Reader Guides

  • Sera Khandro: A Reader's Guide

    Sera KhandroSera Khandro (1892 - 1940), also known as Kunzang Dekyong Wagmo,  was one of the great masters of the early 20th century and the English speaking world is fortunate now that both her story and her writings have been emerging more and more over the past few years.

    Her story is at once fascinating, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting.

    Tulku Thondup Rinpoche, in his remarkable Incarnation: The History and Mysticism of the Tulku Tradition of Tibet gives a superb overview:

    "This great yogini was known as a tulku of Yeshe Tsogyal, the consort of Guru Rinpoche and many others. She is an exemplar, similar to many tulkus who pursued the missions of their incarnation from childhood, even when it seemed almost impossible to succeed. Throughout her childhood and teenage years, and even into adulthood, she received transmissions and prophesies in many pure visions of wisdom dakinis and adepts. Sera Khandro Dewe Dorje was born as a beautiful princess in a rich and influential noble family in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. While she was still in her early teens, her father arranged her future marriage. The princess strongly wished to dedicate her life fully to Dharma, and she vehemently opposed the marriage arrangement. Finally, after attempting to commit suicide, she successfully undid the arranged engagement. One day, a group of rugged nomad pilgrims from Golok province arrived in Lhasa, after many months on the harsh trail. By chance, they camped on the compound of Sera Khandro Dewe Dorje’s family palace. Through a window, the young princess looked down on the compound and glimpsed Tulku Drime Ozer (1881–1924), the leader of the pilgrims. She instantly felt an immense devotion to the tulku, and from that point forward, he became the innate symbol of her spiritual direction.

    "Before long, the time came for the pilgrims to return to their home. The fourteen year old princess renounced her possessions and made a dangerous escape in order follow the pilgrims. From that day forth, Sera Khandro Dewe Dorje’s life changed drastically. She had to learn how to beg for food to survive. Her fancy clothes gave her little protection when crossing the harsh terrain of the high northern plateaus of Tibet. And her fancy, flimsy shoes gave up on her. The young princess had to keep up with the caravan by walking and running barefoot month after month with little or sometimes no food. Because of their ignorance and prejudice, no pilgrim would extend any support or protection to the princess. She hardly had any opportunity to exchange words with the tulku, as he was always strictly guarded. But she used all of these difficult circumstances to invigorate her spiritual dedication.

    "The party finally reached their home in Golok, and even there Sera Khandro Dewe Dorje endured harsh treatment from wild and jealous nomads. For over a decade she survived by taking on the lowly job of caring for the animals of nomad families. Despite these hardships, she didn’t once consider returning to the luxuries of her home in Lhasa. And during this time, she continuously received transmissions and prophesies in pure visions, enjoying the highest spiritual ecstasies with total dedication to serving the dharma and the lineage of Guru Rinpoche — the sole mission of her reincarnation.

    "At the age of thirty, Sera Khandro Dewe Dorje became the consort of Tulku Drime Ozer. For the last few years of Tulku Drime’s life, the two of them discovered many ters (the mystical revelations of esoteric teachings) together. Sera Khandro Dewe Dorje also wrote a number of scholarly texts and became a highly respected teacher of esoteric Dharma, with many mystic followers."

    Tulku Drime Ozer was the son of Dudjom Lingpa (and brother of the third Dodrubchen Rinpoche) and his tulku was Thinley Norbu Rinpoche.

    Tulku Thondup also discusses Sera Khandro in several places in his classic Masters of Meditation and Miracles.

    Sera KhandroThe most comprehensive treatment of Sera Khandro to date is Sarah Jacoby's Love and Liberation: Autobiographical Writings of the Tibetan Buddhist Visionary Sera Khandro.  This is an academic work, though of great value for anyone interested in this amazing master's life and work.

    An excerpt from Love and Liberation can be found on the Yogini Project website.  

    For a concise biography see the entry at the Treasury of Lives.

    She is also discussed in Wisdom Nectar: Dudjom Rinpoche's Heart Advice  and The Light of Fearless Indestructible Wisdom: The Life and Legacy of HH Dudjom Rinpoche.

    Sera Khandro's Works

    The most significant full work of Sera Khandro's in English is Refining Our Perception of Reality: Sera Khandro's Commentary on Dudjom Lingpa's Account of His Visionary Journey.

    This book contains four Tibetan texts in translation. First, The Excellent Path to Liberation explains how to give our attention to the teachings, and how to ground our spiritual practice in harmonious relationships with others and the world at large.

    Second, Dudjom Lingpa’s account of his visionary journey, Nangjang, Enlightenment without Meditation, translated elsewhere as Buddhahood without Meditation, teaches by example that as practitioners we should ask ourselves sincere questions concerning our perception of reality, and that we should not be content with superficial answers.

    In the third text, Sera Khandro presents Dudjom Lingpa’s work within two frameworks. She first clarifies the view on which the spiritual path is founded, the path of meditation; the ensuing conduct that reflects and enriches meditative experience; and the path’s result—awakening and enlightenment. Next she illuminates the subtleties of the great perfection view, the four tantric bonds: nonexistence, a single nature, pervasive insubstantial evenness, and spontaneous presence.

    This volume also includes a significant fourth text: a short autobiography of Sera Khandro, translated by Chatral Rinpoché’s disciple-translator Christina Monson.

    Please note that Chatral Rinpoche requested that people only read this book if they have completed ngondro, the preliminary practices, of any Vajrayana tradition.  To try to maintain visibility of this requirement, this volume is only available from


    Sera Khandro's termas are included in four volumes, only a portion of which have been translated into English.

    One of the termas she discovered was The Immaculate White Lotus: The Life of the Master from Oddiyana by Dorjé Tso, one of Guru Rinpoche's consorts who Sera Khandro is considered an incarnation of This come from the treasure cycle called The Dakini’s Secret Treasury of the Nature of Reality that was concealed by Guru Rinpoche.  It is ten short chapters that fill 17 pages in English.

    This appears in Guru Rinpoche: His Life and Times, a collection of biographies of Padmasambhava.

    Note that the translator of this book referred to  her birth year was 1899 and the discovery of this text as 1927 (she wrote she discovered it when she was 27), but the consensus now puts her birth year at 1892.  So this was likely discovered around 1920.

    This treasure is still popular in eastern Tibet, where she spent most of her life.

    Additional Resources

    For additional works available in English, see her page on Lotsawa House.

    Christina Monson translated some additional material including The Excellent Path of Devotion: An Abridged Story of a Mendicant's Experiences in Response to Questions by Vajra Kin that was privately published and may prove tricky to find.

    For her works in Tibetan, see the TBRC site, currently listing 19 works.

    Sera Khandro's Legacy

    Sera Khandro's legacy remains firm today.  There are several teachers who hold the lineage.

    Kyabje Chatral Rinpoche was the main conduit to our generation. He received the lineage directly from her.  He passed it on, to among others, to his daughter, Saraswati (pictures, far right), who is considered to be the incarnation of Sera Khandro.  Saraswati has undergone extensive training under her late father’s guidance.

    Chatral Rinpoche also passed on  pith instructions from Sera Khandro's guru sadhanas, Dzogchen practices, and Chenrezig sadhanas she revealed to Dudjom Rinpoche as is recounted in The Light of Fearless Indestructible Wisdom: The Life and Legacy of HH Dudjom Rinpoche.

    Sera Khandro Lineage

    From Chatral Rinpoche's Compassionate Action. Note, the dates are no longer considered correct.

    Sera Khandro comes up repeatedly in Holly Gayley's account of the 20th century terton couple in Inseparable Across Lifetimes: The Lives and Love Letters of the Tibetan Visionaries Namtrul Rinpocheand Khandro Tare Lhamo.  Khandro Tare Lhamo is considered an emanation of Sera Khandro (recognized as such by Dudjom Rinpoche, among others) and there are aspects of her life that mirror Sera Khandro's.  For those interested in Sera Khandro, this account is essential as it demonstrates her legacy in eastern Tibet, as well as show all the connections to the present day, in particular through the Dudjom lineage.

    Namtrul and Khandro Tare Lhamo

    Namtrul Rinpoche and Khandro Tare Lhamo, an incarnation of Sera Khandro

  • 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.

  • A Reader’s Guide to the Heart Sutra

    Heart SutraThe Heart Sutra stands among the classic Buddhist scriptures. Akin in importance to the “Shema Yisrael” for Jews or the “Lord’s Prayer” for Christians, the Heart Sutra is considered by Mahayanists, and especially Zen Buddhists, to contain the pith instructions for the practice of their religion—namely the radical negation of conventional concepts and extreme views in favor of an experience of reality permeated by wisdom and compassion.

    "Heart Sutra" is a translation of the Sanskrit term Prajñāpāramitāhṛdaya, which more fully translates to “The Heart of the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra.” Along with the Diamond Sutra, it is the most famous representative of the Prajñāpāramitā (Perfection of Wisdom) section of the Mahayana Buddhist canon. The sutra has been translated into English from Sanskrit, Tibetan, Mongolian, and Chinese canonical sources and exists in both a long and a short form—the short version consisting, incredibly, of only fourteen lines of Sanskrit or 260 Chinese characters.

    The key to its brevity is the sutra’s single-pointed focus on negation of conventional understanding. Indeed, this iconoclastic text goes so far as to negate the core teachings of the Abhidharma (the orthodox Theravadin collection of texts interpreting the sutras) and of the Buddha himself—the Four Noble Truths, the Five Skandhas (aggregates), the Eighteen Dhātus (senses, sense objects, and fields of sense perception), and the Twelve Links of Dependent Co-Arising. The Heart Sutra holds that those who allow practice to carry them through and beyond even these wisdom concepts will find “wisdom beyond wisdom,” a far shore of awakening where one is not caught by fixed ideas and therefore can escape all suffering.

    Although the Heart Sutra is mentioned in more Shambhala Publications books than can be listed here, interested readers can find various translations and in-depth analyses of the sutra in the following Shambhala books.

    The Heart Sutra: A Comprehensive Guide to the Classic of Mahayana Buddhism by Kazuaki Tanahashi

    There is no better introduction to the Heart Sutra than this guide by Kaz Tanahashi. A lifelong translator and calligrapher working at the peak of his powers, Tanahashi outlines the history and meaning of the text and analyzes it line by line in its various forms (Sanskrit, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Tibetan, Mongolian, and several key English translations). The result is a deeper understanding of the history and etymology of the sutra’s elusive words than is generally available to the non-specialist—yet with a clear emphasis on the relevance of the text to practice.

    Those who enjoy Tanahashi’s interpretation of the Heart Sutra may also wish to spend time with his Zen Chants: Thirty-Five Essential Texts with Commentary, which presents the Heart Sutra in the context of the broader liturgy in which it lives in Zen temples and monastic communities.

    The Heart Sutra: An Oral Teaching by Geshe Sonam Rinchen translated and edited by Ruth Sonam

    Readers interested in approaching the Heart Sutra from a Tibetan Buddhist perspective will enjoy this set of oral teachings by Geshe Sonam Rinchen (1933-2013), a Tibetan monk who spent decades teaching (including to large numbers of Westerners) at the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamsala, India. He moves systematically through the text, showing how it has been interpreted by various Indian and Tibetan masters and how it can be practiced today. A chapter entitled “The Mantra” contains an interesting examination of the Tibetan discussion concerning whether the scripture “should be classified as a sutra teaching or as a teaching of secret mantra.”

    The Heart Attack Sūtra: A New Commentary on the Heart Sūtra by Karl Brunnhölzl

    Acclaimed translator and scholar Karl Brunnhölzl notes that several of the Buddha’s followers are said to have suffered heart attacks and died when they first heard the Heart Sutra’s assertion of the basic groundlessness of our existence—hence the title of this lucid, enjoyable commentary. Brunnhölzl’s learning is such that he moves easily between references from various Buddhist eras and schools, all the while explaining the Heart Sutra using examples, terms, and analogies that are accessible to contemporary readers (including several helpful Q&A sections interspersed through the book).

    Infinite Circle: Teachings in Zen by Bernie Glassman

    Beloved American Zen teacher Bernie Glassman takes the Heart Sutra (along with another key Zen text, The Identity of Relative and Absolute) as his focus in this succinct, down-to-earth volume.

    “We see Bernie as one body, but somehow we’re unable to see the whole universe as one body,” he writes. “By seeing our true nature we realize the emptiness of all five conditions and are freed of pain. The last line or mantra of the Heart Sutra is ‘Gone, gone, have gone, altogether have gone!’ Gone where? Here.”

    Zen Words for the Heart: Hakuin’s Commentary on the Heart Sutra translated by Norman Waddell

    Readers seeking an earlier Zen commentary on the Heart Sutra will benefit from this slim volume of teachings from the eighteenth-century Rinzai Zen master Hakuin Ekaku. Among the most important Zen teachers in history, Hakuin not only revitalized Rinzai Zen in Japan but also created a new visual language through his hundreds of calligraphic and representational artworks—a number of which are reproduced in this volume. Norman Waddell, the premier Hakuin translator, provides an illuminating introduction and notes to Hakuin’s commentary while beautifully conveying the earthy, irreverent style of Hakuin’s teaching.

  • Tsongkhapa: A Guide to His Life and Works


    From Images of Enlightenment: Tibetan Art in Practice

    Next year, 2019, marks the 600th anniversary of Tsongkhapa Lobzang Drakpa (1357–1419), one of the most important figures in Tibet, historically and philosophically.

    To mark this anniversary, we will be publishing what will be the most comprehensive, definitive biography of this great figure, written by Thupten Jinpa. The author is best known as the main translator for the Dalai Lama, but he is an author and scholar himself, having earned a Geshe degree. In the author’s words,

    this new biography of Tsongkhapa…is aimed primarily at the contemporary reader. And it seeks to answer the following key questions for them: ‘Who was or is Tsongkhapa? What is he to Tibetan Buddhism? How did he come to assume the deified status he continues to enjoy for the dominant Geluk School of Tibetan Buddhism? What relevance, if any, do Tsongkhapa’s thought and legacy have for our contemporary thought and culture?

    In the meantime, we thought to lay out what is currently available. This is only a portion of the 210 treatises—which fill 18–20 volumes in Tibetan—that comprise Tsongkhapa's oeuvre, but more is coming out. His collected works are divided into nine parts: biographies by his students; teachings on guru yoga; lists of teachings he himself received; notes of teachings by his disciples; works of praise, letters, short teachings, prayers, poems, invocations, and other short works; works on tantra; works on Lamrim; hermeneutics; and commentaries on Indian texts including The Way of the Bodhisattva, Nagarjuna's The Root Stanzas of the Middle WayOrnament of Reason, and others.

    As for other biographical material, Robert Thurman wrote a short book in the 1970s that was recently reissued called The Life and Teachings of Tsongkhapa which, despite the title, includes only a twenty-five-page biography of him.

    We have a brief biography of Tsongkhapa included in Geshe Sonam Rinchen's commentary on The Three Principal Aspects of the Path, which is excerpted here.

    There is also a biography available on the excellent Treasury of Lives site.

    The categories below are somewhat arbitrary—the Lamrim genre encompasses much of Tsongkhapa's sutrayana teachings including Abhidharma, Mahayana, etc. and Madhyamaka is part of Mahayana. But this seemed the clearest way to present what is available is English.

