Sherab Chodzin Kohn

Sherab Chodzin Kohn

SHERAB CHÖDZIN KOHN taught Buddhism and meditation for more than thirty years, and he edited a number of the books of his teacher, the Tibetan meditation master Chögyam Trungpa. Coeditor of the bestselling anthology The Buddha and His Teachings, he also published numerous translations, including an acclaimed version of Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha.

Sherab Chodzin Kohn

SHERAB CHÖDZIN KOHN taught Buddhism and meditation for more than thirty years, and he edited a number of the books of his teacher, the Tibetan meditation master Chögyam Trungpa. Coeditor of the bestselling anthology The Buddha and His Teachings, he also published numerous translations, including an acclaimed version of Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha.

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The Passing of Sherab Chodzin Kohn

It is with a very heavy heart I share the news that our author, translator, editor, audiobook reader, and—most of all— friend Sherab Chodzin Kohn passed away on January 21, 2020.  His roots with Shambhala Publications go very deep.

Sherab did his dissertation at the Sorbonne, after which he jumped into publishing as a copyeditor for U Penn, then a senior editor at Encyclopedia Britannica on religion and philosophy.  He became a student of Trungpa Rinpoche, later becoming his personal representative in Europe.  He edited nine of his books and teachings including Mudra, Dawn of Tantra, Orderly Chaos, Crazy Wisdom, Lion's Roar, Illusion's Game, The Path is the Goal, Political Treatise, and Work, Sex, Money.

Sherab authored our Awakened One (now published as A Life of the Buddha) and co-edited Entering the Stream (now published as The Buddha and His Teachings). And he is the author of our forthcoming Bala Kids book on Padmasambhava.

He also translated many books for us from German, and French: Anytime Yoga, Siddhartha, Singapore Dreams, Samurai Wisdom Stories, Inner Art of Karate, Natural Laws of Children, True Love, You Are Here, Miyamoto Musashi, Rilke’s Stories of God, The Prince and the Zombie, A Pleas for the Animals, Archetypal Dimensions of the psych, Meditation for Kids, Francoise Cheng’s Empty and Full, A Concise Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen, The Compassionate Brain, The Very Lowly (originally published as The Secret of Francis of Assisi), and Ayya Khema’s Give You My Life. And that is just for us – he did occasional work for others too.

He also read many more manuscripts that were not published.   But his Reader’s Reports were eagerly awaited by all of us who sent them his way because they were always a tour de force.

I can do little justice to the erudition, wit, and brightness of Sherab.  But here are a few snippets from some of his reader’s reports that will give those of you who did not know him a little flavor.

On a report for a book by Francois Cheng:

Here he first points out that the universe is not obliged to be beautiful. It could be a purely functional affair, a big meaningless ticktock. In fact, he suggests, this is the view we routinely encounter these days. He rubs our noses in the frigidity of this outlook for few pages, then proceeds to deliver us from it: he discovers a jewel, the French word sens, which has three meanings: sensation, direction, meaning. Greatly simplified, the movement of Cheng’s thought is: We experience the world as sensation. We are not indifferent to sensation, but rather attracted or repulsed. If we are attracted. we move toward our sensations. Once this happens, we have direction. Once we have direction, life has meaning. This natural process, when not denatured by cynicism, is a jewel.

The most notable objection to this line of thought accuses it of subjectivism. This objection asks: must we always experience the world from the outside, be moved by it while it remains indifferent to us? Cheng puts this duality-smitten question in its place through an excursus on Chinese painting. We are familiar with Chinese paintings depicting immense landscapes, always with one or several tiny human figures somewhere in the scene. The Western eye is accustomed to paintings where large human figures occupy the foreground and the landscape or other surroundings constitute the background. Thus the little figures in the Chinese paintings appear lost, drowned in the immensity of the landscape.

On the Padmasambhava (adult) book we will publish:

What particularly strikes me as distinctive is [the author's] voice. It is not the voice of a teacher presenting his message nor of an established spokesman of a particular Buddhist orthodoxy (e.g., Matthieu Ricard). Nor does it go in the other direction—his is not the voice of an academic either. More it is the voice of "one of us" who happens to be well informed. Even in relating to misunderstandings, Cornu avoids the heavy hand. He doesn't schoolmarm you, correct your faults, preach. It's unusual: he explains eye-to-eye, without being chatty or chummy. He doesn't presume to be either your superior or your pal. Interesting.”

