Dilgo Khyentse RInpoche

  • The Importance of the Ornament of Mahayana Sutras

    Maitreya and the MahayanasutralamkaraOne of the Five Maitreya Treatises—the five texts imparted to Asanga by the bodhisattva Maitreya—the Ornament of the Mahayana Sutras (in Sankrit the Mahayanasutralamkara, often shortened to Sutralamkara) presents explanations of bodhisattva motivation, meditation, conduct, and fruition as expounded in the Mahayana sutras as well as demonstrating the superiority of the Mahayana.  In English, the verses fill about 130 pages. Quite simply, the Sutralamkara is one of the most important texts in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions and is immensely important for practitioners and scholars to know intimately.

    So just what is this text which is quoted everywhere but few have read?

    Mipham RinpocheJamgon Mipham Rinpoche, paraphrasing Asanga's brother Vasubandu's student Sthiramati, says that this text:

    . . .explains all the profound and extensive practices of the bodhisattvas, which can be summarized under three headings: what to train in, how to train, and who is training.

    The first of these, what one trains in, can be condensed into seven objects in which one trains: one’s own welfare, others’ welfare, thatness, powers, bringing one’s own buddha qualities to maturity, bringing others to maturity, and unsurpassable perfect enlightenment.

    How one trains is in six ways: by first developing a great interest in the teachings of the Great Vehicle, investigating the Dharma, teaching the Dharma, practicing the Dharma in accord with the teachings, persevering in the correct instructions and follow-up teachings, and imbuing one’s physical, verbal, and mental activities with skillful means.

    Those who train are the bodhisattvas, of whom there are ten categories: those who are of the bodhisattva type, those who have entered the Great Vehicle, those with impure aspirations, those with pure aspirations, those whose aspirations are not matured, those whose aspirations are matured, those with uncertain realization, those with certain realization, those who are delayed by a single birth, and those who are in their last existence.

    ornament of the mahayana sutras

    We have two translations of this text which both include the extensive and illuminating commentary by Mipham Rinpoche who based his long work on Sthiramati's famous commentary.

    The first, The Ornament of the Great Vehicle Sutras, was translated by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee includes the annotations by Khenpo Shenga, who derived them often directly from Vasubandu's commentary.  You can read our interview with Dharmachakra's Thomas Doctor which includes a short discussion of this text.

     

     

    feast of the nectarThe second is The Feast of the Nectar of the Supreme Vehicle, translated by the Padmakara Translation Group.  Ths has a very helpful introduction orienting the reader and giving important context.  It is also full of very helpful notes throughout.

     

    Here is the translator from Padmakara, Stephen Gethin,  explaining the text.

     

    It is hard to exaggerate the importance of this text in the Tibetan tradition. It was first translated from Sanskrit to Tibetan in the 8th century, at the time of Padmsambhava’s residence, by his disciple Kawa Peltsek. Atisha later taught it when he came to Tibet and refers to it repeatedly throughout his works.  Gampopa references it in his Jewel Ornament of Liberation. The great Sakya master Ngorchen Konchog Lhundrub refers to it repeatedly in his Three Visions: Fundamental Teachings of the Sakya Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. Virtually all the great masters of all the Tibetan traditions studied this work and its commentaries in depth.

    In short, the Sutralamkara has been central to the training of hundreds of thousands of practitioners and scholars and remains today a core component of all the curriculums in monasteries and shedras.

    Below are a few more examples showing just how fundamental it is and some ways it is used in later Buddhist literature. And these are a small sampling—this text appears everywhere.

    Jamgön Kongtrül brings it forth in his 10 volume Treasury of Knowledge. As an example, in Book Eight he relates how it is a core part of the Kadampa tradition, particularly the training in meditation. He then traces its lineage from Atisha's disciple Drontompa to Potawa to Langri Tampa and onwards to Tsongkhapa and into the present-day Gelug curriculum. He also uses it to prove the validity of the Mahayana.

    Tsongkhapa and into the present-day Gelug curriculum. He also uses it to prove the validity of the Mahayana.

    Great Treatise lamrimTsongkahapa discusses the text throughout his Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path, the Lam Rim Chenmo. He uses it in the chapters for how to rely on a teacher; refuting misconceptions about meditation; on explaining the origin of suffering and emotions; the nature of the path leading to liberation, precepts and perfections; the paramita of perseverance, the perfection of wisdom, the gathering of disciples; and the various chapters on calm abiding meditation.

    Longchenpa refers to it throughout his works as pointed out repeatedly in Tulku Thondup's The Practice of Dzogchen. It appears also in the recent translation of Longchenpa's Finding Rest trilogy. 

    Dudjom Rinpoche brings it into his History of the Nyingma School throughout The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, in which he calls it the text that teaches “the integration of conduct and view.” He also refers to it repeatedly in A Torch Lighting the Way to Freedom when he is explaining the nature of the six perfections.

    Complete Nyingma TraditionThe most comprehensive work on the Nyingma tradition, the multi-volume masterwork by Choying Tobden Dorje, The Complete Nyingma Tradition, also extensively references it.

    In Brilliant Moon, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche relates how he and his brother received the instructions on the text. He also brings it up repeatedly in Heart of Compassion, his discussion of the 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva; the power and strength of love; the perfection of wisdom; and the role emotions play to "destroy oneself, destroy others, and destroy discipline." He also mentions it in his biography of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö, using phrases describing the nature of bodhisattvas to show how the latter was one.

    In his commentary on the 9th chapter of The Way of the Bodhisattva that appears in The Center of the Sunlit Sky, the great Kagyu master Pawo Rinpoche—the student of the 8th Karmapa and teacher to the 9th—devotes thirteen pages to the Sutralamkara explaining how the text proves the validity and authenticity of the Mahayana.

  • The Seven Line Prayer of Guru Rinpoche: A Reader's Guide

    Guru Rinpoche

    The Seven-Line prayer to Guru Rinpoche, Padmasambhava, is one of the most ubiquitous and important prayers, performed across lineages and in particular the Nyingma tradition who commence nearly every practice with it.  What follows is a brief introduction and Reader’s Guide to this short but extremely profound verse.

    The Padmakra Translation Group has provided some excellent context for the Seven-Line Prayer to Guru Rinpoche:

    The overall significance of the Seven-Line Prayer is perhaps best appreciated in relation to a practice called guru-yoga, or “union with the nature of the guru.” Although the importance of a spiritual teacher is spoken of at all levels of Buddhist teaching, it is in the Vajrayana especially that the finding and attendance upon a qualified master or guru is emphasized as the indispensable prerequisite for the successful implementation of the practice. The purpose of guru-yoga is to purify and deepen the disciple’s relationship with his or her teacher. It is introduced as one of the preliminary practices, and it remains crucial—in fact its importance increases—as one progresses through the more advanced levels of the tantric path. The cultivation of devotion to the guru and the blending of one’s mind with his or her enlightened mind is, in the words of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, “the most vital and necessary of all practices and is in itself the surest and fastest way to reach the goal of enlightenment.

