• Dudjom Rinpoche's Interview about Guru Padmasambhava

    The following article appeared in Volume 5 (Winter, 1976) of the Shambhala Review of Books and Ideas, a magazine that was part of Shambhala Publications (unaffiliated with Shambhala International or the Shambhala Sun), a magazine that ran a few issues in the mid 1970's.

    Tibetan Buddhism, Dudjom Rinpoche, Jigdrel Yeshe Dorje (1904–1987)

    This interview with Dudjom Rinpoche was conducted by Shambhala Publications' staff with the assistance of Tulku Sogyal who was present at the time.

    For more information, see our Dudjom Rinpoche's author page for articles, videos, books, and more.  Additionally, our Reader’s Guide: Dudjom Rinpoche, Jigdral Yeshe Dorje is a wonderful support to guide you through his numerous works.

    Shambhala Review of Books and Ideas

    Magazine  Volume 5 (Winter, 1976)

    A Guru for Turbulent Times


    An Interview with His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche

    His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche, Jigdrel Yeshe Dorje, is one of the greatest living scholars and tantric masters of Tibetan Buddhism today. His Holiness was born in 1904 in the province of Pemakod in southeastern Tibet and was recognized as the reincarnation of the great Tibetan master and yogi Dudjom Lingpa, who was famous for his discovery of many secret texts which bad been hidden away many centuries before by Guru Padmasambhava, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism in the eighth century. He is also the reincarnation of Shariputra, the disciple of the Shakyamuni Buddha and the reincarnation of Khyeuchung Lotsawa, one of the original twenty-five disciples of Guru Padmasambhava. His Holiness is recognized by the Tibetan community as the Guru Rinpoche of our time.

    Nyingmapa is the oldest and original school of Tibetan Buddhism. The name itself means "The Ancient Ones." This School has preserved through an unbroken lineage the highest tantric teachings of the Buddha. These teachings known as Dzogchen or Ati Yoga deal directly with the original nature of mind, and through their practice one can attain liberation in the course of a single lifetime. Dzogchen is transmitted through an oral tradition. His Holiness is the supreme holder of these teachings.

    Tulku Sogyal Rinpoche was trained in the Buddhist tradition of Tibet by some of Tibet's greatest lamas and was raised as a son by the great Jamyang Khyentse. Rinpoche was educated at Cambridge and founded a Dharma center in England. Recently he has been traveling with His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche as interpreter and aide.

    His Holiness is recognized by the Tibetan community as the Guru Rinpoche of our time.

    Related Books

    The Interview with Dudjom Rinpoche

    Shambhala Publications Staff: I would appreciate your talking about the Dzogchen (rDzog-cben) teachings, or what is known as Ati yoga. Could we begin with some historical background? Does any of the Dzogchen teachings predate Buddhism?

    Dudjom Rinpoche: The Buddhist teachings that we know in this age were given to us by Buddha Shakya­muni, the historical Buddha. This is the Buddha­dharma period of Buddha Shakyamuni. However, in actual fact, the Dzogchen teachings originate from Samantabhadra Dharmakaya. They have existed from time immemorial. According to the Dzogchen lineage, there are twelve teachers, or twelve Buddhas. Buddha Shakyamuni is one of these twelve; he was the last to appear.

    Sogyal Rinpoche: So in a sense, these teachings do predate the Buddhism that is known today.

    Dudjom Rinpoche: Dzogchen teachings have, from time immemorial, been in the Dharmakaya and have been directly transmitted to the Sambhogakaya Buddhas, who have been continuously teaching in the Sambhogakaya field of timeless time. So therefore Dzogchen goes beyond historical time.

    How are these teachings transmitted?

    Dudjom Rinpoche: In the Dharmakaya field, the teaching is given directly (dGong,rGyud); it is "mind-direct" transmission. Whereas in the Sambhogakaya field the trans­mission is through signs (brDa-rGyud).

    (Note: In the Nirmanakaya field the transmission is oral (sNyan rGyud).

    And in the Nirmanakaya state?