    Ganden monastery, from Charles Bell, 1921
    Ganden monastery, founded by Tsongkahapa, photographed in 1921 by Sir Charles Bell

    The Lamrim

    The Lamrim genre, present in many Tibetan Buddhist traditions, stems from Atisha’s classic, The Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment. Tsongkhapa wrote several works in this class of teachings.

    The Lamrim Chenmo (completed 1402) [Lam gyi gtso bo rnam gsum]

    Tsongkhapa's main contribution to this genre is the famous Lamrim Chenmo or The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment. It is also generally considered his most influential work, studied and practiced by tens of thousands today.

    The background to this work is on one of Tsongkhapa’s own letters to a lama, included in Art Engle's The Inner Science of Buddhist Practice, where he describes it as building on Atisha’s Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment: “It is clear that this instruction [introduced] by Dīpaṃkara Śrījnāna on the stages of the path to enlightenment . . . teaches [the meanings contained in] all the canonical scriptures, their commentaries, and related instruction by combining them into a single graded path. One can see that when taught by a capable teacher and put into practice by able listeners it brings order, not just to some minor instruction, but to the entire [body of] canonical scriptures. Therefore, I have not taught a wide variety of [other] instructions.”

    In other places Tsongkhapa referred to the Ornament of Realization or Abhisamayalamkara, as the other basis for the Lamrim.

    Engle describes Tsongkhapa's Lamrim in Inner Science of Buddhist Practice, discussed below:

    Thus, a key point to recognize about the Lamrim teaching is that at its heart it is a systematic collection of oral instructions that make use of the entire range of Buddhist literature to present a comprehensive program for spiritual transformation. In addition to copious citations from traditional Indian Buddhist literature, Je Tsongkapa’s Great Treatise includes many pithy and insightful sayings of the early Tibetan teachers known as followers of the Kadampa School. The instructions begin with the most fundamental elements of Buddhist doctrine and then gradually introduce the student to the requisite meditation practices that will enable him or her eventually to become fully engaged in the vast and profound tradition that is Mahāyāna Buddhism.

    Here is a short video of His Holiness the Dalai Lama discussing how this is the one work he personally carried out on his escape from Tibet in 1959.

    This text is, of course, three volumes, so you may prefer to start with an introduction to it that is a bit more concise, and there are several good options.

    One is His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s From Here to Enlightenment: An Introduction to Tsong-kha-pa's Classic Text The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment.

    The other is Introduction to Emptiness: As Taught in Tsong-kha-pa's Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path, which presents one of the more challenging aspects of Mahayana Buddhism using contemporary examples.

    Three Principal Aspects of the Path (Lam gyi gtso bo rnam gsum)

    This is the shortest Lamrim text Tsongkhapa composed. Tsongkhapa wrote the fourteen stanzas of this classic distillation of all the paths of practice that lead to enlightenment. The three principal elements of the path referred to are: (1) renunciation, tied to the wish for freedom from cyclic existence; (2) the motivation to attain enlightenment for the benefit of others; (3) cultivating the correct view that realizes emptiness.

    The Three Principal Aspects of the Path: An Oral Teaching

    In this book, Geshe Sonam Rinpoche, the teacher of countless Westerners for decades in Dharamsala, unpacks these verses and explains how to put them into practice.

    This text is also included in Cutting Through Appearances: Practice and Theory of Tibetan Buddhism in which Geshe Sopa annotates the Fourth Panchen Lama’s instructions on how to practice this text in a meditation session.

    His Holiness the Dalai Lama teaches on this text, and this is included as the chapter “The Path to Enlightenment” in Kindness, Clarity, and Insight.

    Lotsawa House also includes a translation of these fourteen stanzas.

    Another work where Tsongkhapa’s Lamrim is featured is in Changing Minds: Contributions to the Study of Buddhism and Tibet in Honor of Jeffrey Hopkins. There are three chapters devoted to Tsongkhapa:

    1. Guy Newland’s Ask a Farmer: Ultimate Analysis and Conventional Existence in Tsongkhapa’s Lam Rim Chen Mo
    2. Daniel Cozort’s Cutting the Roots of Virtue: Tsongkhapa on the Results of Anger
    3. Elizabeth Napper’s Ethics as the Basis of a Tantric Tradition: Tsongkhapa and the Founding of the Gelugpa Order


    One of the components of The Great Treatise is Abhidharma; indeed, understanding some Abhidharma is highly valued in the Lamrim teaching system. This connection is explored in Art Engle’s Inner Science of Buddhist Practice: Vasubandhu's Summary of the Five Heaps with Commentary by Sthiramati which has nearly 100 references to him.

    Teachers of the Lamrim tradition viewed learning at least some Abhidharma material as essential to one’s spiritual practice. In his Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path, Je Tsongkapa makes a passing reference to Sthiramati’s work when he states, “I have explained these ten mental afflictions according to the descriptions that are found in The Compendium of Higher Learning [i.e., Asaṅga’s Abhidharmasamuccayaḥ], The Levels of Spiritual Practice [Asaṅga’s Yogācārabhūmiḥ], and [Sthiramati’s] commentary to the Summary of the Five Heaps.” Je Tsongkapa also quotes the early Kadampa teacher Gönbawa Wangchuk Gyeltsen (1016–1082) as saying, in part, “To learn the essential characteristics of the mental afflictions, you must listen to teachings on the Abhidharma. At a minimum, you must receive instruction on A Summary of the Five Heaps.


    Medium-Length Exposition of the Stages of the Path (1415) [Lam rim chung ngu]

    Balancing the Mind: A Tibetan Buddhist Approach to Refining Attention

    For centuries, Tibetan Buddhist contemplatives have directly explored consciousness through carefully honed and rigorous techniques of meditation. B. Alan Wallace explains the methods and experiences of Tibetan practitioners and compares these with investigations of consciousness by Western scientists and philosophers. Balancing the Mind includes a translation of the classic discussion of methods for developing exceptionally high degrees of attentional stability and clarity (shamatha/shiney) by Tsongkhapa.

    Tsong-kha-pa's Final Exposition of Wisdom
    In fourteenth and fifteenth-century Tibet there was great ferment about what makes enlightenment possible, since systems of self-liberation must show what factors preexist in the mind that allow for transformation into a state of freedom from suffering. This controversy about the nature of mind, which persists to the present day, raises many questions.

    This book first includes the corresponding lhatong or vipashyana section from the Medium-Length Exposition of the Stages of the Path. It also includes a section from the text below.

    Illumination of the Thought: Extensive Explanation of Chandrakirti’s Supplement to Nagarjuna’s “Treatise on the Middle” (1418) dGongs pa rab gsal, or dBu ma la ’jug pa’i rnam bshad dgongs pa rab gsal

    The first five chapters of this are included in Compassion in Tibetan Buddhism which Shambhala will reissue.

    Chapter 6 from this text, on the object of negation on the two truths, is also included in Tsong-kha-pa’s Final Exposition of Wisdom. The book then details the views of his predecessor Dolpopa, the seminal author of philosophical treatises of the Jonang order, as found in his Mountain Doctrine (featured in The Buddha from Dolpo: A Study of the Life and Thought of the Tibetan Master Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen), followed by an analysis of Tsongkhapa’s reactions. By contrasting the two systems—Dolpopa's doctrine of other-emptiness and Tsongkhapa's doctrine of self-emptiness—both views emerge more clearly, contributing to a fuller picture of reality as viewed in Tibetan Buddhism. Tsongkhapa's Final Exposition of Wisdom brilliantly explicates ignorance and wisdom, explains the relationship between dependent-arising and emptiness, shows how to meditate on emptiness, and explains what it means to view phenomena as illusions.

    The Prajnaparamita Corpus

    Golden Garland of Eloquence, Legs bshad gser phreng

    ornament of reason gone beyondIn Gone Beyond: The Prajnaparamita Sutras, The Ornament of Clear Realization, and Its Commentaries in the Tibetan Kagyu Tradition Karl Brunnholzl relates that in in the Blue Annals, Tsongkhapa’s first teacher said to him:

    You will first study earnestly the Abhisamayālaṃkāra, which is the
    ornament of the three “Mothers.”
    If you become learned in it, you will be able to master all the
    Keep this advice in a corner of your mind!

    Tsongkhapa certainly did study it in earnest, and the fruit was the Legs bshad gser phreng, or “Golden Garland of Eloquence,” an extensive commentary on Maitreya’s Abhisamayalamkara, “Ornament for the Clear Realizations,” and thus is also on the Prajñaparamita, or “Perfection of Wisdom” teachings. This is explored in detail in Gone Beyond, where Tsongkhapa’s work is referred to throughout.

    The third volume of this trilogy of commentaries, Groundless Paths on the Ornament of Reason (Abhisamayalamkara) is based on the Nyingma commentaries on this text, in particular those by Patrul Rinpoche.  Interestingly, of the four works on this text by Patrul Rinpoche, two of them, The General Topics of the Abhisamayalamkara and A Word Commentary on the Abhisamayalamkara, are nearly verbatim or obvious abridgments of Tsongkhapa's Golden Garland. This large volume goes into great detail tracing the relationship between Tsongkhapa’s work (which he based on the commentary of Haribhadra and Vimuktisena) and Patrul Rinpoche’s.

    Robert Thurman’s The Central Philosophy of Tibet is an annotated version this text.


    Tsongkhapa is famous—and in some circles controversial—for his presentation and positioning of the Prasangika view of Madhyamaka. Any discussion or debate of this subject invariably references Tsongkhapa.

    A Memorandum on Eight Great Difficult Points of [Nagarjuna’s] Mülamadhyamakakārikā

    A discussion of this text is included in Unique Tenets of The Middle Way Consequence School. The “unique tenets” correspond to the difficult points.

    The Center of the Sunlit Sky: Madhyamaka in the Kagyu Tradition

    This comprehensive work by Karl Brunnholzl explores all facets of Madhyamaka in the Kagyu tradition, but no analysis of Madhyamaka can leave out Tsongkhapa who appears throughout this work. There is a sixty-page section comparing the views of Tsongkhapa to those of Mikyo Dorje’s “whose writing, not only is a reaction to the position of Tsongkhapa and his followers but addresses most of the views on Madhyamaka that were current in Tibet at the time, including the controversial issue of ‘Shentong-Madhyamaka.’”

    Notes on Madhyamakālamkāra (dBu ma rgyan gyi zin bris)

    The Ornament of the Middle Way: A Study of the Madhyamaka Thought of Shantarakshita
    The late James Blumenthal explores this important text by Shantarakshita and brings in Tsongkhapa’s text on this subject.

    For a different take on this same text, see The Adornment of the Middle Way: Shantarakshita's Madhyamakalankara with Commentary by Jamgon Mipham translated by the Padmakara Translation Group, whose introduction goes into helpful detail on the various interpretations. This longer passage offers a glimpse into some of the fault lines in the debate:

    The brilliance of Tsongkhapa’s teaching, his qualities as a leader, his emphasis on monastic discipline, and the purity of his example attracted an immense following. Admiration, however, was not unanimous, and his presentation of Madhyamaka in particular provoked a fierce backlash, mainly from the Sakya school, to which Tsongkhapa and his early disciples originally belonged. These critics included Tsongkhapa’s contemporaries Rongtön Shakya Gyaltsen (1367–1449) and Taktsang Lotsawa (1405–?), followed in the next two generations by Gorampa Sonam Senge (1429–1487), Serdog Panchen Shakya Chokden (1428–1509), and the eighth Karmapa, Mikyö Dorje (1505–1557). All of them rejected Tsongkhapa’s interpretation as inadequate, newfangled, and unsupported by tradition. Although they recognized certain differences between the Prasangika and Svatantrika approaches, they considered that Tsongkhapa had greatly exaggerated the divergence of view. They believed that the difference between the two subschools was largely a question of methodology and did not amount to a disagreement on ontological matters.

    Not surprisingly, these objections provoked a counterattack, and they were vigorously refuted by Tsongkhapa’s disciples. In due course, however, the most effective means of silencing such criticisms came with the ideological proscriptions imposed at the beginning of the seventeenth century. These followed the military intervention of Gusri Khan, who put an end to the civil war in central Tibet, placed temporal authority in the hands of the Fifth Dalai Lama, and ensured the rise to political power of the Gelugpa school. Subsequently, the writings of all the most strident of Tsongkhapa’s critics ceased to be available and were almost lost. It was, for example, only at the beginning of the twentieth century that Gorampa’s works could be fully reassembled, whereas Shakya Chokden’s works, long thought to be irretrievably lost, were discovered only recently in Bhutan and published as late as 1975.

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

    This work on the Wisdom Chapter of Shantideva’s classic, written more than four centuries after Tsongkhapa, is a presentation of a different view than that expounded by Tsongkhapa. It is, in fact, a superb source for understanding the impact of his Madhyamaka presentation in a wider context, historically and philosophically. The extensive introduction gives a very complete and comprehensive account. In sum:

    In his treatment of the Gelugpa account, Mipham concurs in all important respects with Gorampa and the rest of Tsongkhapa’s earlier critics. Indeed, his critique is possibly even more effective in being expressed moderately and without vituperation. Nevertheless, he is careful never to attack Tsongkhapa personally. Given the fact that Mipham was a convinced upholder of the nonsectarian movement, there is no reason to doubt the sincerity of the humble and respectful manner with which he invariably refers to Tsongkhapa. No sarcasm is detectable in his words:

    In the snowy land of Tibet, the great and venerable lord Tsongkhapa was unrivaled in his activities for the sake of the Buddha’s teaching. And with regard to his writings, which are clear and excellently composed, I do indeed feel the greatest respect and gratitude.

    There is, however, a striking contrast between Mipham’s veneration of Tsongkhapa, on the one hand, and his penetrating critique of his view, on the other. Mipham’s assessment seems to oscillate between an approbation of some of Tsongkhapa’s positions, regarded as unproblematic expressions of a Svātantrika approach that Mipham valued, and a determination to demolish Tsongkhapa’s philosophical innovations and their pretended Prāsaṅgika affiliations. This discrepancy has led some scholars to accuse Mipham of inconsistency. Closer scrutiny suggests, however, that Mipham’s admittedly complex attitude to Tsongkhapa was in point of fact quite coherent.


    Songs of Spiritual Experience: Tibetan Buddhist Poems of Insight and Awakening

     Thupten Jinpa’s collection of Tibetan poetry includes two poems by Tsongkhapa.

    The first is Reflections on Emptiness (pp. 83-84), which is an extract from a larger work, the rTag tu ngu’i rtogs brjod, which is a poetic retelling of the story of the bodhisattva Sadāprarudita, who is associated with the 8,000 Verse Prajnamaramita Sutra.

    The second poem is A Prayer for the Flourishing of Virtues (pp. 129-133).

    Jinpa presents Tsongkhapa’s poetry both in terms of a.) his mastery of composition and b.) his mastery of the Buddhist path.

    The first example comes through in the introduction:

    Tsongkhapa’s famous long poem entitled ‘‘A Literary Gem of Poetry’’ uses a single vowel in every stanza throughout the entire length. This is the poem from which come the famous lines:

    Good and evil are but states of the heart:
    When the heart is pure, all things are pure;
    When the heart is tainted, all things are tainted.
    So all things depend on your heart.

    In the original Tibetan, this stanza uses only the vowel a. Of course, this kind of literary device can never be reproduced in a translation, whatever the virtuosity and command of the translator.