    A bit later, they continue:

    Given the central role that Guru Rinpoche plays in the practice of guru-yoga, it is easy to appreciate the significance of the Seven-Line Prayer, the great and powerful invocation that unfailingly effects the presence of the Guru. It is no ordinary formula but appears, like Guru Rinpoche himself, from another dimension.  Just as the Guru has arisen miraculously without the need of human parents, so too the Seven-Line Prayer is said to have manifested spontaneously without the agency of human authorship.

    It is the “natural resonance of indestructible ultimate reality.” The dakinis were the first to hear and make use of it, and they transmitted it to the human world when need arose.

    Guru-yoga (when based on Guru Rinpoche) and the Seven-Line Prayer are inextricably linked. And just as guru-yoga remains crucial at every stage of the Vajrayana path, so too the Seven-Line Prayer is relevant at all levels of the practice. Outwardly, it records Guru Rinpoche’s birth and place of origin; it celebrates his accomplishment and implores his blessing. Inwardly, its every word is shown to be heavy and pregnant with meanings that distill in concentrated form the whole of the Vajrayana. The Seven-Line Prayer is like a lovely, many-faceted jewel that receives and concentrates within itself the light of the entire path, reflecting it back with sparkling brilliance.”

    Hung! On the northwest border of the country Oḍḍiyāna,
    On the pollen heart of a lotus flower,
    The marvelous, supreme accomplishment has been attained.
    You are renowned as the Lotus-Born,
    Surrounded by a retinue of many Ḍākinīs.
    Following you to be like you,
    I beseech you to come and bless me.
    Guru Padma Siddhi Hung

    The Meaning of the Prayer

    White Lotus

    Perhaps the most thorough explanation of the Seven Line Prayer available in English is from the great Jamgon Mipham Rinpoche entitled Pema Karpo, or White Lotus: An Explanation of the Seven-Line Prayer to Guru Padmasambhava. In this short but extremely rich work, Mipham Rinpoche presents the many layers of meaning, from its outer, literal meaning to the hidden meanings related to the path of liberation, the path of skillfull means including the Perfection stage and Dzogcchen, and finally pith instructions related to these. He concludes with an explanation of how to use the commentary itself as a practice.

    Regarding the origin of this incredible commentary, the translators also add “Mipham refers in the colophon to an event that triggered the abrupt appearance in his mind of the hidden meaning of the prayer. We shall probably never know what it was that provoked this sudden epiphany, but it is interesting to note that the language Mipham uses suggests that the commentary itself is not an ordinary composition but a treasure teaching, specifically a “mind-treasure,” or gongter. If that is so, the text is itself a teaching by Guru Rinpoche himself, concealed long ago within the mind of his disciple, from which it was destined to reemerge when the right circumstances presented themselves, without the need for the discovery of the traditional yellow scrolls or some other material support”

    This book also includes a Guru Yoga based on the prayer, entitled Rain of Blessings which is performed by many practice groups throughout Asia and the West. Recently Orgyen Chowang Rinpoche  taught a full weekend at Shambhala Publications on this practice.

    Enlightened Journey

    In Enlightened Journey Tulku Thondup Rinpoche devotes a 22 page chapter on the meaning of the prayer which is based on Mipham Rinpoche’s White Lotus. It can be used almost as a crib-sheet reminder after reading the full account by Mipham Rinpoche.

    He presents the history, as described above. He also adds. “when Guru Rinpoche came to Tibet in the eighth century, he gave it to the king and his subjects. Intending it for future disciples capable of training, he concealed it in many Ters. Later, The Vajra Seven-Line Prayer was revealed in the Ters of most of the one hundred great Tertons of the last ten centuries of the Nyingma lineage, again and again, as the heart of the prayers, teachings, and meditation.”

    Guru Yoga

    In Guru Yoga: According to the Preliminary Practice of Longchen Nyingtik, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche explains the Guru Yoga based on the Seven-Line prayer from the Longchen Nyingtik tradition.

    “The Seven-Line Prayer is to be found in all of the teachings of Guru Rinpoche revealed by the hundred and eight major and one thousand minor tertons, or treasure-discoverers. So it is a prayer that is most extraordinary, easy to practice, and replete with immense blessings.

    To invoke the Lotus-born Guru, we recite the Seven-Line Prayer three times. At the same time, in the sky before us, we visualize the paradise of Zangdopalri with Guru Rinpoche and his retinue of vidyadharas, 4akas, and 4akinis. Then, what we visualize in the sky dissolves into the visualization we have already created. The buddhafield dissolves into the buddhafield, Vajrayogini dissolves into Vajrayogini, Guru Rinpoche dissolves into Guru Rinpoche, and the retinue of deities, 4akas, and 4akinis into the corresponding retinue. In this way, the jiiiinasattva,the wisdom deities invited from the buddhafields, and the samayasattva, which is our initial visu¬ alization, merge indivisibly into one.

    Do not ever think that the buddhafields are far away, or doubt whether the buddhas may or may not come. For as Guru Rinpoche said:
    I am present in front of anyone who has faith in me,
    Just as the moon casts its reflection, effortlessly, in any vessel filled with water.

    Gypsy Gossip

    In Gypsy Gossip and Other Advice, Kyabje Thinley Norbu Rinpoche explains the prayer’s outer and inner meanings in the course of six pages. He introduces the background of the prayer here:

    “The Seven-Line Prayer originated directly from the speech of a Dakini. It came to this world during a debate at Nalanda when heretics were defeating Buddhist scholars. Shiwa Chok, the Dakini called the Great Excellent Peaceful One, appeared to the scholars in their dreams, say-ing,’You will never be able to defeat the heretics by yourselves. I have a brother, Dorje Töthreng Tsal, who stays in the darkness of the grave¬yard. If you invoke him there, he will come to your aid.’ But the Bud¬dhist scholars said they did not know how to find Guru Töthreng Tsal.

    So, the Dakini taught them the Seven-Line Prayer and then said, ‘It is not necessary to go to the graveyard, because Guru Rinpoche has a rainbow body and will come to your aid if you recite the Seven-Line Prayer.’

