Tibetan Buddhism, Khenchen Thrangu RinpocheThe importance of Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche on the Karma Kagyu tradition quite simply cannot be overstated.  Since he was recognized as a Tulku of the previous Thrangu Rinpoche in 1938 by the 16th Karmapa and 11th Tai Situpa, he engaged in the rigorous traditional study, practice, and retreat training.

To give a flavor of Rinpoche's qualities, here is Pema Chödrön giving a glimpse of him in her most recent book, Welcoming the Unwelcome:

"Once I attended a talk at Gampo Abbey by Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, the abbot of the monastery. When he stopped speaking, one of the monks rang a gong to signify the end of the teaching. Although that is the custom at Gampo Abbey, Thrangu Rinpoche thought the gong indicated the beginning of a meditation session. So for the next hour and a half, he sat on his cushion, totally relaxed, shifting his weight from time to time. We audience members weren’t exactly sure what was happening, so we also sat there the whole time, in a state of not knowing. Was he waiting for us to end or were we waiting for him? Each of us must have had our own way of being in that situation—from relaxing with the groundlessness to wanting to shout out—but witnessing Thrangu Rinpoche’s ease gave me a deep appreciation for how one can become comfortable with nowness—with emptiness in everyday life."

The list of Rinpoche's books below is a demonstration of someone who has in many ways held a deep responsibility for the lineage.  Here we have a list of works explaining many of the most important texts of the Kagyu tradition including those authored by Tilopa, Naropa, the Third Karmapa Rangjung Dorje, the Eighth Karma Wangchuk Dorje, Jamgön Kongtrül the Great, and many more.  He has trained many of the next generation of Kagyu lamas and was an early teacher to  Orgyen Thinley, one of the two present Karmapas.

Thrangu Rinpoche's Monastery in Namo Buddha, Nepal
Thrangu Rinpoche's Monastery in Namo Buddha, Nepal

Thrangu Rinpoche's Advice—Works on Shamatha, Vipashyana, and More

Advice from a Yogi

The great Indian master Padampa Sangye famously gave these simple, direct verses as an appeal to the urgency of spiritual practice. This Tibetan Buddhist classic is an antidote to the tendency we all have to waste our precious human lives. Khenchen Thrangu’s lively commentary on the text brings to light its subtleties and amplifies its applicability to our daily struggles, showing how an understanding of its teaching on impermanence is the key to working with common difficulties such as loneliness, craving, betrayal, competitive colleagues, or squabbling families. It speaks to us today as profoundly as it did to the people of Dingri, Tibet, to whom it was first addressed a millennium ago.

Advice from a Yogi

Taught by: Khenchen Thrangu & Thrangu Dharmakara Translation Collaborative

$18.95 - Paperback

Vivid Awareness

In the summer of 1957, Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche was one of the grateful recipients of some extraordinary teachings by the revered Buddhist teacher and scholar Khenpo Gangshar.  Thrangu Rinpoche considers these teachings some of the most important he ever received.  Khenpo Gangshar had foreseen the difficulties that would soon fall upon Tibet and began teaching in a startling new way that enabled all those who heard him to use the coming difficulties as the path of Dharma practice. The teaching consisted of the essential points of Mahāmudrā and Dzogchen, both view and practice, presented in a way that made them easy for anyone to use, even in the most difficult of circumstances. Presented here, they include contemplations on the ephemeral nature of both joy and suffering, meditations for resting the mind, and guidance for cultivating equanimity in any situation.

Vivid Awareness

Taught by: Khenchen Thrangu

$22.95 - Paperback

Everyday Consciousness and Primordial Awareness

An introduction to Buddhist psychology, or abhidharma, and how the six consciousnesses detailed in abhidharma literature can be transformed into primordial awareness. This book is based on talks he gave explaining Mipham Rinpoche's famous abhidharma work Gateway to Knowledge as well as Rangjung Dorje's Distinguishing Consciousness from Primordial Awareness (rNam shes ye shes 'byed pa). Thrangu Rinpoche presents meditation practices that can powerfully influence and ultimately transform the mind into the purified mind of a Buddha. He clearly describes how consciousnesses operate in everyday perception and how at the time of Buddhahood, these same consciousnesses express the five primordial wisdoms of the five Buddha families.

Everyday Consciousness and Primordial Awareness

Taught by: Khenchen Thrangu & Susanne Schefczyk

$24.95 - Paperback

The Practice of Tranquility and Insight

This is a practical guide to the two types of meditation that form the core of Buddhist spiritual practice. Tranquility (shamatha) meditation aims at stilling the mind, while insight (vipashyana) meditation produces “clear vision,” or insight into the nature of all phenomena. With masterful scholarship and the ability to make subtle ideas easy to understand and apply in practice, Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche explains this unified system of meditation for students both beginning and advanced. These teachings are based on Book 8 of the Treasury of Knowledge by the great nineteenth-century master Jamgön Kongtrül. With Thrangu Rinpoche’s commentary, this complex, encyclopedic work is now made accessible to Western students of meditation.

