Here are some interesting recent publications, most not discussed elsewhere on this site.
They are listed alphabetically according to the conventions of English style;
that is, The
and A are not considered.
*The closing of the Snow Lion web site (mid-May 2012) means that the
links to the books reviewed here need updating. Until then, try searching
at NamseBangDzo.com and please let them know you found the review
One of the most influential and controversial Tibetan
teachers, Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen was born in the Dolpo region of modern Nepal but in 1309, when he was
seventeen, he ran away from home to seek Buddhist teachings, first in Mustang,
and then in Tibet. He became a monk of the Sakya order.
He was a Kalachakra (Wheel of Time) master and he is also credited
with publicizing the Jonangpa tradition in Tibet, which is traced to
early 12th-century master, Yumo Mikyo Dorje.
This second Snow Lion edition (the first was published in 1999) is more than a
reprint. Stearns made additions and changes based upon Tibetan texts
that had recently become available. It also contains English
translations of 3 texts including Dolpopa's Autocommentary to the “Fourth
Council", which was not in the first version.
The contribution of The Great Dolpopa (1292-1361) that this writer
finds particularly fascinating, and which I would like to be able to present
for you here, is the complex and subtle aspect of Buddhism that
from one traditional perspective might fall under the heading of Abhidharma. This
is found in section 3 of the book, Autocommentary to the “Fourth
Council" in which Dolpopa demonstrates step-by-step how he reached the shentong
position. He states, explains, and then refutes, the other
Of course Dolpopa's conclusion regarding The Buddha-nature was
supported by the insights and fruits of his extensive experience through many
years of meditation and practice.
The first edition (my reference is a 2002 Delhi, India edition) makes it
easier for me to list the development of Dolpopa's conclusion by reasoning.
The numbering and summary of the steps are mine.
1. Buddha-dharma emerged during Kritayuga, an eon during which
decay had not yet set in. Subsequent [Tretayuga, etc.] interpretations
are flawed, having been affected by the tendency towards decay.
2. In that original presentation, what is absolute is "empty of
other" but what is relative is "empty of self-nature"
3. To say the one is wrong and the other is right is a kind of
conflation -- a mistake in logic that leads to a misunderstanding of the terms
absolute and relative. Thinking in this confused
way leads to all kinds of absurdities.
4. Furthermore, it is not correct to hold that everything knowable is
either an entity or a nonentity. There is also according to Nagarjuna's
Middle Way or Madhyamaka, a 3rd category, "Sublime."
5. We can say, however, that there is a dichotomy or set of two as
far as concerns Aware and Unaware.
6. Any discussion of a portended "Thus-ness" is also flawed, stemming
as it also does in times of decay.
7. (Why not follow along in your very own
text from Snow Lion?)
- Buddhism Through American
Women's Eyes edited by Karma Lekshe Tsomo, 2nd edition (Snow Lion, 2010).
This collection of essays first came out in 1995 with a gorgeous Tibetan-style
cover. Perhaps it was found too risque for the electronic marketplace,
so this new 180-page edition features a photograph of mist rising from a North
American lake, a good choice considering that the writers are from traditions
of Buddhist practice that range widely in style.
Edited by a well-known woman who is associate professor in the department of
Theology and Religious Studies at the U. of San Diego, this is a collection of
essays by writers practicing in a variety of traditions, not only the Himalayan
tradition. It deals with timely topics relevant to anyone (not only
females) who is interested in the Buddhist perspective. Just to give
an idea of the scope of this collection, a few of the 13 titles are: Forging
a Kind Heart in an Age of Alienation, Bringing Dharma Into Relationships,
Abortion: A Respectful meeting Ground, and Eastern Traditions in
Both men and women, especially the partner, family, or friends of Buddhist
women, might especially find this interesting, as will Buddhists from other
A brief (111 pps.) clear handbook that includes chapters on "channels and
winds" and "meditation posture and breath purification," as well as "tantric
tradition and terma," three topics rarely discussed in other readily available texts.
(Previously published in a slightly longer, different format as Opening to
Our Primordial Nature.)
