Matthieu Ricard

Matthieu Ricard

Matthieu Ricard is a Buddhist monk who had a promising career in cellular genetics before leaving France to study Buddhism in the Himalayas thirty-seven years ago. He is a best-selling author, translator, and photographer, and an active participant in current scientific research on the effects of meditation on the brain. His many books include Why Meditate?, Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill, and The Quantum and the Lotus. He lives in Nepal and dedicates much of his time to humanitarian projects in the Himalayas through his nonprofit organization Karuna-Shechen ( For more information, visit

Matthieu Ricard

Matthieu Ricard is a Buddhist monk who had a promising career in cellular genetics before leaving France to study Buddhism in the Himalayas thirty-seven years ago. He is a best-selling author, translator, and photographer, and an active participant in current scientific research on the effects of meditation on the brain. His many books include Why Meditate?, Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill, and The Quantum and the Lotus. He lives in Nepal and dedicates much of his time to humanitarian projects in the Himalayas through his nonprofit organization Karuna-Shechen ( For more information, visit

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The Teachers of Pema Chodron: A Reader's Guide

Pema ChodronPema Chödrön refers to many of her teachers and friends in her latest book Welcoming the Unwelcome. For fans of Ani Pema who might be less familiar with some of these figures but want to hear more from her main inspirations, teachers, and role models, this is for you! For those who listened to the audiobook of Welcoming, hearing the narrator and actress Claire Foy pronounce so many masters of Buddhism was a thrill.

Buddhist Teachers of Pema Chodron from Long Ago

Some of the most beloved figures and their writings come from the early history of Buddhism in India and Tibet.


Shantideva Nalanda, celestial bodhisattva Manjushri, Bodhicharyavatara.Other than the Buddha himself, the eighth-century Indian master Shantideva must be the most quoted figure in Buddhist history, appearing in over a thousand Shambhala books alone. In fact, he only has two extant works: the Compendium of Training and his magnum opus The Way of the Bodhisattva, or Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life. Pema’s Becoming Bodhisattvas, her longest book, is an exploration of this work.

She writes, “I often quote Shantideva, a great Buddhist sage from the eighth century whose writings are widely taught to this day. His advice to keep ourselves from escalating is to ‘remain like a log of wood.’ He lists many provocative situations and then recommends that we don’t act or speak when they come up. Often people interpret this advice as repression. But the point is that remaining like a log interrupts the momentum of our habitual reactions, which usually make things worse. Instead of reacting, we rest with the moving, heightened energy that has arisen. We let ourselves just ex­perience what we’re experiencing. This slows down the process and allows some space to open up. It gives us a chance to discern our inner process and then do something different.”

The best way to explore this is reading the original, then Pema’s commentary Becoming Bodhisattvas, and then looking into it further through our Reader’s Guide on The Way of the Bodhisattva.

Machik Labdron

buddhaMachik Labdron was one of the most famous women in pre-modern Tibet, establishing her own tradition based on the unique practice of Chod, a ritual and visualization practice based on the teaching of perfecting wisdom. Ani Pema says of her,

“Machik Labdron, a great Tibetan practitioner who lived in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, had a list of radical suggestions for getting unstuck from our ego-clinging. The first of these is ‘Reveal your hidden faults.’ Instead of concealing our flaws and being defensive when they are exposed, she counseled us to be open about them.”

We have a dedicated page on Chod that presents the dozens of books, articles, and videos on Machik and the practice of Chod.  Some of these are pretty advanced, but two great places to start are Machig Labdron and the Foundations of Chod and Tsultrim Allione’s Women of Wisdom

Women of Wisdom

$29.95 - Paperback

By: Tsultrim Allione

Thogme Zangpo

Thogme Zangpo, the beloved fourteenth-century Tibetan master is mentioned a dozen times in Welcoming the Unwelcome (and mentioned in over 120 other Shambhala books), and Ani Pema devotes an entire online course to his classic work called The Heart of the Matter.

She says, “In the fourteenth century, the Tibetan sage Thogme Zangpo wrote The Thirty-Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva, which is still one of the most quoted and beloved poems in Buddhist literature. Each of its stanzas gives advice on how to live like a bodhisattva, a person whose highest aspiration in life is to wake up for the benefit of all living beings. In one verse, he poignantly describes why a comfort-oriented lifestyle is unsatisfactory. Happiness ‘disappears in a moment,’ he says, ‘like a dewdrop on a blade of grass.’ Basing your comfort on things that don’t last is a futile strategy for living. Even when you get something you’ve always wanted, the pleasure you get lasts for such a short time.”

