Padmakara Translation Group

  • A Biography of Khenpo Ngawang Pelzang (Khenpo Ngaga)

    A Short Biography of Kathog Khenpo Ngawang Pelzang, also known as Khenpo Ngaga and Khenpo Ngakchung (1879–1941)

    Excerpted from The Guide to the Words of My Perfect Teacher

    khenpo ngawang pelzang khenpo ngagaKhenpo Ngawang Pelzang, also known as Osel Rinchen Nyingpo Pema Lendrel Tsel and popularly called Khenpo Ngakchung or Ngaga, is a re­markable example of a particular kind of lineage holder among the broad variety of personalities of those who held and transmitted the different tra­ditions of Buddhism in Tibet, for if they were all similar in their wisdom and compassion, they differed widely in the particular guises each took in order to pass the teachings on to others most effectively. Some lamas were recog­nized tulkus, enthroned as the heads of great monasteries, with considerable spiritual in.uence over the large communities of monks under their care and over the local lay populations. Others, like Patrul Rinpoche and Milarepa, were respected on account of their total disregard for wealth, fame, and position, inspiring and teaching through the example of their humility and simple lifestyle. Yet others chose to undertake many years of intensive academic training, mastering the texts of sutra and tantra and their com­mentaries in order to qualify as khenpos. The khenpos were learned profes­sors responsible for the education of the tulkus and monks in the monasteries and at the same time faultless upholders of the Vinaya who con­tinued its transmission in ordaining thousands of monks and supervising their training. It should not be imagined, however, that they con.ned them­selves to their duties in the monasteries, for many of them also spent years meditating in retreat and transforming the texts they taught into inner spir­itual realization. And if they did not occupy the thrones of recognized in­carnations, this did not necessarily mean that they had not been “someone” in their previous births.

    In Khenpo Ngakchung’s case that "someone" was a whole series of accomplished beings in India and Tibet—scholars, yogis, translators, Dharma kings, treasure discoverers—summarized in one biography as twenty-five great incarnations. Foremost among these was Vimalamitra, the great In­dian master who was responsible, with Guru Padmasambhava, for intro­ducing the Nyingtik teachings to Tibet and who promised on his departure from Tibet to send an emanation every hundred years. Khenpo Ngakchung had also been, in a previous life, the Indian master Sthiramati, Vasubandhu’s foremost Abhidharma student, and this was to hold him in good stead when he came to study this difficult subject.

    His teacher Nyoshul Lungtok Tenpai Nyima (1829–1901/2*), himself an incarnation of the great abbot Shantarakshita, spent twenty-eight years con­stantly in the company of Patrul Rinpoche, receiving from him all the Nyingtik teachings, practicing them under his guidance, and attaining full realization of the Great Perfection. When at the end of this time Patrul Rin­poche told him to return home, he could not bear to leave, but Patrul Rin­poche comforted him by telling him that in due course he would meet Kunkhyen Longchenpa. The truth of this prediction duly became clear when, following a series of signi.cative dreams, a small boy, the future Khenpo Ngakchung, was presented to him.

    Khenpo Ngakchung was indeed a most unusual child. Even as a baby he displayed miraculous powers and had visions of deities. From his early teens he accompanied Lungtok Tenpai Nyima constantly, serving him, listening to his teachings, and, in his spare time, practicing. Even before completing the preliminary practice he had meditative experiences usually associated with the main practice of the Great Perfection. While doing the mandala practice he had a vision of Longchenpa, in which he was introduced to the nature of mind. Lungtok Tenpai Nyima downplayed these experiences, insisting that Ngawang Pelzang go through the whole path in the proper order so that he could achieve stable realization and truly benefit beings. In this way, he com­pleted all the stages of the practice—the preliminaries, sadhana recitations, yogas, and the two aspects of the Great Perfection, trekchö and thögal—by the time he was twenty-one, when his teacher recognized him as his Dharma heir and sent him to Dzogchen Monastery to study under the learned khen­pos at the monastery’s Shri Singha shedra (college). While there he met Mipham Rinpoche, who entrusted him with the Introduction to Scholarship (mkhas ’jug) which he had just finished writing. Two years later, after Lungtok Tenpai Nyima had passed away, he performed several retreats, all marked by extraordinary signs of accomplishment. He continued to study and prac­tice, and to receive further teachings and empowerments from other great teachers, in particular the second Kathog Situ, Chokyi Gyatso (1880–1925). He also began giving teachings himself. His calling as a khenpo was no doubt encouraged by a vision he had of Patrul Rinpoche in which the latter stressed the importance of education and monastic observance. At the age of thirty he was appointed to teach at Kathog Monastery’s newly opened shedra, at first as assistant to Khenpo Kunpel (author of an important commentary that synthesizes Patrul Rinpoche’s teachings on the Bodhicharyavatara), and later as the shedra’s khenpo. He stayed there for the next thirteen years, teaching, giving empowerments, and ordaining thousands of monks, as well as receiv­ing many important transmissions.
    The “experiential” instructions (myong khrid) that Lungtok Tenpai Ny­ima had received from Patrul Rinpoche and passed on to Khenpo Ngak­chung became the tradition of Nyingtik practice at Kathog Monastery, and it was Lungtok Tenpai Nyima’s Kathog followers who built the Nyoshul monastery in Derge, of which Khenpo Ngawang Pelzang became the first abbot. After his years at Kathog he traveled widely in east Tibet, establishing monasteries and shedras, giving teachings, practicing in retreat, and writing. The thirteen volumes of texts he composed include commentaries on Madhyamika treatises by Chandrakirti and Aryadeva, texts on sadhana practice, commentaries on Vajrayana, and works on the Great Perfection, many of which were teachings that he had received from Lungtok Tenpai Nyima. He was also responsible for propagating the teachings he received from Shenga Rinpoche on Nagarjuna’s fundamental texts of the Madhyamika.

    The visions, meditative experiences, and miraculous events that occur throughout Khenpo Ngakchung’s life may seem to us almost the stuff of legend, yet some of them took place less than seventy years ago, and there are still one or two of his disciples living. The spiritual renaissance in east­ern Tibet with which he was intimately connected is perhaps all the more remarkable for the fact that the region was not always an oasis of calm and often had its share of troubles and unrest. His activity in benefiting beings has extended to the West, where Buddhists practicing the Nyingtik teach­ings have been taught by masters who can trace their lineage back to him through his disciples, among them Nyoshul Shedrup Tenpai Nyima, Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö, and Chatral Rinpoche. This, and the fact that the Zintri is now accessible to the English-speaking world, was per­haps foreseen in a dream Khenpo Ngakchung recounted to his teacher. In it he saw an immense stupa being destroyed and washed away by a river flowing west into the ocean, and he heard a voice from the sky saying that millions of beings in that ocean would be benefited. Lungtok Tenpai Nyima later explained that this dream foretold the destruction of the doc­trine in the East and its spread to the West.

    Books by Khenpo Ngaga

    Books Featuring Khenpo Ngaga

    Please also enjoy some downloadable translations of Khenpo Ngawang Pelzang at Lotsawa House.

  • 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.”

  • The Chariot of Surpassing Purity | An Excerpt from Finding Rest in Meditation

    Prologue

    Homage to you, O glorious Samantabhadra!

    Your nature is the ultimate expanse,
    Primordial and perfect peace.
    Though free of all conceptual constructs,
    It is yet embellished by the kāyas and the wisdoms
    Present of themselves.
    From this there radiates a myriad rays of light
    Performing every kind of action
    In the field of those who might be trained.
    In joy and veneration I bow down to you
    Samantabhadra, sun of love and knowledge—
    To you and all the buddhas and their bodhisattva heirs.

    Among the teachings of the Natural Great Perfection,
    Whose path brings beings blessed with perfect fortune
    To the city of their freedom,
    Here I shall set forth this commentary,
    The Chariot of Surpassing Purity.

    The peak and summit of all the infinite discourses of the Sugata is the class of teachings belonging to the Natural Great Perfection. The stages in which an individual person may put this teaching into practice are defined in my text Finding Rest in Meditation. In the present commentary, I shall clearly describe the key points of its pith instructions.

    The text begins with an expression of homage.

    Primordial nature,
    Pure and vast expanse like space itself,
    Supreme reality, unmoving,
    Utterly devoid of all elaboration,
    Clear and lucent nature of the mind itself,
    The essence of enlightenment—
    In seeing this unmoving and unchanging perfect ground,
    I bow in homage.