On Hesse’s Singapore Dreams:
Singapore Dream and Other Adventures“In a certain way, the present book, translated here into English for the first time, conveys Hesse's essential qualities better than his novels do.* This is because in these accounts, Hesse himself is the main character. As he travels, we see directly through his eyes rather than those of a fictional character. Inevitably in novels, perceptions are molded and forced by a plot. The character's thoughts are driven by the author's plan.  In Out of Asia the writer's pen is free of those constraints. We receive Hesse's immediate impressions, and he does not sugar-coat. The only slight torsion and drive in these narratives comes from the pleasure Hesse gets out of telling a story, expressing authentic experience in an apt and catchy way. He does not falsify, because he is inherently unable. In fact we feel sympathy for the man, for we see that he is helplessly captivated by his experience. His absolute need of authenticity is something for which he often suffered in his life, was often cast into psychological depths. But it was also this inalienable faithfulness of his engagement with things that caused him to keep growing as a man and a writer. And it is that quality, combined with his undeniable gifts as an entertainer, that continues to draw us into his writings today.

On another book:

These apophatic peregrinations showing what Buddhism is not do not lead to conclusions concerning what Buddhism is. Buddhism continues to escape as a slippery fish that cannot be caught in the net of Western thought. [The author's] approach here is helpful and apt (in my view), save for this flaw: the net in which the slippery fish cannot be caught is not only that of Western thought but of dualistic thought altogether, of which Asians are no more innocent than Westerners. However, concentrating on the Western aspect of the problem here is not inappropriate considering [the author’s] project, and it allows him to play in those fields where he and other European intellectuals love to play, where the names of Aristotle, Plato, Pascal, Schopenhauer, Nietzche, Heidegger, and other philosophers he refers to resound with such significance.”

Longtime Shambhala Publications' editor Dave O’Neal had the notion that his Reader’s Reports would serve as an extremely readable volume in and of themselves.

We look forward to making the Bala Kids book on Padmasambhava truly special.  When he submitted it to us, he wrote, “My wife and I successfully read The Lord of the Rings to our daughters when they were about 7 and 4. I let Tolkien be my guide in writing the Padmasambhava story for young people in the sense of including everything….. I have trusted them with charnel grounds and demons and some essential Buddhist ideas.  I hope you all find that it works and that it's the right stuff.”

It is indeed the right stuff.  Thank you Sherab!

--Nikko Odiseos

The Chronicles of Chogyam Trungpa has a tribute to him.

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Singapore Dream | An Excerpt from Singapore Dream & Other Adventures

Hermann Hesse’s Southeast Asian Travels

Singapore Dream & Other Adventures

In the morning I had chased butterflies on the byways, overgrown with grass and overhung with foliage, that run among the European gardens. In the white heat of noon I returned to the city on foot, and I passed the afternoon walking about, visiting shops, and doing my shopping in the beautiful, lively, teeming streets of Singapore. Now I was sitting in the high, pillared salon of the hotel eating supper with my traveling companion. The large wings of the fan were whirring industriously in the heights, the white-linen clad Chinese boys were gliding through the hall with silent composure purveying the bad English-Indian food, and the electric light was glittering on the small ice cubes floating in the whisky glasses. I sat facing my friend, tired and not hungry, sipped my cold drink, peeled golden yellow bananas, and called rather too soon for coffee and cigars.

The others had decided to go see a film, something for which my eyes, strained already from laboring in full sun, were not eager. However, in the end I went along, just to have the evening taken care of. We walked out of the hotel bareheaded and in light evening shoes and strolled through the teeming streets in the cooled-down, blue evening air. In quiet side streets, in the light of storm lanterns, hundreds of Chinese coolies sat at long, rough wooden tables and cheerily and politely ate their mysterious and complex dishes, which cost practically nothing and are full of unknown spices. The intense scent of dried fish and warm coconut oil floated through the night lit by a thousand flickering candles; calls and shouts in dark Eastern languages echoed out of blue arch-covered alleys; pretty made-up Chinese girls sat in front of lightly barred doors, behind which rich, golden house altars dimly glittered.