Thogme Zangpo’s Thirty-Seven Practices is a classic and translations of it appear in all the contemporary explanations on it. In addition to Ken McLeod’s translation that she mentions, there is an extraordinary explanation of this work by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (more on him below) called Heart of Compassion, available in both book and audio. There are also other excellent explorations of this work from Thubten Chodron and Geshe Sonam Rinchen.

For all the books, videos, and articles on this work, see our dedicated page to the 37 Practices of the Bodhisattva.


The Life of LongchenpaThe fourteenth-century master Longchenpa, or Longchen Rabjam, is one of the pillars of Tibetan Buddhism.

“The great fourteenth-century yogi Longchenpa said that how we label things is how they appear to be. I decided to exper­iment with this teaching and see how it applied to my ob­session with cleanliness."

Here is the full story from the audiobook read by Claire Foy:

Much of Longchenpa’s writings are for those who have been immersed in Tibetan Buddhist practice and study for a long time, but two excellent starting places are his biography and the first volume of his “Trilogy of Rest”.

The Life of Longchenpa

$29.95 - Paperback

By: Longchenpa

The Direct Teachers of Pema Chodron

Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Chogyam Trungpa RinpocheChögyam Trungpa Rinpoche was Pema Chödrön’s primary teacher, the one who she refers to again and again, over forty times in this book alone.

“Trungpa Rinpoche said that the way to arouse bodhichitta was to “begin with a broken heart.” Protecting ourselves from pain—our own and that of others—has never worked. Every­body wants to be free from their suffering, but the majority of us go about it in ways that only make things worse. Shield­ing ourselves from the vulnerability of all living beings—which includes our own vulnerability—cuts us off from the full experience of life. Our world shrinks. When our main goals are to gain comfort and avoid discomfort, we begin to feel disconnected from, and even threatened by, others. We enclose ourselves in a mesh of fear. And when many people and countries engage in this kind of approach, the result is a messy global situation with lots of pain and conflict.”

The best place to start exploring his teaching is our Reader’s Guide to his works, which include general introductions to meditation, mindfulness, the various traditions of Buddhism, art & poetry, the secular Shambhala teachings, death & dying, and more.

Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche

Dzigar Kongtrul

Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche is Ani Pema’s current teacher, and she spends much of her time in retreat under his direction. He is based in Colorado, but teaches all over the world.

Unsurprisingly he appears in many of her books, especially the more recent ones. In Welcoming, she writes, “if we get to a point where hardships bring out the best in us, we will be of great help to those in whom hardships bring out the worst. If even a small number of people become peaceful warriors in this way, that group will be able to help many others just by their example. Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche is an advocate of this kind of courageous and practical realism. He urges people to train in becoming ‘modern-day bodhisattvas,’ or simply ‘MDBs.’ His students have even designed an MDB baseball cap to inspire themselves and others to move through the world with an altruistic, resilient heart. This work is based on getting to know how things really are and conducting ourselves bravely and creatively within that framework.”

Here she is discussing his recent book, Training in Tenderness.

Peaceful Heart

$16.95 - Paperback

By: Dzigar Kongtrul & Joseph Waxman

Training in Tenderness

$14.95 - Paperback

By: Dzigar Kongtrul

The Intelligent Heart

$21.95 - Paperback

By: Dzigar Kongtrul & Joseph Waxman

Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche

Tibetan Buddhism, Khenchen Thrangu RinpocheThrangu Rinpoche is one of the great living masters of the Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism and has been close to Ani Pema for many years—she in fact dedicates Welcoming the Unwelcome to him.

We recently published this Reader’s Guide to the works of Thrangu Rinpoche, which will give you great ideas on where to get started with this incredible teacher. Here is Pema Chödron telling a story about him in Welcoming the Unwelcome (audiobook read by Claire Foy):

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, who passed away in 1991, was a teacher to an entire generation of lamas, monastics, and lay people from His Holiness the Dalai Lama to nomads in the wilds of Tibet. He was a very important teacher to both Trungpa Rinpoche and Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche.

Ani Pema relates, “Trungpa Rinpoche told this story about how he once was sitting in a garden with Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, one of his most important teachers. They were just enjoying their time together in the beautiful setting, hardly saying anything, simply happy to be there with each other. Then Khyentse Rinpoche pointed and said, ‘They call that a “tree,”’ and both of them roared with laughter. For me this is a wonderful illustration of the freedom and enjoyment that await us when we stop being fooled by our labels. The two enlightened teachers thought it was a riot that this complex, changing phenomenon, with all its leaves and bark and fragrance, could be thought of merely as a ‘tree.’ As our labels loosen their grip on us, we too will start to experience our world in this lighter, more magical way.”

