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