    The scholars prayed, and Guru Rinpoche came to them. They were able to win the debate, glorifying the Buddha Dharma and helping it to prosper.
    Later, when Guru Rinpoche went to Tibet, he taught the prayer to his twenty-five disciples and it benefited them greatly. Afterward, as it was included in many termas,6 tertöns7 found it in many of the hidden texts they discovered. The first tertön to discover it was Guru Chöwang.”

    Rinpoche also devotes an entire book dedicated to the prayer in The Sole Panacea: A Brief Commentary on the Seven-Line Prayer to Guru Rinpoche That Cures the Suffering of Sickness of Karma and Defilement.

    In this work, rather than jumping right in to the meaning of the prayer itself, the first half of the book lays the foundation and view that are necessary for effectively reciting the prayer, namely: showing the inherent problems in the extreme views of of nihilism and externalism; why trying to understand the nature of mind is a futile exercise; clearing misunderstanding about who Guru Rinpoche was; a presentation of various Buddhist doctrines and how the Triple Gems of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha are recognized; and finally a look at the Buddha as well as peaceful and wrathful deities in the Vajrayana system.

    How to Practice

    Nature of Mind

    There are several sets of instructions on how to practice the Seven-line prayer and are included in The Nature of Mind: The Dzogchen Instructions of Aro Yeshe Jungne based on Patrul Rinpoche’s teachings and put together by the the Khenpo brothers, Khenpo Palden Sherab and Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal.

    “At the beginning of each meditation session, generate bodhi¬chitta for all beings. Reflect on impermanence. Feel the presence of Guru Padmasambhava, and all the buddhas, bodhisattvas, lineage masters, and sangha. Chant the seven-line prayer, which is the sound of love, joy, and devotion. Feel the sacred sound of this prayer purifying all emotional tur¬bulence and ego-clinging. Feel it bringing you and all beings back into your original true nature. If you recite any additional prayers and mantras, con¬tinue generating these beautiful thoughts. Whether you recite for a short or long time, afterward meditate on the absolute state—open, relaxed, and free. Meditate according to your capabilities, beginning with focus for a while if you need it, then ultimately relaxing without any focus according to the Dzogchen teachings.”

    While all the books above provide a very precise explanation of the prayer itself, there is an excellent book describing how this prayer is integrated in the life and teachings of a great master. The prayer is weaved throughout The Autobiography of Jamgon Kongtrul where Kongtrul shares receiving teachings on the prayer from Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, doing intensive accumulations of the practice, often followed by signs of accomplishment, composing a sadhana based on the prayer, and teaching and performing it widely.

    Ringu Tulku recounts one of these events in his Ri-Me Philopsophy of Jamgon Kongtrul:

    “Khyentse Rinpoche had told Kongtrul it would be good to recite the Seven-Line Prayer a hundred thousand times, so at this point Kongtrul traveled to several places which were sacred to Guru Rinpoche and did retreats there. He visited famous sites such as Padma Shelphuk, Dagam Wangphuk, and Padma Shelri, and he recited the Seven-Line Prayer more than a hundred thousand times. Excellent auspicious signs appeared. In particular, when he was in Dagam Wangphuk, one night in a dream Guru Padmasambhava appeared to him in the form of Khyentse Rinpoche. Khyentse opened a book containing many yellow scrolls with dakini script written on them, and he gave Kongtrul complete instructions on reciting the Seven-Line Prayer. During the daytime, every day there were clouds of white rainbows appearing in the sky. Later, when he visited Dzongsar, Khyentse Rinpoche told Kongtrul he should definitely write down those instructions on the Seven-Line Prayer, so Kongtrul wrote them down as mind terma. Later that year, a large number of students came from all over the country to study with him, and Kongtrul satisfied all their wishes.”

  • Kalachakra Tantra Reader’s Guide

    What Is Kalachakra Tantra?

    The Kalachakra, or “Wheel of Time,” tantra and cycles of teachings and practices are, on the surface, well known among practitioners and those interested in Tibetan Buddhism. Yet it is considered one of the highest teachings of tantra—a highly complex one where initiates take many years accomplishing the practice. The visualization for an advanced practitioner involves 722 figures in the mandala.

    One of the reasons for its notoriety is that His Holiness the Dalai Lama has bestowed the initiation—which takes several days to complete—dozens of times in over ten countries to literally millions of people. For most in attendance it is considered a great blessing and not a springboard into the practice itself. As the Dalai Lama has said:

    “The higher meditations of the Kalachakra tradition can be practiced only by a select few. But because of past and future events, and in order to establish a strong karmic relationship with Kalachakra in the minds of the people, there is now a tradition of giving the initiation to large public gatherings.”

    Kalachakra Tantra as a Main Practice

    There are many practitioners in the four main Tibetan schools, as well as in the lesser known Jonang tradition, for whom Kalachakra is their main practice, not just a source of connection and blessings. The Gelug and Sakya traditions were heavily influenced by Buton Rinchen Drub. Some of this is detailed in Buton's History of Buddhism in India and Its Spread to Tibet. The Kagyu and Nyingma traditions draw heavily from the Jonang. Some of the more contemporary masters include Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö (whose biography was published in early 2017 by Shambhala), Penor Rinpoche, and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. Some of the stories about Khyentse Rinpoche’s connection with the Kalachakra—in particular, the teaching he gave to a large group including His Holiness the Dalai Lama—form a very moving section of his biography, Brilliant Moon. When asked to give a formal elaborate teaching at a Long Life ceremony for the Dalai Lama attended by the heads of all the schools and many other lamas, Tenga Rinpoche relates the following story of Khyentse Rinpoche:

    “The next morning when the time came to speak in front of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the whole assembly of lamas from the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism, speaking for over an hour in an unimpeded flow like a river, Khyentse Rinpoche gave a most detailed and profound explanation of the universe according to the Kalachakra Tantra, in which he mentioned an immense number of quotes, which he obviously seemed to know by heart. At the end of the discourse, he finally approached the throne of His Holiness and offered the mandala plate into His Holiness’s hands. Then he offered the eight auspicious substances, and when offering the conch, a loud thunder crash resounded. This was considered to be a most auspicious event.

    Everyone was amazed at Khyentse Rinpoche’s erudition and spoke about his speech for years to come. Afterward I asked him, ‘Did you study the Kalachakra a lot in the past?’ He answered, ‘I didn’t study it much; I read the Kalachakra commentary by Mipham Rinpoche maybe once or twice; that’s all.’”