    For the mastery of the Buddhist path, we find the following:

    To a contemporary reader, Tsongkhapa’s famous ‘‘Prayer for the Flourishing of Virtues’’ gives an insight into the deepest ideals of a dedicated Tibetan Buddhist practitioner; it presents a map of progressive development on the path. Beyond this, the mystic must utterly transform the very root of his identity and the perceptions that arise from it. From the ordinary patterns of action and reaction that make up our psyche and emotional life, the meditator must move toward a divine state of altered consciousness where all realities, including one’s own self, are manifested in their enlightened forms. In other words, the meditator must perfect all dimensions of his or her identity and experience, including rationality, emotion, intuition, and even sexuality. This, in Tibetan Buddhism, is the mystical realm of tantra.

    Here is Jinpa discussing the book overall:


    [A brief note. For those unfamiliar or only exposed through books, we strongly encourage readers to study tantra under the guidance of a qualified teacher. Book reading can only take you so far as the transmission of tantric teaching is about more than what can be put on paper.]

    Great Exposition of Secret Mantra: sNgags rim chen mo (1405)

    great expositionThis work is analogous to the tantra version of the Lamrim Chenmo, though it is very much the sarma (or later transmission from India) presentation of tantra. The first four sections of this work comprise the series The Great Exposition of Secret Mantra.

    There are three books by Tsongkhapa and His Holiness the Dalai Lama that form a series focused on Tsongkhapa's Great Exposition of Secret Mantra. In this text, Tsongkhapa presents the differences between sutra and tantra and the main features of various systems of tantra. Each of the three books below begins with the Dalai Lama contextualizing and commenting on the points presented in Tsongkhapa's text, followed by a translation of the corresponding part of the text itself.

    In Volume 1 | Tantra in Tibet, the foundations of motivation, refuge, and the Hinayana and Mahayana paths are presented. He then gives an overview of tantra, the notion of Clear Light, the greatness of mantra, and initiation or empowerment.

    Continuing his commentary in Volume II | Deity Yoga, His Holiness discusses deity yoga at length with a particular focus on action and performance tantras (the first two categories of tantra as described in the sarma, or “new translation” schools).

    Then in Volume III | Yoga Tantra the Dalai Lama details the practice of the next level of tantra, yoga tantra. With a preliminary overview of the motivation, His Holiness explains this level, which focuses on internal yoga, which here means the union of deity yoga with the wisdom of realizing emptiness. He details the yoga, both that with and that without signs, and then briefly explains how gaining stability in these practices is the foundation for some other practices that lead to mundane and extraordinary “feats.”

    An explanation of the highest yoga tantra is not included in these works, but an excellent resource is Daniel Cozort's Highest Yoga Tantra, as well as the recent and upcoming publications on Tsongkhapa's text from Columbia.

    The Six Yogas of Naropa, Zab lam Nā-ro’i chos drug gi sgo nas ’khrid pa’i rim pa yid ches gsum ldan

    The Six Yogas of Naropa: Tsongkhapa's Commentary Entitled A Book of Three Inspirations: A Treatise on the Stages of Training in the Profound Path of Naro's Six Dharmas, commonly referred to as The Three Inspirations.

    This is the famous arrangement of Naropa’s collection of tantric practices as explained by Tsongkhapa. This includes the full translation of this text and also includes an in-depth analysis of it from a historical perspective, leaving the reader a clear understanding of the text itself.

    Tsongkhapa's treatise on this system of tantric practice ... became the standard guide to the Naropa tradition at Ganden Monastery, the seat he founded near Lhasa in 1409. Ganden was to become the motherhouse of the Gelukpa school, and thus the symbolic head of the network of thousands of Gelukpa monasteries that sprang up over the succeeding centuries across Central Asia, from Siberia to northern India. A Book of Three Inspirations has served as the fundamental guide to Naropa's Six Yogas for the tens of thousands of Gelukpa monks, nuns, and lay practitioners throughout that vast area who were interested in pursuing the Naropa tradition as a personal tantric study. It has performed that function for almost six centuries now.

    Tsongkhapa the Great's A Book of Three Inspirations has for centuries been regarded as special among the many. The text occupies a unique place in Tibetan tantric literature, for it in turn came to serve as the basis of hundreds of later treatments. His observations on various dimensions and implications of the Six Yogas became a launching pad for hundreds of later yogic writers, opening up new horizons on the practice and philosophy of the system. In particular, his work is treasured for its panoramic view of the Six Yogas, discussing each of the topics in relation to the bigger picture of tantric Buddhism, tracing each of the yogic practices to its source in an original tantra spoken by the Buddha, and presenting each within the context of the whole. His treatise is especially revered for the manner in which it discusses the first of the Six Yogas, that of the “inner heat.” As His Holiness the present Dalai Lama put it at a public reading of and discourse upon the text in Dharamsala, India, in 1991, “the work is regarded by Tibetans as tummo gyi gyalpo, the king of treatments on the inner heat yoga.” Few other Tibetan treatises match it in this respect.

    A Practice Manual on the Six Yogas of Naropa: Taking the Practice in Hand Nå-ro’i chos drug gi dmigs skor lag tu len tshul

    A Practice Manual on the Six Yogas of Naropa: Taking the Practice in Hand

    Another text that is included in Tsongkhapa’s collected works is the short Practice Manual on the Six Yogas. This is included in the wider collection of texts on this practice titled The Practice of the Six Yogas of Naropa. Also included in this book are works by Tilopa, Naropa, Je Sherab Gyatso, and the First Panchen Lama.

    Gelug Kagyu Tradition of Mahamudra

    This work has three main sections: an overview of Mahamudra; the First Panchen’s text The Main Road of the Truimphant Ones, and a commentary by the Dalai Lama. The author contextualizes the selection saying that the tradition of Mahamudra in the Gelug tradition comes through Tsongkhapa. He is referenced throughout the book.

    Other Notable Works Related to Tsongkhapa

    Tibetan Literature: Studies in Genre is a collection by leading Tibetologists. The immensity of Tibet's literary heritage, unsurprisingly, is filled with references to Tsongkhapa across a wide range of subjects. Just a sampling of them include: the establishment of the Gelug order; the monastic curriculum; debate manuals; establishment of Ganden; a comparison with Milarepa; the controversies about his views; a classification of his texts; and a lot more.

    Mind in Tibetan Buddhism is an oral commentary on Geshe Jampel Sampel's Presentation of Awareness and Knowledge Composite of All the Important Points, Opener of the Eye of New Intelligence. This topic, lorig in Tibetan, was not one on which Tsongkhapa wrote a dedicated text, but he does include it in an introduction to Dharmakirti’s Seven Treatises and one of his sections includes a brief presentation on lorig. Tsongkhapa is brought up throughout this book.

    Maps of the Profound: Jam-Yang-Shay-Ba's Great Exposition of Buddhist and Non-Buddhist Views on the Nature of Reality

    This master (and massive) work by Jamyang Shaypa refers back to Tsongkhapa throughout, relying on his texts.


    Tsongkhapa is also referenced in about 60 articles on, mostly from the Snow Lion newsletter archive.

  • Buddhist Poetry - A Reader Guide

    Navigating the vast world of spiritual verse can be disorienting. With so many anthologies and translations to choose from, finding what speaks to you can be a real challenge. Shambhala Publications publishes numerous books of Buddhist poetry, and we’ve gathered some of our favorites here. Ranging from classical Tibetan songs of devotion to contemporary American reflections on navigating the path, our collection of Buddhist poetry offers a little something for everyone, Buddhist or otherwise.

    Chan and Zen Poetry

    Please also see our Haiku Reader's Guide.

    By Indara (因陀羅) (Yintuoluo) (Emuseum) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

    The Poetry of Enlightenment: Poems by Ancient Chan Masters, by Chan Master Sheng Yen

    Look inside the minds of enlightened masters with this collection of Ch’an teaching poems. Chan Master Sheng Yen offers commentary on ten poems by ancient Chinese Ch’an masters, selected both for their simplicity of language and depth of meaning. Written by Ch’an practitioners post-enlightenment, these poems touch on the experience of Ch’an, how to practice, cultivating the right attitude, and obstacles to avoid, as well as offering a glimpse into the state of mind of enlightenment.

    The Poetry of Zen, edited by Sam Hamill & J.P. Seaton

    Here, poet-translators Sam Hamill and J.P. Seaton offer up a rich sampling of poems from the Chinese and Japanese Zen traditions, spanning centuries of poets, from Lao Tzu to Kobayashi Issa. While a few of the poets included were not Zen practitioners, their poems nonetheless illustrate a strong Zen influence. Hamill and Seaton open the anthology with an overview of the Zen poetic tradition, and provide historical, philosophical, and biographical context to the works throughout, showing readers how poetry “is one of the many paths to enlightenment” (7). With a compact trim size, this collection makes a wonderful travel companion.

    The Complete Cold Mountain: Poems of the Legendary Hermit Hanshan, translated by Kazuaki Tanahashi & Peter Levitt

    Capturing readers with its insightful, light, humorous, and often rebellious spirit, Hanshan’s Cold Mountain poems have long been enjoyed by Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike. This new translation of these centuries-old writings by Kaz Tanahashi and Peter Levitt presents readers not only the full body of poems in its entirety, but also provides a wealth of insight into the poets behind the poems, full Chinese text of the poems, historical context, and the Buddhist elements present throughout the collection. The translators’ deep appreciation for Hanshan shines through the collection. Translator Peter Levitt notes in the introduction, “Because of the compassionate discernment, profound tranquility, unexpected insight, and the occasional outrageous humor of his poetry, Kaz Tanahashi and I have gratefully considered Hanshan one of life’s treasured companions for fifty years. As a result of the kinship we feel with him, we gathered together, translated, and now offer readers the most complete version of the poet’s work to date in the English language” (2).

    The Poems of Ryokan

    By Ryōkan (English:  Replica before 1970) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

    “Who says my poems are poems?
    My poems are not poems.
    When you know that my poems are not poems,
    Then we can speak of poetry!”

    Widely admired both for his character and poetry, Ryokan remains one of the key poets of the Zen tradition. Though written in eighteenth century Japan, Ryokan’s poems seem to transcend time and space, with reflections on the human experience that are as relevant to today’s readers as they were centuries ago.

    Dewdrops on a Lotus Leaf: Zen Poems of Ryokan, translated & edited by John Stevens

    Providing brief biographical context, John Stevens introduces us to the world and work of Ryokan. The collection demonstrates the spirit of Ryokan’s Zen outlook, with poems covering the full spectrum of the human experience and focusing on “things deep inside the heart.” Throughout the text are ink paintings by Koshi no Sengai, a devotee of Ryokan, many of which include calligraphy of Ryokan’s verses.

    One Robe, One Bowl: The Zen Poetry of Ryokan, translated & introduced by John Stevens

    In comparison to Dewdrops, this collection offers a more detailed introduction to the life of Ryokan and his relationship to Zen Buddhism. Ryokan was not married to one poetic style, and thus this collection is broken up into classical Chinese style poems, and Japanese waka and haiku, organized by season.

    Sky Above, Great Wind: The Life and Poetry of Zen Master Ryokan, translated by Kazuaki Tanahashi

    For readers who want to take a really deep dive into Ryokan, this is the collection to read. Not only does Tanahashi present Ryokan’s poetry (organized chronologically), but he also offers selections of Ryokan’s calligraphy, maps of relevant sites for readers’ reference, a detailed biographical introduction, notes on individual poems, an analysis of Ryokan’s poetic forms, and a collection of anecdotes about the beloved Zen poet.

    Tibetan Poetry

    Songs of Spiritual Experience: Tibetan Buddhist Poems of Insight and Awakening, selected & translated by Thupten Jinpa & Jas Elsner

    Published in English for the first time, this collection of fifty-two poems by realized masters, from classic to contemporary, represents the full range of Tibetan Buddhist lineage traditions. Organized thematically, these songs address impermanence, guru devotion, emptiness, and other key themes of Tibetan Buddhism. Also included are a detailed glossary and exploration of the Tibetan tradition of nyamgur (“experiential songs”), offering a comprehensive look at poetry’s role within Tibetan Buddhism. A foreword for the collection is provided by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

    The introduction forms one of the best introductions to Tibetan poetry available.  Here is a taste:

    "Many of the greatest Tibetan poems demand of the reader an attentiveness to a complex line of thought and philosophical reasoning, albeit in the heightened forms of verse combined with the inspiration of imagery. For the poet, the ideal reader is one whose reading of the poem becomes itself an act of meditation, penetrating the depths of human experience with an insight tempered by sensitivity.

    Thupten Jinpa on Songs of Spiritual Experience from Shambhala Publications on Vimeo.

    Gendun Chopel: Tibet’s Modern Visionary, by Donald S. Lopez Jr.

    The debut title in Shambhala’s Lives of the Masters series, Gendun Chopel offers an in-depth look at the life and writings of the Tibetan Buddhist visionary, by scholar Donald Lopez. While much of this book is a biographical exploration of Gendun Chopel, Lopez also provides a wealth of Gendun Chopel’s writings, believing that “one learns a great deal about an author by actually reading what they wrote” (x). More than a Buddhist visionary, Gendun Chopel is considered one of Tibet’s greatest poets of the twentieth century, and thus included among these writings is a significant selection of poetry. As a student and writer of poetry throughout his life, he mastered many poetic forms, and often composed poems spontaneously.

    The relatives and servants we meet are but guests on market day.
    The rise of power, wealth, and arrogance are pleasures in a dream.
    Happiness alternates with sorrow, summer changes to winter.
    Thinking of this, a song spontaneously came to me.

    The Rain of Wisdom: The Essence of the Ocean of True Meaning, translated by the Nalanda Translation Committee

    Translated under the direction of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, this collection offers more than one hundred vajra dohas of the Tibetan Kagyu lineage, by more than thirty lineage holders, including Tilopa, Milarepa, and the Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa. Contained in these songs are teachings on karma, bodhicitta, devotion, and the Buddhist path. Trungpa Rinpoche writes in his Foreword, “these songs should be regarded as the best of the butter which has been churned from the ocean of milk of the Buddha’s teachings” (xiii).

    Tibetan Literature: Studies in Genre

    Renowned scholar Roger Jackson takes on the subject in the chapter ‘Poetry in Tibet: Glu, mGur, sNyan ngag and “Songs of Experience”.  He explores Tibetan poetry from its earliest forms to the present including Trungpa Rinpoche and Allen Ginsberg.

    The rise of power, wealth, and arrogance are pleasures in a dream.
    Happiness alternates with sorrow, summer changes to winter.
    Thinking of this, a song spontaneously came to me.

    The Treasury of Knowledge

    Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye’s ten volume Treasury of Knowledge includes the volume Indo-Tibetan Classical Learning & Buddhist Phenomenology (Book Six, Parts One & Two). Chapter eight catalogues the elements and components of Tibetan poetry including the types of composition (metrical, prose, and a mix of the two) as well as poetic ornaments.