    The ground of the Great Perfection is the nature of the mind, self-arisen primordial wisdom, which is motionless and transcends all conceptual extremes. Its nature is beyond differentiation. It is empty like an all-accommodating space and is luminous like the unclouded sun and moon. Like a jewel, it is in itself replete with excellence. It is within this ground, or rather this ultimate expanse—which while not existing in any way, may manifest as anything at all—that saṃsāra and nirvāṇa both subsist. And through recognizing this unmoving and unchanging ground, awareness itself, I pay homage to it. As it is said in the All-Creating King Tantra,

    Kyé! Teacher of the Teachers, all-creating King!
    Expanse of ultimate reality,
    Nature of the buddhas of the triple time,
    You do not spurn saṃsāra,
    Your compassion takes no sides,
    To you, O Teacher, all-creating King, I bow!

    And it is also said in the Dohā, the songs of realization,

    The nature of the mind is the sole seed of everything.
    Existence and nirvāṇa both emerge from it.
    I bow down to this mind that like a wish-fulfilling gem
    Is giver of the fruits one may desire.

    And again in the Ratnāvalī we find,

    Like water into water merging,
    Butter into butter mixing,
    Well-seeing primal wisdom self-cognizing—
    ’Tis thus that I bow down to it.

    Then comes the promise to compose the text of the commentary.

    That the surpassing wonder of the Conqueror’s mind
    Be realized—primal wisdom, self-cognizing—
    I distilled the essence of the tantras, commentaries, and pith instructions.
    Pay heed! I shall explain them in the light of my experience.

    The subject of these pith instructions is self-cognizing primordial wisdom. This wisdom is the mother of all the buddhas, past, present, and to come. I will therefore explain it for the sake of future generations according to how I myself have practiced it. It is said in the Abridged Prajñāpāramitā-sūtra,

    The path of past and future Conquerors
    Residing in the ten directions
    Is this transcendent virtue, nothing else.

    The very same point is made in the Praise to the Mother,

    No name, no thought, no explanation is there
    For the Wisdom That Has Gone Beyond.
    Unceasing and unborn, the very character of space,
    It is the sphere of self-cognizing wisdom.
    I bow to this, the mother of Victorious Ones
    Past, present, and to come.

    What is the relevance of citing this transcendent virtue in the context of an exposition of the Great Perfection? The reason is that transcendent wisdom itself is the Great Perfection. For this is how all the Victorious Ones of the three times refer to awareness itself. It is that from which they take their birth. As it is said in the All-Creating King,

    Kyé! I am the essence uncontrived just as it is.
    I am beyond both being and nonbeing.
    The Victorious Ones of the three times come forth from me,
    Thus truly am I called the mother of Victorious Ones.

    This section reveals the reason for the composition of this treatise. I shall now explain the main body of the root text first briefly and then in detail.

    First, there comes a brief and summary description of its pith instructions.

    On mountain peaks and lake isles, or in forest groves,
    Congenial to the mind in the four seasons of the year,
    With single-pointed concentration, serene, unmoving,
    Meditate on luminosity devoid of mind’s construction.
    Depending on three things is this accomplished:
    The place, the persons, and the practices they implement.

    If those who wish for liberation settle evenly in profound concentration in places suited to their temperament and appropriate to the four seasons of the year, it is certain that they will achieve their purpose. And since liberation is perfectly accomplished thanks to three factors—the place where the practice is pursued, the practitioners themselves, and the teachings they practice—these three points form the adamantine body of this treatise, and I shall now explain them successively and in detail.

    This has been excerpted from Finding Rest in Meditation.

    Related Books

    The Life of LongchenpaLongchen Rabjam (1308–1363), also known as Longchenpa, is a great luminary of Tibetan Buddhism. See more about him here.

  • Impermanence | An Excerpt from Finding Rest in the Nature of the Mind

    We have excerpted the chapter “Impermanence” from Finding Rest in the Nature of the Mind: The Trilogy of Rest, Volume 1 here. Written in the fourteenth century, this text is the first volume of Longchenpa’s Trilogy of Rest, a work of the Tibetan Dzogchen tradition. This profound and comprehensive presentation of the Buddhist view and path combines the scholastic expository method with direct pith instructions designed for yogi practitioners.

    To order the full book, click here.

    1. So now you have your freedom, hard to find,
    And yet its time is passing; it is subject to decay.
    Look closely; see its hollowness like bubbling foam.
    It is not worthy of your trust!
    Think night and day upon the utter certainty of death.

    2. This body is the ground of pain and every mental sorrow,
    A plenteous wellspring of defiled affliction.
    And yet you garland it with flowers,
    Adorning it with robes and jewels.
    But though you tend and wait on it
    With many a tasty gift of food and drink,
    At last it will not stay; it will decay and leave you.
    You cherish now the future food
    Of jackal, fox, and graveyard bird!
    Don’t think of it as something permanent and clean,
    But implement the holy teaching from this moment on.

    3. Brahmā, Śiva, Indra, great and powerful gods,
    Enjoy the greatest wealth in all the three dimensions of the world.
    They blaze with glory through their merit and renown,
    Yet in the contest with the Lord of Death
    They have no victory.
    Because they have achieved samādhi, they can live for aeons,
    Yet when their karma is used up, their hour of death arrives.
    Devas and asuras, rishis, those with magic power,
    The rulers and the ruled—unnumbered are their births,
    And not a single one without the fear of death!

    4. This lifetime passes like the weeping clouds
    Where dance the lightning garlands of the Lord of Death,
    And from them, day and night, there falls
    An endless rain to bathe the shoots
    That grow in the three levels of existence.

    5. The world and its inhabitants will pass.
    The universe is formed and then destroyed
    By seven fires, a flood, and then the scattering wind.
    The all-encircling sea, the continents,
    And even mighty Sumeru compounded of four jewels,
    All girded by the rings of lesser peaks—all this will pass.
    The time will come when all will have dissolved
    Into a single space.
    Remember this and practice Dharma from your heart.

    6. The Guide and Guardian of the world,
    Surrounded by a throng of the pratyekabuddhas, śrāvakas,
    And all the bodhisattva offspring of the Lord,
    Is like the peerless, hare-marked moon aloft in limpid skies,
    Amid a host of starry constellations.
    Clear, resplendent, radiant he shines,
    And yet he is impermanent:
    He demonstrates his passing to the state beyond all pain.
    And see how the unbounded sun
    Of his most precious Doctrine sets
    And disappears as the generations pass.
    Coreless like the plaintain tree,
    This form of human flesh,
    This mere illusion of a dwelling place,
    How can it not decay and be destroyed?

    7. Death therefore is sure;
    Uncertain is its when and where and how.
    This life is ever dwindling; no increment is possible.
    Many are death’s circumstances;
    Those that make life possible are few.
    You have so little time to live!
    Rein in your projects for the future—
    Better far to strive in Dharma from this very instant!

    8. This shelter built of the four elements,
    Endowed with mind adorned with its inhabitants—
    The thoughts that move—
    Arises through conditions.
    Thus it is compounded.
    Being so, it is destructible.
    Like a village crumbling down, it will not last.
    Be swift to practice holy Dharma!

    9. You’re momentary, ephemeral,
    Aflutter like a flame caught in a gale.
    When powerful dangers to your life descend,
    You won’t last long; it’s certain you will die.
    So practice holy Dharma right away.

    10. Servants and possessions, friends both close and dear,
    Your youth, your strength, your beauty, your good family—
    You’ll lose them all; you must go forth alone.
    But actions white and black, not left behind, will shadow you.
    Other than the Dharma, there’s no other refuge at that time.
    Why then do you not pass your time in diligence?

    11. Think now about the past and future peoples of the world.
    Of former generations countless beings have already passed,
    And most of those who now are on this earth
    Within a century’s time will surely be no more.
    For those who follow after, it will be the same.
    Look how they pass! The old and young have all an equal destiny.
    From them you are no different in your nature.
    Remember that your death is certain; practice Dharma!

    12. Throughout the triple world, from hell until the summit of the world,
    There is no place of safety from the Deadly Lord.
    Everything is passing, changing, essenceless.
    Nothing can be trusted; all is turning like a chariot wheel.
    Especially this human state is plagued by many perils.
    Disease and evil forces are the source of numerous ills.
    Fire and sword, vast chasms, poisons, savage beasts,
    And kings and robbers, enemies and thieves,
    And all the rest destroy prosperity and life.

    13. And even without harms, the lives of beings slip by,
    Changing every second’s instant, night and day.
    They drift toward the kingdom of the Lord of Death
    Like rivers running to the sea
    And like the round orb of the sun
    That sets behind the western hills.