    Coming to the West

    The practice’s fame in the West, in particular, is also attributable to the Shambhala teachings introduced widely by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. The Shambhala teachings have a strong connection with the Kalachakra tantra as many of the works below detail. In Recalling Chögyam Trungpa, Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche explains it in this way:

    “You find the teachings on Shambhala in the Outer Kalachakra; it is a branch or section of the Outer Kalachakra. The Outer Kalachakra is also concerned with predicting what good things are going to happen and what bad things are going to happen through an examination of the planets, the lunar mansions, and so on. It includes a description of the physical nature of the world and how the world was formed, and also discusses how the dharma will prosper in the future. So the connection between the Shambhala teachings and the Vajrayana teachings is found in the Outer Kalachakra. There, the text describes how there were the seven dharmarajas, the dharma kings.”

    Below you will find a guide to the many works related to Kalachakra that Shambhala and Snow Lion publish.

    Highest Yoga Tantra: An Introduction to the Esoteric Buddhism of Tibet

    In the New Translation schools, it is classified in the Highest Yoga Tantra section of tantra. A comprehensive look at this classification, and one in which the Kalachakra system is compared to the Guhyasamaja, is Daniel Cozort's Highest Yoga Tantra: An Introduction to the Esoteric Buddhism of Tibet. This is a good starting point because most of the extant literature is from the New Translation tradition, in particular the Gelug, which is logical given His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s activity.

    Treasures of the Sakya Lineage

    Before diving into the works dedicated to this cycle of teachings, there is an excellent overview of the divisions of the tantra in Lama Migmar Tseten’s Treasures of the Sakya Lineage, which is helpful when exploring the works below:

    “Kalachakra itself is divided into four types of tantra, giving us an elaborate framework to understand its specifics. First, there is the outer Kalachakra. In large part, these sections are concerned with visualizing and meditating on the Buddha in the form of the meditational deity Kalachakra and chanting his mantra. Second comes the inner Kalachakra, which addresses applying the profound internal meditations on the subtle channels, vital winds, elements, and essential drops that make up the subtle (psychic) body. Third, the secret Kalachakra involves meditating on and within the ultimate meaning of the truth of emptiness. Fourth is “other,” or “alternative,” Kalachakra, which relates to the study of and meditation on the outer cosmos of our realm of existence. Alternative Kalachakra teaches us how all the physical appearances of this world are the manifestation of our collective karma; it teaches us the causes that bring about this universe. It describes the outer universe and how it directly corresponds with and reflects the inner propensities and karmic vision of all the beings within this universe. Thus, the Kalachakra tantra contains the deepest meanings of four types of tantras all within a single tradition.”

    The Wheel of Time

    An excellent starting point for diving in is The Wheel of Time: Kalachakra in Context. Here His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Geshe Sopa, and scholars Roger Jackson and John Newman explore the history, initiation, and practices within this tantric system.

    Another overview is The Wheel of Time Sand Mandala: Visual Scripture of Tibetan Buddhism. This volume comes packed with illustrations that give a helpful sense of how the mandala support for this practice is created.

    Introduction to the Kalachakra Initiation

    For the initiation of the deity Kalachakra, Alexander Berzin’s Introduction to the Kalachakra Initiation is an excellent starting point. Dr. Berzin has researched and written extensively on the subject and this encapsulates his work. It begins with an introduction to tantra generally, the Kalachakra specifically, and then dives deeper and details the initiation itself, what is happening each day. A brief summary of the purpose of the practice is included:

    “Properly empowered, we engage in generation and then complete stage meditational practice in the form of the Buddha-figure called Kalachakra. Through these two stages, we access and utilize the subtlest level of our mind to see reality. Remaining continually focused on reality with it eliminates forever confusion and its instincts, thus bringing liberation from the external and internal cycles of time. This is possible because our basis tantra, our individual clear light mind, underlies each moment of experience and, like time, it has no end. Once our subtlest mind is freed from the deepest cause giving rise to the impulses of energy that perpetuate cycles of time and bondage to them, it gives rise, instead, to the bodies of a Buddha, in the form of Kalachakra.”

    It includes an explanation of the understanding of the universe and how it differs from the more familiar Buddhist view of the universe. An excerpt appeared in the Snow Lion newsletter, and you can find it here. This work also includes other aspects of the text such as why it is so closely related with the line of Dalai Lamas, its connection with Shambhala, and more.

    Dr. Berzin also published the short Kalachakra and Other Six-Session Yoga Texts, which currently available as an eBook.

    The Practice of Kalachakra

    Another topical work on the tantra is Glenn Mullin’s The Practice of Kalachakra. The first half serves as a comprehensive overview of the tantra and the Kalachakra. The second half includes a set of translations of teachings and practices related to this cycle from the First, Fifth, Thirteenth, and present Fourteenth Dalai Lamas. It also includes works from Buton, the First Panchen Lama, and Lobzang Thubten Chokyi Nyima.

    Some of these are also included in From the Heart of Chenrezig: The Dalai Lamas on Tantra.

    As Long as Space Endures: Essays on the Kalachakra Tantra in Honor of H.H. the Dalai Lama

    A very important work in English on the Kalachakra system is the anthology As Long as Space Endures: Essays on the Kalachakra Tantra in Honor of H.H. the Dalai Lama. With two dozen translations and essays, this contains pieces by Robert Thurman, Thupten Jinpa, Alexander Berzin, Vesna Wallace, and many other scholars and lamas known for their work with these teachings.

    There are several other works that include teachings, stories, and other helpful and fascinating information on the Kalachakra and its history and impact in India and Tibet..

    A Gem of Many Colors & The Treasury of Knowledge

    Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye taught extensively on the subject.  He talks about this repeatedly throughout his autobiography, A Gem of Many Colors.

    He also wrote about it extensively in his Treasuries. There will be a Kalachakra volume in the Treasury of Precious Instructions, the massive multivolume work from Shambhala Publications.

    In his The Treasury of Knowledge, published in English in ten volumes, there are two volumes specifically that contain a lot of detail about the Kalachakra system. The first is in the volume Systems of Buddhist Tantra: The Indestructible Way of Secret Mantra (6.4) and the other is in The Elements of Tantric Practice (8.3).

    The Buddha from Dolpo & Mountain Doctrine

    The Kalachakra is very central to the Jonang tradition, and a figure who is obviously very prominent in the teachings and propagation of the Kalachakra system was Dolpopa.

    Dolpopa’s biography, The Buddha from Dolpo by Cyrus Stearns, contains an immense amount of information on Dolpopa's connection with the Kalachakra practice.

    It is also discussed at length in Dolpopa’s own Mountain Doctrine: Tibet’s Fundamental Treatise on Other-Emptiness and the Buddha Matrix.

    Astrological & Divination in Tibet

    The Kalachakra system also forms a large part of the astrological and divination techniques in Tibet. A few important sources on this include Mipham Rinpoche's Mo: Tibetan Divination System, and Phillipe Cornu's classic Tibetan Astrology.