    Also see this video from the Tsadra Foundation’s Translation and Transmission conference in 2017 with leading scholars of Tibetan poetry.

    kavya poetry

    Contemporary Buddhist Poetry

    Beneath a Single Moon: Buddhism in Contemporary American Poetry, edited by Kent Johnson & Craig Paulenich

    For readers who prefer a more modern aesthetic, Beneath a Single Moon is a delightful read. This anthology features more than 250 poems by forty-five contemporary American poets, supplemented with essays exploring spiritual poetic practice. Among those included in this collection are John Cage, Diane di Prima, Norman Fischer, Allen Ginsberg, Susan Griffin, Anne Waldman, Philip Whalen, and Gary Snyder, who also provides the book’s introduction. Offering a refreshing look at spiritual poetry, the editors explain that “the variousness of the work [stands] very much at odds with the fairly common notion of American ‘Zen’ poetry as a literary remnant of the sixties, with derivative, and generally identifiable ‘Eastern’ criteria. It [is] even more intimately at odds, perhaps, with the well-diffused perception—at least in the West—of Buddhism as collectivizing and inimical to individual spirit” (xv-xvi).

    After Ikkyu & Other Poems, by Jim Harrison

    Those who find spiritual poetry can become too rigid or serious will find this to be a refreshing departure from the norm. These raw and often pithy poems by novelist Jim Harrison draw inspiration from his many years of Zen practice, and in perfect Zen spirit, they reveal a poet and practitioner who does not take himself too seriously. In his introduction Harrison explains, “It doesn’t really matter if these poems are thought of as slightly soiled dharma gates or just plain poems. They’ll live or die by their own specific density, flowers for the void” (ix).

    Poems of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

    While Trungpa Rinpoche was a Tibetan, his poetry is unique and has therefore been included in the contemporary Buddhist poetry section.

    When Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche arrived in the United States, he asked, “Where are your poets? Take me to your poets!” Not only was Trungpa Rinpoche a spiritual teacher, but he was also an avid poet and dharma artist. Below, we describe the differences between our multiple collections of his work:

    Mudra: Early Poems and Songs

    Mudra is a selection of spontaneous, celebratory poems of devotion written by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche between 1959 and 1971. Trungpa opens his collection with two translations of Jigme Lingpa and Patrul Rinpoche, explaining that “they are the vajra statement which frees the people of the dark ages from the three lords of materialism and their warfare.” Also included are ten traditional Zen oxherding pictures along with Trungpa’s unique commentary.

    First Thought Best Thought: 108 Poems

    Dictated (Trungpa composed poems verbally to a scribe) around the time of his arrival in the United States, this collection of poems, with an introduction by Allen Ginsberg, encapsulates Trungpa’s creative energy. His vision of joining East and West shines through each poem, combining classical Tibetan poetic influences with a modern American poetic style. As the collection progresses chronologically, readers witness Trungpa’s increasing familiarity and comfort with American culture. The collection’s title pays homage to William Blake’s “First thought is best in Art, second in other matters,” while also invoking the notion of beginner’s mind. As Ginsberg writes in his introduction, here is an “amazing chance to see his thought process step by step, link by link, cutting through solidifications of opinions & fixations” (xv).

    Timely Rain: Selected Poetry of Chogyam Trungpa

    Timely Rain is a collection of new and previously published poems, edited and curated by David I. Rome. While First Thought Best Thought presents poems in roughly chronological order, this collection is organized thematically, with each thematic section in chronological order. This allows readers to more easily navigate the poems, while also witnessing the evolution of Trungpa’s expressiveness and state of mind. Editor David Rome reflects in his Afterword that “poetry is also a refuge for Trungpa, perhaps the only place where he is able to step out of all the roles and self-inventions and speak truthfully from—and to—his own heart” (193). Themes contained herein include loneliness, samsara and nirvana, love, and sacred songs.

  • Chogyur Lingpa: A Profile

    Chogyur Lingpa

    By [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

    Few Treasures of the Nyingma School have left a larger imprint on contemporary Tibetan Buddhism than those of the famed nineteenth century master Chokgyur Dechen Shigpo Lingpa (1829-1870). Since the time of his revelations a century and a half ago, Chokgyur Lingpa’s Treasures have become pop­ular not only within the Nyingma School but also in the Kagyu lineage where they have been actively promulgated by such prominent figures as Jamgön Kongtrul, the Dazang and Situpa Tulkus, and, above all, several Karmapa hierarchs. The Treasures of Chokgyur Lingpa together with their commentaries are known collectively as the New Treasures of Chokgyur Lingpa. Today they comprise an extensive collection in 39 volumes including more than 1000 in­dividual titles and several genres that, prior to the time of Chokgyur Lingpa, had never been revealed as Treasure but only existed in the older lineage of Transmitted Precepts.

    In addition to his role as a Treasure revealer, Chokgyur Lingpa was an influential figure in the ecumenical (ris med) movement that arose in eastern Tibet during the nineteenth century around the figures of Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo. It was in large part the close relationship that Chokgyur Lingpa enjoyed with these two extraordinary masters that helped the New Treasures to become a widespread and popular tradition. Considering its significant impact on nineteenth and twentieth century Tibetan thought and society, it is surprising that the ecumenical tradition so far has received little scholarly attention.144 Still, although the ecumenical tradition is only peripheral to our topic here, given the active involvement of Kongtrul and Khyentse in the revelations of Chokgyur Lingpa, future studies of the New Treasures will doubtless yield significant information on the workings of that movement.

    The features of the New Treasures that make it so valuable—its vastness, visionary variety, and philosophical complexity—are at the same time also the greatest challenge to engaging with this collection and getting a basic overview of Chokgyur Lingpa’s revelations. As a result, the New Treasures have previously remained almost unnoticed by Western research.145 In this light, the present study aims to provide a general introduction to Chokgyur Lingpa and his tradition by outlining the major events, features, and people related thereto and so create a preliminary platform from which future, in-depth studies may proceed. For this, we first turn to the rich hagiographical literature concerned with the spiritual life and visionary achievements of Chokgyur Lingpa himself.

    We are fortunate to find in the New Treasures a wealth of information collected and composed by several central figures of the lineage, including Chokgyur Lingpa himself. In colophons throughout the New Treasures Chokgyur Lingpa writes about the nature of his Treasures and the way they were discovered, often noting the details of time and place and thereby providing valuable information for a chronological reconstruction of his career. Besides the information supplied in colophons, Chokgyur Lingpa also composed a brief autobiography (predominantly in verse) written sometime during 1867 or early 1868 that later was joined with various accounts of Treasure revelation likewise recounted by Chokgyur Lingpa himself. This compilation was included in the New Treasures under the title Basic Account of the Emanated Great Treasure Revealer’s Biography Combined with a Few Treasure Chronicles. These writings of Chokgyur Lingpa are of great value for understanding his role within the ecumenical movement, especially a section in the autobiography in which he expounds on the philosophical values of the ecumenical tradition and the role of the Treasure tradition within this movement.147 It is generally well known that Chokgyur Lingpa was a prominent figure within the ecumenical tradition,148 but little is known about his specific views on ecumenicalism. In this chapter, Chokgyur Lingpa encourages spiritual practitioners to abandon one-sided critique of other traditions and instead to appreciate the commonalities between the many Tibetan religious traditions while still remaining respectful of their individual unique features. Specifically in relation to the Treasure tradition, Chokgyur Lingpa admonishes the followers of the Nyingma School to abandon attachment to the revelations of individual revelers and, instead, to focus on the relationship between all Treasures and the general Buddhist tradition and so acknowledge that the philosophical roots of the Treasures are firmly planted in the general teachings of sutra and tantra.149

    Besides Chokgyur Lingpa’s own writings, the New Treasures contain sev­eral early writings by his foremost teachers, Jamgön Kongtrul and Khyentse Wangpo. These sources form the basis for all the subsequent hagiographical works on Chokgyur Lingpa. Most central is a short praise to the career of Chokgyur Lingpa composed by Jamgön Kongtrul under the title Auspiciously Curling Tune: A Supplication to the Life of the Emanated Great Treasure Revealer Chokgyur Lingpa. In this work Kongtrul outlines the most significant events in Chokgyur Lingpa’s life, listing his most prominent teachers, students, Treas­ures, and visions. The supplication is augmented with numerous annotations (mchan ‘grel) in which Kongtrul provides a commentary on the events of the supplication. In the colophon Kongtrul notes that he composed the supplica­tion at the request of Chokgyur Lingpa’s consort Dechen Chödrön and several other devoted students.151 As with so many works in the New Treasures the text is undated, but it was most likely composed soon after the death of Chokgyur Lingpa.152 Later, at the request of Chokgyur Lingpa’s famed scholar-student, Karmey Khenpo Rinchen Dargye (nineteenth century), Khyentse Wangpo composed an outline (sa bcad) of this praise, which he named Divisions of the Auspicious Tune: The Condensed Meaning of the Supplication to the Great Treasure Revealer Chokgyur Lingpa.

    On the past lives of Chokgyur Lingpa, Dazang Karma Ngedön Tenpa Rabgye (1808-1864), another of Chokgyur Lingpa’s foremost teachers, com­posed a supplication to the past existences that Chokgyur Lingpa previously had occupied. This work, entitled Rosary of Red Pearls: a Supplication to the Past Lives of the Vidyadhara Master—The Great Treasure Revealer Chokgyur Lingpa,154 was composed while Chokgyur Lingpa was still alive. It presents the details of his past lives predominantly based on information found in Treasure literature but also, to a lesser degree, on information accessed through medita­tive visions. As an elaboration on this supplication, Khyentse Wangpo com­posed a slightly longer text; Lapis Lazuli Drama: General Notes on the Rosary of Red Pearls Past Lives Supplication.  The main source for both works (and other subsequent descriptions of Chokgyur Lingpa’s past lives) is a Treasure text revealed by the visionary Shigpo Lingpa Gargyi Wangchuk (1524-1583) named Radiant Lamp, which recounts Shigpo Lingpa’s past lives in great de­tail.  These previous existences of Shigpo Lingpa are relevant for Chokgyur Lingpa as well since Shigpo Lingpa came to be regarded as one of Chokgyur Lingpa’s previous incarnations, whereby the Radiant Lamp became an account of Chokgyur Lingpa’s past lives as well.  Khyentse’s work, which consists almost entirely of a lengthy quotation from the Radiant Lamp, establishes the authority of this prophesized account by categorizing the past lives experi­enced in meditative visions as merely an appendage (kha skong) to the revealed descriptions.  The past lives of Chokgyur Lingpa are presented below as they are recounted in these two sources.

    Khyentse Wangpo composed yet another biographical text entitled Breeze of Requesting the Auspicious Tune: Replies to Questions Arising from the Hagiography of the Great Treasure Revealer, which is a series of answers to questions posed by Chokgyur Lingpa’s students regarding the life of their master. This text forms the basis for the subsequent hagiographies of Chokgyur Lingpa by both Kongtrul and Dudjom where longer passages often are quoted verbatim. Khyentse presents events central to Chokgyur Lingpa’s life and career in a structured manner that gives an excellent overview of the identity of Chokgyur Lingpa’s main teachers, the divisions of his Treasures, his sevenfold trans­mission of teaching, and the major group practice sessions over which Chokgyur Lingpa presided.

    Apart from the works of famed authors like Khyentse, Kongtrul, and Dazang, we .nd another important source of information in the so-called “general hagiography” (phyi’i rnam thar) of Chokgyur Lingpa entitled Melody of the Fifth Auspicious Birth: A General Outer Biography of the Great Treasure Revealer Chokgyur Lingpa composed by Pema Yeshe (nineteenth/twentieth century)—a student of Chokgyur Lingpa and an important chant master (dbu mdzad) within his tradition. This hagiography, written at the request of the first Chokling reincarnation in the Neten lineage, Pema Gyurme Thegchok Tenpel (1873-1927), builds on the themes raised by Kongtrul and Khyentse but also gathers information from several smaller manuscripts in the New Treasures. In addition to this formal hagiography, Pema Yeshe also composed a lengthy description of Chokgyur Lingpa’s journey to central Tibet at the end of his life.166 Elsewhere in the New Treasures we find a brief account by an anonymous author describing Chokgyur Lingpa’s revelation of Seven Profound Cycles.

    The richest source for information on Chokgyur Lingpa is surely the 600 page hagiography A Clarifcation of the Branches of the Auspicious Tune: The Life of the Great Treasure Revealer Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa composed by the first Chokling reincarnation in the Kela lineage, Könchog Gyurme Tenpey Gyaltsen (nineteenth/twentieth cent.). This text offers a wealth of informa­tion regarding both the outer events in Chokgyur Lingpa’s life and his inner experiences and meditative realizations. It was composed in 1921 and draws heavily on the above mentioned early works, but also incorporates new sources in the form of previously unpublished notes and manuscripts related to the life of Chokgyur Lingpa. Curiously, the works of Pema Yeshe are not men­tioned in this text, and it seems possible that Könchog Gyurme might not have been aware of them.169 Like the earlier works, Könchog Gyurme’s biogra­phy is also structured along the framework previously established by Khyentse and Kongtrul.

    The Tibetan hagiographical genre is unique in that it does not limit itself to a single life but often recounts the saint’s existence within a framework of past, present, as well as future lives. Not only does Könchog Gyurme provide de­scriptions of all such lives of Chokgyur Lingpa, he also uses several biographi­cal sub-genres that lend further uniqueness to the hagiographical literature of Tibet. The main body of the text is structured into three sections: 1) a brief teaching on the definitive and the provisional hagiographies, 2) an expand­ed explanation by means of ten amazing accounts,171 and 3) a conclusion by means of supplication and aspirations.172 The definitive and the provisional ha­giographies introduce two variant modes of hagiography: 1) the ultimate and essential hagiography and 2) the symbolic, provisional hagiography.174 The first of these divisions is a brief philosophical chapter that presents Chokgyur Lingpa as primordially inseparable from the basic nature of all phenomena. In spite of this being a condensed hagiographical exposition this chapter is nevertheless billed as the essential and true way to appreciate the actual being of Chokgyur Lingpa:

    In reality, his nature, all-pervading like the sky, is primordially the
    supremely luminous dharmakaya of great bliss, the indivisibility of
    ground and fruition.

    This chapter is termed “ultimate” and “essential” even though it barely covers two full pages, supporting the position that underneath the detailed historical narrative of the Treasure cosmos lies a reality of timelessness (dharmakaya), which gives historical events a relative quality and frees them from the confines of a strictly linear historical consciousness. Thus, similar to the historical nar­ratives of Treasure revelation that rely on the backdrop of timeless reality, the acts of a Buddhist saint such as Chokgyur Lingpa are likewise to be viewed with a hermeneutic that acknowledges their occurrence in the world as reflections of this “ultimate and essential” way of being.

    The following explanation of the symbolic provisional hagiography is a one-page listing of the topic for the main part of the text—Chokgyur Lingpa’s achievements as perceived from the framework of relative existence. This leads into a more formal historical narrative structured on a three-fold division of Chokgyur Lingpa’s past existences, present life, and his activity in future lives for the continuous benefit of sentient beings. The chapter devoted to his past lives consists of two divisions: 1) a general explication of the hagiography of the three kayas and 2) a particular division of the way that Chokgyur Lingpa appeared in this world. The first of these categories once again highlights the importance of approaching the Tibetan hagiographical genre with sensitivity to the general Mahayanist metaphysical conception of rupakaya emanations emerging from the underlying dharmakaya matrix. Here Könchog Gyurme describes the manner in which buddhas and bodhisattvas take birth in the world without ever moving from the reality of dharmakaya and how they engage in the benevolent actions of converting sentient beings through the activities of “the fourfold taming” (‘dul ba bzhi) of body, speech, mind, and miracles. Having reminded the reader of Chokgyur Lingpa’s inherent affilia­tion with the basic nature of existence itself, Könchog Gyurme has prepared the ground for the ensuing detailed discussion of the events in Chokgyur Lingpa’s “garland of lives”—the numerous preambulary existences preceding his feats in nineteenth century eastern Tibet. Below, we shall return to a closer look at these past lives.