The intense scent of dried fish and warm coconut oil floated through the night lit by a thousand flickering candles; calls and shouts in dark Eastern languages echoed out of blue arch-covered alleys; pretty made-up Chinese girls sat in front of lightly barred doors, behind which rich, golden house altars dimly glittered.

From the dark wooden gallery in the movie house, we looked over the heads of innumerable Chinese with long queues at the glaring rectangle of light where a Parisian gambler’s tale, the theft of the Mona Lisa, and scenes from Schiller’s Kabale und Liebe flitted by like ghosts, all with the same harsh vividness, the ghost-like quality being doubled by the atmosphere of unreality or awkward implausibility that all these Western things take on in a Chinese and Malay environment.

My attention soon went slack, my gaze hung distractedly in the twilight of the high room, and my thoughts fell to pieces and lay lifeless like the limbs of a marionette that was not in use at the moment and had been laid aside. I let my head sink onto my propped-up hands and was immediately at the mercy of all the moods of my thought-weary and image-sated brain.

At first I was surrounded by a soft murmuring twilight that I felt good in and that I felt no need to think about. Then gradually I began to notice that I was lying on the deck of a ship, it was night, and only a few oil lanterns were burning. Aside from me, many other sleepers were lying there, body to body, each stretched out on the deck on his travel blanket or on a bast mat.

A man who was lying next to me seemed not to be asleep. His face was familiar to me, though I didn’t know his name. He moved, propping himself on his elbows, took rimless golden spectacles from his eyes, and began to clean them meticulously with a soft little flannel cloth. Then I recognized him—it was my father.

“Where are we going?” I asked sleepily.

He kept cleaning his delicate spectacles without looking up and quietly said, “We’re going to Asia.”

He kept cleaning his delicate spectacles without looking up and quietly said, “We’re going to Asia.”

We spoke Malay mixed with English, and this English reminded me that my childhood was long past, because back then my parents told each other all their secrets in English, and I could understand nothing of them.

“We’re going to Asia,” my father repeated, and then all of a sudden I again knew everything. Yes, we were going to Asia, and Asia was not an area of the world but rather a very specific but mysterious place somewhere between India and China. That is where the various peoples and their teachings and their religions had come from, there lay the roots of all humanity and the source of all life, there stood the images of the gods and the tables of the law. Oh, how had I been able to forget that, even for a moment! I had been on my way to that Asia for such a long time already, I and many men and women, friends and strangers.

Softly I sang our traveling song to myself: “We’re going to Asia!” And I thought of the golden dragons, the venerable Bodhi Tree, and the sacred snake.

My father looked at me in a kindly way and said, “I am not teaching you, I am just reminding you.” And in saying that, he was no longer my father, his face smiled for just a second with exactly the same expression with which our leader, the guru, smiles in dreams; and in the same moment the smile dissolved, and the face was round and still like a lotus blossom and exactly resembled a golden likeness of the Buddha, the Perfect One; and it smiled again and it was the mellow, sad smile of the Savior.

The person who had been lying next to me and had smiled was no longer there. It was daytime, and all the sleepers had gotten up. Distraught, I also pulled myself to my feet and wandered around on the weird ship among strange people, and I saw islands on the dark blue sea with wild, shining chalk cliffs and islands with tall windblown palms and deep blue volcanic mountains. Cunning, brown-skinned Arabs and Malays were standing with their thin arms crossed on their breasts. They were bowing to the ground and performing the appropriate prayers.

“I saw my father,” I shouted out loud. “My father is on the ship!”

An old English officer in a flowered Japanese morning gown looked at me with shining bright-blue eyes and said, “Your father is here and is there, and is in you and outside you, your father is everywhere.”

I gave him my hand and told him that I was traveling to Asia in order to see the sacred tree and the snake, and in order to return to the source of life from which everything began and which signified the eternal unity of appearances.

I gave him my hand and told him that I was traveling to Asia in order to see the sacred tree and the snake, and in order to return to the source of life from which everything began and which signified the eternal unity of appearances.

But a merchant eagerly took hold of me and claimed my attention. He was an English-speaking Singhalese. He pulled a small cloth bundle out of a little basket, which he untied and out of which small and large moonstones appeared.