The story of Khyentse Rinpoche’s life is an amazing tale of dedication, disciple, and devotion and is beautifully told in Brilliant Moon, a combined autobiography and biography, with accounts of him from across the Buddhist world including, Her Majesty the Royal Grandmother of Bhutan, and many of the great masters of the last century. We also have a Reader’s Guide to his works, which are some of the most beloved works we have in print.

Here is Richard Gere, the Dalai Lama, and Mattheu Ricard reflecting on this extraordinary teacher:

More Teachers and Friends

Tulku Thondup

tulku thonduopTulku Thondup Rinpoche is one of the living greats, and while he keeps a very low profile, his books are all treasures.  Ani Pema asks the reader a question and then goes on to answer it:

“How do we adopt this counterintuitive attitude when our emotions and neuroses hit us hard, in the painful, nontheoretical way that they do? I have learned a few effective methods, two of which I will share here.

The first method is based on a teaching by Tulku Thondup Rinpoche. When any unwanted feeling comes up, the first step is to feel it as fully as you can at the present moment. In other words, hold the rawness of vulnerability in your heart. Breathe with it, allow it to touch you, to inhabit you—open to it as fully as you currently can. Then make that feeling even stronger, even more intense. Do this in any way that works for you—in any way that makes the feeling stronger and more solid. Do this until the feeling becomes so heavy you could hold it in your hand. At that point, grab the feeling. And then just let it go. Let it float where it will, like a balloon, anywhere in the vast realm of empty space. Let it float out and out into the universe, dispersing into smaller and smaller particles, which become inconceivably tiny and distant.”

Tulku Thondup’s The Heart of Unconditional Loveand The Healing Power of Mind are two excellent starting places to explore Tulku Rinpoche’s extraordinary gift for opening our hearts.

The Heart of Unconditional Love

$18.95 - Paperback

By: Tulku Thondup

The Healing Power of Mind

$21.95 - Paperback

By: Tulku Thondup

Anam Thubten

Anam ThubtenAnam Thubten is an extraordinary teacher based in the the San Francisco Bay Area.

Ani Pema writes, “Anam Thubten emphasizes that this brave acknowledgment of our ‘flaws’ is not about indulging in feelings of shame or guilt. It is, instead, about ‘not hiding anything from one’s awareness.’ Instead of reacting in one way or another, we can simply choose not to hide anything from our own mind. We can regard all that we observe simply as karmic seeds ripening. Whatever arises in our mind and heart is just our current experience, nothing more or less. Even our good and bad qualities are temporary and insubstantial, not ulti­mate proofs of our worthiness or unworthiness. They are not inherent to our fundamental nature of basic goodness; they are simply what is. If we learn to work with our experiences in this way, then instead of succumbing to the pull of our old habits, we can stay present with them until they calm down of their own accord.”

His books include No Self, No Problem, Embracing Each Moment, and his latest, Choosing Compassion.

Choosing Compassion

$16.95 - Paperback

By: Anam Thubten & Sharon Roe

No Self, No Problem

$17.95 - Paperback

By: Anam Thubten & Sharon Roe

Suzuki Roshi

Suzuki Roshi was instrumental in establishing Zen and bringing it to mainstream consciousness in the US.

Ani Pema shares this in Welcoming: “As the Zen teacher Suzuki Roshi famously said, ‘In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s, there are few.’”

This quote comes from the best selling Zen book of all time, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. Many other anecdotes and sayings of this remarkable teacher can be found in Zen is Right Here.

Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

$16.95 - Paperback

By: David Chadwick & Shunryu Suzuki

Zen Is Right Here

$12.95 - Paperback

By: David Chadwick & Shunryu Suzuki

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama, Tibetan BuddhismHis Holiness the Dalai Lama does not really need an introduction.

“When His Holiness the Dalai Lama started meeting with Buddhist teachers from the West, they would tell him how their students often expressed self-denigration. Even the teachers often had negative views of themselves. For the Dalai Lama, at first, these words just didn’t compute. Having a bad self-image was completely alien to how he saw himself and others. It was so far away from the open-ended and basi­cally good nature that he knew everyone possessed. It didn’t make sense that people could be so hard on themselves, so judgmental—even to the point of self-hatred.”

Ani Pema goes on to unpack this and show the path forward to the reader.

Here is a Reader’s Guide to over two dozen of the Dalai Lama’s works, including The Core Teachings of the Dalai Lama series.

Bernie Glassman

From Kanzeon Zen Center via Wikipedia

Pema writes, “Roshi Bernie Glassman, who spent decades working with homeless people in Yonkers, New York, said ‘I don’t really believe there’s going to be an end to homelessness, but I go in every day as if it’s possible. And then I work individual by individual.’”