    14. If food and all the good amenities of life
    May be, like actual poisons, cause of pain,
    How could goodness and perfection not be quenched by real adversity?
    There is nothing that cannot become the cause of death.
    And since its place and cause and time are all uncertain,
    Rid yourself of all the futile and deceptive things pertaining to this life.
    Sincerely practice Dharma:
    This will help you in the moment of your death.

    15. So now that you have found the boat of freedoms and advantages
    That’s fitted with the rudder of a master’s teaching,
    If now you do not strive to cross the stream of sorrow,
    There is no self-betrayal more terrible than this!

    16. Now you have attained a precious vessel,
    Free of every defect, perfect, lauded by the Buddha.
    If you do not store in it the riches of the twofold aim for self and others,
    You will but bind yourself within the prisons of saṃsāra.

    17. Alas, it is like giving teachings to a stone!
    Most people in this world—
    To think of them brings sorrow welling up!
    They do not comprehend when taught,
    And explanation brings no understanding.
    Tomorrow death awaits them, but they think they’ll live forever.
    Saṃsāra does not sadden them,
    And of the will for freedom they have not the slightest trace.
    If they have knowledge, they are arrogant.
    If they have some understanding, it is all distorted.
    They are borne away by busyness and pastimes
    And are deluged by the rain of their defilement.
    When might I be of help to them?

    18. But you who wish to cross the ocean of your faults
    Accomplishing the marvelous qualities of excellence,
    In this very moment think about death’s certainty.
    Meditate at all times, day and night, on your impermanence.
    Cultivate repeatedly an attitude of sadness at saṃsāra,
    And be determined to be free from it.

    19. By this means you’ll implement the Teaching,
    Useful, beneficial, for the present and for future lives.
    You will strive in practice with a strong endeavor,
    In your mind abandoning this life,
    And bring to nothing the delusion of self-clinging.
    All good qualities, in brief, will be achieved.
    The cause of highest freedom and the halting of all defects
    Is to think about impermanence,
    Reducing projects for the future.
    It is indeed the root of all the Dharma.

    20. The minds of beings are wearied by defilement and distraction,
    By clinging to phenomena they think are permanent.
    Through this helpful teaching, deep and pleasing to the ear,
    Resounding from the drum of Dharma clouds,
    May their minds today find rest.

  • The Emphasis of the Gelug Tradition in Western Scholarship on Madhyamaka

    While its no longer true in many universities, the presentation of Tibetan Buddhism in western academia—and the books that came out of it—was heavily skewed towards the Gelug philosophical view and its traditions. There are various reasons for this, but the following from the Translator's Introduction of the Padmakara Translation Group's The Wisdom Chapter: Jamgön Mipham’s Commentary on the Ninth Chapter of The Way of the Bodhisattva presents an interesting explanation, tracing it to the political dominance of the Ganden Podrang in Tibet itself.

    "This suppression of dissenting opinion [in Tibet], which remained effective for centuries, has been of great significance for the academic study of Buddhism in the West. For reasons that will now be clear, the Tibetan commentarial literature on Madhyamaka available in modern times for the inspection of Westerners has been, until recently, almost exclusively the work of schol­ars belonging to the Gelugpa tradition. And when, in the 1980s, Buddhist studies became an accepted part of the academic curriculum in Western universities, the presentation of Tibetan Buddhism tended to be from the Gelugpa perspective.

    This was the natural consequence of the fact that of the young people who encountered Tibetan Buddhism—whether by actually going to India and meeting with Tibetans in exile or by encountering Tibetan masters visiting the West—those who had been attracted to Gelugpa teachers and who were powerfully inspired by the teachings and scholastic methods of their school were generally people who by temperament and intellectual capacity were most naturally attuned to the academic ideals of Western scholarship. Based for the most part in the Gelugpa tradition, they soon acquired, according to the Orientalist methods of the Western academy, a considerable knowledge of Buddhism, in terms of its history and doctrinal complexity, and this, coupled with a command of Tibetan and Sanskrit, naturally fitted them to academic work as the future professors of their respective faculties. Courses were created, texts were translated, and a great deal of scholarly material was amassed. And since this was overwhelmingly inspired by the Gelugpa tradition, the view of Tsongkhapa, especially in the field of Madhyamaka, has come to be widely regarded as the standard, if not the only, position. It is only comparatively recently, with the translation and study of texts—in no small measure inspired by masters and students of the rimé tradition—that new and competing points of view have come to light. It is thanks to this that it is now possible to place the views of Tsongkhapa and his disciples, on a full range of topics, both sutra and tantra, in a much clearer historical perspective and to appreciate for the first time the degree to which—espe­cially in the case of Madhyamaka—they were innovative and controversial and by no means representative of the Tibetan tradition as a whole: a fact that had been very effectively obscured by the banning of non-Gelugpa texts in Tibet.

    The academic study of Buddhism has certainly been enriched by the influx of scholars who were able to benefit from contact with the living Tibetan tradition, even if until now that contact has been somewhat lop­sided in favor of a single school. But if the academy has been benefited by such an encounter, it too has exerted a positive influence on the scholar­ship concerned. The maxims of intellectual freedom and the principles of impartial, scientific research, untrammeled by the dictates of religious and political ideology, have encouraged the scientific study of the history of Bud­dhism both in India and Tibet, leading to the rediscovery of many things that in the continuance of time had been forgotten or suppressed within the traditions concerned. Everyone stands to benefit from the discoveries of objective research, even if, when brought before the tribunal of impartial study, certain cherished fictions may have to be abandoned."

     

    From The Wisdom Chapter: Jamgön Mipham’s Commentary on the Ninth Chapter of The Way of the Bodhisattva

    More Books on Madhyamaka

  • Padmakara Translation Group Receives the 2017 Shantarakshita Award

    Wulstan and Helena at the Asura Cave in Nepal

    At the June, 2017 Tsadra Translation and Transmission conference which Shambhala Publications was a sponsor of, we were delighted that Wulstan Fletcher and Helena Blankleder were honored with the Shantarakshita award for excellence in translation.

    Wulstan receiving the award from the Tsadra Foundation's Eric Colombel

    To listen to Wulstan discuss he and Helena's translation process, watch the wonderful video about translating Shantideva's Way of the Bodhisattva—the whole talk is wonderful but the part on their collaboration begins at 5:50.

  • The Thirteen Core Indian Buddhist Texts: A Reader's Guide

    non-sectarian Rimé movement, commentaries classic Indian Buddhist treatises, core curriculum in monastic colleges, Tibet and South Asia.

    Khenpo Shenga (1871–1927)

    There are thirteen classics of Indian Mahayana philosophy, still used in Tibetan centers of education throughout Asia and beyond, particularly the Nyngma tradition, with overlap with the others.  They cover the subjects of vinaya, abhidharma, Yogacara, Madhyamika, and the path of the Bodhisattva.  They are some of the most frequently quoted texts found in works written from centuries ago to today. Below is a reader's guide to these works.

    Khenpo Shenga, who penned influential commentaries on all 13 texts.

    1. Pratimokṣha Sūtra

    The first text is the Sutra for Individual Liberation or Sutra of the Discipline or Pratimokṣha Sūtra from the Buddha, containing all the precept for monastics.  We have a commentary of the Bhiksuni Pratimoksha Sutra, Choosing Simplicity.

    Related Books

    2. The Vinayasutra by Gunaprabha

    The second text is the Vinayasutra by Gunaprabha (7th century) who was a student of Vasubandhu. According to Ringu Tulku's The Ri-me Philosopy of Jamgon Kongtrul the Great, "Vasubandhu had many great students, and four of them were considered to be better than himself; Gunaprabha was the one who was better in the Vinaya. Gunaprabha put the four sections of the Vinaya into the proper order, and condensed the seventeen topics of the Vinaya into a shorter format; this is called the Vinaya Root Discourse. He wrote another text called the Discourse of One Hundred Actions, which gives practical instructions on activities related to the Vinaya."

    3. The Compendium of Abhidharma or the Abhidharmasamuccaya by Asanga

    This work on abhidharma does exist in a full, if somewhat dated English translation by Walpola Rahula.  There is an excellent commentary on it by Traleg Rinpoche, published by KTD, Asangha's Abhidharmasamuccaya.

    4. The Abhidharmakosha by Vasubandhu

    Vasubhandu's Abhidharmakosha is the Hinayana treatise on abhidharma and is translated in Jewels from the Treasury which also includes the commentary by the Ninth Karmapa, Wangchuk Dorje.