“Nice moonstones, sir,” he whispered conspiratorially, and when I tried forcefully to pull myself away from him, someone laid a hand lightly on my arm and said, “Give me a few stones, they’re really beauties.” The voice immediately captured my heart as a mother captures her runaway child. I turned around eagerly and greeted Miss Wells from America. It was inconceivable that I had so completely forgotten her.

“Oh, Miss Wells,” I called out joyfully, “Miss Annie Wells, are you here too?”

“Won’t you give me a moonstone, German?”

I quickly reached into my pocket and pulled out the long, knit coin purse that I had gotten from my grandfather and that as a boy I had lost on my first trip to Italy. I was glad to have it back again, and I shook a bunch of silver Singhalese rupees out of it. But my traveling companion, the painter, who I hadn’t realized was still there and was standing next to me, said with a smile, “You can wear them as buttons; here they’re not worth a penny.”

Puzzled, I asked him where he had come from and if he had really gotten over his malaria. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Modern European painters should all be sent to the tropics so they can wean themselves from their orange-ish palettes. Here is just the place where you can get much closer to the darker palette of nature.”

It was obvious, and I emphatically agreed. But the beautiful Miss Wells in the meantime had gotten lost in the crowd. Anxiously, I made my way farther around the huge ship, but did not have the courage to force myself past a group of missionary people who were sitting in a circle that blocked the entire width of the deck. They were singing a pious song and I quickly joined in, since I knew it from home:

Darunter das Herze sich naget und plaget
Und dennoch kein wahres Vergnügen erjaget
(Beneath it the heart is still fretting and striving,
No true lasting happiness ever deriving . . .)

I found myself in agreement with that, and the heavy-hearted, pathetic melody put me in a sad mood. I thought of the beautiful American woman and of our destination, Asia, and found so much cause for uncertainty and care that I asked the missionary how things really stood: Was his faith truly a good one and would it be any good for a man like me?

“Look,” I said, hungry for consolation, “I’m a writer and a butterfly collector—”

“You’re mistaken,” said the missionary.

I repeated my explanation. But whatever I said, he responded with the same answer: “You’re mistaken,” accompanied by a bright, childish, modestly triumphant smile.

Confused, I got away from him. I saw that I was not going to accomplish anything there, and I decided to drop everything and look for my father, who would certainly help me. Again I saw the face of the serious English officer and thought I heard his words: “You father is here and he is there, and he is in you and outside of you.” I understood that this was a warning, and I squatted down and began to chasten myself and to seek my father within me.

I remained still that way and tried to think. But it was hard, the whole world seemed to have been gathered on this ship in order to torment me. Also it was terribly hot, and I would gladly have given my grandfather’s knit purse for a cold whisky and soda.

From the moment I became aware of it, this satanic heat seemed to swell and grow like a horrible, unbearably piercing sound. People lost all trace of composure. They swilled greedily out of straw-covered bottles like wolves, they tried in the most bizarre ways to make themselves comfortable, and all around me the most uncontrolled, meaningless actions were occurring. The whole ship was obviously on the brink of insanity.

The friendly missionary, with whom I had been unable to come to an understanding, had fallen into the hands of two gigantic Chinese coolies who were toying with him in the most shameless ways. Through some hideous trick of authentic Chinese mechanics, they were able, with a nudge, to make him stick his booted foot into his own mouth. With another kind of nudge, they made both his eyes hang out of their sockets like sausages, and when he tried to pull them back in, they prevented him from doing so by tying knots in them.

This was grotesque and ugly but it affected me less than I would have thought, in any case less than gazing at the view afforded me by Miss Wells, for she had taken off all her clothes and wore over her amazingly buxom nakedness not a thing on her body but a marvelous, brown-green snake, which had coiled itself around her.

In despair, I closed my eyes. I had the feeling that our ship was spiraling rapidly down into a glowering, hellish maw.

Then I heard, coming as a comfort to the heart like the sound of a bell, a wanderer lost in the mist intoning with many voices a joyous song, and I immediately began to sing along. It was the sacred song, “We’re going to Asia,” and all human languages could be heard in it, all weary human longing, and the inner need and wild yearning of all creatures. I felt myself loved by my father and mother, led by my guru, purified by Buddha, and saved by the Savior, and if what came now was death or beatitude, I simply could not care which.