Tibetan tradition holds that the Buddha provided 84,000 different kinds of
teachings to help us avoid suffering. Based upon a work by famous Drikung
Kagyu teacher, Bhande Dharmaradza (1704-54) that is known in
English as The Jewel Treasury of Advice, Khenchen Konchog shows how we
can apply some of these approaches. From his perspective of contemporary
Western life and using down-to-earth contemporary
language, he re-interprets the teachings with humour and compassion. Those who sincerely want to
apply the Buddha's teachings will find this useful.
Also, since Buddhism, and especially Tibetan Buddhism, is still quite new to
the West, many of us do not appreciate the distinctions among the various
lineages, but especially, we do not fully understand the role of the lama.
If you realize you are more than just a little confused and that you might
have to admit that you are disappointed in your teacher, or if you feel you have
been led astray, or you are experiencing doubts or are upset about apparent
cultural differences or conflicts of lineage, then this is the book for you!
In Wise Teacher, Wise Student, Alexander Berzin clarifies many crucial
matters and in so doing, has done us a wonderful service.
Thanks to Snow Lion Publications for issuing this second edition.
Compassion is the hallmark of a peaceful warrior. This 14-chapter book will be
useful to anyone seeking to examine the link between the quest for Enlightenment and the
concern for the well-being of others.
His explanations can help anyone, Buddhist or not, to understand concepts
such as bodhicitta or "the mind of enlightenment" that is the basis for the
Mahayana view; the role of reincarnation in Buddhism and the phrase "all our mother sentient beings," and
the benefit of the practice of techniques like tong.len -- "sending and
Preece is a London psychotherapist with a Jungian background who is a meditation
teacher with decades of experience. He is also a painter of thangkas.
I highly recommend this new edition of Ringu Tulku's
Daring Steps (subtitled Traversing the Path of the Buddha.)
In Daring Steps,
Rinpoche refers to scriptures that range from reports
of the Buddha's earliest teachings to a Vajrayana text by the yogi known as Crazy Khyentse.*
*Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo http://www.lotsawahouse.org/jkwbio.html
Ringu Tulku is renowned for his friendly, skilful approach teaching about
Buddhism to Westerners. Here he
has produced a dynamic overview that incorporates all three
Buddhist yanas, or vehicles -- Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana. He
essential role that each plays in the attainment of genuine realization, and
frequently refers to Zen forms of practice as well as Tibetan ones.
He reveals the meaning implicit in the Sanskrit and in the Tibetan
terminology, and also gives numerous examples from traditional teaching
stories and images. You will especially enjoy his explanation of key
verses from Ngulchu Thogme's "The 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva." In
this section he does not hesitate to give an illustration from the life of
Swami Vivekananda, a Hindu.
He also shows how each of the three approaches relates directly to the reader's own experience.
". . . , Ringu
Tulku both educates and inspires, connecting the Dharma's profundity with the
spirit of the Buddha's awakening. He takes us brilliantly from the most basic
meditation practice to the rarefied realm of Mahamudra, touching on a dazzling
range of teachings and techniques along the way. As much practice manual as
scholastic accomplishment, this articulate, lively presentation will be
eagerly sought after.
Nowadays in the West there a quite a few Buddhists who, considering
themselves followers of the Vajrayana, believe that they can neglect the other
vehicles, especially the teachings of the Shravakayana system (Theravada). Here, Ringu Tulku Rinpoche shows that this is a fundamental misunderstanding,
that one will not reach anywhere while maintaining this mistaken view."
~ Rosemarie Fuchs, translator and editor.
A Buddhist Approach to Finding Release From Addictive Patterns by Chonyi
Taylor (Dr. Diana Taylor, ordained 1995 by the Dalai
Lama, and supervisor in the Graduate Diploma Program for the Australian
Association of Buddhist Counsellors and Psychotherapists, and an honorary
lecturer in Psychological Medicine at Sydney University, Australia.)
the conventional therapeutic perspective, Dr. Taylor gives lots of real-life
examples and discusses the role played by "triggers" that act as cues for us
to reinforce our addiction(s.)
At the same time, this book explains the Buddhist view of habit formation
without getting caught up in jargon and shows how it can relate to the
"12-step program" used by such groups as Alcoholic Anonymous. It
emphasizes responsibility but at the same time, it might be especially helpful
for those suffering from guilt and despair over the behaviour of themselves or
of others. For example:
- "The addiction itself is the most powerful tool for destroying the
- Why? Because the suffering we experience as a result of the
addiction is the most powerful motivator for getting out of it.