    Dudjom Rinpoche: The twelve Buddhas that we mentioned before and who belong to the Dzogchen lineage have appeared in the Nirmanakaya state, or field. It is the state of manifestation. From the very beginning of time till now, twelve Buddhas of the Dzogchen lineage have appeared in the different spheres according to the needs of beings. However, the one known to us is Buddha Shakyamuni who was the last in the line.

    The uniqueness of Dzogchen is that if one can take the teachings to heart, it guarantees complete liberation in this lifetime and in this body.


    Are these different states or "Kayas" accomplishable in this lifetime?

    Dudjom Rinpoche: The "mind-direct" transmission is in the Dharmakaya, the samadhi state, out of which all sphere and states evolve; there are twenty-five different levels. We are on the thirteenth level, or path of the Buddhadharma. These concepts are very difficult.

    And these different states can be attained during this lifetime?

    Dudjom Rinpoche: Certainly. (Laughs) That is what Dzogchen is all about. Dzogchen has actualized this. In the present dharma of Buddha Shakyamuni there are two teachings: the Sutrayana, the causal vehicle, and the secret Mantrayana, called the resultant vehicle. Buddha Shakyamuni himself prophesied before his Parinirvana that one would come who was even greater than himself. This prophesy was fulfilled in the person of Guru Padmasambhava. He came to reveal the secret dharma teachings of Mantrayana that Buddha Shakyamuni had not fully made known. Therefore, the basis and the whole of secret Mantrayana really evolved specifically through Guru Padmasambhava.

    In what way do the teachings differ from one another?

    Dudjom Rinpoche: It takes many, many lifetimes of accumulating merit and removing defilements to attain enlightenment through the Hinayana. Even attaining bDag-med (the realization of egoless mind, liberation from samsara, or cessation of suffering), let alone enlightenment, takes many, many lives on the Hinayana path. According to the Mahayana path, one has to spend three kalpas accumulating merit and three more removing defilements. According to the secret Mantrayana path, one can reach enlightenment in seven to sixteen lifetimes. However, the uniqueness of Dzogchen is that if one can take the teachings to heart, it guarantees complete liberation in this lifetime and in this body. And if one misses the chance in this lifetime, then one can gain enlightenment in the bardo state and if not in the bardo state, then in the next lifetime. But enlightenment is completely and fully guaranteed in seven lifetimes.

    Seven lifetimes or seven thousand miles! (Laughter)

    Sogyal Rinpoche: Yes! The crucial point is that you must keep the samaya pledges of the Dzogchen teachings in this lifetime. This in itself will elevate you to a fuller spiritual development in the next life. Thus, in each successive lifetime, you will become more spiritually developed than in the previous one until ultimately you are fully enlightened: This depends on not breaking the samaya pledges.

    What are the samaya pledges?

    Dudjom Rinpoche: Samaya, or Damt-shig, are, briefly, pledges that one must keep and abide by. They are a way of taking the teachings to heart. They are mainly the body, speech, and mind pledges.

    ...in this turbulent period, whatever one does is speeded up. Karma keeps pace with the twentieth century and Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) keeps pace with it also.


    Are the pledges hard to keep?

    Dudjom Rinpoche: There are so many Damt-shig, but if one were truly devoted, then keeping them is not difficult. On the other hand, if one is lazy and naive and does not have a strong mind, then keeping the pledges would be difficult. So it is very much up to oneself whether one makes it difficult or easy. Whether one keeps them or not depends on devotion (Dad pa), industry (brTson bGus), and wisdom (Shes rab).

    In Hinayana, are most of these pledges for monks?

    Dudjom Rinpoche: Even in the Hinayana there are lay devotees who keep the basic precepts. They are known as dGe,sNyan, which means those who cultivate good and virtuous dharmas; they are those who are cultivat­ing the four various levels of dGe,Nyan. You must remember that in Hinayana the stress is on conduct and on the absolute renunciation of samsara. This includes the home and marriage. From Mahayana on­wards, there is more flexibility of conduct and a greater breadth of mind, a quality of openness. In Hinayana, the view is less encompassing and the actions are more restricted.

    How does one go about practicing the Dzogchen teachings?

    Dudjom Rinpoche: Dzogchen teachings concerning the View, Meditation, and Action can only be granted and realized through the personal guidance of a qualified lama.