Glassman, who passed away in 2019. was a huge figure in the American Buddhist world.  He was known for his iconoclastic style and enormous heart, dedicating his life to helping others with cigar perched firmly in his mouth, whether in his collaboration with Jeff Bridges or helping homeless on the streets.

Here are two of his books

Instructions to the Cook describes the innovative business model Roshi Bernie Glassman developed to revitalize a poverty-stricken section of Yonkers, New York. Using his own story as a base, Glassman shows how social engagement can be used as a spiritual practice to promote both personal and societal transformation.

His book Infinite Circle covers three core Zen concepts and how they relate to his community development organizations and the Zen Peacemaker Order.

Infinite Circle

$17.95 - Paperback

By: Bernie Glassman

Matthieu Ricard

Matthieu Ricard is a renowned Buddhist monk from France who spent much of his life with Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

Ani Pema, when discussing the practice of tonglen, says, “Matthieu Ricard, the well-known Buddhist monk and author, was once being tested for compassion by being hooked up to one of those big machines that records all your brain activity. He began by visualizing himself sending rays of healing light to those who are suffering, but the scientists wanted him instead to focus on breathing the suffering in. For that period, he saturated himself. He had just visited an orphanage in Romania where it was so sad to see how the children were being treated. And he’d also recently been in Tibet after an earthquake. So he had a lot of material, which he kept breathing in and breathing in.

From this experience, he said he learned that a person can only take so much. He found that taking on suffering had to be balanced with love and kindness, with the completeness of life. I think that this example illustrates how he approached the excessive risk zone, and realized that if you breathe in the pain, you also have to send out the love. There’s a sense of connecting with both beauty and tragedy—with the delight­fulness and upliftedness of life, and with the degraded and cruel part of life.”

He has written books on animal ethics, collections of stories and wisdom from many great masters, and translations of some very important autobiography and biographies.

Ken McLeod

In Welcoming the Unwelcome, Ani Pema wrote, "my friend Ken McLeod wrote Reflections on Silver River, a book that has deepened my understanding of the bodhisattva path considerably".

This book is a translation of and commentary on the 37 Practices of the Bodhisattva, by Thogme Zangpo (see above).  She often points to McLeod's book as a superb in her teachings.

He has also translated an incredible text: The Great Path of Awakening: The Classic Guide to Lojong, a Tibetan Buddhist Practice for Cultivating the Heart of Compassion.  Here he is discussing that work:



In Closing

We hope this article gives you some great ways to go deeper with many of Pema Chödrön’s main inspirations.

Books by Pema Chödrön

Continue Reading >>

Life Stories of Dilgo Khyentse

Tibetan Buddhism, Journey to Enlightenment, Dilgo Khyentse

Journey to Enlightenment:

The life of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

By Matthieu Ricard


An inspiring portrait of one of the great spiritual leaders of the twentieth century, this book follows Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche in his travels to Tibet, Bhutan, India, and Nepal, revisiting important places from his past. His birthplace in eastern Tibet, the monastery of Shechen that he entered at age eleven, the retreat grounds where he spent years in meditation and study—these are some of the stops along the way. Told in intimate detail by his personal assistant, Matthieu Ricard, this condensed biographical narrative integrates extensive passages from the writings and teachings of the master himself to impart a rare view of his journey to enlightenment.

Note: This edition, excerpted from the first volume of The Collected Works of Dilgo Khyentse, is an abridged adaptation of the heavily photographed, full-color Aperture edition from 1996. It contains 36 black-and-white photographs.

For more information:
Matthieu Ricard

Matthieu Ricard is a Buddhist monk who had a promising career in cellular genetics before leaving France to study Buddhism in the Himalayas thirty-seven years ago. He is a best-selling author, translator, and photographer, and an active participant in current scientific research on the effects of meditation on the brain.

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910–1991) was a highly accomplished meditation master, scholar, and poet, and a principal holder of the Nyingma lineage. His extraordinary depth of realization enabled him to be, for all who met him, a foundation of loving-kindness, wisdom, and compassion.

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Omnivore's Blog: The Experience of A Translator

Sherab Chödzin Kohn,  translator of Matthieu Ricard's new book  A Plea for the Animals, gives us a hilarious and poignant glimpse into his experience, as an "unreconstructed omnivore," of going deep into this call for animal rights.

