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The Master Director

A Journey through 
Politics, Doubt and Devotion 
with a Himalayan Master

HarperCollins, 2014

City Lion Press, 2019

Master Director Website Cover 19 03 06.j

The Master Director

HarperCollins, 2014

City Lion Press, 2019

304 Pages / 5.75" X 8.25" (14.6 X 20.9 cm)

77 Black & White Photographs & Maps
ISBN: 978-9350297315


"Maybe you shouldn’t go back to Darjeeling. It might not be safe for you…"

The lama was in the next room. It was 2 a.m. He was trying to calm his attendants. I think the boys wanted to kill me.

This was my last day with Gurudev.

In this riveting true story, Thomas K. Shor, an adventuring American writer with an ear for unusual stories, has no idea what he is getting into when he wanders into a Sikkimese mountain village and into the life of an enigmatic spiritual master known as Gurudev.

As Gurudev, a Tibetan Buddhist lama, lavishes the author with presents and invites him into his inner circle—thereby offering him, and us, a unique glimpse into a master’s life and his teachings of universal love—it seems destiny is at work. But what happens when it turns out the master has close ties with the local dictator and his henchmen and Shor finds himself staying with the lama at their houses? How is he to reconcile the religion of love with the violence of politics? Gurudev’s ‘engaged Buddhism’ not only stretches common notions of morality, but also spins Shor’s moral compass. Ultimately, the author flees Darjeeling under physical threat and abandons the writing of this book—until now.

The Master Director, richly illustrated with over 75 photos, probes the limits of charisma and skepticism, doubt, and devotion. And throughout, Shor’s captivating story treads the fine line of openness without credulity, and questioning without prejudice. While the warnings are many against mixing religion and politics, they combine in this entertaining tale set in the politically tumultuous foothills of India’s eastern Himalayas to reveal profound insights into the nature of both the human and the divine.

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Map showing the places where the story takes place

Table of Contents 

 Preface: The Great Escape 

 Part I: The Impeccable Impossibility 
Chapter 1 Into the Imperial Court 
Chapter 2 Hotel Stay Put 
Chapter 3 Pilgrimage in Search of the Present Moment 
Chapter 4 Master of Disguises 
Chapter 5 Literal Beliefs and Metaphysical Truths 
Chapter 6 The Branch that Bends Low 
Chapter 7 The Attempted Assassination 
Chapter 8 Through the Impersonal Lens 
Chapter 9 The Man Behind the Show 
Chapter 10 Front-Row Seat 
Chapter 11 Crazy Wisdom 
Part II: The Return 
Chapter 12 The Diamond Mind 
Chapter 13 The Meaning in Random Events 
Chapter 14 Road Crew 
Chapter 15 The Childhood of God 
Chapter 16 Cutting a Banana with a Spoon 
Chapter 17 Night of Shiva 
Chapter 18 Cancelled Luck 
Chapter 19 Bladder and Other Miracles 
Chapter 20 The Pressure Cooker 
Chapter 21 The Birthday 
Part III: A Question of Politics 
Chapter 22 The Unresolved Omission 
Chapter 23 Black Money 
Chapter 24 Flowers and Chocolate 
Chapter 25 Book, What Book? 
Chapter 26 The Idol of India 
Photo Credits 

Read Excerpts

No. 1 The Meeting
No. 2 Crazy Wisdom
No. 3 Village Idiot
No. 4 Acting Director
No. 5 The Meaning in Random Events
No. 6 Tools of Befuddlement
No. 7 Bladder and Other Miracles
No. 8 The Diamond Mind
No. 9 Childhood Stories
No. 10 A Question of Politics
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