Sarah Harding

Sarah Harding

Sarah Harding has been a Buddhist practitioner since 1974 and has been teaching and translating since completing a three year retreat in 1980 under the guidance of Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche. Her publications include Zhije and Chöd, respectively the thirteenth and fourteenth volumes of The Treasury of Precious Instructions series. She was an associate professor at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, starting in 1992, and has been a fellow of the Tsadra Foundation since 2000.

Sarah Harding

Sarah Harding has been a Buddhist practitioner since 1974 and has been teaching and translating since completing a three year retreat in 1980 under the guidance of Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche. Her publications include Zhije and Chöd, respectively the thirteenth and fourteenth volumes of The Treasury of Precious Instructions series. She was an associate professor at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, starting in 1992, and has been a fellow of the Tsadra Foundation since 2000.

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Women in Buddhism

Women in Buddhism

Throughout history women have played a vital role in the preservation and presentation of Buddhism. The Buddha himself expressed deep respect for his mother and as several contemporary Buddhist scholars have pointed out, women have played a significant role in helping to shape and preserve Buddhism. That is certainly true for Buddhism in today's world.

Today, contemporary Buddhism is largely shaped by a number of women who play vital roles from translation to teaching, to holding highly influential seats in Buddhist sanghas around the world. We are happy to publish a wide range of Buddhist authors from diverse traditions. This guide is certainly not complete in the sense of presenting each and every example of women in Buddhism today, but hopefully it will give readers a place to begin learning from and celebrating the many women who make Buddhism possible today.

Recent and Upcoming Releases

$24.95 - Paperback

Lifting as They Climb
Black Women Buddhists and Collective Liberation

By Toni Pressley-Sanon

The lives and writings of six leading Black Buddhist women—Jan Willis, bell hooks, Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, angel Kyodo williams, Spring Washam, and Faith Adiele—reveal new expressions of Buddhism rooted in ancestry, love, and collective liberation.

Lifting as They Climb is a love letter of freedom and self-expression from six Black women Buddhist teachers, conveyed through the voice of author Toni Pressley-Sanon, one of the innumerable people who have benefitted from their wisdom. She explores their remarkable lives and undertakes deep readings of their work, weaving them into the broader tapestry of the African diaspora and the historical struggle for Black liberation.

Dr. Toni Pressley-Sanon is an associate professor in the Department of Africology & African American Studies at Eastern Michigan University, having previously held positions at the University of Buffalo and Pennsylvania State University. Her work dwells on the intersections of memory, history, and culture in both Africa and the African diaspora. She is the author of four books and numerous journal articles and book chapters on these subjects. Toni has practiced Buddhist meditation and mindfulness for the past ten years.

Available 05/21/2024

$26.95 - Paperback

A Dakini's Counsel
Sera Khandro's Spiritual Advice and Dzogchen Instructions

By Sera Khandro
Translated by Christina Monson

Sera Khandro Dewai Dorje was a modern Tibetan Buddhist teacher who single-pointedly pursued a life of Dharma while balancing family life and public teaching. This collection of her advice, prayers, dreams, prophecies, and treasures (terma) is both biographical and instructional. It comes from within the tradition of Dzogchen, replete with practices for resting in the nature of mind. This lineage forms the bedrock of Christina Monson’s own spiritual path, lending a deep intimacy to the translations, which serve as a window into Sera Khandro’s life, teachings, and rich inner experience.

Sera Khandro (1892–1940) was one of the most prolific Tibetan female authors of the past several centuries. At the age of fifteen, she left her home in Lhasa for eastern Tibet, embarking on a lifetime devoted to her spiritual path—she became a spiritual master, a revealer of ancient hidden teachings, a mystic, a visionary, a writer, a mother, and a vagabond. Her written works and spiritual lineage have been preserved and are now cherished worldwide.

Christina Monson (1969–2023) was a Buddhist practitioner and teacher and Tibetan language translator and interpreter. She had over thirty years of study, translation, and practice experience in Buddhism beginning with an interest in Asian philosophy as an undergraduate student at Brown University.

embodying tara

$22.95 - Paperback

Embodying Tara
Twenty-One Manifestations to Awaken Your Innate Wisdom

By Chandra Easton

Tara, the Buddhist goddess of compassion, can manifest within all of us. In this illustrated introduction to Tara's twenty-one forms, respected female Buddhist teacher and practitioner Dorje Lopön Chandra Easton shows you how to invite Tara’s awakened energy to come alive in yourself through:

  • insight into core Buddhist concepts and teachings;
  • meditations;
  • mantra recitations; and
  • journal exercises.

The relatable stories from Buddhist history and the author’s personal reflections will give you the tools to live a more compassionate life, befriend your fears, and overcome everyday challenges.

Chandra Easton is a Dharma teacher, author, and translator of Tibetan Buddhist texts. She has taught Buddhism and Hatha Yoga since 2001. In 2015, she was given the title of Vajra Teacher, Dorje Lopön, for Tara Mandala Retreat Center by Lama Tsultrim Allione and H. E. Gochen Sang Ngag Rinpoche. Lopön Chandra studied Buddhism and Tibetan language in Dharamsala, India, and at UCSB’s religious studies department. During her studies, she cotranslated with her mentor, B. Alan Wallace, Sublime Dharma: A Compilation of Two Texts on the Great Perfection (Vimala Publishing, 2012).

$21.95 - Paperback

The Buddhist and the Ethicist
Conversations on Effective Altruism, Engaged Buddhism, and How to Build a Better World

By Peter Singer
By Shih Chao-Hwei

An unlikely duo—Professor Peter Singer, a preeminent philosopher and professor of bioethics, and Venerable Shih Chao-Hwei, a Taiwanese Buddhist monastic and social activist—join forces to talk ethics in lively conversations that cross oceans, overcome language barriers, and bridge philosophies. The eye-opening dialogues collected here share unique perspectives on contemporary issues like animal welfare, gender equality, the death penalty, and more. Together, these two deep thinkers explore the foundation of ethics and key Buddhist concepts, and ultimately reveal how we can all move toward making the world a better place.

Shih Chao-Hwei is a Buddhist monastic, social activist, scholar, and recent winner of the Niwano Peace Prize. A leading advocate for animal rights, a vocal supporter of same-sex marriage, and a key figure in the Buddhist gender equality movement, she is also a professor at Hsuan Chuang University and the founder of Hong Shih Buddhist College.
Peter Singer, the “father of the modern animal welfare movement,” was named one of the most influential people in the world by Time magazine. An Australian philosopher and professor of bioethics, he has contributed to more than 50 books in over 30 languages. Singer is founder of The Life You Can Save nonprofit and a professor of bioethics at Princeton University.

$49.95 - Hardcover

Shangpa Kagyu: The Tradition of Khyungpo Naljor, Part Two
Essential Teachings of the Eight Practice Lineages of Tibet, Volume 12 (The Treasury of Precious Instructions)

By Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye
Translated by Sarah Harding

This is the second of two volumes that present teachings and practices from the Shangpa Kagyu practice lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. This tradition derives from two Indian yoginīs, the dākinīs Niguma and Sukhasiddhi, and their disciple, the eleventh-century Tibetan yogi Khyungpo Naljor Tsultrim Gönpo of the Shang region of Tibet. There are forty texts in this volume, beginning with Jonang Tāranātha’s classic commentary and its supplement expounding the Six Dharmas of Niguma. It includes the definitive collection of the tantric bases of the Shangpa Kagyu—the five principal deities of the new translation (sarma) traditions and the Five-Deity Cakrasamvara practice. The source scriptures, liturgies, supplications, empowerment texts, instructions, and practice manuals were composed by Tangtong Gyalpo, Tāranātha, Jamgön Kongtrul, and others.

The first part of this series is also available now.

Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye (1813–1900) was a versatile and prolific scholar and one of the most outstanding writers and teachers of his time in Tibet. He was a pivotal figure in eastern Tibet’s nonsectarian movement and made major contributions to education, politics, and medicine.
Sarah Harding has been a Buddhist practitioner since 1974 and has been teaching and translating since completing a three year retreat in 1980 under the guidance of Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche. Her publications include Zhije and Chöd, respectively the thirteenth and fourteenth volumes of The Treasury of Precious Instructions series. She was an associate professor at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, starting in 1992, and has been a fellow of the Tsadra Foundation since 2000.

Women in Buddhist Research & Academia

The Woman Who Raised the Buddha
The Extraordinary Life of Mahaprajapati

By Wendy Garling

Mahaprajapati was the only mother the Buddha ever knew. His birth mother, Maya, died shortly after childbirth, and her sister Mahaprajapati took the infant to her breast, nurturing and raising him into adulthood. In this first full biography of Mahaprajapati, Wendy Garling presents her life story, with attention to her early years as sister, queen, matriarch, and mother, as well as her later years as a nun. Garling reveals just how exceptional Mahaprajapati’s role was as leader of the first generation of Buddhist women, helping the Buddha establish an equal community of lay and monastic women and men. Mother to the Buddha, mother to early Buddhist women, mother to the Buddhist faith, Mahaprajapati’s journey is finally presented as one interwoven with the founding of Buddhism.

$18.95 - Paperback

Wendy Garling is a writer, mother, gardener, independent scholar, and authorized dharma teacher with a BA from Wellesley College and MA in Sanskrit language and literature from the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of Stars at Dawn: Forgotten Stories of Women in the Buddha’s Life (2016, Shambhala Publications), a groundbreaking new biography of the Buddha that relates his journey to awakening through the stories of Buddhism’s first women.

A Guide to the Buddhist Method of No-Method

By Rebecca Li

A modern guide to the transformative practice of silent illumination from Chan Buddhist teacher Rebecca Li.

Silent illumination, a way of penetrating the mind through curious inquiry, is an especially potent, accessible, and portable meditation practice perfectly suited for a time when there is so much fear, upheaval, and sorrow in our world. It is a method of reconnecting with our true nature, which encompasses all that exists and where suffering cannot touch us.

$21.95 - Paperback

Rebecca Li, PhD, is a meditation and Dharma teacher in the lineage of Chan Master Sheng Yen and founder and guiding teacher of Chan Dharma Community. She gives Dharma talks and leads Chan retreats in North America and Europe. She is also a sociology professor and lives with her husband in New Jersey. Her talks, writings, and schedule can be found at

Tales of a Mad Yogi
The Life and Wild Wisdom of Dukpa Kunley

By Elizabeth L Monson

The fifteenth-century Himalayan saint Drukpa Kunley is a beloved figure throughout Tibet, Bhutan, and Nepal, known both for his profound mastery of Buddhist practice as well as his highly unconventional and often humorous behavior. Ever the proverbial trickster and “crazy wisdom” yogi, his outward appearance and conduct of carousing, philandering, and breaking social norms is understood to be a means to rouse ordinary people out of habitual ways of thinking that leads them toward spiritual awakening.

