Books in Diamond Way Centres: Recommended reading Pt.2

In the second of a series of entries, we present Buddhist books from the “recommended reading list” for students of Diamond Way Buddhism by various authors, together with links to a reliable UK-based supplier, Wisdom Books. This group of books includes life stories of great Buddhist practitioners.

Entering the Diamond Way – Tibetan Buddhism Meets the West

Lama Ole Nydahl

This is the genuinely compelling story, and spiritual odyssey, of Ole and Hannah Nydahl, who in 1968 became the first Western students of the great Tibetan master, His Holiness the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa. Their exciting travels on the worn path between the green lowlands of Europe to the peaks of the Himalayas, led them to experience the skilful teachings of numerous Tibetan lamas who helped transform their lives into “limitless clarity and joy.” From their first contact with Tibetan Buddhism in Kathmandu in the form of a lama with extraordinary psychic powers, Ole and Hannah encountered the full spectrum of the Buddhist view. Their real aim in writing this book is “to form a bridge between two worlds, and especially to share with all who are looking for their true being… an introduction to a time-proven way to Enlightenment.”

Blue Dolphin Publishing (1999) ISBN 0-931892-03-1


Riding the Tiger – the Risks and Joys of Bringing Tibetan Buddhism to the West

Lama Ole Nydahl

In 1969 Ole and Hannah Nydahl became the first Western students of H.H. the 16th Karmapa, the head of the Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. After years of practice in the Himalayas, Karmapa authorized them to teach and start centres in his name. Riding the Tiger is the inside story of the development of Tibetan Buddhism in the West. In his refreshingly unsentimental style, Lama Ole shows all aspects of his work. With breathtaking intensity, he highlights both healthy and unhealthy tendencies in the light of the Buddha’s ultimate aim: To bring about the fully developed beings whose every activity blesses the world. The book describes the starting of the first 100 Diamond Way Buddhist centres all over the world, with many intriguing cross cultural adventures and teachings along the way – from the spiritually hungry of Russia to bandits in South America and travels in North America with Karmapa and Kalu Rinpoche.

Blue Dolphin Publishing (1992) ISBN 0-931892-67-8


The Life of the Mahasiddha Tilopa

Marpa Chokyi Lodro

Tilopa was a tantric practitioner and Great Accomplisher (Skt. Mahasiddha) who was in important teacher of the Great Seal (Skt. Mahamudra). He is regarded as the human founder of the Kagyu tradition of Buddhism. During meditation, Tilopa received a vision of Buddha Diamond Holder (Skt. Vajradhara) who directly transmitted the Great Seal to him. After having received the transmission, Tilopa embarked on a wandering existence, receiving teachings from many gurus and then teaching others. He appointed Naropa, his most important student, as his successor. This text is thought to have been composed in the 11th century by the renowned Tibetan yogi Marpa Lotsawa, and is a compelling account of the complete liberation of Tilopa.

Paljor Publications (1995) ISBN 8185102910


The Life of Marpa the Translator

Nalanda Translation Committee

The amazing life of the renowned lay accomplisher Marpa, disciple of Naropa and teacher of Milarepa, who founded the Kagyu tradition in Tibet. This lucid and moving translation of Marpa’s biography by the Nalanda Translation Committee under the direction of Chogyam Trungpa, documents this story of the layman who raised a family while training his disciples, including his famous student Milarepa. In his younger days Marpa travelled to India to study the Buddhist teachings and he endured great hardships on his three arduous journeys there, but these were nothing compared to the difficult trials that he had to undergo under his Indian guru Naropa and other teachers. Yet Marpa succeeded in mastering the teachings, translating them and bringing them back to Tibet and establishing the practice lineage of the Kagyu tradition which continues to this day.

Shambhala (1982) ISBN 1570620873


The Life of Milarepa

Lobsang P. Lhalungpa

The classic biography of Tibet’s greatest yogi. A moving and personal introduction to Tibetan Buddhism, and a powerful and graphic folk tale, full of magic, disaster, feuds, deceptions, and humour. Milarepa is a holy, but captivating human figure, who developed from an avenging black magician to a supremely powerful yogi, pointing the way to complete spiritual liberation. “Milarepa is still a vital figure – the embodiment of supreme excellence as well as the father of awakened masters. Never, in the thirteen centuries of Buddhist histories in Tibet, has there been such a man, who not only inspired an intellectual elite and spiritual luminaries, but also captured the imagination of the common people.” – Lobsang P Lhalungpa.

Penguin Books (1995) ISBN 0140193502


A Garland of Gold: The Early Kagyu Masters in India and Tibet

Lama Jampa Thaye

This book by the English Buddhist master Lama Jampa Thaye, spiritual director of the Dechen Community, is a history of the early masters of the Kagyu tradition, charting the transmission of teaching from India to Tibet. These inspiring life stories give access to the continuous blessing of the lineage. The book also includes five Great Seal (Skt. Mahamudra) songs composed by early holders of the Kagyu Lineage.