    Is this the reason these teachings are kept secret?

    Dudjom Rinpoche: These teachings will not be made public. The teachings can only take place if there are really serious devotees who take the teachings to heart and accept the personal guidance of a teacher. In these spiritually degenerate times, secret Mantrayana teachings are being publicly revealed; it is not realized that these teachings, especially the Ati yoga teachings, are under the protection of the Dharmapala like Ekajati. These teachings consist of rbyud (tantra), Lung (oral transmission), and Man-nGag (secret instruction and guidance). The untimely revelation of such powerful teachings would incur the wrath of these Dharmapala, which would have an adverse effect not only on the revelator but those who took part in receiving them. Misfortunes might befall them.


    Dudjom Rinpoche: Yes. Ekajati is the sole protector of the Dzogchen teachings.

    Sogyal Rinpoche: It is important that they are transmitted person­ally under favorable auspices. On the other hand, secret Mantrayana teachings are self-secret. Even if you try to learn them by yourself you won't understand them, and what is even worse, you will misunderstand them. If correctly carried out, first the teacher examines the disciple, then the disciple, after careful consideration, accepts the teacher. This way, both can cope with each other. In a situation where the teacher, with discretion and wisdom, finds the disciples ready, then fine. Otherwise we break or impair the lineage of the teachings. Once we are initiated into a particular mandala, the samaya pledges bind us together with the lineage, almost creating a common and linked karma.

    ...putting it into  practice; this is samaya. All this can be done through devotion, industry, and wisdom.

    If one of us breaks a pledge, the others in the mandala are affected. It affects the life of the lama, his works, and the spiritual development of his followers; it affects the teaching. This is very, very important, and therefore samaya pledges should not be treated too lightly. You must look before you leap. It is important to  keep harmony within the vajra family, with one's vajra brothers and sisters, all followers of the Vajra­yana path, but particularly those of one's lama: people who received the initiation or the teachings together in one circle. We must not forget the pledges to the teaching and lineage itself. It is not just a mat­ter of receiving something but of putting it into  practice; this is samaya. All this can be done through devotion, industry, and wisdom.

    Dudjom Rinpoche: There are higher Dzogchen teachings of which one cannot even receive the oral transmission without empowerment, let alone permission to read them. For instance, when the word of the Buddha was translated from the Pali and Sanskrit texts into Tibetan, the Dzogchen teachings were not included because they did not dare to make them available to the general public. Dzogchen teachings were kept separate and were called "rNying ma 'i rGyud 'bum."

    Who taught them? Who were the teachers?

    Dudjom Rinpoche: The teaching came down from the Dharmakaya Samantabhadra to the Sambhogakaya Vajrasattva, to Nirmanakaya in the form of Garab Dorje (the first human teacher of the Dzogchen lineage). From Garab Dorje it was passed to Shir'a,scng-wa (Shri Singha) and then to Padmasambhava (the second Buddha) and so forth.

    He [Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava)is the Buddha of our time and cuts through our neuroses and skillfully relates the dharma to the frustrations of our age.


    In your opinion, what are the chances of Dzogchen taking root here in the United States?

    Dudjom Rinpoche and Thinley Norbu Rinpoche

    Dudjom Rinpoche: From my travels, I think the United States has the best possibilities. Of course, it is very much up to the people themselves. There seems to be, at the present time, a tremendous interest in this line of teaching. There seems to be quite a lot of devotion to Guru Padmasambhava. It depends on the Americans themselves. Their collective karma will play an important part in how they work with the teachings. If the American people work and really want this, if they follow it properly, then of course, the compassion and blessings of the Buddhas and lamas of the lineage would take effect.

    Sogyal Rinpoche: This particular era is very turbulent and every­thing is kind of gross, but it is exactly in this kind of field that Guru Padmasambhava's compassion and power works best. And another point is that in this turbulent period, whatever one does is speeded up. Karma keeps pace with the twentieth century and Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) keeps pace with it also. He is the Buddha of our time and cuts through our neuroses and skillfully relates the dharma to the frustrations of our age.

    Dudjom Rinpoche: Yes, this is so. He is the most direct of all the Buddhas in giving aid in this age.