    In spite of the various hagiographical sub-categories presented up to this point, the main part of Könchog Gyurme’s work is, after all, devoted to the life and career of Chokgyur Lingpa. In presenting his life, Könchog Gyurme follows Khyentse Wangpo’s ten chapter outline that describes 1) Chokgyur Lingpa’s youth, 2) the awakening of his karmic potential, 3) teachers, 4) spiritual development, 5) meditative realization, 6) visionary experiences, 7) Treasure discoveries, 8) students, 9) his sanctification of the environment, and 10) his passing into nirvana. Since Könchog Gyurme, like Pema Yeshe, bases his presentation on the early sources, there is a great deal of duplication found in his hagiography, but as his narrative is other­wise richly adorned with quotations from both Treasure texts and classi­cal scriptures, the repetitiveness is not as pronounced as one could expect. Könchog Gyurme also incorporates several oral accounts into his narrative, but considering the vulnerability of the oral tradition in the turbulent social upheavals of the twentieth century, an even greater number of such reports would have been desired. Still, as Könchog Gyurme begins to unravel anec­dotes of Chokgyur Lingpa’s visionary life and the many extraordinary events connected thereto, we obtain a valuable look into the inner workings of the Treasure tradition. In these chapters (6 – 9), we not only receive a tour into the fascinating world of Treasure discovery with its rich symbolic lan­guage and ritual but also encounter the main protagonists in the ecumeni­cal tradition as they relate to Chokgyur Lingpa’s revelations. Previously, the main .gures of the ecumenical tradition such as Khyentse, Kongtrul, and Chokling have been studied only little, but here valuable data on their work and relationship are presented.179 Finally, having covered the main events of Chokgyur Lingpa’s life, the author completes his work with a brief descrip­tion of Chokgyur Lingpa’s future lives (silent on the fact that he himself was one of them!).

    Apart from the hagiographical material of the New Treasures, Jamgön Kongtrul also included a hagiography of Chokgyur Lingpa in his survey of the Treasure revealers. This in turn formed the basis for Dudjom’s chapter on Chokgyur Lingpa in his history of the Nyingma School, which is most­ly a verbatim copy of Kongtrul’s writing. It is also said that a longer and more detailed biography was written by Chokling’s student Karmey Khenpo Rinchen Dargye (nineteenth century), but it is uncertain whether this work still exists. Now, before we consider the life of Chokgyur Lingpa any further, let us first look closer at some of the many lives leading up to the birth of our Treasure revealing protagonist.

    The past lives of Chokgyur Lingpa are recounted on the basis of the Radiant Lamp, a text revealed in the sixteenth century by the visionary Shigpo Lingpa as testimony to his own previous lives. As this scripture is a Treasure revelation, these past existences are not presented as if narrated by Shigpo Lingpa himself but instead by Padmasambhava back in the eighth century as a prophesy of what is yet to come. In Tibet it was standard prac­tice that Treasure revealers discover this kind of ex post facto prophecy in which Padmasambhava foretells, as Ratna Lingpa puts it, “even the moles and physical marks on their body” although, not surprisingly, this was a type of writing often looked upon with suspicion by many, even among the followers of the Nyingma School.

    In any case, Shigpo Lingpa’s revelation lists his many past lives in India, China, Tibet, and elsewhere his karma and aspirations are said to have tak­en him. Since Chokgyur Lingpa is considered the reincarnation of Shigpo Lingpa this text is extensively quoted throughout the biographical texts of the New Treasures, where it becomes the primary source for retelling the past lives of Chokgyur Lingpa. Here we are told how he (Shigpo Lingpa/ Chokgyur Lingpa), in a distant past, .rst connected with the dharma in general, and especially with the all-important .gures of the Treasure lineage: Padmasambhava and his royal disciple Trisong Detsen.

    The Radiant Lamp begins in the early days of this aeon with the well-known story of Padmasambhava, Trisong Detsen, and Santarakita (in their former lives) building the stupa called Mistakenly Granted Permission. Here we are told that the future Trisong Detsen witnessed a black bird landing on the stupa and made a wish that, in the future it would become his son. As the bird was none other than the Chokgyur Lingpa-to-be, the original karmic connection was thus established between him and the Buddhist dharma. The seed having been planted in the mind of the future Treasure revealer, he embarked on a series of rebirths predominantly unfolding in India and Tibet. As the fortu­nate black bird passed away it was, according to the Radiant Lamp, first born in Bodhgaya as Kirti Jìana, son of the elder Dharmabhadra. At that time he jokingly offered flowers to a representation of a buddha, thus sowing the seeds for liberation. This act in turn led to rebirth in the Tushita Heaven as a divine being. Thereafter he was born as Aniruddha, the Buddha’s cousin and one of the ten close disciples. In that existence he attained the state of an arhat and, even though he had perceived the truth of dharmata, he still wished to enter the resultant vehicle. Thus, he continued in existence and assumed a series of animal and human existences in various regions of India, Nepal, China, and Tibet.

    Finally, however, the obscurations of the future Chokgyur Lingpa were pu­rified during his life as a prince from the Indian kingdom of Bedar. From this point onwards, all subsequent reincarnations are said to be conscious and voluntary. This is also the time when he enters the Tibetan religious scene as well-known historical personae such as the famed minister Garwa at the court of King Songtsen Gampo (ca. 617-649/650). Then follows a life as the prince of Entse before we arrive at the all-important birth as Murub Tsenpo, the sec­ond son of King Trisong Detsen.

    In describing this life the text shifts to present tense as Padmasambhava (who in the Treasure text is recounting the lives of Shigpo Lingpa) now speaks in person directly to his Tibetan disciples. Padmasambhava lists the various names given to Murub Tsenpo and tells of the karmic bond be­tween this prince and his wife Bumcham who, upon death, according to Padmasambhava’s prophecy, will be united in the pure buddha fields.191 Chokgyur Lingpa’s life as Murub Tsenpo is of central importance as it is during that existence he comes into contact with Padmasambhava, receives empowerment and is prophesized as a major Treasure revealer. Now, once again, Padmasambhava changes his narrative and speaks in future tense as he prophesizes the future lives of Murub Tsenpo.

    As this prince passes away, Padmasambhava predicts, he will be born as a king in the country (pure land?) of Urgyen Zangling from which he will continuously send out emanations, working for the welfare of all beings. Padmasambhava then brie.y describes a series of other births as various tant­ric practitioners of mixed prominence including, notably, two lives as female Treasure revealers. Then follows a description of his life as the great Treasure revealer Sangye Lingpa (1340-1396), known for his revelation of the influen­tial Embodiment of the Realization of the Master Treasure cycle. Having proph­esized the life of Sangye Lingpa in detail, mentioning his birthplace, looks, name, etc., Padmasambhava continues by predicting Murub Tsenpo’s subse­quent birth as the female Treasure revealer Bummo Cham from Nyang in up­per Tsang, as an unnamed minister also from the Tsang region, and finally, the life as Shigpo Lingpa whose virtues are extolled in considerable detail. As the Lamp is a revelation by Shigpo Lingpa, the account goes no further. Still, it is surprising that the New Treasures contains no attempt to recount the in­terim existences that presumably would have followed from the time of Shigpo Lingpa up until his rebirth as Chokgyur Lingpa—leaving a period of roughly 250 years unaccounted for.

    Having in this way considered the traditional recounting of Chokgyur Lingpa’s genealogy of past lives, we may now turn to some of the events of his life as they occurred in the nineteenth century, in particular his numerous revelations that secured him such fame and influence with a number of the greatest religious figures of his time.

  • Tao Te Ching: A Reader’s Guide to the Great Taoist Classic

    Lao Tzu

    Legend has it that around the sixth century BCE, during the Spring and Autumn period of ancient China, a wise and venerable philosopher found himself so distraught over the chaos and social upheaval of his time that he decided to flee across the western border of China (into what is now the region of Tibet). But before he could pass beyond the western gates, he was approached by a guard who had heard of his reputation as a person of great wisdom. The guard asked the philosopher to leave some record of his wisdom before passing beyond. And the philosopher retreated for a short time before returning with a simple yet amazingly profound book of his writing, which was passed on to later generations as the Tao Te Ching (or more phonetically in pinyin, Dao De Jing)—the book of the Way and its virtue. And then he journeyed forth across the Tibetan plateau, never to be seen in China again. This philosopher would eventually become known as Lao Tzu, “the Old Master,” and his little book would go on to become not only the foundational text for the Taoist tradition but one of the most widely studied and influential works of philosophy and spirituality to ever grace the cultures of our world.

    Of course, whether or not there was an individual named Lao Tzu or even a single author of the Tao Te Ching is hotly contested. But the Tao Te Ching nevertheless stands as one of the shining jewels of ancient Chinese thought and a treasured classic of our global intellectual heritage. It has become so influential, in fact, that it parallels even the Bible in its readership, having been translated into dozens of versions in countless languages worldwide. With so many translations available, the task of choosing a version to read can be downright overwhelming.

    We offer this as a guide to the many translations available from Shambhala Publications. Although we certainly don’t publish all of the staggeringly numerous translations available in English, we are proud to share some of the most acclaimed. Below you will find a short description of each of these translations, organized by translator, and also a short guide to additional recommendations for further reading. Each brings out something unique and beautiful, and we hope that you enjoy them.


    John C. H. Wu

    Many people call the translation from John C. H. Wu their go-to favorite, and since its original publication in 1961 it has been an enduring classic—for good reason. Wu was a hugely important figure in his age, serving as ambassador from China to the Vatican in the late 1940s and having a pivotal role in the drafting of the constitution of Taiwan. Equally at home in both Eastern and Western cultures and languages, his monumental translation of Lao Tzu’s philosophy is a reflection of his mastery of both worlds. As Thomas Merton, his contemporary, exclaimed, “No better choice of translator could be made for the Tao Teh Ching than Dr. C. H. Wu.” His stunning diction has a much-deserved reputation for resonating deeply with the minds and hearts of English speakers, and the clarity of his language makes comprehensible what could otherwise be a daunting read. If you want to learn about this great classic of world literature and aren’t sure where to turn, the Wu translation is a perfect starting point.

    Ursula K. Le Guin

    Most people know Ursula K. Le Guin for her extraordinary science fiction. Fewer know just how pervasive Taoist themes are to so much of her work. Here we are treated to Le Guin’s unique take on Taoist philosophy’s founding classic. Full of mystery, wonder, and awe-inspiring power, Le Guin’s Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching is a testament to her deep-seated understanding of Taoist principles and their value for our troubled world today and for the future of humanity. If you’ve enjoyed Le Guin’s writing and yearn for a deeper window into her mind—or if you simply wish to explore the philosophical bedrock that shaped an incredible, historically significant feminist author—you will surely find an incomparable treasure in this book. Also of note, the audio edition is read by Le Guin herself (a real treat).

    William Scott Wilson

    Few translators are as adept and rigorous as William Scott Wilson, especially acclaimed for his translations of great Japanese classics of the samurai age—among them, Hagakure, The Book of Five Rings, and The Unfettered Mind. Here he lends his acumen to the Tao Te Ching by bringing to bear two key sources, a commonly used ancient text from about 200 BCE and a still more ancient, lesser known text written in the Great Seal script of Lao Tzu’s age. The translation alone is unparalleled in its worth. But beyond the translation, Wilson’s Tao Te Ching also offers a wide range of supplements for deeper enrichment: an introduction to the history and philosophy of the text to ground one’s reading, an exploration of Taoist influence on the Zen tradition (a topic of huge significance), reflections on the role of the Tao Te Ching in the development of the martial arts in China and Japan, and extensive notes to clarify the text and demonstrate resonances with related Taoist authors.

    Sam Hamill

    Sam Hamill is a literary giant—the creator of dozens of acclaimed translations from Chinese, Japanese, Greek, and Latin, and the recipient of countless awards for his outstanding poetry. In this, his majestically sparse and evocative translation of the Tao Te Ching, he weaves together the enigmatic language of the text in a way that captures the imagination and compels the reader to deep meditation. Also included are original calligraphies from acclaimed Zen teacher and artist Kazuaki Tanahashi, which serve to further enrapture the reader to contemplation. This is a true poet’s translation. There’s nothing else like it.

    Stephen Addiss and Stanley Lombardo

    Prolific authors and translators Stephen Addiss (The Art of Haiku) and Stanley Lombardo (Iliad, Odyssey) need little introduction. And seeing these two names attached to the Tao Te Ching should readily get one’s attention. In their rendition of the text, Addiss and Lombardo sought to achieve four key goals: (1) to let the original enigmatic nature of the text speak for itself as much as possible without explanation and personal interpretation, (2) to be true to the compact pithiness of the text, (3) to avoid illusory gendered language that has no relation to the neutrality of the Chinese, and (4) to offer a glimpse at the Chinese text of each chapter so as to supply a clearer window into the original. Coupled with stunningly gorgeous ink paintings by Addiss at the beginning of each chapter, what you get is an amazingly artful and startlingly relatable Tao Te Ching that will surely stand the test of time as indispensable. As Beat author Gary Snyder once remarked, “Of the many translations I have read in English, this is unquestionably the best.” It’s that good.


    For Further Exploration

    Tao Te Ching: Zen Teachings on the Taoist Classic

    Interested in Zen? Keen to learn more about how Taoist philosophy influenced and informed the tradition? Then this book isn’t to be missed. Written by famed Japanese Zen teacher Takuan Soho, Tao Te Ching: Zen Teachings on the Taoist Classic is a Zen commentary on the entirety of the Tao Te Ching text (here included in its entirety as well). Translated by the masterful Thomas Cleary, Takuan’s Zen commentary is a fascinating exploration of the intersection of Tao and Dharma. And it really helps to show how Zen inherited, synthesized, and carried forward Lao Tzu’s wisdom.

    Hua Hu Ching: The Later Teachings of Lao Tzu

    Though tradition has it that the Tao Te Ching is the only written record of Lao Tzu’s teachings, there are nevertheless other traditions that purport to carry further teachings of the great Old Master. The Hua Hu Ching is one of them, a compilation of stories about Lao Tzu and his teaching activity from his elder years beyond the borders of China. Thought to have been suppressed for centuries, this rare text has been translated by contemporary Taoist teacher Hua-Ching Ni and serves as a thought-provoking companion volume to the Tao Te Ching.

    Wen-Tzu: Understanding the Mysteries (Further Teachings of Lao-tzu)

    The Wen-tzu is a second book that is said to contain orally transmitted teachings from the life of Lao Tzu. Whether or not that’s true, it’s a riveting read—and really helps a lot to flesh out the core Taoist concepts found in the Tao Te Ching. Translated by Thomas Cleary, it’s not to be missed.