Then I heard, coming as a comfort to the heart like the sound of a bell, a wanderer lost in the mist intoning with many voices a joyous song, and I immediately began to sing along. It was the sacred song, “We’re going to Asia,” and all human languages could be heard in it, all weary human longing, and the inner need and wild yearning of all creatures. I felt myself loved by my father and mother, led by my guru, purified by Buddha, and saved by the Savior, and if what came now was death or beatitude, I simply could not care which.

I got up and opened my eyes. They were all there around me—my father, my friend, the Englishman, the guru, and everyone, all the human faces I had ever laid eyes on. They looked straight ahead with an awestruck, beautiful gaze, and I looked too, and before us a grove grew that was thousands of years old, and from the heaven-high twilight of the treetops came the rustling sound of eternity. Deep in the night of the holy shadow shone the golden glow of a primevally ancient temple gate.

Then we all fell on our knees, our longing was stilled, our journey was at an end. We closed our eyes, and my body toiled its way up out of its profound torpor. My forehead lay on the edge of the wooden railing, below me palely glimmered the shaved heads of the Chinese spectators; the stage was dark, and a murmuring echo of applause could be heard in the big projection room.

We got up and left. It was excruciatingly hot and there was a pervasive odor of coconut oil. But outside, the night wind off the sea, the flickering lights of the harbor, and the faint light of the stars came to greet us.

Related Books


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By: Hermann Hesse & Sherab Chodzin Kohn

Walking the Kiso Road

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By: Ruskin Bond & Namita Gokhale

Hard Travel to Sacred Places

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Hermann HesseHermann Hesse is a novelist known best for Demian (1919), Siddhartha (1922), Steppenwolf (1927), Narcissus and Goldmund (1930), Journey to the East (1932), and The Glass Bead Game (1943). Hesse won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946. See more about him here.

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Readers’ Picks

In thinking about year-end gifts, we want to share what YOU have to say.

Below are some lovely quotations from readers on their favorite Shambhala books.

Do you have one to add? Please comment at the bottom!

People Reading

The Art of Peace

$9.99 - Paperback

By: John Stevens & Morihei Ueshiba

“This book showed me a different way, a way to devote discipline of both my body and mind.”


The Happiness Trap (Second Edition)

$19.95 - Paperback

By: Russ Harris

“As a therapist, I recommend this to anyone seeking permanent life change realistically.”


Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

$16.95 - Paperback

By: David Chadwick & Shunryu Suzuki

“If there is one book in my collection that I could give away to everyone, it would be this book.”


Writing Down the Bones

$16.95 - Paperback

By: Natalie Goldberg

“This book changed my life as a writer, a teacher of writing, and as an individual!”


“This is a foundational book for anyone interested in delving deeper into the richness of martial arts philosophy.”


When Things Fall Apart

$18.95 - Paperback

By: Pema Chödrön

“This book set me on a path of healing that has continued to the present day.”



$18.00 - Hardcover

By: Henry David Thoreau

“This is, plain and simply, an astonishing book.”



$12.95 - Paperback

By: Hermann Hesse & Sherab Chodzin Kohn

“Pure, melodic, poetic, this book should be one of the first ones on the list for every serious reader.”


Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching

$14.95 - Paperback

By: Ursula K. Le Guin

“Every time I read Tao Te Ching, the book feels new again, fresh, as if only just discovered.”


The Art of War

$19.95 - Paperback

By: Denma Translation Group & Sun Tzu

“Makes you really appreciate the ideas of strength and courage and the power of emotions and desire in overcoming any obstacle you face.”


The Want Monsters

$16.95 - Hardcover

By: Chelo Manchego

“There is playfulness and joy on every page of this book, with a unique tone that has a distinctive voice and is full of heart.”


The Wisdom of Not Knowing

$19.95 - Paperback

By: Estelle Frankel

“You will smile, cry, and be moved by the writings of a master storyteller.”


A Year of Picnics

$24.95 - Hardcover

By: Ashley English

“Filled with beautiful photos, delightful recipes, and creative picnic themes, each page gives inspiration to get outdoors!”


Simple Green Suppers

$24.95 - Paperback

By: Susie Middleton

“This one hits the sweet spot for our busy lives with wonderful recipes of vegetarian dinners!”