    So, because of this speeding up, it is not only a very turbulent and degenerate time, but it is also an exceptional time for a great deal to be accomplished on the spiritual plane.

    Dudjom Rinpoche: That's up to the people. Guru Rinpoche said,

    "Time doesn't change, people change."

    If people really follow him and ask his help, he will respond, and under his compassion and grace, the secret Mantrayana teachings will continue, especially Ati yoga teachings and, for that matter, the entire Buddhadharma. There is hope.

    This is very interesting because America, or the United States, has been exposed to Buddhism under the form of Hinayana and Mahayana since the 1800's, but when we consider Tibetan Buddhism, it was-boom. You see, it came very quickly. Suddenly the Chinese took over Tibet, and many Tibetans fled and eventually come to the States to teach Buddhism. But all this happened in a relative­ly short period of time.

    Dudjom Rinpoche: It shows the karmic link that America has with the secret Mantrayana teachings of Guru Padmasambhava. (In other words, the Tibetan Buddhism, which is the secret Mantra-vajrayana, originates from the teachings of Guru Rinpoche. Guru Rinpoche was the first and sole consolidator and propagator of the Vajrayana teachings and practice.)

    Working skillfully on ourselves and not totally giving up our worldly goods leads quickly to attainment.


    If one felt this devotion to Guru Rinpoche, how would one begin to practice?

    Dudjom Rinpoche: We must put ourselves completely in his hands: our body, our speech, our mind. Complete reliance on him, following his teachings in practice, and directing his mantra are necessary as the basis of con­fidence and strength in the Vajrayana practice. (Guru Rinpoche's mantra can be made available to all. It is one mantra that can openly be revealed.) All this is true. The uniqueness of Guru Rinpoche's line is that we do not totally have to change our life style or take on the stricter precepts as is found in Hinayana. Working skillfully on ourselves and not totally giving up our worldly goods leads quickly to attainment.

    On behalf of the Shambhala Review of Books and Ideas we would like to thank you for granting this interview.

    For more information:

    Dudjom RinpocheDudjom Rinpoche, Jigdrel Yeshe Dorje (1904–1987) was a highly revered Buddhist meditation master and the leader of the Nyingma lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. 

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  • Jalaluddin Rumi : Persia's Greatest Mystic Poet

    An excerpt from Tales of the Land of the Sufis by Mohammad Ali Jamnia andMojdeh Bayat

    Everyone who is familiar with Eastern mysticism, particularly with Sufism, has heard of Jalaluddin Rumi, for he is one of the most celebrated and most widely translated Sufi teachers of all times. By the same token; students of poetry, especially those in­terested in Persian studies, look to Rumi's work as a model for the best poetry in the Persian language. Indeed, the scholars Reynold A. Nicholson and A. J. Arberry described Rumi as the greatest mystical poet of any age. More recently, William Chittick and An­nemarie Schimmel have done valuable work in translating and in­terpreting Rumi's teachings. In addition, gifted poets such as Cole­man Barks and Robert Bly, even though they do not read Persian, have created "versions" of Rumi that have done much to popular­ize his thought among English-speaking audiences. Known by many as Maulana, "Our Master," Rumi is an out­standing figure among Sufi masters. It is said that this astonishing mystic would enter an ecstatic state of intoxication in the market­place upon hearing the ringing of the blacksmith's hammer on the anvil. He would hear such a sound as harmonized music voicing the name of God-"Allah, Allah" -and would spontaneously whirl around, dancing to the melody he heard. The Order of the Whirling Dervishes, established by Rumi, is now known to many Westerners through its music and dance performances in Europe and the United States.

    Rumi's teachings have been valued and used by Sufi masters after him, and are studied in contemporary mystic circles. Not only Sufis, but others as well refer to his teachings for lessons, and those who enjoy poetry are intoxicated by Rumi's magical words. In the following example, translated by Nicholson, the reed symbolizes the human soul, which laments its separation from its origin (God), represented by the reed-bed:
    Listen to the reed, how it tells a tale, complaining of separations, Saying, "Ever since I was parted from the reed-bed, my lament hath caused man and woman to moan. I want a bosom tom by severance, that I may unfold the pain of love-desire. Everyone who is left far from his source wishes back the time when he was united with it. In every company I uttered my wailful notes; I consorted with the unhappy and with them who rejoice. Everyone became my friend from his own opinion; none sought out my secrets from within me. My secret is not far from my plaint, but ear and eye lack the light (whereby it should be apprehended). Body is not veiled from soul, nor soul from body, yet none is permitted to see the soul.