I am an unreconstructed omnivore. I shun food trips and diets. My guide to right eating is the Buddha, whose policy was to eat whatever was put in his begging bowl. Therefore, even though I had translated works of Matthieu Ricard's before, I was not a natural for translating his A  Plea for the Animals. I knew it leaned toward vegetarianism, and I feared it would entangle me in unwanted idealisms as well as cast a bad light on my dinner. But trusting my author, I jumped in anyhow and began to experience the book up close and personal on a level of intensity that perhaps only a translator may reach.

Indeed Ricard's book does counsel vegetarianism to the willing, and it does end up encouraging an array of what some might regard as idealistic outlooks. But I found that what it presented first and foremost was the facts. Primarily neither ideas nor anecdotes, neither morals nor homilies, hardly any Buddhism, but rather heaps and mountains of documented, hard data. I had to be sure my word processor was doing footnotes properly-there were lots of them.

What I found I was carrying bit by bit from French into English was the story of the gruesome continuous, vast-scale extermination of animals brought on by us humans eating them. I also learned about intubated bears permanently immobilized in tiny cages in China, kept miserably alive as long as possible to be milked of their bile. I translated eye-witness accounts from slaughterhouses, industrial fishing vessels, animal-experimentation labs, zoos and circuses and bullrings, all of which routinely function on the basis of brutal disregard for the life and suffering of animals. It was horror piled upon horror. Ricard was very thorough in compiling the factual basis of his plea for the animals. I realized soon enough that this Buddhist monk had beheld with a 360-degree lens the many faces of the human exploitation of animals that has been taking place for thousands of years, and he had seen it getting worse and worse. I realized that, rather than just a pep talk for vegetarianism, I had in my hands a work of compassion for all the sentient species with whom we share life, a plea to end or at least pare down all the ways in which we customarily abuse and torture animals for entertainment, sport, and profit, not leaving out the inevitable call to end or at least pare down the human practice of killing them daily in inconceivably huge numbers for food.

As I translated Ricard's unsparing presentation of the 365-day-per-year, 24-hour-per-day Calvary of the animals, for the first time in my life I felt a flash of really caring for them all. I also began to feel sick inside. Obviously, it should have been easy for me all along to recognize the horror that is in progress. But I exercise ignorance. The people in the neighborhoods of Auschwitz and other extermination camps during World War Two, Ricard tells us (while assuring us that he is not equating the value of animals with that of humans), more or less pretended not to know what was going on inside the walls and fences they lived next to. Similarly, I, and I expect many of us, are willing to toss into a deep dark hole all the troubling data that has come our way from many exposés about slaughterhouses, industrial fishing operations, the fur industry, and so on.

I find it awkward and embarrassing. It troubles the conscience. It roils the pit of the stomach, and partly in self-defense, it sets one thinking. Naturally I want to find a thought that will salve my conscience but save my supper. Still translating away, I found myself conveying the many ideologies to this purpose that people have produced from ancient times until the present. Speciesism (on the analogy of raceism) is the strategy that covers most of them. Speciesism deliberately or inadvertently assumes that humans have been set apart from the rest of creation as a higher order, and naturally it is our privilege to use the rest of creation as we see fit for our benefit. (This approach is handy for ravaging the environment as well as its nonhuman inhabitants.) Speciesism, in some of its many forms, is at home in religion. Genesis, the first book of the Bible, which sets Adam above the animals, provides a prime example. The automatism of Descartes was a form of speciesism. The influential and revered French philosopher proclaimed that all living beings apart from humans lack a soul, and though animals may appear to manifest pain, being soulless they are mere automatons whose mechanical reflexes may only mimic agony-in reality, they feel nothing. This mechanistic vision of all nonhuman life made it just fine for scientists and others from the seventeenth century on to practice vivisection. With Matthieu, I had visited the extended horrors of the animal experimentation chambers and was deeply disturbed. Exaltation of human benefit above the rest of everything did not relieve me.

Pangs of conscience similar to mine, apart from motivating rationales that justify animal exploitation, also (much more straightforwardly) bring about rejection of it. Human voices have been begging mercy for the animals since the beginning of the human-animal relationship. Translating on, I gathered that those voices are getting louder. Nowadays we have what is called the animal-rights movement and people who have found their calling in life as "animal advocates." Matthieu Ricard describes the development of all this in historical and philosophical detail. In the end the great argument is simply compassion for suffering. Compassion for suffering is something that is profoundly difficult to limit by species.

Living vividly and in detail, as a translator does, all the data and thought supplied by his source, I experienced   the stark conflicts and dilemmas of the case. My overall impression? The world is a very complex and bloody and lethal place. Sentience and suffering cohabit in it. It contains a lot of arbitrary cruelty. Compassion's job is inexhaustible. Matthieu Ricard has done a piece of it. Through his devoted, intelligent, and very thorough effort, my compassion has been a little further awakened.