Elizabeth Monson has spent decades traveling throughout the Himalayas, retracing Drukpa Kunley’s steps and translating his works. In this creative telling, she has reimagined his life based on historical accounts, autobiographical sketches, folktales, and first-hand ethnographic research. The result, with flourishes of magical encounters and references to his superhuman capacities, is a poignant narrative of Kunley’s life, revealing to the reader the quintessential example of the capacity of Buddhism to skillfully bring people to liberation.

$19.95 - Paperback

Elizabeth Monson, PhD, is the spiritual codirector of Natural Dharma Fellowship and the managing teacher at Wonderwell Mountain Refuge. She is a Dharma teacher of Tibetan Buddhism, has lectured at the Harvard Divinity School, and teaches meditation throughout New England.

living theravadaLiving Theravada
Demystifying the People, Places, and Practices of a Buddhist Tradition

By Brooke Schedneck

An illuminating introduction to the contemporary world of Theravada Buddhism and its rich culture and practices in modern mainland Southeast Asia.

Theravada translates as “the way of the Elders,” indicating that this Buddhist tradition considers itself to be the most authoritative and pure. Tracing all the way back to the time of the Buddha, Theravada Buddhism is distinguished by canonical literature preserved in the Pali language, beliefs, and practices—and this literature is often specialized and academic in tone. By contrast, this book will serve as a foundational and accessible resource on Theravada Buddhism and the contemporary, lived world of its enduring tradition.

$24.95 - Paperback

Brooke Schedneck, PhD, is an assistant professor in the department of religious studies at Rhodes College. Her work focuses on contemporary Buddhism in Thailand, and she spent years teaching and conducting research in Chiang Mai. She has presented her research internationally, and her work has been featured in academic journals and publications such as TricycleAeon, and The Conversation.

An inspiring and intimate tale set against the turmoil of recent Tibetan history, Inseparable across Lifetimes offers for the first time the translations of love letters between two modern Buddhist visionaries. The letters are poetic, affectionate, and prophetic, articulating a hopeful vision of renewal that drew on their past lives together and led to their twenty-year partnership. This couple played a significant role in restoring Buddhism in the region of Golok once China’s revolutionary fervor gave way to reform. Holly Gayley, who was given their correspondence by Namtrul Rinpoche himself, has translated their lives and letters in order to share their remarkable story with the world.

$24.95 - Paperback

Holly Gayley, Associate Professor of Buddhist Studies, is a scholar and translator of contemporary Buddhist literature in Tibet. She is author of Love Letters from Golok: A Tantric Couple in Modern Tibet, co-editor of A Gathering of Brilliant Moons: Practice Advice from the Rime Masters of Tibet, and translator of Inseparable Across Lifetimes: The Lives and Love Letters of Namtrul Rinpoche and Khandro Tāre Lhamo.

Black and Buddhist
What Buddhism Can Teach Us about Race, Resilience, Transformation, and Freedom

Edited by Cheryl A. Giles and Pamela Ayo Yetunde

Leading African American Buddhist teachers offer lessons on racism, resilience, spiritual freedom, and the possibility of a truly representative American Buddhism.

What does it mean to be Black and Buddhist? In this powerful collection of writings, African American teachers from all the major Buddhist traditions tell their stories of how race and Buddhist practice have intersected in their lives. The resulting explorations display not only the promise of Buddhist teachings to empower those facing racial discrimination but also the way that Black Buddhist voices are enriching the Dharma for all practitioners. As the first anthology comprised solely of writings by African-descended Buddhist practitioners, this book is an important contribution to the development of the Dharma in the West.

With contributions by Acharya Gaylon Ferguson, Cheryl A. Giles, Gyōzan Royce Andrew Johnson, Ruth King, Kamilah Majied, Lama Rod Owens, Lama Dawa Tarchin Phillips, Sebene Selassie, and Pamela Ayo Yetunde.

$19.95 - Paperback

Cheryl A. Giles, Psy.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist and the Francis Greenwood Peabody Senior Lecturer on Pastoral Care and Counseling at the Harvard Divinity School. Giles is the author of several articles and co-editor of The Arts of Contemplative Care (Wisdom, 2012).
Pamela Ayo Yetunde, J.D., Th.D. is a Community Dharma Leader in the Insight Meditation tradition. She teaches pastoral care and counseling and has taught at University of the West, United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, and Upaya Institute and Zen Center. Ayo has written for BuddhadharmaLion’s RoarReligions, and Buddhist-Christian Studies. She is the author of Object Relations, Buddhism and Relationality in Womanist Practical Theology and Buddhist-Christian Dialogue, U.S. Law, and Womanist Theology for Transgender Spiritual Care.

Red Tara
The Female Buddha of Power and Magnetism

By Rachael Stevens

Tara is one of the most celebrated goddesses in the Buddhist world, representing enlightened activity in the form of the divine feminine. She protects, nurtures, and helps practitioners on the path to enlightenment. Manifesting in many forms and in many colors to help beings, Tara’s red form represents her powers of magnetization, subjugation, and the transformation of desire into enlightened activity. She is considered to be particularly powerful in times of plague and disharmony.

This comprehensive overview focuses on the origins, forms, and practices of Tara, providing the reader with insightful information and inspirations relating to the goddess. Its second part focuses on Red Tara, a powerful and liberating form of Tara that is particularly important to connect with in a time of crisis. These chapters cover various forms of Red Tara found throughout the Tibetan Buddhist world, the particular qualities she represents, and how through prayers and meditation we can embody her principles and truly benefit beings.

$29.95 - Paperback

Rachael Stevens holds a doctorate from Oxford University, is an early education teacher, and is a long-term Buddhist practitioner. Rachael’s research focuses on Red Tara, and she has studied and practiced with Buddhist communities in Europe, Asia, North America, and Brazil.

Dakini's Warm Breath
The Feminine Principle in Tibetan Buddhism

by Judith Simmer-Brown

The primary emblem of the feminine in Tibetan Buddhism is the dakini, or "sky-dancer," a semi-wrathful spirit-woman who manifests in visions, dreams, and meditation experiences. Western scholars and interpreters of the dakini, influenced by Jungian psychology and feminist goddess theology, have shaped a contemporary critique of Tibetan Buddhism in which the dakini is seen as a psychological "shadow," a feminine savior, or an objectified product of patriarchal fantasy. According to Judith Simmer-Brown—who writes from the point of view of an experienced practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism—such interpretations are inadequate.

$39.95 - Paperback

Judith Simmer-Brown, Ph.D., is professor and chair of the religious studies department at Naropa University (formerly the Naropa Institute), where she has taught since 1978. She has authored numerous articles on Tibetan Buddhism, Buddhist-Christian dialogue, and Buddhism in America. She is an Acharya (senior teacher) in the lineage of Chögyam Trungpa. A practicing Buddhist since 1971, she lives in Boulder, Colorado.

Art of ListeningThe Art of Listening
A Guide to the Early Teachings of Buddhism

by Sarah Shaw

The Dīghanikāya or Long Discourses of the Buddha is one of the four major collections of teachings from the early period of Buddhism. Its thirty-four suttas (in Sanskrit, sutras) demonstrate remarkable breadth in both content and style, forming a comprehensive collection. The Art of Listening gives an introduction to the Dīghanikāya and demonstrates the historical, cultural, and spiritual insights that emerge when we view the Buddhist suttas as oral literature.

Each sutta of the Dīghanikāya is a paced, rhythmic composition that evolved and passed intergenerationally through chanting. For hundreds of years, these timeless teachings were never written down. Examining twelve suttas of the Dīghanikāya, scholar Sarah Shaw combines a literary approach and a personal one, based on her experiences carefully studying, hearing, and chanting the texts. At once sophisticated and companionable, The Art of Listening will introduce you to the diversity and beauty of the early Buddhist suttas.

$18.95 - Paperback

Sarah Shaw is a faculty member and lecturer at the University of Oxford. She has published numerous works on the history and practices of Buddhism, including Mindfulness and The Art of Listening.

Women in Tibetan Buddhism

Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo was raised in London and became a Buddhist while still in her teens. At the age of twenty she traveled to India, becoming one of the first Westerners to be ordained as a Buddhist nun. The international bestseller Cave in the Snow chronicles her twelve years of seclusion in a remote cave. Deeply concerned with the plight of Buddhist nuns, she established Dongyu Gatsal Ling Nunnery in India. In 2008 His Holiness the Twelfth Gyalwang Drukpa, head of the Drukpa Kagyu lineage, gave her the rare title of Jetsunma (Venerable Master).
reflections mt lake cover

$21.95 - Paperback

Khandro RinpocheKhandro Rinpoche - Born in India in 1967, Khandro Rinpoche is the daughter of Tibetan meditation master His Holiness Mindrolling Trichen and is herself a renowned teacher in the Kagyu and Nyingma lineages of Tibetan Buddhism. She is the head of a Tibetan Buddhist nunnery in India and divides her time between teaching in the West, running the nunnery, and supporting charity projects for Tibetan refugees in India.

$22.95 - Paperback

Pema Chödron served as the director of Karma Dzong in Boulder, Colorado, until moving in 1984 to rural Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, to be the director of Gampo Abbey. Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche gave her explicit instructions on establishing this monastery for Western monks and nuns. She currently teaches in the United States and Canada and plans for an increased amount of time in solitary retreat under the guidance of Venerable Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche. She is interested in helping to establish Tibetan Buddhist monasticism in the West, as well as continuing her work with Western Buddhists of all traditions, sharing ideas and teachings.

$24.95 - Hardcover

Thubten Chodron - Ordained as a Tibetan Buddhist nun in 1977, Venerable Thubten Chodron is an author, teacher, and the founder and abbess of Sravasti Abbey. Sravasti Abbey is the only Tibetan Buddhist training monastery for Westerners in the US and holds gender equality, social engagement, and care for the environment amongst its core values. Ven. Chodron teaches worldwide and is known for her practical (and humorous!) explanations of how to apply Buddhist teachings in daily life.

$19.95 - Paperback

Lama Tsultrim Allione is an author, internationally known Buddhist teacher, and the founder and resident lama of Tara Mandala Retreat Center. She is the author of Women of Wisdom, the national best-seller Feeding Your Demons: Ancient Wisdom for Resolving Inner Conflict, which has been translated into seventeen languages, and Wisdom Rising: Journey into the Mandala of the Empowered Feminine.