    5. The Root Stanzas of the Middle Way or Mulamadhyamakakarika

    Nagarjuna most famous work, The Root Stanzas of the Middle Way or Mulamadhyamaka-karika is the first work on Madhyamyaka. The Root Stanzas holds an honored place in all branches of Tibetan Buddhism, as well as in the Buddhist traditions found in China, Japan, and Korea, because of the way it develops the seminal view of emptiness (shunyata), which is crucial to understanding Mahayana Buddhism and central to its practice.

    The latest translation of the text, by the esteemed team of the Padmakara Translation Group, translated this for the occasion of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's visit to Dordogne, France. This version includes the Tibetan text.

    In a concise presentation of this, its translator said, "It is important to see that in his explanations, or rather presentations, of the Middle Way, Nāgārjuna is formulating neither a religious doctrine nor a philosophical theory. He is not giving us yet another description of the world. He simply points to phenomena—the things of our experience that appear so vividly and function so effectively—and shows by force of reasoned argument that they cannot possibly exist in the way that they appear to exist, and that, in truth, they can be said neither to exist nor not to exist. Existence and nonexistence, however, form a perfect dichotomy. And since phenomena are said to lie in neither of these two ontological extremes, we are forced to the conclusion that their nature is ineffable. It cannot be spoken of or even conceived of. And yet it cannot be nothing—for how can anyone possibly deny the vivid experience of the phenomenal world? And thus we come to the nub of the question: How is the true nature of phenomena to be understood? How are we to lay hold of, or rather enter into, the kind of wisdom that, by revealing the emptiness of phenomena, is alone able to uproot our clinging to their apparent reality and thereby dissipate the tyrannical power that they have over us?"

    6. The Introduction to the Middle Way or Madhyamakavatara

    Chandrakirti's Introduction to the Middle Way or Madhyamakavatara.  This book includes a verse translation of the Madhyamakavatara by the renowned seventh-century Indian master Chandrakirti, an extremely influential text of Mahayana Buddhism, followed by an exhaustive logical explanation of its meaning by the modern Tibetan master Jamgön Mipham, composed approximately twelve centuries later. Chandrakirti's work is an introduction to the Madhyamika teachings of Nāgārjuna, which are themselves a systematization of the Prajnaparamita, or "Perfection of Wisdom" literature, the sutras on the crucial, but elusive concept of emptiness.

    7. The Four Hundred Stanzas or Chatuḥshataka Shastra

    Aryadeva's Four Hundred Stanzas or Chatuḥshataka shastra was written to explain how, according to Nāgārjuna, the practice of the stages of yogic deeds enables those with Mahayana motivation to attain Buddhahood. Both Nāgārjuna and Aryadeva urge those who want to understand reality to induce direct experience of ultimate truth through philosophic inquiry and reasoning.

    Aryadeva's text is more than a commentary on Nāgārjuna's Treatise on the Middle Way because it also explains the extensive paths associated with conventional truths. The Four Hundred Stanzas is one of the fundamental works of Mahayana Buddhist philosophy, and Gyel-tsap Je's commentary is arguably the most complete and important of the Tibetan commentaries on it.

    Mahayana practitioners must eliminate not only obstructions to liberation, but also obstructions to the perfect knowledge of all phenomena. This requires a powerful understanding of selflessness, coupled with a vast accumulation of merit, or positive energy, resulting from the kind of love, compassion, and altruistic intention cultivated by bodhisattvas. The first half of the text focuses on the development of merit by showing how to correct distorted ideas about conventional reality and how to overcome disturbing emotions. The second half explains the nature of ultimate reality that all phenomena are empty of intrinsic existence. Gyel-tsap's commentary on Aryadeva's text takes the form of a lively dialogue that uses the words of Aryadeva to answer hypothetical and actual assertions questions and objections. Geshe Sonam Rinchen has provided additional commentary to the sections on conventional reality, elucidating their relevance for contemporary life.

    8. The Way of the Bodhisattva or Bodhicharyavatara

    The Bodhicharyavatara, or The Way of the Bodhisattva, composed by the eighth-century Indian master Shantideva, has occupied an important place in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition throughout its history. It is a guide to cultivating the mind of enlightenment through generating the qualities of love, compassion, generosity, and patience.

    We have a lot of resources on this site for this text - you can start with Way of the Bodhisattva Resource Page. In particular, we strongly recommend watching the immersive workshop from May of 2016 with esteemed translator Wulstan Fletcher who is part of the Padmakara Translation Group.

    In addition, we have the famous commentary on this text, The Nectar of Manjusri's Speech. In this commentary, Kunzang Pelden has compiled the pith instructions of his teacher Patrul Rinpoche, the celebrated author of The Words of My Perfect Teacher.

    The Five Maitreya Texts

    And then there are the five Maitreya texts that he imparted to Asanga.  For an explanation of these texts see two of the foremost translators of them explain them in this pair of interviews with Karl Brunnnholzl and Thomas Doctor.

    9. The Ornament of Clear Realization or Abhisamayalankara

    The Abhisamayalamkara summarizes all the topics in the vast body of the Prajnaparamita Sutras. Resembling a zip-file, it comes to life only through its Indian and Tibetan commentaries. Together, these texts not only discuss the "hidden meaning" of the Prajnaparamita Sutras—the paths and bhumis of sravakas, pratyekabuddhas, and bodhisattvas—but also serve as contemplative manuals for the explicit topic of these sutras—emptiness—and how it is to be understood on the progressive levels of realization of bodhisattvas. Thus these texts describe what happens in the mind of a bodhisattva who meditates on emptiness, making it a living experience from the beginner's stage up through buddhahood.

    Gone Beyond contains the first in-depth study of the Abhisamayalamkara (the text studied most extensively in higher Tibetan Buddhist education) and its commentaries in the Kagyu School. This study (in two volumes) includes translations of Maitreya's famous text and its commentary by the Fifth Shamarpa Goncho Yenla (the first translation ever of a complete commentary on the Abhisamayalamkara into English), which are supplemented by extensive excerpts from the commentaries by the Third, Seventh, and Eighth Karmapas and others. Thus it closes a long-standing gap in the modern scholarship on the Prajnaparamita Sutras and the literature on paths and bhumis in Mahayana Buddhism.

    Groundless Paths takes the same material and looks at in the context of the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism. This study consists mainly of translations of Maitreya's famous text and two commentaries on it by Patrul Rinpoche. These are supplemented by three short texts on the paths and bhumis by the same author, as well as extensive excerpts from commentaries by six other Nyingma masters, including Mipham Rinpoche. Thus this book helps close a long-standing gap in the modern scholarship on the prajñaparamita sutras and the literature on paths and bhumis in Mahayana Buddhism.

    10. Ornament of the Great Vehicle Sūtras or Mahayanasutralankara

    The Ornament of the Great Vehicle Sūtras or Mahayanasutralankara
    The Ornament provides a comprehensive description of the bodhisattva’s view, meditation, and enlightened activities. Bodhisattvas are beings who, out of vast love for all sentient beings, have dedicated themselves to the task of becoming fully awakened buddhas, capable of helping all beings in innumerable and vast ways to become enlightened themselves. To fully awaken requires practicing great generosity, patience, energy, discipline, concentration, and wisdom, and Maitreya’s text explains what these enlightened qualities are and how to develop them.

    This volume includes commentaries by Khenpo Shenga and Ju Mipham, whose discussions illuminate the subtleties of the root text and provide valuable insight into how to practice the way of the bodhisattva. Drawing on the Indian masters Vasubandhu and, in particular, Sthiramati, Mipham explains the Ornament with eloquence and brilliant clarity. This commentary is among his most treasured works.

    11. Middle beyond Extremes or the Madhyāntavibhāga

    Middle Beyond Extremes contains a translation of the Buddhist masterpiece Distinguishing the Middle from Extremes. This famed text, often referred to by its Sanskrit title, Madhyāntavibhāga, is part of a collection known as the Five Maitreya Teachings. Maitreya, the Buddha’s regent, is held to have entrusted these profound and vast instructions to the master Asaṅga in the heavenly realm of Tuṣita.

    12. Distinguishing Phenomena from Their Intrinsic Nature -Dharmadharmatavibhanga

    We have three works that explore this text.
    Outlining the difference between appearance and reality, Distinguishing Phenomena from Their Intrinsic Nature shows that the path to awakening involves leaving behind the inaccurate and limiting beliefs we have about ourselves and the world around us and opening ourselves to the limitless potential of our true nature. By divesting the mind of confusion, the treatise explains, we see things as they actually are. This insight allows for the natural unfolding of compassion and wisdom. This volume includes commentaries by Khenpo Shenga and Ju Mipham, whose discussions illuminate the subtleties of the root text and provide valuable insight into the nature of reality and the process of awakening.