For the shamatha section, it explains the prerequisites, the categories of shamatha, the proper posture, the four objects of meditation, the potential obstacles, and then details the specific stages of tranquility meditation. It then dives into identifying the experiences associated with this type of meditation including the five faults; the eight antidotes to the faults; the associated powers, levels, and engagements; the oral instruction tradition; and its accomplishment.

The vipashyana section covers the prerequisites for insight, and then details its different forms, categories, methods, and accomplishments.

The final section covers the union of these two types of meditation.

The Practice of Tranquillity and Insight

Taught by: Clark Johnson & Khenchen Thrangu & Peter Roberts

$29.95 - Paperback

Essential Practice

This book is an explanation of one of the most important texts of Tibetan Buddhism, the Indian master Kamalashīla's Stages of Meditation which he wrote a short, intermediate, and lengthy versions of.  These texts were written to put on paper the view established in the great debate between the gradual vs. sudden enlightenment approaches as set forth by the Indian and Chinese Buddhist traditions respectively.

The short version, also referred to as the First Treatise on the Stages of Meditation, covers three topics: (1) the need for compassion, (2) the need for the mind of awakening, and (3) the need for bringing this into experience through practice.

Kamalashīla’s intermediate length Second Treatise on the Stages of Meditation begins by teaching the way to generate compassion, continues by teaching the way to generate the mind of awakening, and concludes with an extensive discussion methods for cultivating a skillful practice to support these qualities of wisdom.

The second text in essence unpacks the first one and also gets into the view, presenting the selflessness of self and phenomena, the six perfections, and the fruit of realization.

Essential Practice

Taught by: Jules B. Levinson & Khenchen Thrangu

$21.95 - Paperback

Medicine Buddha Teachings

This book is both an in-depth presentation of the practice of the Medicine Buddha, as well as an excellent overview of sadhana, or tantric practice. This text is a must have for anyone wishing to gain a foundational understanding of what the Medicine Buddha represents and practice Menla's sadhana.

Medicine Buddha Teachings

Taught by: Takpo Tashi Namgyal & Khenchen Thrangu

$27.95 - Paperback

On Buddha Essence

The 3rd Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje, wrote A Treatise on Buddha Nature, one of the Kagyu lineage’s oldest and most important texts, belonging to the tradition of the Six Yogas of Naropa. In the nineteenth century Jamgön Kongtrül composed a commentary to it, which Khenchen Thrangu uses as the basis for the teachings in this book, providing complete instructions on how to discover buddha essence in ourselves.

On Buddha Essence

Taught by: The Third Karmapa & Khenchen Thrangu & Peter Alan Roberts

$16.95 - Paperback

Works on Mahāmudrā, the Great Seal, by Thrangu Rinpoche

The Mahāmudrā Works of the Ninth Karmapa

Wangchuk DorjeThe Ninth Karmapa, Wangchuk Dorje (1556-1603), wrote three definitive handbooks on how to attain the realization of Mahāmudrā, and thus nondual, nonconceptual meditative awareness: Ocean of Definitive Meaning, Pointing Out the Dharmakaya, and Eliminating the Darkness of Ignorance.

Thrangu Rinpoche has two books that take different approaches on the most comprehensive of these works, the Ninth Karmapa's Ocean of Definitive Meaning (Ngedon gyamtso).

The Ninth Karmapa's Ocean of Definitive Meaning

Thrangu Rinpoche's book was not meant to be a systematic presentation of the Ocean of Definitive Meaning in detail, but rather an introduction to its contents, emphasizing and presenting in-depth commentary on those parts of the book that Rinpoche felt would be most beneficial to those who were in attendance at the retreat where it was given. It therefore emphasizes the actual practice of Mahāmudrā in its two stages—the Mahāmudrā versions of shamatha (tranquility or calm abiding) and vipashyana (insight).

This book includes sections of commentary on pointing out the mind within stillness, pointing out the mind within movement, and pointing out mind within appearances. There is also commentary on enhancing the practice of Mahāmudrā; on cognizing, avoiding, and dispelling hindrances or obstacles to proper practice and realization; on making progress on the path; and on the manner in which fruition manifests. This commentary does not for example, contain descriptions of the preliminary practices of Mahāmudrā.

An Ocean of the Ultimate Meaning

Unlike the work above, this text covers the preliminaries, the actual practice, how to remove obstacles, and ultimately, how to attain buddhahood. It includes detailed instructions on shamatha and vipashyana meditation. This commentary presents details on the entire text as well as supplemental explanations of Mahāmudrā practice.