- In the end we are
all addicted in some way. The most powerful and subtle addiction is
our addiction to seeing ourselves as something solid, always the same,
existing as if it has some material reality." . . . .
"We can see ourselves differently just by choosing to do so. . . .
- Entrance to the Great
Perfection: A Guide to the Dzogchen Preliminary Practices
by Cortland Dahl. All royalties go to further the activity of the most
venerable Chatral Rinpoche (currently living in Nepal) in ransoming the lives
of animals that otherwise would be killed.
Dahl (recipient of a Master's degree from Nalanda University (USA) and
experienced as a translator at Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche's Nitartha Institute),
in consultation with the work of masters such as Patrul Rinpoche and Jamgon
Kongtrul, has compiled and clarified texts by Jigme Lingpa, Jamyang
Khyentse Wangpo, Jigme Trinle Ozer and Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche.
Also included as appendices are instructions on doing a retreat in this
tradition, on how to do the visualization, on the 9-yanas and on the literature
of the Longchen Nyinthig lineage.
- Heart Essence of the Vast
Expanse: A Story of Transmission by Anne C. Klein, foreword
by Adzom Paylo Rinpoche, preface by Tulku
The Heart Essence or Longchen Nyingthig, which belongs to Tibetan Buddhism's
oldest denomination that is known as the Nyingma school, was revealed by
Jigme Lingpa over 3 centuries ago and is still a living tradition. In
this book, which also includes a cd of the recitations in mp3 format, Adzom
Rinpoche, a contemporary lama widely considered an incarnation of Jigme Lingpa,
presents his condensed version of the famous Dzogchen text.
This compilation of texts, story, history, music, and commentaries can help
the practitioner understand more fully the elements of practice.
Of particular interest might be the English translation using Tibetan meter /
rhythm that can be used with the traditional melodies intrinsic to
There are also pictorial sections with images in colour of the land, objects,
deities and lamas of the Heart Essence tradition including a section showing Adzom
Gar in Kham.
Life is a party on death row. Recognizing mortality means we are willing
to see what is true. Seeing what is true is grounding. It brings us into the
present and, eventually, into presence. It also brings us into our bodies,
especially if we combine meditation on impermanence with an energetic
awareness at the base of the spine. At first, the important thing about
impermanence seems to be the limited time we have in this precious life.
This is crucial and foundational, and yet it is not the whole story.
The teachings on impermanence concern the death of a self that never
existed. Our sense of such a false and finite self, which initially is
inseparable from our wish to practice, can dissolve. Understanding
impermanence, Khetsun Rinpoche says, will lead you into the natural clarity
of your own mind. To know impermanence is thus not only a path leading to
what Dzogchen traditions speak of as "unbounded wholeness" (thigle nyag
cig), it is also integral to that wholeness.
~ Heart Essence of the Vast Expanse: A Story of
Transmission by Anne C. Klein, foreword by Adzom Paylo Rinpoche, preface
by Tulku Thondup Rinpoche, published by Snow Lion Publications.
Niguma, who lived in the 11th century, is the Kashmiri consort of Naropa
and a mentor of Marpa Lotsawa. The Shangpa Kagyu lineage headed by Kalu
Rinpoche (d. 1989) and succeeded by Yangsi Kalu Rinpoche is traced to her.
Dream Yoga is one of its 6 specialties.
What biographical material we have for Niguma, Sarah Harding has collected
for us here. Harding has also gathered, translated and edited all the related
material, from a scrap of paper that circulated in the monastery in the 1970s
to a complete and integrated Tibetan text of "Stages in the Path of Illusion
and the Commentary."
There is more than one mystery surrounding Niguma. As one of the key
founders, why is her name so rarely mentioned today?
- A Practice of
Padmasambhava: Essential Instructions on the Path to Awakening
provides a very good introduction to
Tantric Buddhism (Vajrayana) by pairing in a single volume two practical
Tibetan guides as translated by The Dharmachakra Translation Committee under
Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche. The first is the IV Shechen
Gyaltsap's "Divine Flower," a commentary showing and/or
reminding us why Vajrayanists do the practices -- what the Buddhist worldview
is, what steps we take in order to prepare. The second is Karma Rinchen Dargye's "Brilliant Light," which is a step by step
instruction on how to perform the practice of Guru Vadismha, the vision of Guru
Rinpoche as an embodiment of Manjushri.