    Mining Wisdom from Delusion
    The introduction of the book discusses these two topics (fundamental change and non-conceptual wisdom) at length and shows how they are treated in a number of other Buddhist scriptures. The three translated commentaries, by Vasubandhu, the Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje, and Gö Lotsāwa, as well as excerpts from all other available commentaries on Maitreya’s text, put it in the larger context of the Indian Yogācāra School and further clarify its main themes. They also show how this text is not a mere scholarly document, but an essential foundation for practicing both the sūtrayāna and the vajrayāna and thus making what it describes a living experience. The book also discusses the remaining four of the five works of Maitreya, their transmission from India to Tibet, and various views about them in the Tibetan tradition.

    Distinguishing Phenomena and Pure Being was composed by Maitreya during the golden age of Indian Buddhism. Mipham's commentary supports Maitreya's text in a detailed analysis of how ordinary, confused consciousness can be transformed into wisdom. Easy-to-follow instructions guide the reader through the profound meditation that gradually brings about this transformation.

    13. Treatise on the Sublime Continuum or the Uttaratantra Shastra

    The Treatise on the Sublime Continuum or the Uttaratantra Shastra presents the Buddha's definitive teachings on how we should understand this ground of enlightenment and clarifies the nature and qualities of buddhahood. A major focus is “Buddha nature” (tathāgatagarbha), the innate potential in all living beings to become a fully awakened Buddha.

    We have two books on this work.

    The first is When the Clouds Part: The Uttaratantra and Its Meditative Tradition as a Bridge between Sutra and Tantra.  This book discusses a wide range of topics connected with the notion of buddha nature as presented in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism and includes an overview of the sūtra sources of the tathāgatagarbha teachings and the different ways of explaining the meaning of this term. It includes new translations of the Maitreya treatise Mahāyānottaratantra (Ratnagotravibhāga), the primary Indian text on the subject, its Indian commentaries, and two (hitherto untranslated) commentaries from the Tibetan Kagyü tradition. Most important, the translator’s introduction investigates in detail the meditative tradition of using the Mahāyānottaratantra as a basis for Mahāmudrā instructions and the Shentong approach. This is supplemented by translations of a number of short Tibetan meditation manuals from the Kadampa, Kagyü, and Jonang schools that use the Mahāyānottaratantra as a work to contemplate and realize one’s own buddha nature.

     

    The second title, Buddha Nature, includes commentaries by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye and Khenpo Tsultrim Gyatso.

    And One More

    As Georges Dreyfus notes in his The Sound of Two Hands Clapping, there is another core text that is often included in this group, for example at Namdroling:  Shantarakshita's Adornment of the Middle Way including Mipham Rinpoche's commentary.

  • Nagarjuna Reader's Guide

    Nagarjuna was a skilled master of Mahayana teachings and sutras, the Madhyamaka view, and tantra.

    This article for the Great Masters Series focuses on Nagarjuna, the first of what His Holiness the Dalai Lama refers to as the Seventeen Pandits of Nalanda, whose works form the foundation for Mahayana Buddhist philosophy.

    Book cover

    Nagarjuna

    While Nagarjuna is usually considered to have lived in the second century and there are many stories and prophecies about him, there is little in the way of material facts about his life. Many Western scholars assume that Nagarjuna, whose writings and deeds span a period of over six hundred years, was actually two or more figures living at different times. However, Indian and Tibetan sources generally consider him to have been a single master skilled in longevity practices, one who was critical in revealing the Mahayana teachings and sutras and elucidating the meaning of emptiness and the Madhyamaka view in particular, as well as a great master of tantra.

     

    Nagarjuna's Life

    What follows is a brief composite biography from a variety of sources.

    Buton’s History of Buddhism in India and Its Spread to Tibet A Treasury of Priceless Scripture By Buton Rinchen Drup Translated by Ngawang Zangpo and Lisa SteinIncluding Butön Rinchen Drup's biography of Nagarjuna from his History of Buddhism in India and Its Spread to Tibet. A fourteenth-century Tibetan classic that serves as an excellent introduction to basic Buddhism as practiced throughout India and Tibet and describes the process of entering the Buddhist path through study and reflection.

    Related Books

    Overcoming his fated death

    Nagarjuna was born to a Brahmin family in Vidarbha in present-day Maharashtra, India. Predicted to have a short life, he avoided an early demise by taking ordination at Nalanda monastery with Rahulabhadra, identified in some accounts as being the mahasiddha Saraha and in others as being the abbot of Nalanda; regardless, he is best known for his works in praise of Prajñaparamita. With an ordination name of Sriman, Nagarjuna undertook thorough studies of Buddhist teachings and became successful in defeating both Buddhists and non-Buddhists in debate.

    Prajñaparamita sutras

    Several nagas heard Sriman's teaching and subsequently invited him down into their realm, from which he later brought back special naga clay that was used in the construction of many temples and stupas. He also brought back, most famously, important Prajñaparamita sutras. Thenceforth he became known as Nagarjuna.

    Butön describes the meaning of the name beautifully:

    Naga signifies birth from the basic space of phenomena, abiding in neither the extreme of eternalism or nihilism, mastery over the vault of precious scriptures, and being endowed with the view that burns and illuminates. Arjuna signifies one who has procured worldly power. Thus, he is named Arjuna because he governs the kingdom of the doctrine and subdues the hosts of faulty enemies. Taken together, these two parts form the name "Nagarjuna."

    Nagarjuna's activities were vast; his better-known accomplishments include the building of two structures in Bodhgaya- the stone fence around the Vajra Seat beneath the Bodhi tree and the stupa that sits atop the Mahabodhi Temple - as well as the wall around the great Dhanyakataka Stupa at Amaravati in present-day Andhra Pradesh.

    Karma at work

    Nagarjuna passed away when he offered his head to a greedy prince who thought he could ensure his own long life by killing Nagarjuna. No blade would cut Nagarjuna, but he told the prince that in a past life he had killed an insect with a blade of kusha grass, so his head could be cut off with a blade of that grass which the prince then did.

    It is believed that Nagarjuna's head and body were separated but do not decay and over time move closer together. Once they rejoin, his activity will continue.

    Nagarjuna's Texts

    There is a lot of debate about what Nagarjuna did and did not actually write, which is outside the scope of this article. Instead, we will focus on the major works widely attributed to him that are available in English.

    His treatises are divided in various ways. Mabja Jangchub Tsondru divides them into three groups:

    1. Those belonging to the Causal Vehicle of Characteristics

    2. Those belonging to the Resultant Vehicle of Secret Mantra

    3. Those that show the two above to be identical in meaning

    A bit arbitrarily, we will follow another traditional division which groups the treatises as follows: works on reasoning, praises, and advice. This schema ignores the large body of work on tantra and medicine, but most of what is available in English is included in these three groupings.

    Reasoning

    Traditionally, there are five or six texts included in Nagarjuna's works on reasoning.

    The Root Stanzas of the Middle Way The Mulamadhyamakakarika By Nagarjuna Translated by Padmakara Translation GroupNagarjuna's most famous text is his Mulamadhyamakakarika, or Root Verses of the Middle Way, which presents in twenty-seven chapters an initially challenging, but extremely clear reasoning of how beings lack inherent existence and how this lack extends to samsara, nirvana, and even Buddha. While both historically and today, focus on the reasoning and the intellectual exercises this work promotes, it is more practical than that. As His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said, the verses are "a great source of inspiration, for they suggest that each of us has the opportunity to scale the greatest spiritual heights, provided we tread the right path."

     

    Ornament of Reason The Great Commentary to Nagarjuna's Root of the Middle Way By Mabja Jangchub Tsondru Translated by Dharmachakra Translation CommitteeThere are many translations available, including The Ornament of Reason, which includes the famous commentary by Mabja Jangchub Tsondru, the twelfth-century Tibetan master and one of the first Tibetans to rely heavily on Nagarjuna's student Chandrakirti for his analysis.

     

     

     

    The Sun of Wisdom Teachings on the Noble Nagarjuna's Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way By Khenpo Tsultrim GyamtsoAn excellent contemporary commentary on the Mulamadhyamakakarika is Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso's The Sun of Wisdom. Focusing on the most important root verses, it is a very accessible entryway into this fundamental but challenging text.