    The Art of Buddhism

    Finally, The Art of Buddhism contains a short section on the Kalachakra mandala and the image above is from that work.

  • Nyak Jñānakumara 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.

    Image of Nyak Jñ?nakumara

    Nyak Jñ?nakumara, from the Shechen Archives

    Nyak Jñānakumara, also known as Yeshe Zhonnu was ordained by Santarakshita and was a student of Guru Rinpoche, Vairotsana, and Yudra Nyingpo but is better known for his Vajrakilaya practiced he received through Vimalamitra.

    He worked alongside Vimalamitra translating the mahyoga and atiyoga tantras, including The Guhyagarbha Tantra, the root of the eighteen great tantras. As Jamgon Kongtrol relates in volume 2 of the Treasury of Knowledge, where Nyak Jnanakumara is brought up repeatedly,

    Lalitavajra, Shri Singhaprabha, and Buddhaguyha explained this tantra

    Vimalamitra, Ma RInchen Chok, and Nyak Jnana Kumara translated and taught it

    Rongzom Chokki Zangpo, Longchenpa, Chomden Rikpe Raldri, and others spread it.

    Zurpa's especially exalted doctrinal tradition dwindled to become a slender hair

    The brothers of Mindro Ling Monastery revived the doctrine's dying embers

    Jamgon Kongtrul continues a bit later:

    "Moreover, as the saying relates, 'The vajra way's doctrine was first transmitted to Nyak, then to Nup, and finally to Zur.' Four doctrinal transmissions' streams from the great masters Padmasambhava, Vimalamitra, Bérotsana, and Yudra Nyingpo collected in Nyak Jnana Kumara.

    [The four streams are] the stream of scriptures of explanatory texts, accompanied by major commentaries and [summaries of ] the main points; the stream of profound instructions for meditation from the oral lineage, accompanied by texts on crucial points of instruction and direct guidance; the stream of empowerments' blessings, accompanied by techniques for their conferral and pointing out instructions; and the stream of the practical instructions for accomplishing activities, accompanied by [rituals for] the doctrine's guardians and wrathful mantras. Nyak Jnana Kumara's principal disciples were eight whose name included Pal, among whom Sokpo Palgyi Yeshé imparted every profound instruction to Nupchen Sangye Yeshe. "

    Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche had a strong association with Nyak Jñānakumara. In Brilliant Moon, the Autobiography of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Nyak's his cycle and teachings are brought up repeatedly, including how when Khyentse Rinpoche was at Karma Monastery "there was a statue of the four-armed protector Mahakala, which was the practice support of the Seventh Karmapa. It was kept in a sandalwood box and only shown to special people. I asked to see it and discovered a yellow scroll with dakini script in its arms, which I took and gave to Khyentse Chökyi Lodro. From this scroll I wrote down the Nyak Kilaya.

    In Sacred Ground, Jamgon Kongtrul identifies Chogyur Lingpa as a manifestation of Yeshe Zhonnu.

    TBRC Reference: http://tbrc.org/#!rid=P6525

    Treasury of Lives Site: http://treasuryoflives.org/biographies/view/Nyak-Jnyanakumara/9121

  • Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche: A Reader's Guide

    dkr

    This edition of the Great Masters Series focuses on Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910-1991).   This, like the other posts in this series, is not meant to be an exhaustive biography, but rather a look at the life and teachings of this great master through the lens of his works published in English.

    For those interested in his life story, we have posted his brief biography by Tulku Thondup that appears in volume two of his Collected Works here.  For a more detailed treatment, there is no better place to start than his autobiography, Brilliant Moon.   "Brilliant Moon " is a translation of Rabsel Dawa, which was the ordination name given by the great Rimé master, Khenpo Shenga  at the time Khyente Rinpoche became a novice monk.   This is not only a beautiful autobiography, but, since Khyentse Rinpoche grew up in the presence of and was educated by some of the most renowned scholars, adepts, and lamas active at the turn of the twentieth century, his life provides a bridge from   the flourishing teachings of the nineteenth century to us today.   The back section of Brilliant Moon includes reminiscences from his consort Khandro Lhamo, his grandson Shechen Rabjam, Tenga Rinpoche, Trulshik Rinpoche, and many more.   There is also an excellent film about his life, also entitled Brilliant Moon,   with some amazing  footage that you can see on the film's website.

    Another account of his life is Matthieu Ricard's beautiful, full-color Journey to Enlightenment.   Though that volume is now out of print, many of the photos and all the text appear in volume one of the Collected Works. And yet another short biography can be found on the wonderful Treasury of Lives site.

    His Life

    Khyentse Rinpoche was born in 1910 to the family of Dilgo in eastern Tibet near Dege on the day that Mipham Rinpoche (see previous Great Masters post) was there completing a ganachakra feast offering after six weeks of teaching.   Shortly afterward he blessed and named the infant Tashi Paljor.   Though Khyentse Rinpoche was only two when Mipham passed away, the latter's impact on him was immense, as it was for so many in Eastern Tibet.   Throughout his life, Khyenste Rinpoche taught extensively from Mipham Rinpoche's teachings, and we will see in a few examples below.

    While still an infant, he was recognized as the tulku of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, and when he was fourteen, he went to Shechen Monastery where he was enthroned as Khyentse Wangpo's tulku by Shechen Gyaltsap.   Over the next four years he was immersed in study and practice of Sutra, Tantra, and Dzogchen, primarily with Shechen Gyaltsap and Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro (whose tulku is Dzongsar Khyentse), but also with Khenpo Shenga, Adzom Drukpa, and many more.

    Rinpoche wrote the The Great Biography on the life of Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro which forms the second half of The Life and Times of Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro.  

    Throughout his life, Rinpoche had over sixty teachers from all the main schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

    A few years later, Shechen Gyaltsap passed away, and the eighteen year old Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche went into solitary retreat for the next thirteen years, mostly living and practicing in caves in Eastern Tibet.    After he emerged from retreat the next fifty years of his life were devoted to practicing, teaching, and helping invigorate all the practice lineages.    After fleeing Tibet and the communist repression in 1959, he settled in Bhutan as the spiritual advisor to the Bhutanese Royal family, but he also continued to teach widely in Nepal, India, and later, the West.   He also made three trips back to Tibet in the 1980s, teaching, giving empowerments, and helping to restore monasteries and other institutions, regardless of their lineage.   As His Holiness the Dalai Lama, a student of Khyentse Rinpoche, said, "you see his basic belief, basic attitude, is nonsectarian, which I very much appreciate. "

    The   Books

    Rinpoche's writing in Tibetan are contained in twenty-five volumes consisting of over ten thousand pages.  Including those mentioned above, there are altogether fourteen books plus some translations of his poetry, all of which are contained in the three volumes of his Collected Works, except where indicated below.