The texts are from the Nyingma lineage but this book provides an excellent
overview of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition in general.
"... a lucid, practical, and deeply profound explanation of the generation stage
by Ngulchu Dharmabhadra. ... followed by an extremely rare and profound
commentary by the First Panchen Lama, Losang Chökyi Gyaltsen, on the completion
The latter half of the book comprises translations of the ritual texts
associated with the commentaries. Everything needed to engage in the practice of
Heruka Five Deity is included within the pages of this book.
This text is restricted to readers who have had a highest-yoga tantric empowerment and
permission to do the practice according to the lineage of Tsongkhapa.
More about Restricted Texts at the Snow Lion link in the above title.
Here, Wangyal Rinpoche, who was trained in both Bon and Buddhism, and who founded
Ligmincha, the Bon institute in Shipman,
Virginia, USA, offers
a collection of Tibetan
yoga exercises that includes visualizations, sacred sound practices, and meditations
on the nature of mind. These practices can "alter our self-image and lead to a lighter, more joyful sense of
Geshe Wangyal Rinpoche is known for ". . . clear, engaging style and his
ability to bring the ancient Tibetan teachings into a contemporary format that
is relevant for Westerners. He has students throughout the United States,
Mexico, and Europe and is the author of several books, including the popular Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep."
What Caught Our Eye
p.224 (Appendix 4)
[At Ligmincha we used to] hold East-West seminars with the intention of
encouraging dialogue with therapists. However . . . [they] came to
an end when I gained a strong sense that many participating therapists were
inclined to later the wisdom teachings for their therapeutic purposes. The field
of psychotherapy has been in a continual flux since the time of Freud and Jung
and has evolved into a profusion of different approaches to counseling and
therapy. The resulting attitude seems to be "Let's change whatever should
be changed in the dharmas as well."
There is no question that certain aspects of the teachings need to be adapted
. . . including . . . language, symbolism, and metaphors . . . .
[ . . . .]
However, changing the methodology has nothing to do with changing the core
message of the dharmas. The Buddha's teachings were intended for humans of
all cultures and for all sentient beings. Thus, Buddhists and
therapists need to collaborate with each other in a way that is respectful of
this ancient wisdom. < editor's emphasis
Teacher, Wise Student: Tibetan Approaches to a Healthy Relationship
Berzin. (Snow Lion, 2000 / 2010)
When those raised in a society where Buddhism is not part of the culture
discover, for whatever reason, that they are drawn to Buddha-dharma, often their
first inclination is to try and satisfy intellectual curiosity. And when
that thirst is complicated by an attraction to the exotic culture of the
teacher, or to the personal appearance and / or charisma of the teacher, then it
may take a number of years before the student is able to see the benefits of the
application of the Buddha's teachings.
There are other pitfalls on the path, too. Foremost is the fact
that we may have happened upon fundamental texts that were inadequately -- even
incorrectly -- translated. We may have read some books in which the
vocabulary of Western philosophy and / or that of various mystical sects,
including some kinds of Hinduism, has been used in a misguided
attempt to clarify Buddhist terminology.
The prevalent use of other kinds of familiar expressions also complicates
matters and can be misleading. For example, nowadays there is a popular
use of titles borrowed from the Catholic context, such as His Holiness,
His Eminence, as well as the use of the word, faith, as a synonym
- You Are the Eyes of the World
(Snow Lion 2000, 2010) is a translation and a discussion, by Kennard
Lipman and Merrill Peterson, of Longchenpa's brief guide to Dzogchen known as
The Jewel Ship. Lipman was a senior student of Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche,
who wrote the introduction. Rinpoche wrote that most people who think
they are practicing dzogchen are really doing what is known as "relaxed
meditation" -- they aim for "being in the moment" but still, their
feelings positive, negative or other, continue to arise. I think you
will find that this compact (106-page) handbook will help you get what
unconditioned awareness is, once and for all. Then you would be much
better prepared to begin to practice it. The "Glossary of
Tibetan Terms" is a particularly valuable tool in this essential kit.
It is not another of those frustrating lists of Tibetan words,
most of them conveniently rendered as "wisdom." 5 Stars.