    As Khen Rinpoche says,

    all the verses in this book are excellent supports for developing your precise knowledge of genuine reality through study, reflection, and meditation. You should recite them as much as possible, memorize them, and reflect on them until doubt-free certainty in their meaning arises within. Then you should recall their meaning again and again, to keep your understanding fresh and stable. Whenever you have time, use them as the support for the practices of analytical and resting meditation. If you do all of this, it is certain that the sun of wisdom will dawn within you, to the immeasurable benefit of yourselves and others.

     

    Nagarjuna's Shunyatasaptati, or Seventy Stanzas on Emptiness (there are actually seventy-three), is really an expansion of the seventh section of the Root Verses, "Analysis of Characteristics of the Conditioned," that addresses some questions people had about the presentation of conditioned phenomena and whether that conflicted with sutra teachings. As is often the case, the answer lies in the difference between the conventional point of view of beings and how things actually are.

    Nagarjuna's Seventy Stanzas A Buddhist Psychology of Emptiness By David Ross Komito Translated by Tenzin Dorjee and David Ross KomitoA translation of this work together with a commentary by Geshe Sonam Rinchen is available as Nagarjuna's Seventy Stanzas: A Buddhist Psychology of Emptiness.

     

     

     

     

    Of the remaining texts in this category, Nagarjuna's Yuktisastika, or Sixty Verses on Reasoning, has been translated by Joseph Loizzo as Nagarjuna's Reason Sixty and is available from Columbia University Press. The Vigrahavyavartani, or Refutation of Objections, was translated most recently by Jan Westerhoff and published as The Dispeller of Disputes by Oxford University Press. And lastly, Nagarjuna's Vaidalyaprakarana is included in Nagarjuniana by Christian Lindtner, published by Motilal Banarsidass.

    Praises

    The Tibetan Tengyur identifies eighteen works of praise by Nagarjuna, and this praise is generally directed at Buddha Shakyamuni.

    Nagarjuna Madhyamaka, In Praise of Dharmadhatu. scriptural legacy in India and Tibet, translation of Nagarjuna's hymn to Buddha nature—here called dharmadhatu— sentient beings, path of bodhisattvas, buddhahood.

    However, the main work of Nagarjuna's praises we have in English is the Dharmadhatustava, translated as In Praise of Dharmadhatu, and this work directs praise instead at the ultimate nature of mind. Karl Brunnhölzl's translation, which includes an in-depth introduction to Nagarjuna and his works in general and this one specifically, also contains a commentary by the Third Karmapa Rangjung Dorje.

    The text shows how our buddha nature is obscured by stains but also how the stains can be removed by following the path of the Mahayana and can be fully revealed as buddhahood. Rangjung Dorje's commentary is also of particular interest because even though he is known for his shentong views, this commentary shows how his actual understanding is far more subtle than scholars have sometimes supposed and is in fact an elegant synthesis of the two great streams of the Mahayana, Madhyamaka, and Yogachara.

     

    Straight from the Heart Buddhist Pith Instructions Translated by Karl Brunnholzl

    Three other praises of Nagarjuna's are included in the collection Straight from the Heart, also translated and introduced by Karl Brunnhölzl. Interestingly, in these praises Nagarjuna often refers to buddhahood in positive terms, in contrast to much of his other work, which deconstructs any possibility of phenomena truly existing. As Brunnhölzl points out, despite there being nothing to pinpoint in the dharmadhatu as the nature of the mind, it can still be experienced directly and personally in a non-referential way. In other words, enlightenment is not some empty, dark nothingness, but wide-awake awareness of mind completely free from reference points.

    Advice

    There are seven texts included in the advice category. The two most famous are the Suhrllekha, or Letter to a Friend, and the Ratnavali, or Nagarjuna's Precious Garland: Buddhist Advice for Living and Liberation.

    Nagarjuna's Letter to a Friend With Commentary by Kangyur Rinpoche By Nagarjuna and Longchen Yeshe Dorje, Kangyur Rinpoche Translated by Padmakara Translation GroupLetter to a Friend is a set of verses of advice to a king whose identity is uncertain but who was most likely one of a number of kings in present-day Andhra Pradesh. There are several translations of Letter to a Friend, the most recent one being by the Padmakara Translation Group, which includes a commentary by Kyabje Kangyur Rinpoche.

    The 123 verses are some of the most frequently quoted lines in all of Tibetan Buddhism and are taught often to this day. The text covers the entire Mahayana path, fusing daily conduct with the framework of stages that lead beings to fully enlightened buddhahood. It makes the entire path totally accessible to laypeople, demonstrating how to completely immerse oneself in the spiritual life while still living in society.

    Precious Garland has been categorized by some as belonging among Nagarjuna's works on reasoning, but more traditionally it is part of the advice collection. The work covers many practical topics such as personal happiness on a more worldly level and governmental policy as well as specifically spiritual guidance on how to live a life that culminates in enlightenment.

    Nagarjuna's Precious Garland Buddhist Advice for Living and Liberation By Nagarjuna Translated by Jeffrey HopkinsThe Buddhism of Tibet By H.H. the Fourteenth Dalai Lama Translated by Jeffrey Hopkins and Anne Carolyn Klein Edited by Jeffrey Hopkins and Anne Carolyn KleinAn English translation is available in two works: Nagarjuna's Precious Garland includes the Tibetan and extensive analysis by Jeffrey Hopkins, and the Dalai Lama's The Buddhism of Tibet devotes half its length to Precious Garland, as it is so fundamental to the living Tibetan Buddhist tradition.

     

     

    Of the remaining works in the advice category, several are translated in Nagarjuniana.

    Other Works

    Subsequent Commentaries by Great Masters

    There are of course so many commentaries and commentaries on commentaries for Nagarjuna's work, by masters starting with Aryadeva, then Chandrakirti, and many more great teachers up to the present. Several of these are included in subsequent Great Masters Series articles.

    Contemporary Works

    The Two Truths By Guy Newland Madhyamika philosophy of two truths Tibetan scholar-yogis of the Gelugpa orderThe Nature of Things Emptiness and Essence in the Geluk World By William A. MageeContemporary works that situate Nagarjuna's work in the Tibetan tradition include Guy Newland's Two Truths, which links Nagarjuna's work with the Tibetan monastic tradition of debate, and William Magee's The Nature of Things, which details Tsongkhapa's analysis of the Root Verses.

     

     

     

    The Prince and the Zombie Tibetan Tales of Karma By Tenzin Wangmo

    One last book should be mentioned here, as it's a bit of a leap from the traditional texts by and literature about Nagarjuna. The Prince and the Zombie: Tibetan Tales of Karma by Tenzin Wangmo is a book based on Tibetan oral folktale traditions.

    In this book,was published in the spring of 2015, a young prince encounters Nagarjuna, who guides him and gives him the task of bringing a zombie-that's really the best translation available-back from one of the great charnel grounds of India. It is a story full of magic and excitement and could serve as a brief vacation for the mind in between studying verses on emptiness!

    Nagarjuna, the South Indian Buddhist master who lived six-hundred years after the Buddha, is undoubtedly the most important, influential, and widely studied Mahayana Buddhist philosopher.

    Nagarjuna, the South Indian Buddhist master who lived six-hundred years after the Buddha, is undoubtedly the most important, influential, and widely studied Mahayana Buddhist philosopher.

    The next article in the Great Masters Series is on Nagarjuna's student, Aryadeva.

  • A Reader’s Guide to The Way of the Bodhisattva

    The Way of the Bodhisattva ShantidevaThe great nineteenth-century master Patrul Rinpoche, author of The Words of My Perfect Teacher  and  revered by all Tibetan Buddhists, was known for his wandering ascetic lifestyle, eschewing fame, generous offerings, and all but the most meager possessions. However, wherever he went throughout his peripatetic life, he carried with him a copy of Shantideva's Bodhicharyavatara, which we know now as  The Way of the Bodhisattva or A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life.  Renowned for his encyclopedic knowledge and ability to transmit the wisdom of  Prajnaparamita and Dzogchen, Patrul Rinpoche spent his life constantly teaching this text, encouraging students to read it and study it over and over again-hundreds of times. Why this focus from him and millions of masters and practitioners before and after?

    Below is a guide to help practitioners answer this question for themselves and go deeper and deeper into this essential  work. For a bit of history, you can also see our post on its story.

    The Translations

    There are at least five translations of the text available in English.

    By far the best-selling translation is from the Padmakara Translation Group entitled The Way of the Bodhisattva.  This was translated with reference primarily to the Tibetan and following the commentary of Khenpo Kunpel, the nineteenth-century Nyingma master renowned for his spiritual realization and instrumental in the preservation of the oral traditions and teachings of his tradition.