    The Essential Chuang Tzu

    Usually when one speaks about essential reading for Taoism, the Tao Te Ching comes up first and the Chuang Tzu second. In many ways, they are the pillars on which the Taoist tradition is based. These teachings from an early Taoist sage are written in the form is easily relatable stories—fables, poetic verses, meandering conversations, and anecdotal wisdom. If you’re interested in Taoism, the Chuang Tzu will make its way onto your reading list sooner or later. This translation from Sam Hamill and J. P. Seaton is joyful, witty, and a delight to contemplate, as any good rendition of the Chuang Tzu should be.

    The Taoist Classics

    Over the course of his career as a professional scholar and translator, Thomas Cleary has produced dozens of translations of traditional Taoist texts. And the transmission of Taoism to the Western world owes much to Cleary for his decades of effort. This series collects his numerous translations into four extensive volumes. The first volume contains his full translation of the Tao Te Ching along with the Chuang-tzu, Wen-tzu, and others. Subsequent volumes go even deeper into the tradition and shed light on many centuries of Taoist development.

    The Taoism Reader

    To get a taste of a variety of Taoist texts, The Taoism Reader from Thomas Cleary offers excerpts from many of the books included in The Taoist Classics. It’s a very good starting point for anyone who wants to learn the basics of Taoism—and also makes a great gift for anyone in your life who might have a burgeoning interest in Eastern philosophy.

    Taoism: An Essential Guide

    Eva Wong is one of the world’s greatest contemporary Taoist expositors—and this, her introduction to the broader Taoist tradition, is immensely helpful. Whether you’ve read the Tao Te Ching and want to learn more about the history of Taoist thought or you’re preparing to read the Tao Te Ching and want to get some context before digging in, this is the book for the job. Highly recommended for anyone looking to learn the heart of the tradition.

  • The Future of Religion: A Reader's Guide

    In the world of religion, some things stay the same, while many are constantly adapting to meet our new world of the internet and cell phones, scientific discovery, increasing awareness of gender and race dynamics, multiculturalism, the numbers of people identifying their religion as “none” or “spiritual but not religious,” and so much more.

    We have chosen a few books below that address these issues, each in its own way.

    “Rita Gross offers readers an amazing example of a lifelong, ongoing commitment to feminist thinking and practice. Her visionary insistence that the path to ending patriarchal domination must lead us beyond gender is a revolutionary paradigm shift, one that can lead to greater freedom for everyone.”
    —bell hooks

    What might religion look like in the future? Using Buddhism to explore this question, Ken Wilber offers insights that are relevant to all of the great traditions. He shows that traditional Buddhist teachings suggest an ongoing evolution leading toward a more unified, holistic, and interconnected spirituality. Touching on all of the key turning points in the history of Buddhism, Wilber describes the ways in which the tradition has been open to the continuing expansion of its teachings, and he suggests possible paths toward an ever more Integral approach. This work is a precursor to and condensed version of Wilber’s The Religion of Tomorrow.

    If you’ve heard about the many benefits of mindfulness practice but think you don’t have time for it in your busy life, prepare to be proven delightfully wrong. Mindfulness is available every moment, including right now, as Zen teacher Jan Chozen Bays shows with these twenty-five mindfulness exercises that can be done anywhere. Use them to cultivate the gratitude and insight that come from paying attention with body, heart, and mind to life’s many small moments.

    It’s been said that Jack Kerouac made it cool to be a thinking person seeking a spiritual experience. And there is no doubt that the writers he knew and inspired—Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Gary Snyder, and others—were thinkers seeking exactly that. In this re-claiming of their vision, Robert Inchausti explores the Beat canon to reveal that the movement was at heart a spiritual one. It’s about their shared perception of an existence in which the Divine reveals itself in the ordinary.

  • Book Club Discussion | Wild Comfort

    “This is something that needs explaining, how light emerges from darkness, how comfort wells up from sorrow. The Earth holds every possibility inside it, and the mystery of transformation, one thing into another. This is the wildest comfort. That's what this book is about.” (xi)

    In an effort to make sense of the deaths in quick succession of several loved ones, Kathleen Dean Moore turned to the comfort of the wild, making a series of solitary excursions into ancient forests, wild rivers, remote deserts, and windswept islands to learn what the environment could teach her in her time of pain. This book is the record of her experiences. It’s a stunning collection of carefully observed accounts of her life—tracking otters on the beach, cooking breakfast in the desert, canoeing in a snow squall, wading among migrating salmon in the dark—but it is also a profound meditation on the healing power of nature.

    If you’re reading along, please comment at the bottom of this guide and let us know how you connected to Wild Comfort.

    Wild Comfort

    Questions for Discussion

    • Have you had similar experiences of finding lessons and comfort in the natural world?
    • Favorite anecdote from the book?
    • What do you think of the idea of the “secular sacred”?

    Notable Quotes

    Part I: Gladness

    “You once were as wise as a snake. You have forgotten so much more than you know.

    But the cells hold their memories.

    Do not be surprised that the return of the light lifts your spirits. Do not be surprised that warmth on your back calms you and makes you glad. Feel your spirits lift as the sun rises higher in the sky: this is part of you, this snaky gladness, part of who you have been for a million years. Find the warm places; do not expect them to come to you. When you find them, stay there and be still. Be still and watchful. In this quiet, taste the air. Lick up the taste of it. Listen. Listen with the full length of your body against the ground.” (9, “The Solace of Snakes”)

    “In my notes, there’s an odd relationship between happiness and sadness, which makes me wonder if these are opposing emotions after all, or if the opposite of happiness might be something else—meaninglessness, maybe, or emptiness.” (29, “The Happy Basket”)

    “But what if I could see the familiar world as if I had never seen it before, even if I see it every day—with that wonderment and surprise? Or see it as if I would never see it again? Then imagine the glory. [...]

    To be worthy of the astonishing world, a sense of wonder will be a way of life, in every place and time, no matter how familiar: to listen in the dark of every night, to praise the mystery of every returning day, to be astonished again and again, to be grateful with an intensity that cannot be distinguished from joy.” (36, “Suddenly, There Was with the Angel”)

    Part II: Solace

    “Rivers flow downhill. Rivers fall off cliffs. You cannot trust them. This is the way the world is. Life is a joke—exactly that joke, all of us falling to our deaths from the moment we are born. Where is meaning to be found in such a world—this world, this black rock, rock wren, heartrending world?” (79, “A Joke My Father Liked to Tell”)

    “We all in our own ways catch the light of the world and reflect it back, and this is what is bright and surprising about a person, this rainbow shimmer created from colorless structure. Maybe there is no meaning in the world itself—no sorrow. In fact, no good or bad, beginning or end. Maybe what there is, is the individual way each of us has of transforming the world, ways to refract it, to create of it something that shimmers from our spread wings. This is our work, creating these wings and giving them color.” (82, “A Joke My Father Liked to Tell”)

    “But I believe hope is not a gallows screen. Hope is what keeps us climbing the stairs toward gallows we know full well await us, which is what we do so nobly and what has become our art, our beauty, our cause for celebration.

    To carry on, to continue, to make or find what gentle beauty we can before our lives end—this is the thing with feathers even when its head falls off.” (99, “Things with Feathers”)

    “No measure of human grief can stop Earth in its tracks. Earth rolls into sunlight and rolls away again, continents glowing green and gold under the clouds. Trust this, and there will come a time when dogged, desperate trust in the world will break open into wonder. Wonder leads to gratitude. Gratitude opens onto peace.” (103, “Morning in Romero Canyon”)

    “For how smart we think we are, how facile with words, we don’t have a word for this feeling, the feeling of being blessed by belonging. If the universe is an unfolding bud, then I am a part of its creative surge, along with the flowing of water and the growing of pines. I can find a kind of camaraderie in this universe, once I recover from the astonishment of it. Or maybe not camaraderie exactly. What is the opposite of loneliness?” (147, “The Possum in the Plum Tree”)

    “The secular sacred. Secular: living in the world. Sacred: worthy of reverence and awe. Reverence: profound respect mixed with love and awe. Awe: fear and admiration.” (153, “The Time for the Singing of Birds”)

    Part III: Courage

    “Would we be so afraid of our own deaths if we didn’t love life so urgently? If there were no love, there would be no loss. I am quite sure about this. But I wonder if it has to work the other way too. If we did not fear or suffer loss, could we claim to feel love?” (179, “How Can I Keep from Singing?”)

    Book Recommendations

    Related Books

  • Chögyam Trungpa: A Reader’s Guide

    Chögyam Trungpa's legacy is nearly impossible to measure, but one gauge is his literary output.ögyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s impact on the transmission of Buddhism to the West cannot be overstated. In the quarter century he spent in the West, he taught tens of thousands of students, in many cases introducing them to Buddhism for the first time. His legacy is nearly impossible to measure, but one gauge is his literary output. Shambhala has published about three dozen unique books by, about, and based on talks given by Chögyam Trungpa, with that number growing still as some of his personal editors, in particular Carolyn Rose Gimian and Judy Lief, continue to take the original audio and transcripts of his teachings and edit them for publication as books.  Amazingly, some of his earliest teachings are still those that resonate most strongly and seem the most fresh and up-to-date.

    Vast corpus of work

    It can be daunting deciding where to start with his corpus of work—not just because of the prolificacy of titles, but because they span so many subjects. Of course, Rinpoche predominantly taught on the three vehicles of Buddhism with a fresh, modern presentation. But beginning in 1976, he also presented a secular set of teachings known as the Shambhala teachings (more about this below). He also taught extensively on art, poetry, psychology, death and dying, and many more topics, both within the scope of Buddhism but also in the context of the Shambhala teachings. [Note: The shared name between Shambhala Publications and these teachings is a curiosity of history—Shambhala Publications actually had the name  before Trungpa Rinpoche had even come to the West. ”Shambhala” is an ancient name referring to a mythical kingdom in Asia whose inhabitants enjoy an enlightened society.]

    Chogyam Trungpa (1940–1987)—meditation master, teacher, and artist—founded Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, the first Buddhist-inspired university in North America; the Shambhala Training program


    Reader’s Guide

    Here you will find a guide to his works, loosely categorized and with recommendations on where to start. You are always welcome to skip ahead to any section that most interests you.

    General Introductions

    Mindfulness & Psychology


    Hinayana: The “Lesser” Vehicle
    Mahayana: The Great Vehicle
    Vajrayana: The Diamond Vehicle

    Arts & Poetry

    Shambhala Teachings

    Death, Dying, and the Bardos

    Chögyam Trungpa’s Life and Legacy

    Collected Works

    General Introduction

    All of the books in this first section are great “starter” books, providing excellent entryways into Chögyam Trungpa’s voice, philosophy, and teachings.

    1. Cutting Through Spiritual MaterialismWe will start with one book that in many ways defies categorization and is considered by many Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike as a spiritual classic. In Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, Trungpa Rinpoche highlights the most common pitfall to which almost every aspirant on the spiritual path falls prey: what he calls spiritual materialism. The universal tendency, he shows, is to see spirituality as a process of self-improvement—the impulse to develop and refine the ego when the ego is, by nature, essentially empty. “The problem is that ego can convert anything to its own use,” he said, “even spirituality.” His incisive, compassionate teachings serve to wake us up from this trick we all play on ourselves, and to offer us a far brighter reality: the true and joyous liberation that inevitably involves letting go of the self rather than working to improve it. It is a message that has resonated with students for nearly thirty years and remains fresh as ever today.
    2. The Myth of Freedom and the Way of Meditation: Chögyam Trungpa’s unique ability to express the essence of Buddhist teachings in the language and imagery of modern American culture makes his books among the most accessible works of Buddhist philosophy. Here Trungpa Rinpoche explores the true meaning of freedom, showing us how our preconceptions, attitudes, and even our spiritual practices can become chains that bind us to repetitive patterns of frustration and despair.
    3. Not only was Meditation in Action the first book Trungpa Rinpoche wrote, it was also the first book Shambhala Publications ever published. In this work, he shows that meditation extends beyond the formal practice of sitting to build the foundation for compassion, awareness, and creativity in all aspects of life. He explores the six activities associated with meditation in action—generosity, discipline, patience, energy, clarity, and wisdom—revealing that through simple, direct experience, one can attain real wisdom: the ability to see clearly into situations and deal with them skillfully, without the self-consciousness connected with ego.
    4. The Essential Chögyam Trungpa is an excellent starting point for those who wish to have a taste of the breadth of his work. It weaves excerpts from best sellers such as Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, Meditation in Action, and other titles into a concise overview of his teachings. Forty selections from fourteen different books articulate the secular path of the Shambhala warrior as well as the Buddhist path of meditation and awakening. This “new classic” vividly demonstrates Trungpa Rinpoche’s great appreciation of Western culture that, combined with his deep understanding of the Tibetan tradition, makes these teachings uniquely accessible to contemporary readers. It will appeal to beginning students of meditation as well as those interested in Eastern religion.
    5. The Path is the Goal. The Buddha taught meditation as the essential spiritual practice. Nothing else is more important. These classic teachings on the outlook and technique of meditation provide the foundation that every practitioner needs to awaken as the Buddha did. Chögyam Trungpa here reveals how the deliberate practice of mindfulness develops into awareness, insight, and openness. He also guides us away from the ego’s trap: the urge to make meditation serve our ambition.
    6. The Pocket Chögyam Trungpa.  Trungpa Rinpooche used to say that wisdom can be taught only in the form of a hint—a hint that inclines us to recognize the wisdom in us all along. Here are 108 marvelous hints from the renowned teacher so supremely skilled at dropping them. This small book will serve as a compact introduction to his teachings for those not yet familiar with him—and as a wonderful source of daily inspiration for those who are.

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    Related Books

    Mindfulness & Psychology

    Chogyam Trungpa was one of the first teachers in the West to use the terms mindfulness and awareness to talk about the practice of meditation and the states of mind that are associated with meditation. He was a pioneer in this area and many regard him as one of the fathers of the mindfulness movement. Today, mindfulness is being used as a helpful technique in education, health, working with pain, business, and many other fields. Chogyam Trungpa’s teachings are still fresh and relevant to the understanding of the power of mindfulness in working with the challenges of everyday life.

    1. Mindfulness in Action: Making Friends with Yourself through Meditation and Everyday Awareness. The rewards of mindfulness practice are well proven: reduced stress, improved concentration, and an overall sense of well-being. But those benefits are just the beginning; it can also help us work more effectively with life’s challenges, expanding our appreciation and potential for creative engagement. This book provides all the basics to get you started, but also goes deeper to address the questions that naturally arise as your practice matures and further insight arises. A distillation of teachings on the subject by one of the great meditation masters of our time, this book serves as an introduction to the practice as well as a guide to the ongoing mindful journey.
    2. Mindfulness in Action Making Friends with Yourself through Meditation and Everyday Awareness Taught by Carolyn Rose GimianMindfulness in Action: Making Friends with Yourself through Meditation and Everyday Awareness We are so pleased to also offer an online course on this material, available on-demand, presented by one of Trungpa Rinpoche’s main students and editors, Carolyn Rose Gimian.
    3. Work, Sex, Money: Real Life on the Path of Mindfulness. We all hope that these aspects of our life will be a source of fulfillment and pleasure, and they often are. Yet they are also always sources of problems for which we seek practical advice and solutions. The best prescription, according to Chögyam Trungpa, is a dose of reality and also a dose of respect for ourselves and our world. His profound teachings on work, sex, and money celebrate the sacredness of life and our ability to cope with its twists and turns with dignity, humor, and even joy.He begins by breaking down the barrier between the spiritual and the mundane, showing that work, sex, and money are just as much a part of our spiritual life as they are a part of our everyday existence. He then discusses these subjects in relation to ego and self-image, karma, mindfulness, and meditation. “Work” includes general principles of mindfulness and awareness in how we conduct everyday life as well as discussion of ethics in business and the workplace. “Sex” is about relationships and communication as a whole. “Money” looks at how we view the economics of livelihood and money as “green energy” that affects our lives. The result is an inclusive vision of life, one that encompasses the biggest issues and the smallest details of every day.
    4. The Sanity We Are Born With: A Buddhist Approach to Psychology describes how anyone can strengthen their mental health, and it also addresses the specific problems and needs of people in profound psychological distress. Additionally, Rinpoche speaks to the concerns of psychotherapists and other health care professionals who work with their patients’ states of mind. The collection includes teachings on:
          • Buddhist concepts of mind, ego, and intelligence and how these ideas can be employed in working on oneself and with others
          • Meditation as a way of training the mind and cultivating mindfulness
          • Nurturing our intrinsic health and basic sanity
          • Guidance for psychotherapists and health professionals

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    For the full overview of the three yanas (or vehicles of Buddhism), it would be difficult to dive deeper than the three-volume Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma. In many ways Trungpa Rinpoche’s magnum opus, this set forms the complete overview of the Buddhist path. Edited by Judy Lief from many talks and seminar, this represents the most comprehensive presentation of the Buddhist path generally and the three yanas specifically.