    Since Rumi lived most of his life in Konya, a city in present-day Turkey, the Turks claim him as being Turkish. The Afghans raise another claim, arguing that since this great master was born in Balkh, a city now located in Afghanistan, he must be considered of Afghani origin. Yet most scholars agree that Rumi is Persian. The reason for this is twofold: Balkh, the city in which Rumi was born, was a Persian city at the ·time of his birth, and all of Rumi's books were written in the Persian language. However, Rumi did choose Konya as his place of residence and remained there until his death. Of course, in a sense, place of birth and nationality are of little importance, for the true mystic is universal in spirit.

    Jalaluddin Rumi was born on September 30, 1207. His father, Baha'uddin Walad, was a well-known and respected preacher, ju­risprudent, and Sufi, whose spiritual lineage was traced to Ahmad al-Ghazzali, a famous Sufi master of an earlier century. Baha Walad was an authority in both exoteric and esoteric Islam. As an exoteric authority, he taught Islamic law (Shari'a) in mosques and other public places; as an esoteric teacher, he met in more private envi­ronments with those who sought his teachings.

    Although Baha married a member of the royal family, he was opposed to the policies of the ruler, Kharazmshah. The king at­tended most of Baha's exoteric lessons, but eventually grew jealous of his popularity and suspicious of his teachings, which brought controversy to the kingdom. Thus, when the Mongols invaded Balkh in 1219, Baha with his family left the city that had become so inhospitable to him, to make the pilgrimage to Mecca. No doubt he was aware that they would never see Balkh again.

    On their way, they stopped in Nishapur, the hometown of the great Attar, who was by then an old man. Attar accepted the guests warmly-including young Jalal, whose potential greatness he ap­parently recognized, as seen in this description by Ira Friedlander: "Baha and Attar sat together, drank the customary tea, and spoke of passages in the Koran. Several hours later, the travelers were preparing to depart. As young Jalal walked closely behind his father, Attar turned to one of the dervishes and remarked, 'Look at this peculiar situation; there goes a sea followed by an ocean.'

    During that visit, Attar presented Jalal with his Book efSecrets, telling Baha, "Your son will soon be kindling fire in all the world's lovers of God." Attar's writings, teaching the principles of Sufism through stories and fables, would become one of the major influ­ences on Rumi's work.

    After the pilgrimage, Baha and his family set out for Asia Minor. On a stop in the city of Lamada, jalal, then twenty-one years old, married Gawhar, the daughter of one of Baha's friends. The Seljuk king, 'Ala'uddin Kayqobad, who was ruling in the nearby city of Konya, became aware of Baha's new place of residence. (Konya was later taken over by the Ottoman Empire.) The king, who respected science and philosophy and promoted scholarly works, wrote to Baha, offering him a place of residence and an official position at the madrasa (university) at Konya. Upon Baha's acceptance, the king received him and his family warmly. Baha took up residence in Konya and stayed there for the next several years. Since Konya (the ancient Iconium) was also called Rum, Jalal adopted the name Rumi as his nom de plume.
    Having learned at his father's knee since childhood, Rumi had by this time mastered Arabic grammar, prosody, the Qur'an, juris­prudence, Hadith (the traditions of the Prophet's sayings and deeds), Qur'anic commentary, history, dogmatics, theology, logic, philosophy, mathematics, and astronomy. When his father died in 1231, Rumi, at the age of twenty-four, succeeded to his father's position as teacher.