    This edition also includes a ten-page biography of Shantideva as well as selections on tonglen, or exchanging oneself with others, from Khenpo Kunpel's commentary. This is available as a Shambhala Library hardcover, a paperback, eBooks (see Additional Formats), and a MP3 audio download.

    Another excellent translation is from Alan and Vesna Wallace, translated as  A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life.  The Wallace's translation is based both on Sanskrit and Tibetan sources and was guided by Tibetan commentaries, notably of Gyaltsup-Je.

    Another version to note is Kate Crosby and Andrew Skilton's translation from Oxford University Press. All three of these translations expose different facets of the text, while the translators' introductions each illuminate it in different ways and are well-worth seeking out.

    Related Books

    General Commentaries

    There are a number of excellent commentaries covering the entire text.

    Based on teachings His Holiness gave in Dordogne, France in 1991For the Benefit of All Beings, translated by the Padmakara Translation Group, gives an overview and commentary on each chapter of the text, distilling the key messages on the benefits of bodhichitta, offering and purification, carefulness, attentiveness, patience, endeavor, concentration, wisdom, and dedication. His Holiness said,

    "I received the transmission of the Bodhicharyavatara from Tenzin Gyaltsen, the Kunu Rinpoche, who received it himself from a disciple of Dza Patrul Rinpoche, now regarded as one of the principal spiritual heirs of this teaching. It is said that when Patrul Rinpoche explained this text, auspicious signs would occur, such as the blossoming of yellow  flowers, remarkable for the great number of their petals. I feel very  fortunate that I am in turn able to give a commentary on this great  classic of Buddhist literature."

    This is available as a paperbackMP3 audio download (read by Wulstan Fletcher of the Padmakara Translation Group), and eBook.

    In  No Time to Lose:  A Timely Guide to the Way of the Bodhisattva,  Ani Pema Chödrön talks about her relationship with the text and said it was not always easy:

    "Some people fall in love with The Way of the Bodhisattva the first  time they read it, but I wasn't one of them. Truthfully, without my  admiration for Patrul Rinpoche, I wouldn't have pursued it. Yet  once I actually started grappling with its content, the text shook  me out of a deep-seated complacency, and I came to appreciate the  urgency and relevance of these teachings. With Shantideva's guidance,  I realized that ordinary people like us can make a difference  in a world desperately in need of help."

    This is available as a paperback and for the  eBook (see Additional Formats), a  CD set, and an  MP3 download.

    Pema Chödrön's teachings on this text are also available in the form of  Giving Our Best:  A Retreat with Pema Chödrön on Practicing the Way of the Bodhisattva.  This is a  rare and wonderful presentation from a live teaching that brings the teachings into real life, present-day situations.

    This is available as video  via a DVD  or streaming video and as audio via a CD set or MP3 download.

    The most in-depth commentary in English comes from the great Nyingma master Khenpo Ngawang Pelzang, aka Khenpo Ngakchung. Entitled The Nectar of Manjushri's Speech:  A Detailed Commentary on Shantideva's Way of the Bodhisattva, this has been described as the commentary that Patrul Rinpoche so often gave by word of mouth but never actually wrote. This explains why Khenpo Kunpel's text has attained such popularity among Tibetans.

    This is available as a paperback and an eBook (see Additional Formats).

    Related Books

     Chapter Specific Commentaries

    The ninth chapter of the Bodhicaryavatara, on wisdom, is considered one of the most  profound and requires deep study and practice to truly understand. In Transcendent Wisdom, His Holiness the Dalai Lama focuses on this chapter and its application. Here, His Holiness goes deep into the subjects of the methods needed to cultivate wisdom, what identitylessness means, and how the notion of true existence is refuted.

    This is available as a paperback and an eBook (see Additional Formats).

    However, the most comprehensive work on this chapter in English is the 2017 release of the Padmakara Translation Group's The Wisdom Chapter: Jamgön Mipham's Commentary on the Ninth Chapter of The Way of the Bodhisattva,  which includes a fascinating exchange between Mipham Rinpoche and one of his fiercest critics.  With a 75 page introduction that is highly instructive, this book will stand the test of time as one of the most fascinating presentations of Shantideva's Madhyamaka.

     

    Here is Padmakara Translation Group's Wulstan Fletcher discussing this work:

    Wulstan Fletcher on the Way of the Bodhisattva Wisdom Chapter

     

    His Holiness the Dalai Lama also has a book devoted to Shantideva's chapter on patience. Healing  Anger:  The Power of Patience from a Buddhist Perspective.  Here His Holiness relates that:

    "Shantideva observes that from one point of  view, as pointed out earlier, when the other person inflicts harm or  injury upon one, that person is accumulating negative karma. However,  if one examines this carefully, one will see that because of that  very act, one is given the opportunity to practice patience and tolerance.  So from our point of view it is an opportune moment, and we  should therefore feel grateful toward the person who is giving us this  opportunity. Seen in this way, what has happened is that this event  has given another an opportunity to accumulate negative karma, but  has also given us an opportunity to create positive karma by practicing  patience. So why should we respond to this in a totally perverted  way, by being angry when someone inflicts harm on us, instead of  feeling grateful for the opportunity?"

    This is available as a paperback and an eBook (see Additional Formats).

    Forthcoming: In 2019, Shambhala Publications will publish Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche's commentary on the patience chapter.

    Another in-depth look at this text - in particular the ninth chapter - is Pawo Rinpoche's explanation included in The Center of the Sunlit Sky. In just under 200 pages of this work,  in addition to being a commentary on Shantideva's work generally, Pawo Rinpoche provides several long accounts on such topics as  Madhyamaka in general, the distinction between different branches of Madhyamaka philosophy,  prajña, emptiness, conventional and ultimate reality, and the nature and qualities of Buddhahood.  It describes the four major Buddhist philosophical systems and how  the Mahayana  represents the words of the Buddha. In addressing the issue of  so-called Shentong-Madhyamaka, he also elaborates on the lineage of vast activity  and shows that it is not the same as mind only.

    This is available in both hardcover and eBook (see Additional Formats).

    Related Books

    Additional Work

    2017 also saw the release of Enlightened Vagabond, the collected stories about Patrul Rinpoche who led a revival of the focus and immersion of students on this text.  The stories often revolve around him teaching on this text which he did countless times.  Here is an example:

    Patrul and the Prescient Monk

    Patrul was famous for his teachings on The Way of the Bodhisattva. He might take days, weeks, or months to comment on the entire text, teaching at whichever level of complexity was most suitable to the occasion, from brief and quintessential to extensive and complex. Often, he’d advise students to read the text before he gave his commentary. After he was done, he’d tell students to read it another hundred times.

    "Patrul himself had received teachings on The Way of the Bodhisattva more than a hundred times. He taught the text more than a hundred times, yet even so, he used to say that he had not grasped its full meaning. One night, a monk at Trago Monastery dreamed that he saw a lama who he felt was Shantideva in person, the author of The Way of the Bodhisattva. The next morning, when a wandering lama arrived at Trago Monastery, the monk recognized him: He looked just like the figure who had appeared in his dream the night before! The monk approached the lama—who in fact was Patrul Rinpoche. Bowing respectfully, he requested that he teach The Way of the Bodhisattva. Bowing back, the lama agreed. Patrul gave the teachings. When he left, the monk who had seen him in his dream went with him, accompanying him along the way for several days’ walk."

    Another work that should be mentioned is Destroying Mara Forever,  a collection of essays on Buddhist ethics including three pieces focused on this text.

    The first is by Barbara Clayton entitled Santideva, Virtue, and Consequentialism.  The second, by Paul Williams, is entitled Is Buddhist Ethics Virtue Ethics?  The final piece that is Shantideva-specific is Daniel Cozort's  Suffering Made Sufferable: Santideva, Dzongkaba, and Modern Therapeutic Approaches to Suffering's Silver Lining. These three pieces explore different ethical implications and significance of Shantideva's work.

    This title is available as a paperback and as an eBook (see Additional Formats).

    Related Books

  • The Way of the Bodhisattva: An Immersive Workshop in Boulder May 18-22, 2016

    1239

    [Note, this event occurred in the past and the videos are all available on this site for free.]