The Yogi Assignment

$24.95 - Paperback

By: Kino MacGregor

“Kino will motivate you to stick to the practice and walk the yogi path.”


Trump and a Post-Truth World

$14.95 - Paperback

By: Ken Wilber

“A remarkable vision and an inspiring perspective of the challenges and opportunities in the chaotic, divisive, and evolving global cultures.”


Mindful Games Activity Cards

$21.95 - MixedMedia

By: Susan Kaiser Greenland

“I think this is a great way for beginners to get started in mindfulness without feeling overwhelmed.”


The Religion of Tomorrow

$39.95 - Hardcover

By: Ken Wilber

“Brilliant. Life-changing. Psycho-active. Very enlightening.”


The Fountain Tarot

$40.00 - MixedMedia

By: Jason Gruhl & Andi Todaro & Jonathan Saiz

“Beautiful artwork that is cohesive and inspiring, high-quality construction, and an informative and well-written manual.”


Eat This Poem

$18.95 - Paperback

By: Nicole Gulotta

“Beautiful blend of memoir, cookbook, and reflections on living a thoughtful, food-enhanced life.”


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Judging Books by Their Covers: A Defense

by Kate, Production Coordinator/Designer

stack of zen books

I have a confession to make: I judge books by their covers. And I’m not even sorry about it.

I’m baffled by how many amazing books there are in the world that I’ll never have time to read. And there are more being released all the time! It can be so overwhelming to have to choose which books I’m going to make time for and which books I’m just going to have to pass over. There are loads of factors that go into making that decision, from the title, the content, my interests, my mood on any given day, recommendations from my friends, etc. But I’m a sucker for a beautiful or interesting cover, and every now and then, I give myself permission to ignore all of those important factors and instead choose solely for superficial reasons. Occasionally I pick up a book I wouldn’t otherwise read simply because I love the cover. And every now and then, this strategy leads to amazing finds and I become so grateful to have read it. So I’d like to present to you some of my favorite Shambhala books that I only read because I loved the covers—but I ended up loving the content, too.

Coming Home to Tibet

A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Belonging

Sure the colors are stunning. Sure the typography is delightful. But let’s be real here: I was 100% sold on this book because of the yak alone.

Coming Home to Tibet is Tsering Wangmo Dhompa’s memoir about coming home to a place she’s never actually lived. She was raised in exile by her single Tibetan mother who tragically died before being able to return to her homeland. It’s an incredible examination of the complexities of identity, which Dhompa expresses beautifully: “I have lived my life defined as a refugee in Nepal and India, a resident alien and immigrant in the United States. At last, I am a Tibetan in Tibet, a Khampa in Kham—albeit as a tourist in my occupied and tethered country” (94). But some of the most moving parts of the book are when Dhompa describes her relationship with her now-deceased mother: “When she died, I told myself I was fortunate to have had her love for twenty-three years. I believe still what I felt then: her love will see me through my lifetime, perhaps even a few lifetimes” (177). Her prose betrays her poetic background, resulting in lovely passages throughout the book, such as this one: “When there are just two of you, you appropriate images from each other and inhabit one tongue until the stories that compose your two worlds become interchangeable. It was so for my mother and me” (2). This is an honest and complex look at the tensions between past and present, tradition and modernity, faith and doubt, East and West, belonging and otherness.

The cover is an impossible representation of Tibet—I have a feeling vibrant blue flowers aren’t often found in abundance right next to snow-covered plains and frozen mountains. In this way, it couldn’t be a more perfect analogue for the author’s early experience of Tibet—a pieced together fantasy of a remote homeland based on her mother’s idealized memories rather than firsthand experience.

But my main point: how cute is that yak?!?

Coming Home to Tibet

$29.95 - Paperback

By: Tsering Wangmo Dhompa

Zen Confidential

Confessions of a Wayward Monk

The charm of this cover is undeniable. You can’t not smile at the jovial, rotund jade buddha against the serene blue background. The image and the type perfectly capture Shozan Jack Haubner’s playful approach to sharing the down-and-dirty details of his path to becoming an American Zen monk.

In his own words, this book “is the deeply felt journey of a young man who crawled out of the anus of his own self-absorption, suffering, and despair . . . and lived to tell poop jokes about it” (9). His aim is to cut through any preconceptions you might have about Zen and monastic life to give you an idea of what his actual experience was, without taking himself too seriously. The result is a beautifully crafted and engaging memoir that is equally funny and sincere.