$29.95 - Paperback

Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel has studied and practiced Mahayana Buddhism, as well as the Vajrayana tradition of the Longchen Nyingthik, for over 30 years under the guidance of her teacher and husband, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche. She has been intimately involved with Rinpoche’s work in bringing Buddhist wisdom to the West, in particular the development of Mangala Shri Bhuti, an organization dedicated to the study and practice of the Longchen Nyingthik lineage.
The Logic of Faith

$16.95 - Paperback

Anne Carolyn Klein is Professor and a former Chair of the Department of Religion at Rice University. She is also a cofounding director of the Dawn Mountain Tibetan Temple, Community Center, and Research Institute. Her publications include Path to the Middle (SUNY Press), Unbounded Wholeness, coauthored with Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche (Oxford University Press), and Knowledge and Liberation (Snow Lion Publications).

$29.95 - Paperback

Sangye Khandro is an American woman who studied Buddhist philosophy and Tibetan language with Tibetan masters in India and Nepal. She has studied and translated many important Tibetan Buddhist texts. She is a cofounder of Light of Berotsana, a nonprofit organization for translators of Tibetan texts.
Essence of Clear Light

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Carolyn Rose Gimian is a teacher of meditation, mindfulness, and Buddhism, as well as a writer, book editor, and archivist. She edited Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior in close cooperation with Chögyam Trungpa. After his death, she compiled and edited two additional books of his Shambhala teachings: Great Eastern Sun: The Wisdom of Shambhala and Smile at Fear: Awakening the True Heart of Bravery. She is also the editor of the ten-volume Collected Works of Chögyam Trungpa, Mindfulness in Action, and many other volumes of his work.
Collected Works of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Women in the Zen Tradition

"By being keen observers of our planet, we are more connected to the world around us and in a better position to prevent harm and improve the health of the earth."
Stephanie Kaza, Mindfully Green

Joanna Macy, PhD, teacher and author, is a scholar of Buddhism, systems thinking, and deep ecology. As the root teacher of the Work That Reconnects, Macy has created a groundbreaking framework for personal and social change that brings a new way of seeing the world as our larger body. Her many books include World as Lover, World as SelfWidening Circles, A MemoirActive Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy; and Coming Back to Life: The Updated Guide to the Work That Reconnects.

$27.95 - Paperback

Stephanie Kaza is Professor Emerita of Environmental Studies at the University of Vermont. A leading voice in Buddhism and ecology, her most recent book is Green Buddhism: Practice and Compassionate Action in Uncertain Times.

$18.95 - Paperback

Joan Halifax, PhD, is a Zen priest and anthropologist who has served on the faculty of Columbia University and the University of Miami School of Medicine. For the past thirty years she has worked with dying people and has lectured on the subject of death and dying at Harvard Divinity School, Harvard Medical School, Georgetown Medical School, and many other academic institutions. In 1990, she founded Upaya Zen Center, a Buddhist study and social action center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 1994, she founded the Project on Being with Dying, which has trained hundreds of healthcare professionals in the contemplative care of dying people.

$27.95 - MixedMedia

Natalie Goldbergis the author of fifteen books. Writing Down the Bones, her first, has been translated into nineteen languages. Three Simple Lines: A Writer’s Pilgrimage into the Heart and Homeland of Haiku is her latest book. For the last forty years she has practiced Zen and taught seminars in writing as a spiritual practice. She lives in northern New Mexico.
Writing Down the Bones

$16.95 - Paperback

Paula Arai was raised in Detroit by a Japanese mother and did Zen training in Japan. She obtained her Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies from Harvard University in 1993 and is now the Eshinni & Kakushinni Professor of Women and Buddhist Studies at the Institute of Buddhist Studies in Berkeley, California. She is the author of Bringing Zen Home: The Healing Heart of Japanese Women’s RitualsWomen Living Zen: Japanese Soto Buddhist Nuns, and Painting Enlightenment: Healing Visions of the Heart Sutra.
little book of zen cover

$19.95 - Hardcover

Jan Chozen Bays, MD, is an ordained Zen teacher and a pediatrician who specializes in the evaluation of children for abuse and neglect. She has trained in Zen for forty-five years with Roshis Taizan Maezumi and Shodo Harada. With her husband she serves as co-abbot of Great Vow Zen Monastery, a residential center for intensive Zen training in Oregon.
Mindful Eating Left

$16.95 - Paperback

Zenju Earthlyn Manuel is an author, poet, and ordained Zen Buddhist priest. She is the author of Deepest PeaceSanctuaryThe Way of TendernessTell Me Something About Buddhism, and Black Angel Cards: 36 Oracles and Messages for Divining Your Life. She compiled and edited Seeds for a Boundless Life: Zen Teachings from the Heart by Zenkei Blanche Hartmann and is a contributing author in Dharma, Color, Culture and The Hidden Lamp: Stories from Twenty-Five Centuries of Awakened Women.

$18.95 - Paperback

Laura Burges(Ryuko Eitai) is a lay entrusted Buddhist teacher in the Soto Zen tradition. She lectures, offers classes, and leads retreats at the San Francisco Zen Center and at other practice places in Northern California. She is the abiding teacher at Lenox House Meditation Group in Oakland. Laura taught children for 35 years and now mentors other teachers.
Zen Way of Recovery

$21.95 - Paperback

Susan Moon is a writer, editor, and Buddhist teacher in the Soto Zen tradition. For many years she has taught and led Zen retreats nationally and internationally. Her books include This Is Getting Old: Zen Thoughts on Aging with Humor and Dignity; the groundbreaking collection, The Hidden Lamp: Stories from Twenty-Five Centuries of Awakened Women, with Florence Caplow; and What Is Zen? with Norman Fischer.
alive dead

$17.95 - Paperback

Women in the Insight and Theravada Tradition

Ven. Ayya Khema was born into a Jewish family in Berlin in 1923 and escaped the Nazi regime in 1938. She was ordained a Theravadin Buddhist nun in 1979 and established a forest monastery near Sidney, Australia; a training center for nuns in Colombo, Sri Lanka; and, later, Buddha-Haus, a meditation center in the Allgäu, Germany. Among her books are When the Iron Eagle FliesBeing Nobody, Going NowhereWho Is My Self?; and an autobiography, I Give You My Life. She passed away in 1997.
Path to Peace

$18.95 - Paperback

Sharon Salzberg is one of America's leading spiritual teachers and authors. A practitioner of Buddhist meditation for over thirty years, she is a co-founder of the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies and the Insight Meditation Society, and she directs meditation retreats throughout the United States and abroad.


$16.95 - Paperback

Christina Feldman - In the early 1970s, Christina Feldman spent several years in Asia, studying and training in the Buddhist meditation tradition. She has led insight meditation retreats in the West since 1974. A cofounder of Gaia House, in Devon, England, she is a regular teacher at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts and at Spirit Rock in Woodacre, California. In addition, she leads retreats in Europe.
Boundless Heart The Buddha’s Path of Kindness, Compassion, Joy, and Equanimity By Christina Feldman

$16.95 - Paperback

Additional Resources on Women in Buddhism

Sera Khandro: A Reader’s Guide

Sera Khandro (1892 - 1940), also known as Kunzang Dekyong Wagmo,  was one of the great masters of the early 20th century and the English speaking world is fortunate now that both her story and her writings have been emerging more and more over the past few years. Her story is at once fascinating, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting. Tulku Thondup Rinpoche, in his remarkable Incarnation: The History and Mysticism of the Tulku Tradition of Tibet gives a superb overview: "This...

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Mandarava Reader’s Guide

This series of blog posts are meant to be resources guides to complement the biographies of the great masters and scholars on the Treasury of Lives site. Mandarava Mandarava Mandarava was one of the great 8th century adepts and was one of the main consorts of Guru Rinpoche. As such a central figure at the time of Guru Rinpoche, she is a focus of many works. A wonderful complete biography was published by our friends at Wisdom Publications as The...

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On Translation: Sarah Harding and Larry MermelsteinIn our second On Translation video series cosponsored with the Tsadra Foundation, we are pleased to share this recording of Sarah Harding (Naropa University and the Tsadra Foundation) & Larry Mermelstein (Nalanda Translation Committee).   This session is for any student, practitioner, or translator of Tibetan Buddhism and is an opportunity to enter the world of translators of the Buddhadharma with two of the most experienced Tibetan translators. Most people encounter the Buddhist teachings through translations of texts, so like...

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Tangtong Gyalpo: A Guide for Readers

Tangtong Gyalpo: A Guide for Readers

Tangtong Gyalpo (1361-1485 CE), or "The King of the Empty Plain," was a Buddhist mahasiddha, physician, blacksmith, architect, and civil engineer. He's also known by the names Chakzampa, the "Iron Bridge Builder," and Tsondru Zangpo, "Excellent Persistence." Many people believe he was an emanation of both Padmasambhava (known as "Guru Rinpoche" among Tibetan Buddhists) and Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen, the foremost master of shentong and a major proponent of the Jonang tradition. Aside from his architectural feats of building 58 iron chain suspension bridges and erecting several large stupas across Tibet and Bhutan, he is known for founding the Iron Chain lineage of the Shangpa Kagyu tradition.

Furthermore, he is known for developing lhamo or Tibetan theater in the 14th century and establishing song and dance troupes to raise money needed to build bridges. Performers would tell stories, recite mantra, and perform song and dance as a means to both teach and subdue demons for the sake of building Tangtong Gyalpo's bridges.

Lastly, Tangtong Gyalpo was known for his ability to eradicate disease. His famous prayer commonly known as "Thangtong Gyalpo's Refuge Prayer" is said to be helpful for averting adverse circumstances and transforming difficulty.

King of the Empty Plain

King of the Empty Plain is one of the most fascinating in-depth portrayals Tibetan master available.  Tangtong Gyalpo's incredible lifespan, profound teachings, unprecedented engineering feats, eccentric deeds, and creation of Tibetan opera have earned this fascinating figure a unique status in Tibetan culture. Believed to be the great Indian master Padmasambhava appearing again in the world to benefit living beings, he discovered techniques for achieving longevity that are still held in highest esteem and are frequently taught six hundred years later. His construction of fifty-eight iron suspension bridges, sixty wooden bridges, 118 ferries, 111 stupa monuments, and countless temples and monasteries in Tibet and Bhutan remains an awe-inspiring accomplishment.

This book is a detailed study of the life and legacy of this great master. An extensive introduction discusses Tangtong Gyalpo's Dharma traditions, the question of his amazing longevity, his "crazy" activities manifested to enhance his own realization and to benefit others, and his astonishing engineering and architectural achievements. The book includes a complete translation of the most famous Tibetan biography of Tangtong Gyalpo, as well as the Tibetan text and English translation of a unique early manuscript describing his miraculous death. The text is further enriched with ten color plates and seventy-seven black-and-white illustrations.