-Sherab Chödzin Kohn

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Buddhism and Science: The Mind and Life Conference

The following article is from the Autumn, 2003 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.
Mind and Life conferences, contemplative sciences, Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhism

Mind and Life conferences on contemplative sciences, founded by the Fourteenth Dalai Lama

The capacity for practices of various kinds to actually re-model our brains is an exciting promise and prospect for meditators and scientists alike.

Imagine the Dalai Lama as an engineer. If he weren't the spiritual leader of Tibet, that's what he'd like to beaccording to Nobel Laureate and McGovern Institute president Philip Sharp. Sharp made the comment at the 11th Mind & Life conference, held in September on the MIT campus, the American heart of engineering and the sciences.

Engineer or not, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has a deep interest in the world of scienceparticularly as it interfaces with Buddhism, itself a science of a kind, with 2000 years of empirical examination of the workings of the mind.

Buddhism, itself a science of a kind, with 2000 years of empirical examination of the workings of the mind.

It's precisely Buddhism's track record of effective technologies of the mind that brings top-level scientists to the Mind and Life conferences to learn what Buddhism can teach them about topics such as attention and cognition. In turn, they present the results of their cutting-edge research into the same issues.

At the recent conference, Professor Richard Davidson of University of Wisconsin talked about his research on Tibetan monks wired to brain wave monitors while meditating on compassion. In a variety of studies the monks showed a marked activation in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, an area associated with calmness and capacity to over-ride knee-jerk emotional responses.

One monk, Matthieu Ricard (a presenter at the conference), was way off the curve in his ability to keep the pre-frontal cortex activated for extended periods....Davidson commented that he simply couldn't imagine how it was possible to accomplish this feat.

One monk, Matthieu Ricard (a presenter at the conference), was way off the curve in his ability to keep the prefrontal cortex activated for extended periods, according to Davidson, and was even able to deactivate his own startle reflex in response to sudden loud noises. This is an extremely rare capability; even expert marksmen cannot repress a startle response to the sound of their own guns. Davidson commented that he simply couldn't imagine how it was possible to accomplish this feat.

B. Alan Wallace, a key figure at the conference, suggested that, just as we can train humans far beyond the norm to achieve Olympic-level athletic capabilities, it's possible to train people to achieve Olympic cognitive abilitiesand that how to do this is maybe just what Buddhism can teach science.

Buddhism is not a technology for detection [as is science] but for modulation.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama seemed intrigued by many of the issues evoked at the meeting, and listened intently as the scientists and Buddhists on the panel (including B. Alan Wallace, Georges Dreyfus, and Matthieu Ricard) discussed issues such as:

What is attention? What is cognitive control? How are they related?

Does the human mind construct a visualization instantaneously or bit by bit

(scientific studies demonstrate that visualizing even a simple object such as an A is done piece by piece)?


Harvard professor Eric Lander noted that both Buddhism and science are attempting to ameliorate the suffering of the world and observed that Buddhism is not a technology for detection [as is science] but for modulation.

Scientists know that the brain can in fact be modulated. For example, when the blind use Braille, sensing the words with their fingertips, it's actually the visual cortex of the brain that is activated even though there's no seeing indicating that the brain has re-organized itself. The capacity for practices of various kinds to actually re-model our brains is an exciting promise and prospect for meditators and scientists alike.

Check out several intriguing books that are available from the previous Mind and Life conferences.Mind and Life conferences, contemplative sciences, Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhism


For more information:

H.H. the Fourteenth Dalai Lama

His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama is considered the foremost Buddhist leader of our time. The exiled spiritual head of the Tibetan people, he is a Nobel Peace Laureate, a Congressional Gold Medal recipient, and a remarkable teacher and scholar who has authored over one hundred books.

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The Life of Shabkar

The following article is from the Winter, 2001 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.

The Autobiography of a Tibetan Yogin

translated by Matthieu Ricard foreword by H.H. the Dalai Lama 712 pp., ISBN 1-55939-154-5 $27.95 #LISH

Painted by Dugu Tulku Choegyal Rinpoche

The Life of Shabkar has long been recognized by Tibetans as one of the masterworks of their religious heritage.

Shabkar Tsogdruk Rangdrol devoted himself to many years of meditation in solitary retreat after his inspired youth and early training in the province of Am do under the guidance of several extraordinary Buddhist masters. With determination and courage, he mastered the highest and most esoteric practices of the Tibetan tradition of the Great Perfection. He then wandered far and wide over the Himalayan region expressing his realization.