If you enjoy Haubner’s work, keep an eye out for his forthcoming Single White Monk: Tales of Death, Failure, and Bad Sex (Although Not Necessarily in That Order). I’ve been able to take a sneak peak, and it seems like it delves into deeper and more difficult issues but fear not: Shozan still finds space to discuss piss buckets—and that’s just Chapter 1!

Zen Confidential

$21.95 - Paperback

By: Shozan Jack Haubner


A New Translation of the Buddhist Classic with Annotations

This text likely needs no introduction, as it is a widely read (and widely translated) Buddhist classic. But the only reason I was particularly drawn to Gil Fronsdal’s translation is the painting featured on the cover, The Naropa Buddha by Joan Anderson and Robert Spellman. Their interpretation of the familiar face feels simultaneously fresh and classic. The image is cropped to show just the face of the Buddha rather than the full figure, contributing to an intimate feeling, especially in the context of this relatively small book. Yet that intimacy is juxtaposed by the presence of the actual piece, measuring 16’ x 16’, which I can only imagine must be an incredibly powerful thing to behold. I couldn’t be more enamored with the color palette, the use of light, and the almost mosaic-like grid as well.

Much like the image, the text is a contemporary rendering of an ancient classic for a modern audience. In the preface, Fronsdal explains his commitment to preserving the accuracy of the original Pali while avoiding the “clumsiness/inelegance” that many literal translations suffer from: “I have tried to be as literal as possible while keeping the text both readable and enjoyable” (xii). He goes on to discuss what he gets out of reading and studying the text, giving some insight into what the reader might be able to take away from it as well: “After nearly thirty years of practice, I remain inspired by the teachings of the Buddha, and I hope to understand better what the Buddha taught by going back to the original text and rendering it into modern English” (xiii). If you’re interested in getting a feel for what the text holds, verse 5 is my favorite: “Hatred never ends through hatred. / By non-hate alone does it end. / This is an ancient truth” (2).

If you appreciate this art, be sure to check out our forthcoming Shambhala Pocket Library series featuring illustrations by Robert Spellman. The style is quite different from the style of this painting, showing the incredible range of this artist. I’m particularly fond of his portrait of His Holiness on The Pocket Dalai Lama, out 8/1/17!

The Dhammapada

$12.95 - Paperback

By: Gil Fronsdal


Kaji Aso’s artwork on the Sherab Chodzin Kohn translation of Herman Hesse’s 1922 classic novel is one of the most exquisite depictions of the Buddha I’ve ever come across. I love it so much that I’ve had a copy of the cover hanging by my desk for most of the 5 years I’ve worked at Shambhala, and it still brings me joy every time I find my eyes resting on it. Layers of bright colored pencil strokes seem like they might have started out as aimless scribbles but coalesce into a harmonious combination of texture, vibrancy, and light that I find deeply impactful.

My fascination with the image eventually pushed this book to the top of my to-read pile. The novel follows a man on his spiritual journey that spans many years and many vastly different approaches. After much trial and error, one of the insights he eventually lands on is “Wisdom is not expressible” (110). This may sound a bit hypocritical coming from someone who believes very deeply in the basic mission of the spiritual publisher I work for, transforming important teachings into a form that is accessible to a broader audience. But I have found this sentiment to be absolutely true in my own life so far. Words cannot adequately describe the spiritual journey, although Hesse’s attempt is beautiful and important. Similarly, I cannot fully express how much the cover art moves me, nor can the art itself convey the enlightened nature of its subject. Human nature will always drive us to try, and the attempts will inevitably prove futile. But we are so lucky to witness the works of art that are produced in the process.


$12.95 - Paperback

By: Hermann Hesse & Sherab Chodzin Kohn

These are just a few of the books I’ve decided to read for no other reason than their fantastic facades, and I’m so glad that I did. The opposite is also true of course—I’ve read more than a few books with terrible covers that exceeded my expectations by a long shot. So while I would never advocate for dismissing books just because the cover doesn’t resonate with you, I think it can be a wonderful adventure to indulge in reading a book just because the cover does resonate. You never know what wonders you might find inside.

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