Here is a short biographical sketch from King of the Empty Plain by Cyrus Sterns

King of Empty Plain: the Tibetan Iron-Bridge Builder Tangtong Gyalpo

$49.95 - Hardcover

Namring County; formerly Ölpa Lhartse, the birth place of Thangtong Gyalpo
Namring County; formerly Ölpa Lhartse, the birth place of Thangtong Gyalpo

Countless Buddhist teachers and practitioners have appeared over the centuries in the snowy land of Tibet. None have made a deeper impact on the combined religious, artistic, and technological history of the country than the great adept (mah›siddha, grub chen) Tangtong Gyalpo, “King of the Empty Plain” (Thang stong rgyal po, 1361?−1485). This heroic figure became legendary because of his contributions to the mystical traditions, his exceptionally long life, and his innovative achievements in the fields of art, architecture, and metallurgy. Tangtong’s life and teachings are intertwined with divine madness, visionary revelation, demon exorcism, the quest for immortality, the relationship of human beings with their environment, and the process of ultimate enlightenment. He is famous in Tibet and the Himalayan regions for building many iron suspension bridges and is thus known by the epithet “Iron-Bridge Man” (Lcags zam pa). The great master also constructed many stupas—architectural symbols of enlightened mind—that were strategically located according to geomantic principles in order to control the wild energy of the landscape. Several of his monasteries in Tibet and Bhutan are still famous at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

Paro Tachog, founded by Tangtong Gyalpo in the 15th century and full of sacred relics


Tangtong Gyalpo is said to have lived 125 years as a result of his perfection of meditative techniques for achieving longevity. These methods have been passed down as the most efficacious and popular such practices in Tibetan Buddhism. His other systems of meditation, in particular those of Avalokitesvara and Vajravarahı, are still practiced after more than five hundred years. He is known as a mental emanation of Guru Padmasambhava and is believed to have recovered numerous caches of hidden treasure teachings (gter ma) concealed by the Indian master. His nonsectarian activities and teachings have earned him a special position in all the Buddhist traditions of Tibet.

Dumtsé Stupa of Paro, Bhutan, filled with incredible murals


Sterns also writes that Tangtong Gyalpo is represented as a sorcerer-type character in the popular Tibetan epic, Gesar:

Tangtong Gyalpo was also called “Madman of the Empty Valley” (Lung stong smyon pa), one of five names given to him by the dakinis in recognition of his spiritual attainments. This title indicates that he was one of the most important of the “mad adepts” who have been prominent in Tibetan history. He is remembered today as a charismatic figure of dark maroon complexion with long white hair and beard, dressed only in a single cloak, provocative in both appearance and behavior. His reputation as a formidable sorcerer is clearly retained in the popular Gesar legends, where he is identified with the White Old Man, while the tradition of his attainment of immortality is reflected in the opera performances of the Aché Lhamo, which he is said to have created as entertainment for the people while his iron bridges were being built.

Book Cover The Epic of Gesar of Ling Gesar's Magical Birth, Early Years, and Coronation as King

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Book cover for The Taming of the Demons From the Epic of Gesar of Ling

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Book cover for Gesar Tantric Practices of the Tibetan Warrior King

$29.95 - Paperback

Tangtong Gyalpo as the Reincarnation of Dolpopa

$39.95 - Hardcover

Cyrus Stearns also wrote The Buddha from Dolpo: A Study of the Life and Thought of the Tibetan Master Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen .  Tangtong Gyalpo was considered a rebirth of Dolpopa and unsurprisingly features in this book as well.

Tangtong Gyalpo and the Shangpa Kagyu Tradition

Shangpa Kagyu is a Tibetan school founded by the 11th century master, Khyungpo Naljor after receiving teachings and revelations from two dakinis: Niguma and Sukhasiddhi. Tangtong Gyalpo is among the masters who upheld the tradition along with others such as Jetsün Taranatha and Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye, who compiled a collection of teachings from the Eight Great Practice Lineages of Tibet including Shangpa Kagyu. This 18 volume collection is called The Treasury of Precious Instructions. Shangpa Kagyu makes up volumes 11 and 12.

Specifically, Volume 12 (ie., Part 2 of the Shangpa Kagyu volumes) includes several essential writings from Tangtong Gyalpo including Collection of Essentials: Vital Words of Instruction on the Six Dharma of Niguma, Dakini of Timeless Awareness and a number of auxiliary practices and teachings from Niguma.

$44.95 - Hardcover

Shangpa Kagyu: The Tradition of Khyungpo Naljor, Part One

By Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye
Translated by Sarah Harding

About this volume:

Volume 11 of the series, Shangpa Kagyu, is the first of two volumes that present a selection of teachings and practices from the Shangpa practice lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. This tradition was established in Tibet by the eleventh-century yogi Khyungpo Naljor, who had received profound esoteric teachings from many great Indian masters, especially the two yoginīs Niguma and Sukhasiddhi, as well as Maitrīpa, Rāhula, and Vajrāsana.

$49.95 - Hardcover

Shangpa Kagyu: The Tradition of Khyungpo Naljor, Part Two

By Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye
Translated by Sarah Harding

About this volume:

This is the second of two volumes that present teachings and practices from the Shangpa Kagyu practice lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. This tradition derives from two Indian yoginīs, the dākinīs Niguma and Sukhasiddhi, and their disciple, the eleventh-century Tibetan yogi Khyungpo Naljor Tsultrim Gönpo of the Shang region of Tibet.

Related Books from Shangpa Kagyu

feminine Buddhist history, Niguma, Lady of Illusion By Sarah Harding

$39.95 - Hardcover

Niguma, Lady of Illusion

By Sarah Harding

About this book:

Providing a rare glimpse of feminine Buddhist history, Niguma, Lady of Illusion brings to the forefront the life and teachings of a mysterious eleventh-century Kashmiri woman who became the source of a major Tibetan Buddhist practice lineage. The circumstances of her life and extraordinary qualities ascribed to her are analyzed in the greater context of spiritual biography and Buddhist doctrine. More than a historical presentation, Niguma's story raises the question of women as real spiritual leaders versus male images of feminine principle and other related contemporary issues. This volume includes the thirteen works that have been attributed to Niguma in the Tibetan Buddhist canon.

Songs and Prayers by Tangtong Gyalpo

Tangtong Gyalpo wrote a number of prayers, poems, and songs of realization throughout his life. The most well-known prayer is called Drubchen tangtong gyalpö tukdam chi nang sangwé kyab dro or, The Outer, Inner, and Secret Refuge Practice of the Mahāsiddha Thangtong Gyalpo. According to the colophon

"This prayer carries the blessing of Avalokiteśvara, who transmitted it to the Lord of Dharma Ka Ngapa and told him to give it to Gelong Tsöndru Zangpo (Thangtong Gyalpo), saying that if he taught it to the people of this world, it would dispel all sickness, negative influences and obstacles right now, and then also grant protection from the lower realms."

This prayer is still used today by Tibetan Buddhist practitioners of various lineages.

Prayer flags at Qinghai Lake with beautiful sunset

The Outer, Inner, and Secret Refuge Practice of the Mahāsiddha Tangtong Gyalpo

མ་ནམ་མཁའ་དང་མཉམ་པའི་སེམས་ཅན་ཐམས་ཅད་བླ་མ་སངས་རྒྱས་རིན་པོ་ཆེ་ལ་སྐྱབས་སུ་མཆིའོ། །

ma namkha dang nyampé semchen tamché lama sangye rinpoche la kyab su chi o

All mother sentient beings as infinite as space take refuge in the guru, the precious buddha.

སངས་རྒྱས་ཆོས་དང་དགེ་འདུན་རྣམས་ལ་སྐྱབས་སུ་མཆིའོ། །

sangye chö dang gendün nam la kyab su chi o

In the Buddha, Dharma and Saṅgha, we take refuge.

བླ་མ་ཡི་དམ་མཁའ་འགྲོའི་ཚོགས་ལ་སྐྱབས་སུ་མཆིའོ། །

lama yidam khandrö tsok la kyab su chi o

In the assembly of gurus, yidam deities and ḍākinīs, we take refuge.

རང་སེམས་སྟོང་གསལ་ཆོས་ཀྱི་སྐུ་ལ་སྐྱབས་སུ་མཆིའོ། །

rangsem tongsal chö kyi ku la kyab su chi o

In the dharmakāya, the inseparable emptiness and clarity of our own minds, we take refuge.

[See Lotsawa House for more translations like this]

Songs for Tangtong Gyalpo

In Karl Brunnhölzl's collection, Straight From the Heart: Buddhist Pith instructionsthere are numerous poems for and dedicated to Tangtong Gyalpo including the following prayer of devotion to Tangtong Gyalpo by Khamba Deleg Bal:

O father, qualified and precious guru,
Man of iron bridges whose name is so well-renowned,
Nirmanakaya of all the Buddhas,
Amazing one named by the dakinis,

There are many gurus whose faces I have seen,
But uncontrived devotion was never before born in me.
Now that I have met you, a guru who is a Buddha,
I supplicate you to give me the pith instructions.

About this Book: 

Straight from the Heart brings together an inspiring collection of Buddhist teachings, songs of realization, meditation instructions, and enlightened poetry—all chosen for their power to speak directly to the student. Drawn from Indian Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism as well as from all four schools of Tibetan Buddhism, some will impress with their beautiful poetry and powerful imagery, others with their profound power of instruction.

$49.95 - Paperback

Tangtong Gyalpo and the Chöd Tradition

Chöd is a traditional Tibetan Buddhist and Bon practice that's based on the teachings of the Prajñapāramitā or Perfection of Wisdom Sutras. Often translated as "cutting through," chöd emphasizes realizing emptiness—the ultimate nature of reality.

Tangtong Gyalpo was a chöd master known for practicing chöd before initiating construction projects for the sake of warding off inner and outer obstacles.

In King of the Empty Plain, Cyrus Sterns writes:

The most closely guarded esoteric teachings of Tangtong Gyalpo concern the practice of Chöd, or Severance, about which he never wrote. During the course of his studies and travels, Tangtong studied all the systems of Chöd in Tibet. From Lhadongpa Sönam Chokpa, he received the transmission of the Chöd practices taught by Padmasambhava and passed down in the Northern Treasure tradition of the Nyingma School, which were based on the treasures of Gökyi Demtruchen (1337−1408). However, it was a vison of Vajrāvārahī appearing to Tangtong as Machik Labdrön (eleventh–twelfth centuries) in the Kashmiri cemetery of Rāmeśvara that was to be most significant. Machik Labdrön was the mother of the most influential Chöd system in Tibet, and the visionary teachings she transmitted to Tangtong form the basis of Tangtong’s Oral Transmission (Thang stong snyan brgyud), also known as the Oral Transmission of Machik’s Secret Behavior (Ma gcig gsang spyod snyan brgyud), which has been passed down without interruption to the present day. Tangtong specifically practiced Chöd to bring the local spirits under his control long before beginning his first construction projects.