Shabkar's autobiography vividly reflects the values and visionary imagery of Tibetan Buddhism, as well as the social and cultural life of early nineteenth-century Tibet.

Regarded by many as the greatest yogi after Milarepa to gain enlightenment in one lifetime,..a source of inspiration to Buddhist practitioners and general readers alike. THE DALAI LAMA

Shabkar's life is the world of the Buddhist adept, a world of intense self-discipline, but also of humor, vision and joy....Shabkar's wit and playfulness, his magnificent flights of imagination, his persistence in exposing all hypocrisy-these are the qualities that suffuse his work. MATTHEW KAPSTEIN, The University of Chicago

Translator's Introduction

The autobiography of Lama Shabkar, a work known and loved throughout Tibet, is probably second only to that of Jetsun Milarepa in popularity. It is a simple and moving account of the life of a wandering hermit, from childhood until his ultimate spiritual realization.

Shabkar describes all the steps of his spiritual path, culminating in the teachings of the Great Perfection, Dzogchen. Like Milarepa, of whom he was said to be an incarnation, his teachings, advice, and accounts of spiritual experiences are expressed in the form of songs. In Amdo, his native province, excerpts of Shabkar's life were often read to the dying instead of the Bardo Thodrol, the so-called Tibetan Book of the Dead.

The story of Shabkar's life illustrates the complete path of Buddhist practice. To begin with, he demonstrates the exemplary path of a perfect practitioner: having become disillusioned with worldly activities, he seeks a spiritual master, develops confidence in him and follows his instructions. By practicing with complete dedication, in the end he himself becomes an enlightened master capable of contributing immensely to the welfare of other beings. Shabkar's account of his progress along the spiritual path is so straightforward, heartfelt, and unaffected that one is encouraged to believe that similar deep faith and diligence would allow anyone else to achieve the same result.

Shabkar was born in 1781 among the Nyingmapa yogins of the Rekong region in Amdo, the remote northeast province of Greater Tibet. These yogins were renowned for their mastery of the Secret Mantrayana practices and gathered in their thousands to engage in meditations and rituals. They were much admired, and sometimes feared, for their magical powers. The yogins of Rekong were also famous for their hair, often six feet long, which they wore coiled on the top of their heads.

From a very early age, Shabkar showed a strong inclination toward the contemplative life. Even his childhood games were related to the teachings of Lord Buddha. By the age of six or seven, he had already developed a strong desire to practice. Visions, similar to those experienced in advanced Dzogchen practice, came to him naturally.

At fifteen years of age, Shabkar felt a strong desire to pray to the precious master Guru Padmasamb- hava, the source of blessings. He recited one million Vajra Guru mantras and had auspicious dreams, such as of flying through the air, seeing the sun and moon rising simultaneously, finding jewel treasures, and so forth. From then on, he wrote, by the grace of Guru Rinpoche, I became filled with intense devotion to the guru, affection toward my Dharma friends, compassion for sentient beings, and pure perception toward the teachings. I had the good fortune to accomplish without obstacles whatever Dharma practice I undertook.

At the age of sixteen, he completed a one year retreat during which he recited the mantra of Man- jushri ten million times and experienced auspicious dreams and signs. Through the blessing of this practice, he said, I gained a general understanding of the depth and breadth of the teachings. Shabkar then met Jamyang Gyatso, a master whom he venerated greatly and of whom he later had visions and dreams.

Despite his deep affection for his mother and respect for his family, Shabkar managed to resist their repeated requests that he marry. He eventually left home in order to pursue wholeheartedly his spiritual aims. Determined to renounce worldly concerns, Shabkar received full monastic ordination at the age of twenty and entered a meditation retreat. He let his hair grow long again, as was customary for retreatants, who did not waste time in nonessential activities; as a sign of having accomplished certain yogic practices, he wore a white shawl rather than the traditional red shawl, although he continued to wear the patched lower robe characteristic of a fully ordained monk. This rather unconventional attire occasionally attracted sarcastic comments from strangers, to whom Shabkar would reply with humorous songs.

Shabkar left his native land behind and traveled south of Rekong to meet his main teacher, the Dharma King Ngakyi Wangpo. Ngakyi Wangpo was a learned and accomplished Mongolian king, said to be an incarnation of Marpa the Translator, who had renounced the remnants of the vast kingdom of Gushri Khan and become a prominent Nyingmapa master.

As Shabkar says of him, He had crossed the ocean of the knowledge of the scriptures and sciences and realized the natural state, the profound and luminous vajra essence. Because I saw all his actions as pure and did whatever he asked, he came to think of me as a heart-son. Therefore, he gave me all the pith instructions of the Old and New TVanslation schools.