    As Judy Lief summarized, "the hinayana refers to individual development and the path of the arhat ('worthy one'); the mahayana refers to the joining of wisdom and compassionate action and the path of the bodhisattva ('awake being'); and the vajrayana refers to fearless engagement and spiritual daring and the path of the siddha ('holder of spiritual power'). The three-yana approach presents a map of the path based on a student’s  natural, developmental progression."

    We will look at each volume more closely in the sections below.

    In The Heart of the Buddha, Chögyam Trungpa presents the basic teachings of Buddhism as they relate to everyday life. The book is divided into three parts. In “Personal Journey,” he discusses the open, inquisitive, and good-humored qualities of the “heart of the Buddha,” an “enlightened gene” that everyone possesses. In “Stages on the Path,” he presents the three vehicles—Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana—that carry the Buddhist practitioner toward enlightenment. And in “Working with Others,” he describes the direct application of Buddhist teachings to topics as varied as relationships, drinking, children, and money. The Heart of the Buddha reflects Trungpa Rinpoche’s great appreciation for Western culture and deep understanding of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, which enabled him to teach Westerners in an effective, contemporary way.

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    The Hinayana path is based on training in mindfulness and awareness, cultivating virtue, and cutting grasping.  While the presentation of the three yanas often gives one the sense that the “higher” yanas supersede the one before it, Trungpa Rinpoche was adamant that his students “don’t forget the Hinayana!” and presented each one as something that must be fully integrated if one wishes to truly progress on the path.  Describing the Hinayana, he said, "The hinayana is called the smaller vehicle, not because it is simpleminded or lacking in vision, but because it is a pragmatic, deep-rooted approach".

    His teachings on the Hinayana are very deep and practical—in no way something to skip or gloss over on the way to learning the practices of the Mahayana and Vajrayana.

    1. The first volume of the Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma is The Path of Individual Liberation and is an excellent place to start. It covers in great detail topics such as the Four Noble Truths, karma, the four foundations of mindfulness, meditation, the refuge vows, the three jewels, the five skandhas, and more.
    2. PEntering the Path The Hinayana Teachings of Chögyam Trungpa Taught by Judith L. Liefrajna Studios, our education and multimedia branch, also offers an immersive online course based on this book and taught by Judy Lief, Entering the Path: The Hinayana Teachings of Chögyam Trungpa, which consists of nine downloadable video talks along with archive video footage, meditation instructions, contemplations, and lots more. This course is designed for you to learn at your own pace, wherever and whenever works best for you.
    3. The Truth of Suffering and the Path of Liberation is Chögyam Trungpa’s in-depth exploration of the Four Noble Truths—the foundational Buddhist teaching about the origin of suffering and its cessation. It emphasizes their profound relevance not just as an inspiration when we set out on the path but at every other moment of our lives as well, showing how we can join the view—an intellectual understanding—of the teaching with practical applications in order to interrupt suffering before it arises.
    4. Glimpses of Abhidharma explains the Abhidharma, a collection of Buddhist scriptures that investigate the workings of the mind and the states of human consciousness. In this book, Chögyam Trungpa shows how an examination of the formation of the ego provides us with an opportunity to develop real intelligence. Trungpa also presents the practice of meditation as the means that enables us to see our psychological situation clearly and directly.


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    1. The second volume of The Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma is called The Bodhisattva Path of Wisdom and Compassion. This is a complete overview of the Mahayana path and covers topics such as buddha nature, emptiness and compassion, the activity of a Bodhisattva, mind training (or lojong), and more.
    2. We also offer an immersive online course, The Bodhisattva Path of Wisdom and Compassion: The Mahayana Teachings of Chögyam Trungpa, which presents this work for you to access at your own pace with seven downloadable video talks, meditation instructions, contemplations, and lots more with one of his personal students and editors, Judy Lief.
    3. Lojong is a particular set of practices meant to accelerate progress on the Bodhisattva path. Feel free to take a look at our Reader’s Guide on this topic to learn more. Trungpa Rinpoche’s book on this essential set of mind-training techniques is called Training the Mind and Cultivating Loving-Kindness. The fifty-nine provocative slogans have been used by Tibetan Buddhists for eight centuries to help meditation students remember and focus on important principles and practices of mind training. The slogans emphasize meeting the ordinary situations of life with intelligence and compassion under all circumstances.
    4. Glimpses of the Profound is a collection of four Mahayana-centric teachings on the discovery and characteristics of buddha nature, emptiness, the inseparability of the vastness of the feminine principle and the dynamism of the masculine principle, and the three bodies of enlightenment (dharmakaya, sambhogakaya, nirmanakaya).

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    Vajrayana (or Tantra)

    Tantra (Vajrayana) is a vast and often misunderstood subject that Trungpa Rinpoche taught on extensively. And his presentation was quite unique—really explaining it in the context of Western culture and beliefs. It is traditionally explained that it is not a system to embark on without a fully qualified teacher, both because of possible misunderstandings but—crucially—because progress cannot be made without the direct access and transmission of the lineage.

    1. Journey without Goal: The Tantric Wisdom of the Buddha is based on the author’s talks at Naropa University. This volume introduces the reader to the principles of tantra based on the practice of meditation, leading to the discovery of egolessness. Trungpa Rinpoche provides a direct and experiential picture of the tantric world, explaining the importance of self-existing energy, the mandala principle, the role of the teacher, the meaning of tantric transmission, and the difference between Buddhist and Hindu tantra—stressing the nontheistic foundation of Buddhism. In the process, he demystifies the Vajrayana and, at the same time, affirms the power and sacredness of its ancient teaching.
    2. The third and final volume of The Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma is The Tantric Path of Indestructible Wakefulness. The Vajrayana, or “diamond vehicle,” also referred to as tantra, draws upon and extends the teachings of the Hinayana and Mahayana. As with the Hinayana and the Mahayana, the formal acceptance into the Vajrayana is marked by a vow—in this case the samaya vow. There is an emphasis at this stage on the student-teacher relationship and on the quality of devotion. Generally, students must complete preliminary practices, called ngöndro, to prepare themselves for initiation into the Vajrayana path before going further. Having done so, they then receive the appropriate empowerments to begin tantric practices. Empowerment ceremonies are called abhishekas. The Vajrayana includes both form practices, such as visualizations and sadhanas (ritual liturgies), and formless practices based on allowing the mind to rest naturally in its inherent clarity and emptiness. Although on the surface there is much greater complexity in tantric practices, the principles of mindfulness and awareness and the cultivation of compassion and skillful action continue to be of central importance.The tantric path requires complete engagement and fierce dedication. It is said to be a more rapid path, but it is also more dangerous. There is a quality of directness, abruptness, and wholeheartedness. Tantrikas, or Vajrayana practitioners, recognize that the most challenging aspects of life—the energies and play of confused emotions and frightening obstacles—can be worked with as gateways to freedom and realization. Other topics covered in detail in this volume include the four reminders, the mandala principle, mahamudra, atiyoga, and more.
    3. Glimpses of Vajrayana The Tantric Teachings of Chögyam Trungpa Taught by Judith L. LiefWe also have an online course that walks you through this work, Glimpses of Vajrayana: The Tantric Teachings of Chögyam Trungpa, which consists of seven downloadable video talks along with archive video footage, meditation instructions, contemplations, and lots more.
    4. Milarepa: Lessons from the Life and Songs of Tibet’s Great Yogi: Milarepa is a central figure in Tibet, and in particular in the Kagyü tradition with Trungpa Rinpoche is so closely connected. The story of Milarepa is a tale of such extreme and powerful transformation that it might be thought not to have much direct application to our own less dramatic lives—but Chögyam Trungpa shows otherwise. This collection of his teachings on the life and songs of the great Tibetan Buddhist poet-saint reveals how Milarepa’s difficulties can be a source of guidance and inspiration for anyone. His struggles, his awakening, and the teachings from his remarkable songs provide precious wisdom for all us practitioners and show what devoted and diligent practice can achieve.
    5. Crazy Wisdom is what Chögyam Trungpa describes “as an innocent state of mind that has the quality of early morning—fresh, sparkling, and completely awake.” This fascinating book examines the life of Padmasambhava—the revered Indian teacher who brought Buddhism to Tibet—to illustrate the principle of crazy wisdom. From this profound point of view, spiritual practice does not provide comfortable answers to pain or confusion. On the contrary, painful emotions can be appreciated as a challenging opportunity for new discovery. In particular, Trungpa Rinpoche discusses meditation as a practical way to uncover one’s own innate wisdom.
    6. Orderly Chaos: The Mandala Principle explains how all phenomena are part of one reality. Whether good or bad, happy or sad, clear or obscure, everything is interrelated and reflects a single totality. As Chögyam Trungpa explains, from the perspective of the mandala principle, existence is orderly chaos. There is chaos and confusion because everything happens by itself, without any external ordering principle. At the same time, whatever happens expresses order and intelligence, wakeful energy and precision. Through meditative practices associated with the mandala principle, the opposites of experience—confusion and enlightenment, chaos and order, pain and pleasure—are revealed as inseparable parts of a total vision of reality.
    7. The Mandala Principle Chögyam Trungpa’s Teachings on Transforming Confusion into Wisdom Taught by Judith L. LiefThere is also an excellent online course elaborating on this topic called The Mandala Principle taught by Judy Lief, available on-demand. It includes six downloadable video talks along with additional videos of meditation instruction, contemplations, assessment questions, and more.
    8. Illusion’s Game: The Life and Teaching of Naropa is a “200 percent potent” teaching according to Trungpa Rinpoche, who reveals how the spiritual path is a raw and rugged “unlearning” process that draws us away from the comfort of conventional expectations and conceptual attitudes toward a naked encounter with reality. The tantric paradigm for this process is the story of the Indian master Naropa (1016–1100), who is among the enlightened teachers of the Kagyü lineage of the Tibetan Buddhism. Naropa was the leading scholar at Nalanda, the Buddhist monastic university, when he embarked upon the lonely and arduous path to enlightenment. After a series of daunting trials, he was prepared to receive the direct transmission of the awakened state of mind from his guru, Tilopa. Teachings that he received, including those known as the six doctrines of Naropa, have been passed down in the lineages of Tibetan Buddhism for a millennium. Trungpa Rinpoche’s commentary shows the relevance of Naropa’s extraordinary journey for today’s practitioners who seek to follow the spiritual path. Naropa’s story makes it possible to delineate in very concrete terms the various levels of spiritual development that lead to the student’s readiness to meet the teacher’s mind. Trungpa Rinpoche thus opens to Western students of Buddhism the path of devotion and surrenders to the guru as the embodiment and representative of reality.
    9. The Lion’s Roar: An Introduction to Tantra is based on two historic seminars of the 1970s in which Chögyam Trungpa introduced the tantric teachings of Tibetan Buddhism to Western students for the first time. Each seminar bore the title “The Nine Yanas.” Yana, a Sanskrit word meaning “vehicle,” refers to a body of doctrine and practical instruction that enables students to advance spiritually on the path of Buddhadharma. Nine vehicles arranged in successive levels make up the whole path of Buddhist practice. Teaching all nine means giving a total picture of the spiritual journey. Chögyam Trungpa’s nontheoretical, experiential approach opens up a world of fundamental psychological insights and subtleties. He speaks directly to a contemporary Western audience, using contemporary analogies that place the ancient teachings in the midst of ordinary life.
    10. Chogyam Trungpa (1940–1987)—meditation master, teacher, and artist—founded Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, the first Buddhist-inspired university in North America; the Shambhala Training programTrungpa Rinpoche had a particular connection to Japanese culture generally and Zen specifically. He introduced many rituals and ceremonies from Japan to his students including ikebana, oroyoki, the tea ceremony, and more. In The Teacup and the Skullcup: Where Zen and Tantra Meet, Rinpoche presents the strength and discipline gained from Zen. Through these talks you can see his respect for the Zen tradition and how it led to his using certain Zen forms for his public meditation hall rituals. He discusses the differences in style, feeling, and emphasis that distinguish the two paths and shows what each one might learn from the other. Also included are Trungpa Rinpoche’s commentary on the Ten Oxherding Pictures and an essay he composed in memory of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, a close friend with whom he continually exchanged ideas for furthering buddhadharma in America.
    11. The Dawn of Tantra: A collaboration between Trungpa Rinpoche and Professor Herbert Guenther, this book was a major milestone in presenting tantra to Westerners when first published in 1975. Tibet has been shrouded in mystery, and “tantra” has been called upon to name every kind of esoteric fantasy. In The Dawn of Tantra, the reader meets a Tibetan meditation master and a Western scholar, each having a grasp of Buddhist tantra that is real and unquestionable. This collaboration is both true to the intent of the ancient Tibetan teachings and relevant to contemporary Western life.
    12. Glimpses of Mahamudra: An Online Course Glimpses of Mahamudra The Tantric Teachings of Chögyam Trungpa Taught by Judith L. Lief

    Mahamudra is a meditation tradition within tantric Buddhism that points to the nature of awareness itself, elevating our ordinary perception to the level of the sacred. In this view, all experiences arise from a mind that is naturally vast, empty, and luminous. In this online course, esteemed Buddhist teacher and editor Judith Lief takes us on a journey through the mahamudra teachings of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche as presented in his Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma.

