milford, 1927.
- Tibetan yoga and secret doctrines; or, Seven books of
wisdom of the great path, according to the late Lāma Kazi
Dawa-Samdup’s English rendering; arranged and edited with
introductions and annotations to serve as a commentary,
London, Oxford University Press, H. Milford, 1935.
- Tibet’s great yogī, Milarepa : a biography from the
Tibetan ; being the Jetsün-Kahbum or biographical history of
Jetsün-Milarepa according to the late Lāma Kazi Dawa-Samdup’s
English rendering (2d ed.), edited with introd. and
annotations by W. Y. Evans-Wentz, London, New York : Oxford
University Press, 1951.
- The Tibetan book of the great liberation; or, The method of
realizing nirvana through knowing the mind, preceded by an epitome
of Padma-Sambhava’s biography and followed by Guru Phadampa
Sangay’s teachings. According to English renderings by Sardar
Bahädur S. W. Laden La and by the Lāmas Karma Sumdhon Paul, Lobzang
Mingyur Dorje, and Kazi Dawa-Samdup. Introductions, annotations,
and editing by W. Y. Evans-Wentz. With psychological commentary by
Jung. London, New York, Oxford University Press, 1954.
- ^ Sutin 262, pg.
- ^ Sutin 2006, pg.
- ^ Sutin 2006, pg.
The Fairy-faith in Celtic
Countries by W. Y. Evans-Wentz (1911): Parts of this book are
available online on Google Books.