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Alexandra David-Néel (vegetarian): Courageous Explorer in Search of Truth, Part 1 of 3

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Alexandra David-Néel became famous as a daring female traveler with a succession of extraordinary journeys to the Orient. Significant was her entry into Tibet, the forbidden land, but few know the true reason behind her relentless quest.

As a child, Alexandra loved French writer Jules Verne’s science fiction novels and vowed to surpass his heroes one day. By the age of 15, her taste in books had taken a new turn to include the mystical. A woman named Elizabeth Morgan sent Alexandra her first occult reading material, an English journal produced by the Society of the Supreme Gnosis. The London-based society emphasized personal spiritual knowledge above the teachings of the Church, and this concept fascinated her.

At the invitation of Mrs. Morgan, in 1888, Alexandra left for London, UK, staying at the Society of the Supreme Gnosis, where she spent long hours studying English and the translations of ancient Chinese and Indian texts. Mrs. Morgan introduced her to the Esteemed Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (vegetarian), the founder of the Theosophical Society, who had a significant influence on Alexandra.

It is said that, after studying comparative religion, Alexandra converted to Buddhism and adopted an ascetic lifestyle, becoming a strict vegetarian and having only one meal a day. In 1911, following the footsteps of the Worshipped Shakyamuni (Gautama) Buddha (vegan), Madame David-Néel left her matrimonial home to seek spiritual enlightenment and find her true self.

In India, she continued to visit monasteries and learn from the sages. Her Sanskrit studies progressed quickly, and she was awarded an honorary doctorate of philosophy by the College of Sanskrit, in the holy city of Benares. This was the first time such an honor had been afforded to a European woman. In 1912, Alexandra’s dislike for the caste system present in most of India, and all the misery it engendered, led her to move to Sikkim, then a small British princely state in the Himalayas northeast of India, between Bhutan and Nepal, where she immediately felt more at ease. Madame David-Néel encountered three people there who would profoundly influence her life.
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