    Rumi is assumed to have become familiar with the principles of Sufism under his father's guidance, although Sufi scholars believe that he did not begin formal Sufi training until 1232, when a high­ranking student of his father's, Burhanuddin Tirmidhi, came to Konya in hopes of visiting his master. Upon learning of Baha's death, Tirmidhi took on the task of teaching jalal the principles of the Path. The two traveled to Aleppo and Damascus, where Rumi came into contact with one of the most influential Sufi masters of all times, Ibn 'Arabi of Spain. Tirmidhi continued to impart the disciplines of Sufism to Rumi until his death in 1 240.
    Rumi remained in his conventional post at the university even though he had become an accomplished Sufi master. In the words of William Chittick, he "had traversed the stations of the Sufi path and realized the direct and immediate vision of God he discusses so constantly in his verses. But, in spite of his spiritual attainments, Rumi's outward life remained the same as it had always been. He assumed the· customary activities and trappings of a staid and hon­ored doctor of the law. Sometimes, he would discuss the spiritual mysteries in his sermons, but he never gave any outward indication that he was any different than other jurisprudents and lawyers for having knowledge of them. "3
    Rumi gained widespread respect and _fame as an ordinary pro­fessor, and people from all parts of the East came to him for advice and lectures. Probably he would have remained so, if it were not for his encounter with a remarkable spiritual personality, Shams­uddin Tabrizi.

    The mysterious Shams first met Rumi in 1244, when Rumi was thirty-eight-an event that changed Rumi's life forever. Had Rumi not met Shams, he might not have written poems at all-and, in fact, Rumi as we know him today might not have existed. As Chit­tick puts it, Shams's influence "'exteriorized' Rumi's inner con­templative states in the form of poetry and set the ocean of his being into a motion which resulted in vast waves that transformed the history of Persian literature. "4 Shams disappeared after three years, leaving no trace. According to Idries Shah, some Sufis (in­cluding Rumi's son, Sultan Walad) "equated Shams with the mys­terious Khidhr, the guide and patron of Sufis, who appears and then passes out of normal cognition after transmitting his mes­sage."5
    Without doubt, the relationship between Rumi and Shams is one of the most extraordinary of spiritual bonds known to history. Not very often is Divine Love manifested externally in a relation­ship between two humans.6 As a perfect master, Shams brought out the latent perfection within Rumi. It is important, therefore, to learn something of the life of Shams in order to better under­stand his role in the transformation of Rumi.

    For the most part, Shams remains a mysterious figure. Of his teachings, nothing remains but one book, The Articles efShams Ta­brizi. It consists of a series of talks Shams gave at Sufi gatherings in Konya. Apparently Shams did not write down his thoughts. Much of what has remained of his teachings is known through the re­corded observations of Sultan Walad, Rumi's son. There are many poems and tales about Shams, and yet his family background and personal history are for the most part unknown. However, some speculations about his life have been made, based on the available sources.

    It has been suggested that Muhammad Malekdad, later given the title Shamsuddin ("Sun of Religion") Tabrizi, was born in the city of Tabriz in Persia in 1148 C.E. In his childhood he showed excep­tional traits. Instead of playing, he would attend religious lectures and study the Sufi masters of the past. At an early age he experi­enced a feeling of yearning, a seeking within himself for a beloved. Since he found no children of his age who understood him, he spent most of his time alone. For this reason, Shams always seemed to be sad.
    Shams's parents thought that perhaps his languor was due to a typical youthful wish for something he could not have. On this subject, Shams later said, "They asked me, 'Why are you de­pressed? Do you want clothes of silver and gold?' I answered, 'No, I wish someone would take away what I already am wearing.' "7 By this, Shams meant that he wished for the garment of egotism to be removed from his soul. What an extraordinary idea for a child to express! Anyone who heard such answers from him could not comprehend the deeper meanings behind his words and must have


  • Steve Jobs Reading Chögyam Trungpa

    Steve Jobs read Chögyam Trungpa, according to Bianca Bosker in the Huffington Post article "The Steve Jobs Reading List: The Books and Artists That Made the Man. "

    Bosker reports that, "during his freshman year at Reed College, Jobs befriended Daniel Kottke, who went on to work at Apple, and together they devoured books such as Shunryu Suzuki's Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind   [and] Chögyam Trungpa's Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism €¦ "

    What might have been the ideas in Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism that influenced this great technological genius of our era?