    There exists a tradition in Tibetan literature of masters composing short, easy-to-memorize texts that serve almost like crib sheets, making up practical instruction texts based on the classical teachings.  With the proper instructions, these can serve as keys that open up a whole range of teachings and enable them  to be put into practice.   Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche was a master at unpacking these pith instructions for practitioners, and there are four examples of this in English: commentaries on texts by Padampa Sangye, Zurchungpa, and two by Thogme Sangpo.

    Khyentse Rinpoche has two books based on the teachings of Ngulchu Thogme Zangpo, the fourteenth-century Sakya master-and teacher to greats like Buton Rinchen Drup-whose teachings are a core part of the study curricula for all Tibetan Buddhists.     Enlightened Courage, gives a detailed explanation on the Thogme Zangpo's commentary of the Seven Points of Mind Training, a core lojong text.

    In The Heart of Compassion, Rinpoche gives a commentary on Thogme Zangpo's most famous text, The Thirty-Seven Verses on the Practice of a Bodhisattva.   This also contains a fourteen-page biography of Thogme Zangpo.

    In 1987 Khyentse Rinpoche gave a teaching on a text by the siddha Padampa Sangye, which was published as The Hundred Verses of Advice.   In his commentary on this text in which Padampa Sangye addresses the people in his adopted home of Tingri on the Nepal-Tibet border, Khyentse Rinpoche explains why and how laypeople can and should lead a life completely in accordance with  dharma, overcoming pettiness, emotional afflictions, and the trials and tribulations of life.   His advice on these matters are all as applicable today in the West as they were for the villagers of Tingri in the eleventh century.

    In Zurchungpa's Testament, Rinpoche wrote a commentary on his own teacher, Shechen Gyaltsap's, annotations to Zurchungpa's Eighty Chapters of Personal Advice.   In it Khyentse Rinpoche expands on what was really Zurchungpa's last teaching, his testament before dying.

    Dilgo Khyentse often used the writings of his own teachers, their teachers, or their previous incarnations as the basis of his teachings.

    In The Excellent Path to Enlightenment: Oral Teachings on the Root Text of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, Rinpoche gives a commentary on a short Ngondro practice composed by the great treasure revealer and master Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, the previous incarnation of his own teacher, Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro.

    While The Excellent Path to Enlightenment contains a pithy explanation of guru yoga, Khyentse Rinpoche also wrote a more elaborate commentary on that specific component of the practice in The Wish-Fulfilling Jewel: The Practice of Guru Yoga according to the Longchen Nyingthig Tradition.   The Nyingthig tradition, which is covered in detail in Tulku Thondup's classic Masters of Meditation and Miracles, came from Guru Rinpoche via Jigme Lingpa.

    Dilgo Khyentse gives a separate commentary on the same section of that text in Guru Yoga According to the Preliminary Practice of Longchen Nyingtik.   This book, not included in the Collected Works, is a distinct take on the practice and includes some brief contributions by Dzongsar Khyentse, Dzigar Kongtrul, and Tsikey Chokling.

    Khyentse Rinpoche also offers commentary on another text by Jigme Lingpa, written at his simple hermitage in Tsering Jong,   A Wondrous Ocean of Advice for the Practice of Retreat in Solitude.   This work, which is really an exhortation on how to practice correctly in order to actually achieve the goal, appears in volume three of the Collected Works.

    Rinpoche gives a wonderful commentary on a text by Mipham Rinpoche (see Mipham Rinpoche post in the Great Masters series) entitled The Wheel of Investigation: An Explanation of Jamgon Mipham Rinpoche's Instructions for Examining the Mind.   In this short text and commentary, which appears only   in the Collected Works volume two, the two masters analyze the mind that  is responsible for the close identification we have with the sense of self.   The point is that through this rigorous methodical examination, one realizes the empty nature of both mind and all phenomena and sees how the roots of samsara have taken hold.

    The Heart Treasure of the Enlightened Ones: The Practice of View, Meditation, and Action  contains Khyentse Rinpoche's commentary on a text by Patrul Rinpoche. The first section is an exhortation to reflect on the defects of cyclic existence.   The second part explains how the antidote is Dharma and what we need to do to put it into practice within the context of the sutras (refuge, generating bodhicitta, purification, and offering) and tantra (empowerment, pure perception, development and completion stages).   The final section details how the results of practice are expressed in a life that is in harmony with the teachings and not caught up in worldly busy-ness.

    While it is hard to categorize the works of a master like Dilgo Khyentse when a teaching on the so-called basics come from the highest possible view, there are three works that are explicitly on Vajrayana and Dzogchen.

    The first is Pure Appearance: Development and Completion Stages in Vajrayana Practice ,  which is based on a set of teachings Rinpoche gave at Karma Dzong in Boulder, Colorado,  shortly after officiating at the cremation of Chogyam Trungpa in 1987.   This offers an overview of Tibetan tantric practice that explains its concepts, clarifies its terminology, and shows how its myriad pieces fit together, including an extensive teaching on the bardos, or “between states”—essential for those new to the topic and a source of illumination for longtime students.

    After the teaching in Boulder, Rinpoche went to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and again taught, this time on Garab Dorje's famous text, Three Words That Strike the Vital Point, a vital Trekcho text.   This was the basis for the book Primordial Purity: Oral Instructions on the Three Words That Strike the Vital Point. This text is based on the famous seminal statement by Garap Dorje that is said to encapsulate all the myriad dzogchen tantras. The key instructions on it by Patrul Rinpoche—the verses known as “The Special Teaching of Khepa Shri Gyalpo”—form the basis for the discourse in Primordial Purity. It explains that in dzogchen, when one has fully recognized that all the confusion of samsara is the expressive power of great emptiness, confusion is spontaneously liberated into the primordial purity of mind’s essential nature. Compassion spontaneously arises, accomplishing the benefit of sentient beings. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche illuminates this beautifully in this profound work, which will inspire students of Buddhism and deepen their experiential appreciation of the teachings.