After receiving complete instructions from the Dharma King, Shabkar practiced for five years in the wilderness of Tseshung, where his meditation experiences and realization flourished. He then meditated for three years on a small island, Tsonying, the Heart of the Lake, in the Kokonor, the Blue Lake of Amdo. There he experienced numerous dreams and visions of gurus and deities.

His search for sacred places took him to many other solitary retreats: the glaciers of Machen, the sacred caves of the White Rock Monkey Fortress, the arduous pilgrimage of the Ravines of Tsari, Mount Kailash, and the Lapchi Snow Range. He spent many years in the very caves where Milarepa and other saints had lived and meditated.

Shabkar's given names were Jampa Chodar, The Loving One Who Spreads the Dharma, and Tsogdruk Rangdrol, Self-liberation of the Six Senses. He became renowned as Shabkar Lama, the White Footprint Lama, because he spent years in meditation at Mount Kailash above Milarepa's Cave of Miracles, near the famous White Footprint, one of the four footprints said to have been left by Buddha Shakyamuni when he traveled miraculously to Kailash. It is also said that Shabkar was called White Foot because wherever he would set his feet, the land would become white, meaning that through his teachings the minds of the people would be turned toward the holy Dharma

Wandering as a homeless yogin teaching all beings from bandits to wild animals, Shabkar's pilgrimages brought him as far as Nepal, where, in the Kathmandu Valley, he covered the entire spire of the Bodhnath stupa with the gold his devotees had offered him.

In 1828, at the age of forty-seven, Shabkar returned to Amdo, where he tirelessly helped others through his extraordinary compassion. He spent the last twenty years of his life teaching disciples, promoting peace in the area, and practicing meditation in retreat at various sacred places, primarily at his hermitage in Tashi- khyil.

Oral traditions recount even more stories of this great yogin's life than the present autobiography. For instance, they say that Shabkar fed hundreds of beggars, asking them to gather stones to make stupas 5 in return. When invited to teach, Shabkar would agree to come, provided that the benefactors also fed all the beggars who accompanied him. The horde of beggars would usually arrive first, followed by Shabkar himself on foot, leaning on the famous walking stick he used to call his horse, which itself was the subject of some of his songs.

The reputation of Shabkar, the perfect hermit, spread far and wide, inspiring another great renunciate, Patrul Rinpoche, to travel from Kham to Amdo to meet him. Unfortunately, after Patrul had gone only halfway he heard that Shabkar had passed away, whereupon he prostrated himself a hundred times in the direction of Amdo and sang a supplication for Shabkar's swift rebirth. He then added, Compassion and love are the root of Dharma. I think that there was no one more compassionate than Shabkar in this world. I had nothing special to ask, no teachings to request from hint, no teaching to offer him; I simply wanted to gather some merit by seeing his face.


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Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche on Guru Yoga

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche on Guru Yoga

The following article is from the Winter, 1999 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.

According to the Preliminary Practice of Longchen Nyingtik

by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche translated by Gelong Konchog Tenzin (Matthieu Ricard)

95 pp., ISBN 1-55939-121-9 #GUYO $10.95

Why is the practice guru yoga, (union with the nature of the guru) so important? Because, with the help of the outer teacher, the inner teacher (the true nature of our own mind) is discovered. Until that point is reached, it is risky to be overconfident and rely solely on one's own methods for self-transformation. Although the path can be trodden only by individual effort, the advice of an experienced guide is invaluable. Since the guru is a living person, he or she is able to deal directly with the student's ego. Whether this is achieved wrathfully or gently doesn't matter, but in the end this is what the guru is there to do, and this is why guru devotion is so important. In the end, the guru who we have seen as the Buddha is known to be the same as one's own mind.

This particular guru yoga is called The Wish-fulfilling Jewel and is the outer practice of the guru from the Longchen Nyingtik revelation of the visionary master Rigdzin Jikme Lingpa. It was during a summer retreat in France in 1984 that Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche gave teachings on this text at the request of Sogyal Rinpoche (author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying).

Poet, scholar, philosopher, and master of Mahayana, Mahamudra and Dzogchen traditions of Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910-1991) led a life of profound dedication to spiritual enlightenment and teaching. He was one of the principal holders of the Nyingma Lineage, but he was also a dedicated exponent of the non-sectarian movement and was highly respected by thousands of students in Tibet and throughout the world.


The original cover

During the final fourteen years of his life his personal assistant was Matthieu Ricard, who has been a Buddhist monk for eighteen years. He has translated and edited numerous books on Tibetan Buddhism and is highly regarded for his scholarship and knowledge of Tibetan religion and culture.

More Books by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

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