    Few texts are more frequently taught and quoted, have as colorful a history, and as much relevance to Buddhists today more than the eighth-century Indian Buddhist monk Shantideva's The  Way of the Bodhisattva.  The Dalai Lama has said that "if I have any understanding of compassion and the bodhisattva path, it all comes from studying this text. "

    The living tradition of this text radiates most brightly from the Tibetan tradition where it was translated from Sanskrit in the ninth  century and is  central to all the traditions there, the Tibetan diaspora, and those receiving it in the West. You can view our recent guide to the many works on this text including translations as well as its early and contemporary commentaries.

    One aspect that is singular about the text is that unlike many of the important authored texts from India, it is fundamentally a practice text. As the Dalai Lama described it, "Shantideva composed his text in the form of an inner dialog. He turned his own weapons upon himself, doing battle with his negative emotions. Therefore, when we teach or listen to this text, it is important that we do so in order to progress spiritually, rather than making it simply a subject of academic study. "

    Fletcher-Wulstan-2014new-245x300In the spirit of this approach, Shambhala Publications and the Tsadra Foundation are pleased to host a four-day workshop on the text led by Wulstan Fletcher from the Padmakara Translation Group and recent recipient of the 2016 Khyentse Foundation Fellowship for his service to the Buddhadharma. Wulstan's brief biography is below, suffice it to say there are few in the west who have worked as closely with this text and who can articulate so clearly its value, importance, and potential for us all. Wulstan will be joined by several of the leading lights in Buddhist studies, translation, and teaching communities of  Boulder, Colorado, including Sarah Harding, Holly Gayley, and Judy Lief.

    This workshop will be a 360-degree view of the text, exploring its translation, history, commentaries, the famous ninth chapter on wisdom, and its relevance today. He will  also  be joined by others throughout the week. Wulstan is an extraordinary translator and scholar who has studied and gone through  retreat with some of the greatest masters of the twentieth  century. This workshop, which we plan to follow with many more, is meant to help impart the knowledge, experience, and wisdom from people like Wulstan to a new generation of translators, practitioners, and scholars. The Tsadra Foundation is flying Wulstan in from France to give us this rare opportunity to engage with him and this extraordinary text that has been so fundamental for so many.

    All these sessions will be open to the public, but space is limited so you must register for one of the tickets.

    Sessions

    [You will need to register for each session you plan to attend.]

    Translating the Bodhicharyavatara

    Wednesday, May 18 6:30-8:30

    Wulstan Fletcher,  Holly Gayley (CU), and Sarah Harding (Naropa)

    The first session is an invitation to students and specialists of the Tibetan language and will focus on the translation of the text itself and how a master translator approaches such a daunting and challenging masterpiece. Students and faculty from Naropa and CU have been invited, as well as members of the community interested in translation.  Master translators and scholars of Tibetan Buddhism will discuss issues related to translating classical Sanskrit texts in Tibetan translation, as well as details of the challenges of style, word choice, considerations of audience, all while using examples from other translations (Wallace, Crosby/Skilton, Batchelor, Eliot) to demonstrate how choices were made. Wulstan will share how Padmakara Translation Group used Khenpo Kunpel's commentary to inform their translation and discuss the complexities of presenting the text in English in a way that elevates the text rather than diminish it through a more vulgar use of language.

    Register Now  to attend this in person in Boulder.

    An Overview of the Bodhicharyavatara

    Friday, May 20, 6:30-8:30, Shambhala Publications

    Wulstan Fletcher

    This session is an invitation to the general public to explore the beauty, history, and importance of Shantideva's most famous text. It will cover, at a higher level, all the other topics in the subsequent sessions: the history and context of Shantideva and the text, its reception in Tibet, the most important Tibetan commentaries, the key interpretations of the meaning and the relevance of the text for practitioners.

    .The History of the Bodhicharyavatara

    Saturday, May 21 10:00am-12:00pm

    Wulstan Fletcher & Sarah Harding

    This session will focus on the historical context of the text and its reception in Tibet. Topics that Wulstan will cover include: What are its textual roots, i.e. Shantideva's likely influences?   What was happening at Nalanda? Why did the text fall into disuse? How was it taught early on? When and why was there a renaissance

    Register Now  to attend this in person in Boulder.

    The Commentaries on the Bodhicharyavatara

    Saturday, May 21 2:00pm-4:00pm

    Wulstan Fletcher

    This session will present an overview of the important commentaries and the useful things we can learn by studying different Buddhist masters' views (Buton, Thogme Sangpo, Tsongkhapa, Mipham Rinpoche, Khenpo Kunpel, etc.).

    Register Now  to attend this in person in Boulder.

    The Ninth Chapter on Wisdom

    Sunday, May 22 10:00am-12:00pm

    Wulstan Fletcher

    This session will focus on the most challenging chapter of Shantideva's text, the wisdom chapter, which covers key Buddhist philosophical topics. Wulstan will explore this chapter through the lens of Mipham Rinpoche's commentary, which he recently translated, as well as the famous critiques and responses this prompted.

    Register Now  to attend this in person in Boulder.

    How is the Bodhicharyavatara Relevant?

    Sunday, May 22 2:00pm-4:00pm

    Wulstan Fletcher and Judy Lief

    This session, featuring  Wulstan Fletcher and teacher/author Judy Lief in conversation, will be concerned with  what this text means for practitioners and how they can use it as a way to study and practice Buddhism. Why is it such a widely studied text? How might it relate to contemporary issues of ethics?

    These sessions will all be recorded and made available online in June 2016.

    Presenters

    Wulstan Fletcher studied modern languages and theology in Oxford and Rome. He completed a three-year meditation retreat in Chanteloube, France (1986-1989) and is a member of the Padmakara Translation Group. He has studied under some of the most extraordinary masters of the twentieth-century. He has been a Tsadra Fellow since 2001. Wulstan has completed several Tibetan-English translation projects in collaboration with Helena Blankleder, including  Treasury of Precious Qualities  (Book 1 2010; Book 2, 2013),    The Root Stanzas of the Middle Way  (2016),  The Way of the Bodhisattva  (revised 2006),  The Nectar of Manjushri's Speech  (2007),  White Lotus  (2007),  Introduction to the Middle Way  (2005),  The Adornment of the Middle Way  (2005),  Food of Bodhisattvas: Buddhist Teachings on Abstaining from Meat  (2004),  Counsels from My Heart  (2003) and the forthcoming  The Wisdom Chapter:  Jamgön Mipham's Commentary on the Ninth Chapter of The Way of the Bodhisattva. Wulstan is currently working on Longchenpa's  sems nyid ngal gso. In 2016, Wulstan was awarded the Khyentse Foundation Fellowship for his service to the Buddhadharma.

    Sarah Harding (Tsadra Foundation Fellow;   Naropa University) has been a Buddhist practitioner since 1974 and has been teaching and translating since completing a three-year retreat in 1980 under the guidance of Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche. Her publications include Creation and Completion, The Life and Revelations of Pema Lingpa, Treasury of Knowledge: Esoteric Instructions, Machig's Complete Explanation and Niguma, and Lady of Illusion. She is an associate professor at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, where she has been teaching since 1992, and has been a fellow of the Tsadra Foundation since 2000. Currently, she is working on translating the zhi byed and gcod sections of the gdams ngag rin po che'i mdzod.

    Judy Lief  is a Buddhist teacher who trained under the Tibetan meditation master Ven. Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. She has been a teacher and practitioner for over thirty-five  years and continues to teach throughout the world. Ms. Lief was a close student of Ven. Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, who trained and empowered her as a teacher in the Buddhist and Shambhala traditions. She is also the editor of many of Trungpa Rinpoche's books, including the recently published three-volume set,  The Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma, which gives a penetrating overview of the three-yana journey from beginning to end.

    Holly Gayley is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Her research focuses on the revitalization of Buddhism in Tibetan areas of the PRC in the post-Maoist period. Dr. Gayley became interested in the academic study of Buddhism through her travels among Tibetan communities in India, Nepal, and China. She completed her master's degree in Buddhist Studies at Naropa University in 2000 and PhD at Harvard University in Tibetan and Himalayan Studies in 2009. Dr. Gayley is currently publishing a book titled,  Love Letters from Golok: A Tantric Couple in Modern Tibet,  about the life and love letters of a contemporary Buddhist tantric couple, Khandro Tāre Lhamo and Namtrul Jigme Phuntsok, who played a significant role in revitalizing Buddhism in eastern Tibet since the 1980s. Examining Buddhist conceptions of gender, agency, and healing, this book recovers Tibetan voices in representing their own modern history under Chinese rule and contributes to burgeoning scholarly literature on Buddhist women, minorities in China, and studies of collective trauma.

Items 1 to 10 of 17 total

Page:
  1. 1
  2. 2