    The final work is a commentary on Mipham Rinpoche's The Lamp that Dispels the Darkness: Instructions That Point Directly to the Nature of Mind According to the Tradition of the Old Meditators.   Mipham Rinpoche, whom Khyentse Rinpoche said was Manjusri in human form, wrote this short text that really contains the whole of Dzogchen practice.   Rinpoche said that Mipham Rinpoche's words fall into the category of martri,  literally   "red instructions, " thus called "because they show the essential points of practice as if someone had opened his chest and shown the red of his heart. "

    There are two other works in English should be mentioned here.   The first is the recent On the Path to Enlightenment edited by Matthieu Ricard, which was inspired by Khyentse Rinpoche who features very prominently in it.   The second is The Life of Shabkar, in which is found information about Khyentse Rinpoche's connection with this amazing nineteenth-century yogi.     When he once stopped under a tree where Shabkar had sat singing songs of realization, the tree let down a shower of flowers on him, which Khyentse Rinpoche indicated to be a sign of a special karmic connection.

    There are also a few short translations available online from the good folks at Lotsawa House.

    Some words that  Rinpoche wrote in his commentary to Jigme Lingpa's advice to those on retreat   certainly applies to all his work: "as you read this precious text and my commentary on it, please do so with the perfect motivation of bodhicitta to establish all beings under the sky in the supreme level of the vajradharas and the profound view of the Mantrayana. "

    Dilgo Khyentse's written works are in themselves a great treasure, but just as important a part of his legacy are the great teachers still with us who were educated at his feet, making the warmth of his realization still so present to all who yearn to practice for the benefit of all sentient beings.

  • Lojong / Mind Training Reader's Guide

    Lojong, or mind training, is a core practice in all the lineages of the Tibetan tradition. They can perhaps best be characterized as a method for transforming our mind by turning away from self-centeredness and cultivating instead the mental habits that generate bodhicitta, the awakened mind that puts the benefit of others above all else. The teachings on it are more diverse than many people realize, so we thought we would lay out a map of its origins and development for our readers, with some recommendations along the way for books through which the practice can be explored.

    The Origins of Lojong

    Atisha

    The lojong texts present a system for putting compassion into practice according to the teachings that originate with the Buddha himself and echo throughout the centuries. In 2016 in Boulder, His Holiness the Dalai Lama gave a talk on the lojong text  The Eight Verses  (see below) and explained how Atisha and his teachers took this from Shantideva, in both his  Way of the Bodhisattva classic  (for example in the eighth chapter where he presents the lojong practice of exchanging self and others, known as tonglen in Tibetan)  as well as in his Compendium of Training (a new translation of which is available from Oxford  2016). Shantideva in turn looked back to Nagarjuna, particularly in his  Precious Garland  and his  Bodhicittavivarna,  or  Exposition on Enlightened Mind, which is discussed at length in In Praise of Dharmadhatu.  And Nagarjuna himself used the sutras as his sources, in particular the Avatamsaka, known in English as The Flower Ornament Scripture.

    The origin of lojong as a codified system is generally attributed to Atisha, the eleventh-century Bengali master who came to Tibet and founded the Kadampa tradition and whose influence on all the Tibetan lineages was profound. Some teachers identify the actual origin of lojong with Atisha's teachers-Maitriyogi, Dharmarakshita, and Serlingpa-while others attribute the teachings to Atisha's main student, Dromtonpa (1005-64).

    In fact, Thubten Chodron's  Good Karma:  How to Create the Causes of Happiness and Avoid the Causes of Suffering, is based on a text called  The Wheel of Sharp Weapons  that is generally attributed to Dharmarakshita.

    Whatever the case, it is reasonable to think of Atisha as the anchor of these teachings.

    Related Books

    The Heirs of Atisha

    Thought to be an image of Dromtonpa

    From Atisha and the Kadampa masters who followed him, we have received a rich array of core lojong texts that form the basis for the commentaries and teachings we have today. Originally the lojong teachings-often just collections of short sayings-were considered secret and were not widely disseminated, but this changed with the works of two Kadampa masters in particular.

    The first was Langri Thangpa (1054-1123), whose teacher, Geshe Potawa (1027-1105), was one of the three main disciples of Dromtonpa and whose succinct Eight Verses on Training the Mind continues to be widely taught-recently by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to over ten thousand people in New York's Central Park. His Holiness has taught this text on numerous occasions and has published three works on it: a section in the book Lighting the Way,  the audio recording Eight Verses for Training the Mind  (an mp3 download of which is expected soon), and a section in Kindness, Clarity, and Insight. Another commentary is from the late Geshe Sonam Rinchen, also called Eight Verses for Training the Mind.

    Related Books

    One of the earliest commentaries on Langri Thangpa's Eight Verses was by Geshe Chekawa Yeshe Dorje (1102-76), who devoted twelve years to putting the teachings into practice. After seeing the effect of the teachings on a village of lepers who were cured by them-and experiencing the teachings' remarkable effect on the mind of his unsavory brother-Chekawa decided to share them widely. He became the first to break the teachings down into the now-familiar seven points. Though this model became common, when people refer to The Seven Points of Mind Training, it is almost always Chekawa's text to which they refer (even if they call it Atisha's Seven Points of Mind Training). His text consists of fifty-nine aphorisms or slogans that encapsulate the essence of lojong.

    There are many commentaries on Chekawa's text. One of the more famous is by Ngulchu Thogme Zangpo, the early fourteenth-century Kadampa master who also authored the renowned Thirty-Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva. In Enlightened Courage, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche teaches on Thogme Zangpo's commentary on Chekawa's text.

    The great nineteenth-century master Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye also included a commentary on Chekawa's text in his Treasury of Special Instructions. It is available in English as The Great Path of Awakening.

    And there are many contemporary masters who teach on this text because it is so easy to put into practice and can have such a profound effect:

    In The Practice of Lojong, Traleg Rinpoche calls the practices "a profound antidote to the victim mentality that has become so prevalent in our times. "

    Ringu Tulku received his training in lojong from Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and wrote Mind Training, which is a succinct presentation of the slogans.

    B. Alan Wallace wrote two books on the text: Seven-Point Mind Training and the longer Buddhism with an Attitude.

    Chogyam Trungpa based his Training the Mind on both Chekawa's text and Jamgon Kongtrul's commentary. He said that this practice of training the mind-which follows taming the mind-is an antidote to the main obstacle for Mahayana practitioners: not having enough sympathy for others and for oneself.

    Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche's  The Intelligent Heart: A Guide to the Compassionate Life  is another excellent book on The Seven Points of Mind Training  with an emphasis on tonglen.

    The most recent - and superb - addition is by the teaching duo Anyen RInpoche and Allison Choying Zangomo, Stop Biting the Tail You Are Chasing: Using Buddhist Mind Training to Free Yourself from Painful Emotional Patterns. Not only is this an excellent reminder for those with experience, it can serve as an excellent introduction to Buddhist teachings in general.  A great "starter" book but that in now waay indicates its depth which is vast.