$34.95 - Hardcover

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Chöd: A Guide for Readers

Chöd: A Guide for Readers

Machig Labdron, The Tibetan Yogini, 19th century

Chöd, often pronounced "chö," is a meditative practice found in both the Buddhist and Bön traditions of Tibet. Chöd, translated literally as "cutting through," incorporates chanting, music, and visualization aimed as cutting through hindrances and obscurations that cloud ultimate wisdom and understanding of emptiness—the ultimate nature of reality. Closely linked with the teachings of the Prajñāpāramitā Sūtras, or "Perfection of Wisdom Sutras," Chöd enables the practitioner to cut through their anger, jealousy, arrogance, fear, and attachment as well as the dualism of seeing their self as a separate entity in order to transmute undesirable circumstances into opportunities for awakening.

In short, Chöd involves offering ones body (through visualization, music, and chanting) to various guests including Buddhas, dakinis, gods and demons as a means to satisfy karmic debt and the causes of bondage in samsara (ie., obscurations and hindrances). In this regard, offering the body—our primary source of attachment—serves as a source of liberation from clinging to self cherishing.

Below you will find books from important Chöd figures including Machig Labdron and Padampa Sangye in addition to books from various traditions of Chöd and modern teachers of Chöd as well as related articles on Chöd.

Machig Labdron

In the introduction to Machik's Complete Explanation, translator Sarah Harding begs the question is Machik a "woman" or "goddess" or something more? Admiring the life and legacy of Machik, Harding writes:

"Machik is the ḍākinī of timeless wisdom, the birth mother of all past, present, and future buddhas.” This is the very first sentence, after the homage, of the current text, Clarifying the Meaning of Chöd, a Complete Explanation of Casting Out the Body as Food, or Machik’s Complete Explanation. How does the ineffable become a woman, or a woman become ineffable? Who was the woman behind this book Stories of female saints are exceptional enough in the history of Tibetan Buddhism, or in any major religion for that matter, to make this story rare and precious. But even among the few that we can discover, the figure of Machik Lapdrön stands out as unique for several reasons. According to the legend, in her previous life she was an Indian man who made the unusual choice to take rebirth as a woman in Tibet. She was inspired primarily by the Prajñāpāramitā, the Great Mother Perfection of Wisdom that is the manifestation of the ultimate feminine. Unlike other female saints of Tibet, she was not a lama’s consort, a nun, or a hermit, but a mother who nurtured the spiritual life of her children, and a self-styled beggar woman. Above all, she was the only Tibetan, male or female, who was the progenitor of a distinct tradition that spread back into the Buddhist motherland of India, a cause for great national pride in Tibet. And she left a tremendous legacy of her own teachings, more than any other woman."

$34.95 - Hardcover

Machik's Complete Explanation: Clarifying the Meaning of Chod (Expanded Edition)

By Sarah Harding

Fear, anger, and negativity are states that each of us have to contend with. Machik's Complete Explanation, the most famous book of the teachings of Machik Lapdrön, the great female saint and yogini of eleventh- to twelfth-century Tibet, addresses these issues in a practical, direct way.

Machik developed a system, the Mahamudra Chöd, that takes the Buddha's teachings as a basis and applies them to the immediate experiences of negative mind states and malignant forces. Her unique feminine approach is to invoke and nurture the very "demons" that we fear and hate, transforming those reactive emotions into love. It is the tantric version of developing compassion and fearlessness, a radical method of cutting through ego-fixation.

This expanded edition includes Machik Lapdrön's earliest known teaching, the original source text for the tradition, The Great Bundle of Precepts on Severance (Chöd). This pithy set of instructions reveals that the teachings of the perfection of wisdom are the true inspiration for Chöd. It is beautifully clarified in a short commentary by Rangjung Dorje, the Third Karmapa.

Throughout Machik's Complete Explanation it becomes evident that Machik Labdron represents not only the qualities of wisdom exemplified in the Prajnaparamita, but also qualities of womanhood and motherhood including rearing children since Machik was herself a mother. In this regard, Machik paved a new path for all Buddhist practitioners, including women and mothers who have historically lacked role models and inspiration.

Stories like that of Machik provide important context for female practitioners who often lack representation in the Tibetan Buddhist field. Another great book which includes a biography of Machik along wither several other female practitioners is Tsultrim Allione's Women of Wisdom.

$29.95 - Paperback

Women of Wisdom

By Tsultrim Allione

Women of Wisdom explores and celebrates the spiritual potential of all women, as exemplified by the lives of six Tibetan female mystics. These stories of great women who have achieved full illumination, overcoming cultural prejudices and a host of other problems which male practitioners do not encounter, offer a wealth of inspiration to everyone on the spiritual path.

In this revised and expanded edition, Tsultrim Allione's extensive autobiographical preface and introduction speak directly to the difficulties and triumphs of women in the West who pursue a spiritual life, as she shares her own stories and experiences. Women of Wisdom offers valuable insights to all those interested in women's spirituality, regardless of background or tradition.

This new edition includes Tsultrim's expanded autobiography, covering the last fifteen years since the first edition appeared.

More on Machig Labdron

$34.95 - Hardcover

Machig Labdron and the Foundations of Chod

By Jerome Edou

Machig Labdron is popularly considered to be both a dakini and a deity, an emanation of Yum Chenmo, or Prajnaparamita, the embodiment of the wisdom of the buddhas. Historically, this Tibetan woman, a contemporary of Milarepa, was an adept and outstanding teacher, a mother, and a founder of a unique transmission lineage known as the Chöd of Mahamudra. This translation of the most famous biography of Machig Labdron, founder of the unique Mahamudra Chöd tradition, is presented together with a comprehensive overview of Chöd's historical and doctrinal origins in Indian Buddhism and its subsequent transmission to Tibet.

Chöd refers to cutting through the grasping at a self and its attendant emotional afflictions. Most famous for its teaching on transforming the aggregates into an offering of food for demons as a compassionate act of self-sacrifice, Chöd aims to free the mind from all fear and to arouse realization of its true nature, primordially clear bliss and emptiness.

Padmapa Sangye: "The Father of Chod"

Although it's argued that Machik was the founder of Chod in Tibet—specifically the Mahamudra Chöd lineage, the 11th century Indian Siddha, Padampa Sangye, is believed to have been one of her teachers. He's also known for his teachings on Zhije or the pacification of suffering (see below).

$34.95 - Paperback

Lion of Siddhas: The Life and Teachings of Padampa Sangye

By Padampa Sangye
Translated by David Molk
Translated by Lama Tsering Wangdu Rinpoche

Best known as Machig Labdron's teacher, the Indian mahasiddha Padampa Sangye is counted as a lineage guru by all schools of Tibetan Buddhism. He brought the lineage of Chöd to Tibet, carried the Buddha's teachings to China, and is even asserted in the Tibetan tradition to have been the legendary Bodhidharma. Padampa Sangye's teaching methods were unorthodox and sometimes extreme. This transcendent and irascible teacher encouraged his disciples to disregard social conventions, disdain social contacts, and go beyond their cultural conditioning. He inspired innumerable highly realized disciples, many of whom were women. Lion of Siddhas presents two extraordinary texts: a biography of Padampa Sangye, and a rare collection of his verbal and nonverbal teachings called Mahamudra in Symbols, recorded by his chief Tibetan disciple almost a thousand years ago. Both are previously untranslated.

Chod and Zhije in the Dam-ngak Dzö "Treasury of Precious Instructions"

The Treasury of Precious Instructions or Dam-ngak Rinpoché Dzö by Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Taye, one of Tibet’s greatest Buddhist masters, presents the essential teachings of practice lineages that come from India and Tibet including Chod and Zhije, the second of which can be traced back to Padapa Sangye (aka "Dampa Sangye").

$59.95 - Hardcover

Chod: The Sacred Teachings of Severance

In this, the fourteenth volume, Kongtrul compiles the teachings on Severance, or Chöd. It includes some of the tradition’s earliest source scriptures, such as the “grand poem” of Āryadeva, and numerous texts by the tradition’s renowned founder, Machik Lapdrön. Kongtrul also brings together the most significant texts on the rites of initiation, empowerments for practice, and wide-ranging instructions and guides for the support of practitioners. Altogether, this quintessential guide to Severance offers vast resources for scholars and practitioners alike to better understand this unique and remarkable tradition—the way of severing the ego through the profound realization of emptiness and compassion.

$39.95 - Hardcover

Zhije: The Pacification of Suffering

In this volume, Kongtrul presents a diverse corpus of texts from the Zhije (Pacification) tradition that trace especially to the South Indian master Dampa Sangye (d. 1117), whose teachings are also celebrated in the Chöd (Severance) tradition. It includes source scriptures by Dampa Sangye, empowerments by Lochen Dharmashrī, and guidance by Dampa Sangye, Lochen Dharmashrī, and Sönam Pal. Also included are lineage charts related to the transmission of Zhije teachings as well as detailed notes and an orientation to the texts by translator Sarah Harding.

In the video below translator Sarah Harding discusses Zhije and Chod.

Other Commentaries by Jamgön Kongtrul

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Chod Practice Manual and Commentary

By The Fourteenth Karmapa, Thekchok Dorje
By Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye
Translated by V.V. Lama Lodo Rinpoche

This splendid resource for Chöd practitioners contains the Chöd sadhana written by the Fourteenth Karmapa. This daily practice text is given in three versions: Tibetan, a phonetic rendering of the Tibetan, and English translation. Jamgön Kongtrül's commentary on the sadhana supplies necessary amplification and clarification; it is given both in English and Tibetan. An important feature of the commentary is the inclusion of illustrations for the different stages of visualization discussed within the commentary. All in all, this is an essential practice tool and reference guide for the serious Chöd practitioner.

Chod in Other Tibetan Traditions

$29.95 - Paperback

Chod in the Ganden Tradition

In Chöd in the Ganden Tradition, we encounter not only the life and teachings of one of the greatest Tibetan masters in modern times, but also instructions in one of the most interesting Tibetan techniques for working with basic fears, applicable to Chöd practitioners from all lineages. The instructions are offered with the engaging directness, wit, and stories for which Rinpoche was legendary. He tells miraculous accounts of the Ganden Oral Lineage masters and then gives detailed explanations of the actual practice, including such topics as the degree of fear necessary for Chöd practice, and how to remember dream and death morning, noon and, night. Also provided are the Chöd sadhanas for chanting in English.

$24.95 - Paperback

Chod Practice in the Bon Tradition

The dramatic practice of chöd, in which the yogin visualizes giving his or her own sacrificed body to the gods and demons as a way to cut the attachment to self and ordinary reality, offers an intense and direct confrontation with the central issues of the spiritual path. The chöd practices of the Bön tradition, a tradition that claims pre-Buddhist origins in the mysterious western lands of Zhang-zhung Tazig and Olmolungrig, are still almost entirely unknown.