    This week Ocean of Dharma suggests several quotes that might have affected Jobs' view of creativity and intelligence. We'd love to hear what you think. Leave a comment with your thoughts on the connection between Buddhism and creative innovation. Or feel free to offer your favorite or most influential quotes from Cutting Through. In early November, we'll pick five people to receive the Shambhala Library edition of the book.

    Congrats to Angela Borges, Valerie Holmes, Jean Westby, Roland Cohen and Karolyn Hoover who have each won copy of the Shambhala Library edition of Cutting Through! Please come back soon for more giveaways and updates!

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

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

    In Rinpoche's own words...

    The Way of the Bodhisattva

    by Shantideva

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

    White Lotus

    An Explanation of the Seven-Line Prayer to Guru Padmasambhava

    by Jamgon Mipham, translated by the Padmakara Translation Group

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

    A Cascading Waterfall of Nectar

    by Thinley Norbu

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

    The Wish-Fulfilling Jewel

    The Practice of Guru Yoga According to the Longchen Nyingthig Tradition

    by Dilgo Khyentse

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

    The Tibetan Book of the Dead

    The Great Liberation through Hearing in the Bardo

    by Chögyam Trungpa, Francesca Fremantle

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

    The Words of My Perfect Teacher

    by Patrul Rinpoche

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

    Book by Tulku Thondup Rinpoche

  • On Translation: Sarah Harding and Larry Mermelstein

    In our second On Translation video series cosponsored with the Tsadra Foundation, we are pleased to share this recording of Sarah Harding (Naropa University and the Tsadra Foundation) & Larry Mermelstein (Nalanda Translation Committee).


    This session is for any student, practitioner, or translator of Tibetan Buddhism and is an opportunity to enter the world of translators of the Buddhadharma with two of the most experienced Tibetan translators. Most people encounter the Buddhist teachings through translations of texts, so like it or not, the translator is indispensible. However, translators are not always appreciated and many debates about style and approach still rage on. Students and practitioners engaging in the Tibetan language will be especially interested in this dialogue with Sarah and Larry as they discuss their lives as full-time translators and address three critical topics: literal versus creative translation (or “dharmanese” versus idiomatic); group translation under a lama or in relative isolation; target audience: restricted or scholarly translations.

    See also, On Translation with Wulstan Fletcher of the Padmakara Translation Group in conversation with Holly Gayley of the University of Colorado


    Resources Guide to The Treasury of Precious Instructions

  • How to Build a Caravan of Joy: a review of The Mishap Lineage

    Excerpt reprinted with permission from Tricycle Magazine.

    Reviewed by Stuart Smithers

    I almost met Chogyam Trungpa. When I arrived at the steps of the New York Historical Society, just off Central Park, there was a notice posted on the massive wooden doors: Trungpa RinpocheÕs talk had been canceled for health reasons. I was disappointed, and didn't realize at the time that he would soon die and I would never have the chance to see him teach. I was young, studying Buddhism at Columbia University. Chogyam Trungpa wasn't part of my academic agenda, but I was excited and touched by his reputation and early books. Fresh, maybe a little wild, unpredictable, but mostly he sounded like he was authentic, with both feet on the ground.

    Through the years I have kept up with my Trungpa reading, supplementing books with conversations with his students. The video and audio recordings have given me a different sense of the man, particularly his voice and what singers might call his 'phrasing.' I am delighted when new material appears, but there is also something bittersweet about the loss and the disappearance of figures like Trungpa. Looking back on these encounters and missed meetings, it now feels as though the seventies and eighties were like that: fate or luck seemed to be playing a part in all of this.

    The Mishap Lineage is the edited version of a seminar Trungpa gave in December 1975 on the lineage of the Trungpa tulkus, or Trungpa reincarnations, which began in the fifteenth century. But Trungpa's personal reflections on the lives of the Trungpas were primarily means to encourage students to practice-'to sit a lot,' as he was fond of sayingÑand to invite questions about fundamental principles of Kagyu teachings, and to reflect on the obstacles, challenges, and possibilities of building a community that supports practice. How to build a sangha seems to be the driving motive behind the seminar talks...

    Click here to read the full review.

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