    Related Books

    Beyond the Kadampas

    While the core Kadampa lojong texts are taught throughout the Tibetan schools, some schools gave them their own unique expression. In the Sakya tradition, a core lojong teaching is Drakpa Gyaltsen's Parting from the Four Attachments. The Nyingma and Kagyu traditions have lojong built into the Ngondro practices in the form of meditations and reflections on the "Four Thoughts " and on generating bodhicitta. Khandro Rinpoche's This Precious Life provides a good example of this. Perhaps the most famous Ngondro commentary is Patrul Rinpoche's Words of My Perfect Teacher, which constantly refers back to Atisha, Dromtonba, Chekawa, Drakpa Gyaltsen, and others. Khenpo Ngwang Pelzang's Guide to the Words of My Perfect Teacher does the same.

    The Great Jigme Lingpa

    However, there is a particular and very unique Nyingma presentation of lojong and that is Steps to the Great Perfection:  The Mind-Training Tradition of the Dzogchen Masters.  In this unique and masterful work, Jigme Lingpa presents mind training from the core teachings familiar in all the above works and then introduces the  Dzogchen-specific instructions.

     

    The evolution and influence of lojong is not limited to Tibetan Buddhism. Zen teacher Norman Fischer has introduced it to his Zen and interfaith audiences in Training in Compassion, seeing that Zen practitioners can benefit from its explicit teachings in compassion-and that the lojong practitioners can also benefit from the Zen perspective.

    Related Books

    Pema ChodronAnd, of course, Pema Chodron has brought lojong teachings to a very broad audience with her book Start Where You Are, probably the most widely read book on lojong in English.

    And if you love  Start Where You Are, you will also love her latest,  Pema Chodron's Compassion Cards: Teachings for Awakening the Heart in Everyday Life  and The Compassion Book which is a great way to really ingrain the  lojong slogans by interacting with them ,testing yourself.  This deck includes Pema's  introduction to the practice, fifty-nine cards representing the full set of lojong teachings for daily inspiration and contemplation, a practical commentary from Pema on the reverse of each card, a card stand for easy display, and an audio download of Pema's teachings on the related practice of tonglen.

    We hope you enjoy learning about the lojong tradition from some of these wonderful teachers and that they help us all to open our hearts and minds, and become more generous, flexible, and tame.

    Related Books

  • A Reader's Guide on Tibetan Buddhist Essentials: An Exploration of the Nyingma Lineage with Tulku Thondup

    Tulku Thondup Rinpoche was born in East Tibet and was recognized to be a tulku at age five. He studied at Tibet’s famed Dodrupchen Monastery, settling in India in 1958, and teaching for many years in its universities. He came to the United States in 1980 as a visiting scholar at Harvard University.  For the past three decades he has lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he writes, translates, and teaches under the auspices of the Buddhayana Foundation. His numerous books include The Healing Power of Mind, which has now been published in eighteen languages, and Boundless Healing,  which has been published in eleven languages.

    In Rinpoche's own words...

    The Way of the Bodhisattva

    by Shantideva

    This is a most renowned Buddhist text for all Tibetan Buddhist schools to study and train in. It teaches how to generate, preserve, and advance bodhicitta—the noble attitude and effort that brings happiness and enlightenment, or Buddhahood. This is a treatise of meticulously logical, thoroughly practical, mesmerizing poetry and heart-reaching counsel that stimulate unconditional love in our hearts and propel us to serve others selflessly. I myself started to study this nectar-like volume as a young novice and am still absorbing it as a prayer and meditation with earnest devotion.

    White Lotus

    An Explanation of the Seven-Line Prayer to Guru Padmasambhava

    by Jamgon Mipham, translated by the Padmakara Translation Group

    This is the most revered commentary on the sacred Seven Line Prayer of Guru Padmasambhava, who founded Buddhism in Tibet. You can say  it as a common prayer to the enlightened Guru with devotion for his blessings. Or you can pray by seeing the union of the ultimate sphere and intrinsic awareness as the Guru; your body as the sacred-body of blissful wisdom and wisdom-energies of the Guru; or the wisdom and wisdom-lights as the Guru, in order to attain primordial wisdom, the ultimate Guru. You train with this prayer according to your own spiritual ability.

    A Cascading Waterfall of Nectar

    by Thinley Norbu

    This scholarly exposition on Ngondro trainings of the Dudjom lineage examines the profound views and meditations of both sutra and tantra. The core of this sacred volume is the discourses on the primordial purity and spontaneously present wisdom light visions of Dzogchen.  During  the last number of years, Thinley Norbu Rinpoche wrote and translated every word of this book personally with greatest care and taught  it to his students before he returned to Guru Rinpoche’s Pure Land. This is one of the most precious relics of Rinpoche that represents his enlightened actions on this earth.

    The Wish-Fulfilling Jewel

    The Practice of Guru Yoga According to the Longchen Nyingthig Tradition

    by Dilgo Khyentse

    Explaining the meaning of Guru Yoga of Longchen Nyingthig, this teaching shares the profound meaning of devotional meditations and prayers. If your heart is open with the energy of devotion to trust and pray to Guru Rinpoche as the body of omniscient wisdom, unconditional love, and boundless power, then your mind will instantly transform into or reflect his enlightened qualities. If the thoughts and feelings of your mind are reflecting Guru Rinpoche’s blessings and qualities, then all that you see, hear, and feel will arise as his enlightened qualities for you.

    The Tibetan Book of the Dead

    The Great Liberation through Hearing in the Bardo

    by Chögyam Trungpa, Francesca Fremantle

    The Tibetan Book of the Dead by Karma Lingpa is a terma—mystical teachings concealed by Guru Padmasambhava (8th century A. D.) and discovered by Karma Lingpa in the 14th century. One of the well-known Tibetan books in the West, it reveals the profound teachings on the true characteristics of life, the stages of dying and the experiences of luminous nature at death. It details the arduous journey of  the transitional period between death and rebirth and the process of taking rebirth. It teaches how to transform life and death into a journey of happiness and enlightenment.

    The Words of My Perfect Teacher

    by Patrul Rinpoche

    I also recommend Words of My Perfect Teacher by Patrul Rinpoche. This book explains the Ngondro practice of the Nyingma tradition in great detail. It starts with how to turn your mind toward Dharma and goes up to how to realize the enlightened nature of the mind—Buddhahood. If you just skim it superficially or casually, you could just find it an ordinary book. But try it instead with an open mind, and read it thoroughly—taking a few days or a week to complete it. It is known that reading it alone has caused spiritual awakening because of the blessings of the teachings and of the author.

    Book by Tulku Thondup Rinpoche

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