King of Empty Plain: the Tibetan Iron-Bridge Builder Tangtong Gyalpo

$49.95 - Hardcover

Though not specifically a book about Chöd, Cyrus Sterns' King of the Empty Plain offers a detailed study of the life and legacy of Tangtong Gyalpo, the famous Buddhist sage, physician, blacksmith, architect, and Chöd master known as Chakzampa, the "Iron Bridge Maker." In fact, in his introduction he writes:

The most closely guarded esoteric teachings of Tangtong Gyalpo concern the practice of Chöd, or Severance, about which he never wrote. During the course of his studies and travels, Tangtong studied all the systems of Chöd in Tibet. From Lhadongpa Sönam Chokpa, he received the transmission of the Chöd practices taught by Padmasambhava and passed down in the Northern Treasure tradition of the Nyingma School, which were based on the treasures of Gökyi Demtruchen (1337−1408). However, it was a vison of Vajrāvārahī appearing to Tangtong as Machik Labdrön (eleventh–twelfth centuries) in the Kashmiri cemetery of Rāmeśvara that was to be most significant. Machik Labdrön was the mother of the most influential Chöd system in Tibet, and the visionary teachings she transmitted to Tangtong form the basis of Tangtong’s Oral Transmission (Thang stong snyan brgyud), also known as the Oral Transmission of Machik’s Secret Behavior (Ma gcig gsang spyod snyan brgyud), which has been passed down without interruption to the present day. Tangtong specifically practiced Chöd to bring the local spirits under his control long before beginning his first construction projects.

Sterns' book includes a complete translation of the most famous Tibetan biography of Tangtong Gyalpo, as well as the Tibetan text and English translation of a unique early manuscript describing his miraculous death. The text is further enriched with ten color plates and seventy-seven black-and-white illustrations. Read More

Teachings from Modern Chod Masters

$19.95 - Paperback

Into the Haunted Ground: A Guide to Cutting the Root of Suffering

In Into the Haunted Ground, Anam Thubten invites us to embrace every aspect of our lives, from the most difficult to the most joyful. For those of us who feel caught in endless anxious thoughts and stuck in personal relationships, Anam Thubten offers a direct and practical approach to dismantle our conceptual fixations, reveal the deeper habits that motivate us, and step into the immediate open spaciousness that can heal ourselves and the world.

Weaving together personal stories with philosophical explanations, Anam Thubten offers swift and straightforward methods to cut through old habits that no longer serve our best interests or reflect our true nature. Suitable for beginners and experienced practitioners alike, this book presents the core lessons of the Tibetan practice of Chöd as a fundamental wisdom that is accessible to any of us willing to enter the “haunted grounds” of our own minds.

Also available as an audiobook! See below.

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The Treasury of Precious Instructions Video Series

Treasury Precious Instructions Videos

In 2016, the Tsadra Foundation sponsored a series of talks on the Treasury of Precious Instructions focusing on Kongtrul and the specifics of the Eight Chariots.  Translator and teacher Sarah Harding who has been immersed in this work for decades and has completed several volumes of this work leads it.  Also included are Elizabeth Callahan and Acharya Tenpa Gyaltsen.  You can watch or download the full series here.

treasury of precious instructions


In this talk, Sarah Harding, translator of several volumes of the Treasury, gives an overview of the Treasury and a peek into what is in store in subsequent videos in this series.  She discusses how the Jonang volume, the final one in the series, is in fact the keystone and inspiration for the entire collection.

Nyingma, Kadam, and Sakya Lamdre

In this talk, Sarah Harding, translator of several volumes of the Treasury, discusses the Nyingma, Kadam, and Lamdre traditions which make up the first six volumes of the series.

The Marpa and Shangpa Kagyu

In this talk, Elizabeth Callahan and Sarah Harding present the six volumes based on instructions from the Shangpa and Marpa Kagyu traditions.

Zhije and Chöd

In this talk, Sarah Harding discusses the volumes on Zhije (Pacification) and Chöd (Severance).

Kalachakra and Orgyen Nyendrup

In this talk,  Sarah Harding is joined by Lama Tenpa Gyaltsen to discuss the Kalachakra and Orgyen Nyendrup traditions as well as reflecting on Kongtrul's Treasury as a whole.

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Stories of Niguma

Niguma Image

Sarah Harding writes in the Introduction to Niguma, Lady of Illusion:

“As much as I have searched for this dakini named Niguma and hoped to find her as an actual person and the subject of her own story, it may have been in vain. Her own story, if it ever existed, is not to be found apart from the few details that I have explored here. Before providing the translation of her biography, therefore, let us see what a few of those masters have said of their encounters with Niguma.”


Here is one of the stories…

Khyungpo Naljor’s Niguma

After studying with many gurus in Nepal and India, the Tibetan yogi Khyungpo Naljor resolved to find someone who had met the Buddha face-to-face. He was directed to Niguma, who was reported to have received teachings from the great Vajradhara. Inquiring as to where she was at present, he was told that if one had pure perception, one could see her face anywhere, but those with impure perception might search up and down without ever finding her. That was because she dwelt on the pure grounds and had transformed to a rainbow body.

“Pure grounds” are certainly a matter of perception, rather than location.

Nevertheless, they said, she occasionally shows up in the forest of a great charnel ground, Sosadvipa, to preside over the feast circles of dakinis. Inspired, Khyungpo travels there immediately, while paying homage to the Buddha. He sees a dark dakini hovering in the sky, bedecked in bones and holding a trident and skull-cup, dancing about and displaying various forms, appearing sometimes as one and sometimes many. Convinced it is she, Khyungpo requests teachings, but the dakini is uncooperative.

“I am a flesh-eating dakini,” she says. “When my retinue arrives, you’ll be devoured. Get out now.”

Flesh-eating dakinis may have been the original dakinis of Indian lore, those scary females that populated the charnel grounds and other places where god-fearing people dared not tread. They constellate some of our greatest fears and are never far behind the more beneficent figures that entice and instruct the Tibetan adepts. Here, the gimmick of terrorizing the aspirant as a test of determination is of course a common element in hero stories. At the same time, it is not entirely a ruse. The chimerical dakini, or the energy she represents, could turn dangerous at any time and devour rather than nurture the practitioner. Khyungpo, undeterred, again requests instruction in secret mantra.

“To request secret mantra mahayana requires gold. If there’s gold, I’ll do it,” the dakini retorts.

Khyungpo offers her the nearly impossible amount of five hundred gold srang, but she just throws it about the forest. At this point Khyungpo starts to wonder if she really is a flesh-eating dakini since she does not want the gold. It is difficult not to speculate about the implication here: that a genuine dakini would be greedy for gold, but apparently a flesh-eating dakini is satisfied with—well, flesh.

The dakini then glares into space to invoke her vast dakini entourage, who begin constructing, in space, all the requisites for an empowerment, such as palace, sand mandala, and feast provisions. She then bestows the empowerments for the practices of illusory body and dream, tells Khyungpo to get up, and then transports him miraculously about twenty-five miles. There, in the sky above a golden mountain like the great mount Avrha, the dakinis perform the feast ceremony and dance about. The golden mountain has four rivers of gold pouring from the four sides, and Khyungpo asks if it can really be somewhere in India or if it is the dakini’s magical projection. To this she replies with perhaps the most famous verse associated with Niguma, reiterated in various ways in the Path of Illusion:

This variety of desirous and hateful thoughts
that strands us in the ocean of cyclic existence
once realized to be without intrinsic nature,
makes everything a golden land, child.

If you meditate on the illusion-like nature
of illusion-like phenomena,
actual illusion-like buddhahood
will occur through the power of devotion.

Niguma then commands Khyungpo to recognize his dreams by means of her blessing, which he does indeed do. He continues to have the very dreamy experience of traveling to the land of gods and demigods, being swallowed whole by a gigantic demigod, and receiving the entire instruction on the six dharmas from Niguma. She even mentions, in his dream, that no one but he has ever received the complete teaching in one nap in all of India. What is never clarified is the starting point of the dream experience: whether it was from the time of being transported to the Golden Mountain or from his first encounter with the dakini. He recognizes the dream only after she blesses him to so do. In any case, he now wakes up and “really” (dngos su) receives the guidance on the six dharmas again three times, along with a number of other instructions.

For more information:

Sarah Harding

Sarah Harding has been a Buddhist practitioner since 1974 and has been teaching and translating since completing a three-year retreat in 1980 under the guidance of Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche. Her publications include Creation and CompletionThe Life and Revelations of Pema LingpaTreasury of Knowledge: Esoteric Instructions, and Niguma, Lady of Illusion. She is an associate professor at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, where she has been teaching since 1992, and has been a fellow of the Tsadra Foundation since 2000.

Related Books

Niguma, Lady of Illusion

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(Includes an important vision of Niguma)

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The Life and Revelations of Pema Lingpa

The following article is from the Summer, 2003 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.


"An amazing and precious gift...a masterpiece on the Dzogchen teachings."—TULKU THUBTEN RINPOCHE

"A wonderful job...A true gem of a book."—PROF. STEVEN GOODMAN, Asian Studies, CIIS

These fascinating discussions between 11th century court ladies and the great master Padmasambhava, available for the first time in English, weave intriguing issues of gender into Buddhist teachings. The women's doubts and hesitations are masterfully resolved in these impassioned exchanges. The wonderful material in this book is part of a terma (treasure) revealed by Pema Lingpa (1450-1521), the greatest terton (treasure-revealer) of the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. This pithy collection is rounded out by Pema Lingpa's astonishing life story. All in all a beautifully realized book, translated and compiled by the author of Machik's Complete Explanation.

The following excerpts are taken from The Life and Revelations of Pema Lingpa, translated by Sarah Harding.

From the life of Pema Lingpa describing his discovery of the treasures of The Burning Lake

In particular, on the tenth day of the first month of autumn in the Fire Monkey year (1476), while staying at the monastery in a deep state of melancholy, [Pema Lingpa] went alone up into the woods to look for mushrooms. Not finding any, he turned back and fell asleep at the foot of the chapel room in front of the monastery. Hearing Get up and work! he looked around. Standing close by was a monk in ragged robes. After much questioning, the monk handed him a paper scroll and said, "Look well, and give me some food." After preparing the food inside, Pema Lingpa again went outside to call the monk, but he had disappeared without a trace. Looking at the paper scroll, he read, "On the night of the full moon of this month, at the bottom of your there is a place called Naring Drak (Long-Nosed Cliff). There lies your destined wealth. Take five friends and go there to retrieve it." When he got home, he showed the scroll to his father and mother and Ani Deshek, explaining the situation. His father said. "It's a lie," but Ani said, "This same thing happened before to Ratna Lingpa. How do we know what it is?" Basically, they didn't believe in it.