The Ninth Karmapa's Ocean of Definitive Meaning

Taught by: The Ninth Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje & Lama Tashi Namgyal & Takpo Tashi Namgyal & Khenchen Thrangu

$19.95 - Paperback

An Ocean of the Ultimate Meaning

Taught by: The Ninth Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje & Khenchen Thrangu

$24.95 - Paperback

Pointing Out the Dharmakaya

This text, in Tibetan Choku dzuptsuk, is the most concise of Wangchuk Dorje's three connected works and is meant to be a companion to the Ocean of Definitive Meaning above.  As Thrangu Rinpoche explains, "because of its brevity, the text is a convenient practical manual for Mahāmudrā practitioners. It is easy to use, and it is easy to keep the instructions in mind. The instructions enable the practitioner to get directly at the nature of his or her mind."

The book includes a section on the preliminary practices, but the majority is devoted to the main practices of shamatha and vipashyana—the insight aspect of Mahāmudrā.

Pointing Out the Dharmakaya

Taught by: Lama Tashi Namgyal & Lama Yeshe Gyamtso & Takpo Tashi Namgyal & Khenchen Thrangu

$22.95 - Paperback

More Mahāmudrā Work

Luminous Clarity

This is a commentary on Karma Chagme’s text Meaningful to Behold: The Essential Instructions of the Compassionate One on the Union of Mahāmudrā and Dzogchen. Thrangu Rinpoche explains in lucid detail the advanced meditation practices of Mahāmudrā and Dzogchen and also their similarities and differences, including advice on how to safely perform some of the more advanced Dzogchen practices.

It has chapters on cultivating bodhicitta, generation stage practice, shamatha and vipashyana, the nature of mind, trekchö and Mahāmudrā, signs of practice, and more.

Paired with transmission from a qualified teacher this is an invaluable text.

Luminous Clarity

Taught by: Karma Chagme & Khenchen Thrangu

$19.95 - Paperback

The Mahāmudrā Lineage Prayer

Vajradhara from Mahamudra Lineage PrayComposed by Pengar Jampal Zangpo, tutor to the Seventh Karmapa Chodrak Gyatso, The Mahāmudrā Lineage Prayer is one of the most beloved and oft-recited prayers in the Kagyu tradition.  It is at once a supplication to the Mahāmudrā lineage and a concise guide to Mahāmudrā practice and the stages of the path to enlightenment.

In this commentary on the prayer, Thrangu Rinpoche teaches in his down-to-earth yet direct manner the importance of the Mahāmudrā lineage, how to develop renunciation and devotion through the common and uncommon preliminary practices, and how to practice calm abiding (shamatha) and insight (vipashyana) meditation in the Mahāmudrā tradition. He explains that Mahāmudrā teachings are easy to practice yet are very powerful, and are especially appropriate for serious Western Dharma students.

The Mahamudra Lineage Prayer

Taught by: Khenchen Thrangu

$16.95 - Paperback

Tilopa's Wisdom

Most traditions of Mahāmudrā meditation can be traced back to the mahasiddha Tilopa and his Ganges Mahāmudrā, a “song of realization” that he sang to his disciple Naropa on the banks of the Ganges River more than a thousand years ago. In this book, Khenchen Thrangu, a beloved Mahāmudrā teacher, tells the extraordinary story of Tilopa’s life and explains its profound lessons. He follows this story with a limpid and practical verse-by-verse commentary on the Ganges Mahāmudrā, explaining its precious instructions for realizing Mahāmudrā, the nature of one’s mind


Naropa's Wisdom

Naropa is famously the student of Tilopa, and here Thrangu Rinpoche first tells the extraordinary

story of Naropa’s life and then goes on to explain its profound lessons. He follows this with commentaries on two of Naropa’s songs of realization.

Tilopa's Wisdom

Taught by: Khenchen Thrangu

$19.95 - Paperback

Naropa's Wisdom

Taught by: Khenchen Thrangu

$19.95 - Paperback

Other Works

Thrangu Rinpoche has an essay in Recalling Chögyam Trungpa where he reflects on the impact Trungpa Rinpoche made to establishing Dharma in the west.  He also includes a prayer he wrote shortly after Trungpa Rinpoche's death that reflects on his qualities and activity, Fulfilling the Aspirations of the Vidyadhara.

Khenchen Thrangu has a group of students who privately publish some other books and host a wealth of resources of his teachings.  This can be found at https://namobuddhapub.org.

Recalling Chogyam Trungpa

Taught by: Fabrice Midal & Chogyam Trungpa

$24.95 - Paperback