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    Arts & Poetry

    1. True Perception: The Path of Dharma Art starts with the premise that art has the power to awaken and liberate. Trungpa Rinpoche called this type of art “dharma art”—any creative work that springs from an awakened state of mind, characterized by directness, unselfconsciousness, and nonaggression. Dharma art provides a vehicle to appreciate the nature of things as they are and express it without any struggle or desire to achieve. A work of dharma art brings out the goodness and dignity of the situation it reflects—dignity that comes from the artist’s interest in the details of life and sense of appreciation for experience. He shows how the principles of dharma art extend to everyday life: any activity can provide an opportunity to relax and open our senses to the phenomenal world.
    2. Mudra: Early Poems and Songs: A mudra is a symbolic gesture or action that gives physical expression to an inner state. This book of poetry and songs of devotion, written by Chögyam Trungpa between 1959 and 1971, is spontaneous and celebratory. This volume also includes the ten traditional Zen oxherding pictures accompanied by a unique commentary that offers an unmistakably Tibetan flavor. Fans of this renowned teacher will enjoy the heartfelt devotional quality of this early work.
    3. First Thought Best Thought: 108 Poems contains both poems and songs—most of which were written since Chögyam Trungpa’s arrival in the United States in 1970—that combine a background in classical Tibetan poetry with Rinpoche’s intuitive insight into the spirit of America, a spirit that is powerfully evoked in his use of colloquial metaphors and contemporary imagery. Most of the poems were originally written in English—clearly the result of his own perceptions of new forms and media offered to him by a different culture. Each poem has its own insight and power, which come from a skillful blend of traditional Asian subtlety and precision combined with a thoroughly modern vernacular. Several of Chögyam Trungpa’s calligraphies also accompany the collection.  Edited by Trungpa Rinpoche's private secretary and author David Rome.
    4. Newly selected poetry from previously published and unpublished works, Timely Rain is the definitive edition of poems and sacred songs of the renowned Tibetan meditation master. It contains some poems from the works above as well as other sources. Edited by Trungpa Rinpoche's private secretary and author David Rome.



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    Shambhala Teachings

    Chogyam Trungpa (1940–1987)—meditation master, teacher, and artist—founded Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, the first Buddhist-inspired university in North America; the Shambhala Training programAs explained above, the Shambhala teachings, a complement to the Buddhist teachings, are a set of secular instructions which give the reader an idea of what an enlightened society could be.  It introduces meditation from the point of view of basic human goodness and bravery.

    1. Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior is the foundation of the Shambhala teachings. To begin,  there is a basic human wisdom that can help solve the world’s problems. It doesn’t belong to any one culture or region or religious tradition—though it can be found in many of them throughout history. It’s what Chögyam Trungpa called the sacred path of the warrior. The sacred warrior conquers the world not through violence or aggression but through gentleness, courage, and self-knowledge. The warrior discovers the basic goodness of human life and radiates that goodness out into the world for the peace and sanity of others. That’s what the Shambhala teachings are all about, and this is the book that has been presenting them to a wide and appreciative audience for more than thirty years.
    2. Great Eastern Sun: The Wisdom of Shambhala is a continuation of what is presented in Shambhala: The Sacred Path.  While Shambhala was an exploration of human goodness and its potential to create an enlightened society—a state that the author calls “nowness,” Great Eastern Sun—which is accessible to meditators and nonmeditators alike—centers on the question, “Since we’re here, how are we going to live from now on?”  The main themes are trust, renunciation and letting go, reiterated in many different forms, with an emphasis on how the Shambhala warrior works with these aspects of their path, in order to help others.
    3. In Smile at Fear: Awakening the True Heart of Bravery, Chögyam Trungpa offers the insights and strategies to make friends with and tame fear. Many of us, without even realizing it, are dominated by fear. We might be aware of some of our fears—perhaps we are afraid of public speaking, of financial hardship, or of losing a loved one. Chögyam Trungpa shows that most of us suffer from a far more pervasive fearfulness: fear of ourselves. We feel ashamed and embarrassed to look at our feelings or acknowledge our styles of thinking and acting; we might turn away from the reality of our moment-to-moment experience. It is this fear that keeps us trapped in cycles of suffering, despair, and distress. Chögyam Trungpa offers us a vision of moving beyond fear to discover the innate bravery, trust, and delight in life that lies at the core of our being. Drawing on the Shambhala teachings, he explains how we can each become a spiritual warrior: a person who faces each moment of life with openness and fearlessness. Afer all, “The ultimate definition of bravery is not being afraid of who you are,” writes Chögyam Trungpa. In Smile at Fear, he also looks at how to work with real obstacles in life, not just our psychological state of mind.

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    Chögyam Trungpa’s Life and Legacy

    Chogyam Trungpa (1940–1987)—meditation master, teacher, and artist—founded Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, the first Buddhist-inspired university in North America; the Shambhala Training program

    There are many accounts of Trungpa Rinpoche’s life, and we are honored to have published the following:

        1. Born in Tibet is Trungpa Rinpoche’s own account of his life up through coming to the West. As the eleventh in the teaching lineage known as the Trungpa tulkus, he underwent a period of intensive training in meditation, philosophy, and fine arts, receiving full ordination as a monk in 1958 at the age of eighteen. The following year, the Chinese Communists invaded Tibet, and the young Chögyam Trungpa spent many harrowing months trekking over the Himalayas, narrowly escaping capture.Trungpa Rinpoche’s account of his experiences as a young monk, his duties as the abbot and spiritual head of a great monastery, and his moving relationships with his teachers offers a rare and intimate glimpse into the life of a Tibetan lama. The memoir concludes with his daring escape from Tibet to India. In an epilogue, he describes his emigration to the West, where he encountered many people eager to learn about the ancient wisdom of Tibetan Buddhism.
        2. The Mishap Lineage: Transforming Confusion into Wisdom is not specifically biographical, but still illustrates the transformative principle of using obstacles and challenges as fuel for the spiritual path through telling the lively history of the Trungpa tulkus (a lineage within the Kagyü tradition of Tibetan Buddhism) of which he was the eleventh incarnation. Trungpa Rinpoche referred to his lineage as the “Mishap Lineage” because of the ups and downs and colorful lives that were typical of his predecessors—and true of his own life as well. The stories of the Trungpas are seen as a guide for the practitioner’s journey and help us to understand how important lineage and community remain for us today.
        3. Dragon Thunder: My Life with Chögyam Trungpa is Diana Mukpo’s account of her life with Rinpoche. Diana, Rinpoche's wife, led an extraordinary and unusual life as the “first lady” of a burgeoning Buddhist community in the American 1970s and ’80s. She gave birth to four sons, three of whom were recognized as reincarnations of high Tibetan lamas. It is not a simple matter to be a modern Western woman married to a Tibetan Buddhist master, let alone to a public figure who is sought out and adored by thousands of eager students. Surprising events and colorful people fill the narrative as Diana seeks to understand the dynamic, puzzling, and larger-than-life man she married—and to find a place for herself in his unusual world.Rich in ambiguity, Dragon Thunder is the story of an uncommon marriage and also a stirring evocation of the poignancy of life and relationships—from a woman who has lived boldly and with originality.
        4. Recalling Chögyam Trungpa contains a wide-range of essays and interviews from contributors in the fields of Buddhist practice and scholarship, philosophy, the arts, and literature examining the work of Trungpa Rinpoche. Rinpoche had a distinct knack for breaking down the cultural, historical, and ideological barriers that made the transmission so difficult. His skill at communicating in a living language to Western students, while remaining faithful to the traditional origins of Buddhism, was paired with an understanding of the modern world with unusual relevance. As a result, his activities in a wide range of areas—including psychology, education, theater, poetry, visual arts, translation, publishing, interreligious dialogue, the creation of a path of spiritual warriorship, and the founding of the first Buddhist university in North America—offer penetrating insights into the meaning of Buddhism for our world and our culture. This anthology is a testimony to the continuing influence of his unique qualities and work as a revitalizing force in spheres both spiritual and secular.
        5. Chögyam Trungpa: His Life and Vision by Fabrice Midal is a comprehensive and gripping account of the many dimensions of Chögyam Trungpa’s life and legacy. Covering a broad range of his activities and including a full history of his life and teachings, it is a superb account revealing a clear view of Rinpoche’s legacy.

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    Death, Dying, and the Bardos

    Buddhists are experts on death and dying—reflecting on it is entwined with every moment of a practitioner’s reflections. The Tibetan tradition has a highly evolved body of teachings on death and the dying process—and how it relates to life here and now. Two of Trungpa Rinpoche’s books are devoted to the two sides of this coin.

      1. The Tibetan Book of the Dead: The Great Liberation through Hearing in the Bardo emphasizes the practical advice that the book offers to the living. The insightful commentary by Chögyam Trungpa, written in clear, concise language, explains what the text teaches us about human psychology. This book will be of interest to people concerned with death and dying, as well as those who seek greater spiritual understanding in everyday life.  Rinpoche worked closely on this translation with Francesca Fremantle, who also wrote am extraordinary commentary on this called Luminous Emptiness.
      2. Transcending Madness: The Experience of the Six Bardos. The Tibetan word bardo is usually associated with life after death. Here, Chögyam Trungpa discusses bardo in a very different sense: as the peak experience of any given moment. Our experience of the present moment is always colored by one of six psychological states: the god realm (bliss), the jealous god realm (jealousy and lust for entertainment), the human realm (passion and desire), the animal realm (ignorance), the hungry ghost realm (poverty and possessiveness), and the hell realm (aggression and hatred). In relating these realms to the six traditional Buddhist bardo experiences, Trungpa Rinpoche provides an insightful look at the “madness” of our familiar psychological patterns and shows how they present an opportunity to transmute daily experience into freedom.


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    Collected Works ten volumes of Trungpa Rinpoche’s Collected Works Shambhala

    To date, there are ten volumes of Trungpa Rinpoche’s Collected Works, and all of them contain material not previously published in book form.

    1. Volume One contains Trungpa Rinpoche’s early writings in Great Britain, including Born in Tibet (1966); Meditation in Action (1969), and Mudra (1972).  Among the selected articles from the 1960s and ’70s are early teachings on compassion and the Bodhisattva path. Other articles contain unique information on the history of Buddhism in Tibet; an exposition of teachings of Dzogchen with the earliest meditation instruction by Trungpa Rinpoche ever to appear in print; and an intriguing discussion of society and politics, which may be the first recorded germ of the Shambhala teachings.
    2. Volume Two examines meditation, mind, and Mahayana, the “great vehicle” for the development of compassion and the means to help others. Chögyam Trungpa introduced a new psychological language and way of looking at the Buddhist teachings in the West. His teachings on human psychology and the human mind are included in this volume. It includes The Path Is the GoalTraining the MindGlimpses of AbhidharmaGlimpses of ShunyataGlimpses of Mahayana; and other selected writing.
    3. Volume Three captures the distinctive voice that Chögyam Trungpa developed in North America in the 1970s and reflects the preoccupations among Western students of that era. It includes Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism and The Myth of Freedom, the two books that put Chögyam Trungpa on the map of the American spiritual scene. The Heart of the Buddha and sixteen articles and forewords complete this volume.
    4. Volume Four presents introductory writings on the Vajrayana tantric teachings, clearing up Western misconceptions about Buddhist tantra. It includes three full-length books and a 1976 interview in which Chögyam Trungpa offers penetrating comments on the challenge of bringing the Vajrayana teachings to America. It includes Journey without GoalThe Lion’s RoarThe Dawn of Tantra; and an interview with Chögyam Trungpa.
    5. Volume Five focuses on the lineages of great teachers who have transmitted the Tibetan Buddhist teachings and on the practice of devotion to the spiritual teacher. It includes inspirational commentaries by Chögyam Trungpa on the lives of famous masters such as Padmasambhava, Naropa, Milarepa, Marpa, and Tilopa, as well as an excerpt from The Sadhana of Mahamudra, a tantric text that Chögyam Trungpa received as terma in 1968. It includes Crazy Wisdom and Illusion’s Game, as well as excerpts from The Life of Marpa, The Rain of Wisdom and The Sadhana of Mahamudra. The selected writings  also include “Explanation of the Vajra Guru Mantra,” an article never before published, which deals with the mantra that invokes Guru Rinpoche; seminar talks available in book form for the first time; and previously unpublished articles on Milarepa.
    6. Volume Six contains advanced teachings on the nature of mind and tantric experiences. Chögyam Trungpa’s commentary on The Tibetan Book of the Dead explains what this classic text teaches about human psychology. Transcending Madness presents a unique view of the Tibetan concept of bardo. Orderly Chaos explains the inner meaning of the mandala. Secret Beyond Thought presents teachings on the five chakras and the four karmas. Glimpses of Space consists of two seminars: “The Feminine Principle” and “Evam.” In the article “Femininity,” Chögyam Trungpa presents a playful look at the role of feminine energy in Buddhist teachings. And “The Bardo,” based on teachings given in England in the 1960s, had not been available in published form for many years.
    7. Volume Seven features the work of Chögyam Trungpa as a poet, playwright, and visual artist and his teachings on art and the creative process, which are among the most innovative and provocative aspects of his activities in the West. While it includes material in which Trungpa Rinpoche shares his knowledge of the symbolism and iconography of traditional Buddhist arts (in Visual Dharma), this richly varied volume primarily focuses on his own, often radical creative expressions. The Art of Calligraphy is a wonderful showcase for his calligraphy, and Dharma Art brings together his ideas on art, the artistic process, and aesthetics. Tibetan poetics, filmmaking, theater, and art and education are among the topics of the selected writings.  All of CTR’s published poetry is included in this volume, including many poems published in small journals and never before compiled into a book.
    8. Volume Eight covers matters of culture, state, and society. The two complete books reprinted here—Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior and Great Eastern Sun: The Wisdom of Shambhala—explore the vision of an ancient legendary kingdom in Central Asia that is viewed as a model for enlightened society and as the ground of wakefulness and sanity that exists as a potential within every human being. The selected writings include discussions of political consciousness, the martial arts, and the true meaning of warriorship. Two of the many previously unpublished articles are “The Martial Arts and the Art of War,” on the place of warriorship in the Buddhist teachings, and “The Seven Treasures of the Universal Monarch,” a little gem describing the world of the Shambhala monarch.
    9. Volume Nine contains an extremely diverse group of teachings from True Command; Glimpses of Realization; the Shambhala Warrior Slogans; The Teacup and the Skullcup; Smile at Fear; The Mishap Lineage; and other selected writings. This collection includes both early and later talks—from an article published in 1966 in India to books published in the new millennium to material from a set of cards that present the Shambhala warrior slogans. The subject matter ranges from Zen to dharma art, from Shambhala politics to Vajrayana buddhadharma. The selected writings in this book are articles from before Chögyam Trungpa’s death in 1987 and include two interviews and several previously unpublished pieces.
    10.  Volume Ten begins with Chögyam Trungpa’s three most recent books: Work, Sex, MoneyMindfulness in Action; and Devotion and Crazy Wisdom (published by Kalapa Media). The first two books in the volume emphasize the importance of meditation in action and bringing awareness, mindfulness, intentionality, and a sense of the sacred into everyday life. The third book explores devotion and discusses mutual commitment and surrendering between teacher and student. The selected writings in this volume range from older articles originally published in the Vajradhatu Sun to recently edited articles, including several that have not yet appeared in print. Overall, these articles show us how Trungpa Rinpoche worked deeply and directly with many interest groups and subsections of the community, and how he infused each situation with dharma, taking every opportunity to present essential teachings.

    Chogyam Trungpa (1940–1987)—meditation master, teacher, and artist—founded Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, the first Buddhist-inspired university in North America; the Shambhala Training programThere are plenty more books from Trungpa Rinpoche coming.

    The editors he trained are now training a new generation of editors to work on the vast amount of material ready to be mined for publication. Stay tuned!

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    Chogyam Trungpa

    Chogyam Trungpa (1940–1987)—meditation master, teacher, and artist—founded Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, the first Buddhist-inspired university in North America; the Shambhala Training program; and an international association of meditation centers known as Shambhala International.


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