On the night of the full moon, Pema Lingpa persuaded five friends to come with him. Unwilling, they pretended that they were first going to fetch a yak cow from Tangsibi, and they tried to confuse him by acting as if they would come to meet him. In the lower part of Chel, the Tang River twists and knots at the place called Senge Naring Drak (Long-Nosed Lion Cliff), or Mebartso (Burning Lake). When Pema Lingpa arrived at its edge, immediately an intense experience of having lost all bearings welled up in him, and he took off his clothes and jumped in the water. Beneath the water, in a place called Palgyi Phukring (Glorious Long Cave) there was a life-size figure of the Teacher. To the left side of this was a stack of many rhinoceros-skin chests. A woman with one eye, wearing maroon clothes, handed him a treasure box from among these containing the text of The Quintessence of the Mysteries of the Luminous Space of Samantabhadri. After somehow being propelled back onto the cliff, he returned with his friends at midnight. He blessed his mother, father, and others with the treasure.


Rest in the continuity of whatever arises, I without grasping. The one who thus rests is also empty of essence, like ice melting in water. If you abide in this state without any frame of reference, the I experiences of bliss, I clarity, and nonthought will arise.

Back at Mani Gonpa, when it was time to transcribe the yellow scroll, the ink ran out. Immediately a dakini appeared and offered a self-filling pot of ink and made a prophecy about the scribe and other things. At the village of Dangkhabi, when he opened the door of the empowerment and instruction of this sacred teaching for the first time, myriad good signs appeared, such as a rain of flowers and a canopy of rainbows. Every night he experienced the Great Orgyen and Tsogyal explaining the exact details of how to confer the empowerment and give the instructions, how to perform the dances, the musical notation for the ritual activity, and so on, and he would precisely implement these instructions on the following day.

One time, on the fifteenth of the month, Pema Lingpa fell asleep on the steps of a stupa. The awareness-holder Ratna Lingpa appeared to him and said, "You have acted as the lama for three lifetimes. I am going to Chamara, and you must stay to benefit sentient beings." He then disappeared like a rainbow. Later Pema Lingpa found out that Ratna Lingpa had died on that very day.

On the fourteenth day of the eighth month of that year, in the midst of a large crowd who were gathered at the edge of Mebartso, Pema Lingpa held up a butter lamp in his hand and declared, "If I am a demonic emanation, then may I die in these waters. If I am a son of Orgyen, then may I find the necessary treasure and may this butter lamp not be extinguished."

Saying that, he jumped. The people had all kinds of reactions and a great clamor arose, but immediately thereupon the figure of Pema Lingpa shot glistening out of the water, holding a buddha statue and with a joined skull box filled with sacred substances held under his armpit. What is more, the butter lamp was still burning. All the skeptics were inspired then with trusting faith and were placed in a state of liberated awakening.

* * *

From Refined Gold: The Dialogue of Princess Pemasal and the Guru [Padmasambhava]

Princess Pemasal filled a golden bowl with turquoise. Coming into the presence of Orgyen Rinpoche on the roof of the Golden Orphan Temple she offered it to the master and said, "Oh, Orgyen Rinpoche! I am a child in a girl's body, of lowly birth and little worth, feeble of speech, vastly discursive, and forgetful of the Dharma. I have a half human body, half human slave's body. Lord Guru, hold with compassion one such as I, who has not accumulated merit. Do not drop me in the swamp of cyclic existence. I request a method to become buddha in this life by practicing some Dharma myself."

I, Padmasambhava, replied, "Princess, listen! To you, a girl, Dharma won't come. Even more so, to a princess it won't come. Powerlessly consigned to cyclic prison by your parents, you must track your husband's moods. Dwelling your whole life in the state of ego-clinging, you must act as man's servant without wages. And after living this wasted human life, finally you will go on to a bad existence, Princess."

When she heard this, the princess's eyes filled with tears, and she laid her head on the master's lap and said, "Glorious guide of beings, Orgyen Rinpoche, hold with compassion this girl with no refuge. You know the happy and sad aims of this and future lives. I request a Dharma for attaining buddhahood in this life."

Knowing that the princess was subject to some previous karmic ripening and would not live out her full lifespan, I decided I should teach her some Dharma. I said, "Princess, the deeds of this life are like a dream, an illusion. Your work won't help you, but may harm you later. If you wish to achieve your next life's aims now, listen to me for some Dharma that is appropriate for your mind."


Burning Lake (Mebartso) with an underwater cave in the Tang River of Bumthang where Pema Lingpa discovered his first treasure. [Photograph by Marilyn Downing Staff]

"Lord, knower of the three times, Padmasambhava," she said, "though dwelling in the state beyond speech, thought, or utterance—the inconceivable—at this point you have spoken your thoughts to me. Please tell me what precedes all Dharma practice."

I, Padma, replied, "As for that which precedes all Dharma practice, first there is only this before all teachings: contemplating the difficult-to-find, free, and endowed human life, and death and impermanence. These go first."

The princess then asked me to explain death and impermanence [and many other topics. These are her many questions and the answers I gave]:

"How is death and impermanence the nature of cyclic existence?"

"Princess, the free and endowed human life is hard to obtain and easy to lose. Death and impermanence are the nature of cyclic existence. The free and endowed human life is difficult to obtain because there is no chance of a human life without the accumulation of merit. It is easy to lose because your being is affected by the ripening of previous karma, so you live without knowing the specific duration of your life. Now, while still alive, while listening, contemplate this as if your heart were pained with disease. Otherwise, the chance to escape from the chains of suffering in cyclic existence will never come. Think of the suffering of each of the six realms. Other than the sacred Dharma, a great path that can liberate you from that suffering does not exist. If you do not seek it right now, death could come just today or tomorrow, for its time is uncertain.

"Think well on this, Pemasal. Many a person who is today bright- eyed and resonant will tomorrow become a dried-up black corpse. They were not planning to die on the morrow. Do not put your trust in this illusory body. Breath is just steam, warmth just a spark, life force just a horsehair about to break. Think about it: all previous lives have ended. Future ones will follow this pattern. The one that exists now is the same. As everything hangs in a state of flux, there is no young or old stage of life. Everything will certainly expire, and at that time the continuity of karma and the continuity of karmic activities, the continuity of eating food, the bedclothes and body clothes, plates, bowls, and so on are abandoned and you must go. In your wake there is no lack of bad talk about you, the dead one, but from amid it all, you alone must go forth, like a hair pulled out of butter. And when the time to depart is upon you, how terrifying! As if dying weren't enough-afterward there is no place to go. You roam through bad places of the three intermediate stages, and the power of karma propels you into one of the six realms. If born in hell, you experience the suffering of boiling and burning; if born as a hungry ghost, the pain of hunger and thirst; if as an animal, the pain of being mute and dumb; if as a demigod, the pain of conflict and battle; if as a god, the pain of the change and the fall from that existence; and if born as a human, you experience the pain of toil and poverty. If you did not practice the Dharma before, this is what will happen. But with some accumulation of merit, a human life could be obtained. If you do not develop the power to practice some Dharma in this life, what happens in the next life will be uncertain. Who knows?

"Now, Pemasal, when you have the choice, like a feverish person tortured by thirst, in a state of unwavering perseverance, exert yourself in the Dharma until you attain the fruition of complete awakening."

[later in Chapter 2]

"What is the procedure for meditation?"

"This is the nature of meditation. When this very essence of the above view is realized and internalized, to abide within that state is called meditation.' Moreover, to meditate dwelling in radiant emptiness, in the essence free of extremes, the body should be in the seven-point posture of Vairochana. Then, meditate on the innate nature, radiant emptiness, complete as soon as you think of it. Stay free of thought, without attachment. Do not enter into a mental fixation about meditating. In the state with no concept of emptiness, unpolluted radiant knowing, whatever arises is naturally free.

"How do you meditate on that? Outwardly, there are the reflected appearances; inwardly, there are the perceived appearances of the sense organs and six consciousness groups; and secretly, there is the arising of the mind's dynamic energy. The instant that you fixate on the mode of being of any of it, recognize whatever occurs as thought and rest in a state free of elaboration, without fixation.

"When meditating on the true nature in this way, all kinds of subtle or obvious thoughts arise. Don't chase after thoughts of the past, or go out to greet thoughts of the future, or fool around with thoughts of the present. Rest in the continuity of whatever arises, without grasping. The one who thus rests is also empty of essence, like ice melting in water. If you abide in this state without any frame of reference, the experiences of bliss, clarity, and nonthought will arise. Endowed with essence, nature, and compassion, you will reach the perspective of the three kayas. Relying on that calm abiding (shamata), practice Cutting Through Resistance and Direct Crossing. Based on the four lamps, and experiencing the four visions, you will reach the place of extinction and become buddha in this life.

"Until this is firmly attained, engage in the straight path of physical and verbal virtuous activity and exert yourself in the yoga of four sessions. Those are the sessions at dawn, in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the evening. In keeping the sessions of these four times without fail, you will maintain constant effort and pursue meditation. If you apply yourself to meditation in this way, you will attain the state of buddha in this life, Pemasal.

From The Dialogue of Princess Trompa Gyen and the Guru

I, Orgyen, considered this and thought, "This girl is not beset by doubts or a divided mind. She has given rise to heartfelt remorse over cyclic existence. She seems to have a sincere yearning to practice Dharma. If I do not teach her a Dharma that will affect her deeply, remorse about cyclic existence will not continue to arise and the Dharma will not stay in her mind." Thinking this, I answered her with this song:

Listen and consider this, Trompa Gyen.

As for what helps, relatives will not help.

Having forsaken the true goal,

divine Dharma, You prefer neurotic cyclic existence.

Having abandoned homeland, you

roam in a man's country. Having forsaken your parents, you

rely on a husband. Having forsaken your siblings, you

honor another's loved ones.

Having forsaken your own priorities, you serve another.

Alienated one who has abandoned

parents, Faithful one who endures these

unpleasantries, You are the earliest to rise in the

morning And I he last to sleep at night. Your painful, heavy load of work

increases As you slave to provide food and clothes.

You exert yourself day and night

At all of this busywork,

But when your bad-tempered

husband arrives You cannot even complete the work.

He'll rage, You ugly old woman.

You suffer but get no gratitude. Your stiffened back carries the

load of karmic ripening. Now, having obtained this very

human body, Which is like arriving in the golden

land of jewels, Will you return empty-handed,

Trompa Gyen? Dharmaless woman abandoning

homeland, Wageless woman serving men, When the lord of death gives orders,

The counsel of your own lord

won't help. Eloquent girl, what will you do? If you attend your husband, an

actual devil, You don't attend a lama, a true friend.

Even though a girl thinks of following the lama, the true friend, She'll change her mind later, and

then what will happen? Even though a girl thinks about

Dharma, Hoarded wealth won't give her a chance.

You, stingy one, what will you do? When you are wrapped up in your

death shroud, You'll leave behind your fine, soft

clothes and go. What can your workers do about it?

When you leave your body and it's

hidden in a cemetery, However fine your mansion, you'll

leave it behind and go. What can your builders do? When the time has come to go all

by yourself, alone, The gathering of family and parents won't help.

What can those relatives do? Listen and consider, Trompa Gyen!

Although you are the daughter of a king,

Once you enter a man's door you

are a servant. If you try to put off the backbreaking pain of work, You will come back beaten and sore.

Then you will remember the suffering of cyclic existence.

But remembering won't help; it's

just too late. If your good judgment is not lost

to a man, You might still follow a lama above,

And give in charity below.

I am the one who has rejected mundane actions.

I am the renunciant yogi, Padma- sambhava.

In the daytime I meditate on guru yoga.

Morning and evening I do practice

sessions and tornia offerings. At night. I dwell in the state of

radiance, i always maintain alert relaxation of the six groups of consciousness.

A yogin endowed in this way Has a view higher than the sky, Meditation clearer than the sun

and moon, And conduct more precise than

sand grains. I am the undying vajra body.

For me, passing away is nondual. Though I am like all men and

women Who obtain the human body,

Unalike, alike-what is the difference?

Do you understand, do you comprehend, Trompa Gyen?

If you understand, it's more joyful than a hundred pounds of gold.

If you don't understand, at least connect with the Dharma.

From The Heart of the Matter: The Guru's Red Instructions [to Prince Mutik Tsenpo]

As [Mutik Tsenpo] practiced without fixation in clarity-emptiness, it occurred to the prince that appearance is empty. Emptiness is appearance. Appearance and emptiness are inseparable. And the thought occurred that buddhas and sentient beings are not two things. And he thought that whether one practices the ten nonvirtues, or the ten virtues, there is no cause for their consequences to come. He reported these experiences to Orgyen. The Guru said:

"Prince, you are fooled by fixation to the validity of your experience. To think that appearance and emptiness are inseparable, you need to be free of attachment to this appearance. Are you? If you think that buddhas and sentient beings are not two things, you need to render service and homage to sentient beings the same as to buddhas. Do you? If you think that the full ripening of practicing the ten nonvirtues won't come, you need to forbear those acts, such as murder and so on, when inflicted on yourself by others. Can you? If you think that there is no consequence of practicing the ten virtues, then you must not feel joy when others benefit you through the ten virtues, such as saving your life. Do you have that?

"Stay yet again in retreat and make this body of yours like a corpse. Rest your voice like a mute. Place your mind like the sky. When you practice in an isolated place like that, the experience of clarity- emptiness is a radiant transparency without outside or inside. Whether you close your eyes or not, this clarity-emptiness arises. The emptiness experience is without attachment to anything at all, external or internal. Emptiness pervades evenly with nowhere for the mind to abide. In the bliss experience, body and mind both melt like butter, becoming tranquil and welling with bliss. There is no attachment to the growing clarity of the various appearances. Consciousness rises like the sun in space, and the body is like the mists. Unwaveringly, you recognize yourself and others. Just as you know by yourself the meaning of mind itself, you'll think that others have awareness of knowing."

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Machik's Complete Explanation: Clarifying the Meaning of Chod

The following article is from the Winter, 2003 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.


Machik's Complete Explanation is the most famous book of the teachings of Machik Labdron, the great female saint and yogini of 11-12th century Tibet, now finally translated in its entirety into English. Machik developed a system, the Mahamudra Chod, that takes the Buddha's teachings as a basis and applies them to the immediate experiences of negative mind states and malignant forces. Machik's unique feminine approach is to invoke and nurture the very demons that we fear and hate, transforming those reactive emotions into love. It is the tantric version of developing compassion and fearlessness, a radical method of cutting through ego- fixation.

"Sarah Harding's masterful translation is a real gift to students of Chod and this extraordinary woman teacher. It provides much new material including intimate question and answer sessions between Machik and her disciples. The translation has such a fresh living quality you almost feel you are receiving teachings directly from Machik Lapdron herself."—TSULTRIM ALLIONE, author of Women of Wisdom and founder of the Tara Mandala Retreat Center

"In this remarkable work Sarah Harding has combined her well-honed translation skills with her own practice experience to give us the most complete, detailed, lucid, and well-contextualized study to date of the meaning and practice of Machik's Chod."—JAN WILLIS, author of Dreaming Me

"A clear translation of a standard Tibetan handbook on the history, practice, and theory of a striking meditation system that is unique to Tibetan religion. The book provides much else besides, not the least of which is an array of Tibetan cultural conceptions about the body, society, and divinity. The translation is complemented by a balanced introduction aimed at lay students and practitioners of meditation alike."—JANET GYATSO, author of Apparitions of the Self

"An important contribution to an understanding of Tibet's most innovative female saint, revealing her vast diversity of teachings that place Chod squarely in the mainstream of tantric Buddhist meditation. Harding's translation deftly reveals new and rare biographical, anatomical, philosophic, and meditative lore essential to understanding the tradition as a whole."—JUDITH SIMMER-BROWN, professor at Naropa University and author of Dakini's Warm Breath

"Sarah Harding's magnificent translation of this key work of Machik Labkyi Dronma, Tibet's most famous yogini, opens up for Western practitioners the startling world of Chod practice: severing the devil of ego-fixation. This meditation manual explains how the rich symbology of tantric yoga can be used in a disturbingly effective way to transform one's life."—STEPHEN BATCHELOR, author of Buddhism Without Beliefs

Sarah Harding is the translator of Creation and Completion. She teaches at Naropa University.

Here are three short excerpts from Machik's Complete Explanation.

Life as a Recitation Chaplain

At the age of sixteen, Lapdron and her sister went before Lama Drapa. He asked Bumey if this was the sister who was so skilled with letters. She replied that it was, and he said, "Well then, we'll see if she compares to my recitation chaplain." He had a monk whom he called Gya Parchin Drukgyur ("Paramita Six Mode") who could recite in one day four volumes of the Perfection of Wisdom in One Hundred Thousand Verses by reading in six voice modulations. One day this monk and Lapdron began reciting at the same time, and when Gya Drukgyur had finished four volumes, Lapdron had finished all twelve by reading in eight voice modulations. Drapa said, "Oh my, this lady surpasses Gya Drukgyur by two modes. I won't find anyone nearly as good as she. I will make this little lady my official reader."

Bumey then said, "Ahdron, shouldn't we two practice and go to the heavenly realm of Kechara?" But Lapdron said, "I, for one, am not going. Sentient beings need help. If you wish to go, then quickly become accomplished and go enjoy heaven. I will meet you there when I have finished my work for beings here." So Tontso Rinchen Bum practiced for three years and went to the heavenly realm without leaving any physical remains behind.

Drapa Ngonshechen could see that Lapdron was a worthy recipient and gave her the reading transmission (lung) for the Many Sutras, the Perfection of Wisdom in One Hundred Thousand Verses, Ten Thousand Verses and Eight Thousand Verses, and many minor sutras, along with extensive explanations of their meanings. She became learned in the meanings contained in the great commentary of the One Hundred Thousand Verses, and the lesser commentaries on everything from the Ten Thousand Verses right down to the Single Syllable Sutra. Extraordinary realizations about them arose in her mindstream, and she offered these realizations to the lama. He was extremely pleased and said, "Jomo (great woman), you have completely assimilated the extensive, middle, and short versions of the prajnaparamita and so have attained mastery over the sutras. Even for me it would be difficult to comprehend them to such a degree."

He presented her with a hat of maroon felt with lotus design applique' on the outside and lined with white on the inside, shaped like a ten-petaled lotus flower, with five even pieces of brocade in five colors on the back, and to the left and right. He also offered a complete set of the finest outer and underclothes, along with a pair of small boots. Lama Drapa invited her to take her seat on three stacked cushions spread with a new carpet, and then made his request: Please stay here for four years and be my recitation lama.

Sitting there with focused eyes, she donned the headdress. She was resplendent, all covered in blue and red silks down to her waist. The lama said, "When this Little Ponmo (female leader) wears this small hat, she is beautiful," and henceforth all the people called her Jomo Little Hat.

Six Kinds of Gods and Demons

"Machik-la," said Gangpa, "you have described the characteristics of those devils. But is the term 'gods and demons' also applied to these devils, or does it refer to something else?"

"Listen, son. 'Gods and demons' refers to those devils but can definitely refer to something else as well. There are six categories: (1) gods and demons as designated by worldly people; (2) gods and demons by their essential mode of being; (3) gods and demons superimposed on observable phenomena; (4) gods and demons that are natural or coemergent; (5) gods and demons of inevitable karmic forces; and (6) the ultimate, absolute gods and demons.

"In each of those categories there are so-called gods and so-called demons. In the ultimate category, the [distinction between] god and demon is definite, whereas in the former [categories] it is not definite; a god may be a demon or a demon a god.

Gods and Demons Superimposed on Observable Phenomena

These are worldly beings, such as the celestial mentsun, that are somewhat inclined to virtue and move the spirit of ordinary women and men, inspiring them to report on all the profits and problems of the world. Also, when many paranormal things of different sorts occur, such as flowers and crops suddenly sprouting in the unseasonable wintry cold, or nonhumans practically displaying their forms openly and making many predictions, or visible rainbows and figures, people say that it's spiritual powers, or it's sacred, or it's a god, or it's glory. They superimpose [these ideas] and make it into a god. This is called a superimposed god. In the same manner, when out-of-season snakes and frogs and such appear in the wintertime, and many other weird and frightening sights occur, such as the appearance of unseasonable otters and large pir in the summer eating a lot of creatures, or fish flopping on the dry land, and frightening, dreadful, ugly shapes appearing before the eyes and many other strange and disconcerting sights occur, they are said to be demons that will cause problems. Since the name 'demon' is superimposed on them, they are called 'demons superimposed on observable phenomena.'

"Though these are held to be definite gods and demons in the customs of worldly people, in the tradition of Chod those mere sights are not believed to be gods or demons. In the functional sense, the mere observable phenomena are not called gods and demons. Those gods and demons of observable phenomena are just worldly superimpositions. Therefore, Chod practitioners don't exalt them or fixate on them. [When practitioners] rest in great equanimity, help and harm are incapacitated and liberated in their own ground. Chod practitioners who don't understand this and are embroiled by concepts of mere sights as gods and demons are in violation of my dhanna system and have discarded the purpose of Chod. Develop definite understanding of the meaning, son, and then practice it!

Machik's Complete Explanation

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By: Sarah Harding

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