Ganesha Press (1990) ISBN 0950911933


Sky Dancer: The Secret Life and Songs of the Lady Yeshe Tsogyal

Keith Dowman

A lively biography of one of Tibet’s celebrated enlightened women, with insight into women’s role in the Tibetan tradition. Yeshe Tsogyel was the Tibetan consort of the great Indian tantric master Padmasambhava, and her life story and detailed instructions to her disciples are still an inspiration for today’s practitioners. Keith Dowman supplements this translation with a detailed commentary on the historical background to the text, the tantric tradition, Nyingma lineages and the tantric view of women and the dakini. “In the profound sutra system, the dakini is called the great mother: Indescribable, unimaginable Perfection of Wisdom, unborn, unobstructed essence of sky, she is sustained by self-awareness alone… thus it is written in the Great Paramita Sutra. In the precious tantric tradition, desireless, blissful wisdom is the essence of all desirable qualities, unobstructedly going and coming in endless space. This wisdom is called the sky dancer, feminine wisdom, the dakini…” – Trinley Norbu.

Snow Lion Publications (1996) ISBN 1559390654


The Marvelous Companion: Jatakamala – Life Stories of the Buddha


This text is a translation of the Jatakamala, a collection of stories about the former lives of the Buddha as a Bodhisattva. They transmit new points of view about selfless activity and karmic connections. The Buddha often cited examples from his past lives to clarify the attitudes and actions that develop perfect compassion. These accounts became known as Jatakas, or Birth Stories, and the the Jatakas are particularly renowned as powerful enactments of the operation of karma as it unfolds over successive lifetimes. As illustrated in the Jatakamala, the seeds planted by a single action, and by the thoughts and motives that underlie it, will inevitably bear fruit, perhaps again and again over many lifetimes.

Dharma Publishing (1983) ISBN 0913546895


Masters of Mahamudra: The Lives of the 84 Mahasiddhas

Keith Dowman

The lives of the Mahasiddhas, great Indian tantric yogis, who accomplished the supreme realisation of the Great Seal (Skt. Mahamudra), the inseparable union of wisdom and compassion, of emptiness and skilful means. Leading unconventional lives, the siddhas include some of the greatest Buddhist teachers including Tilopa, Naropa, Luipa, Nagarjuna, Aryadeva, Virupa, Saraha, Indrabhuti, and Ghantapa, as well some of the Nath siddhas who are also revered in the Hindu tradition such as Goraksa. Dowman’s extensive introduction traces the development of tantra and discusses the key concepts of Mahamudra. In a lively and illuminating style, he unfolds the deeper understandings of mind that the texts encode and each of the 84 yogis and yoginis are listed with their biographies, their extraordinary practices and their histories. “Mahamudra is a name of the highest tantric path to Buddhahood, and it is the ultimate goal itself. The 84 masters of Mahamudra were the original founding fathers of the Mahamudra tradition who formulated its techniques of meditation, and also the founders’ lineal successors who practiced these techniques. They all attained the realization of Buddhahood. These masters were called mahasiddhas and they lived in India between the eighth and twelth centuries.” – Keith Dowman.

State University of New York Press (1986) ISBN 0887061605


Buddhist Masters of Enchantment – The Lives and Legends of the Mahasiddhas

Keith Dowman

A beautifully illustrated edition of the wondrous stories of the great Indian Buddhist tantric masters known as the 84 Mahasiddhas, told in an easily accessible style. These life stories of the extraordinary men and women who attained enlightenment and magical powers by disregarding convention and penetrating to the core of life show a way through human suffering into a spontaneous and free state of enlightenment. Tradition holds that the lives of the great siddhas are paradigms for different processes of psychic and spiritual awakening. Keith Dowman’s highly readable translation of these legends from the Tibetan oral tradition retains these techniques of personal transcendence and is further enhanced by the superb illustrations of the tantric masters by Robert Beer.

Inner Traditions (1989) ISBN 089281053X


The Divine Madman: The Sublime Life and Songs of Drukpa Kunley

Keith Dowman

The biography of the crazy wisdom yogi Drukpa Kunley. He is greatly loved by the people of Tibet and Bhutan as an enlightened master whose outrageous behaviour and ribald humour were intended to awaken common people and Buddhist teachers alike from the sleep of religious dogma and egotistical self-possession. Apppearing in the Kagyu lineage established by Tilopa and Naropa, Drukpa Kunley was recognized as an incarnation of the great mahasiddha Saraha. This book is a compilation of stories, songs of realization, and anecdotes passed on to this day in the taverns and temples of Tibet and Bhutan. In contrast to other more ascetic teachers of the East who teach the negation of the body and its desires, he used desire, emotion, and sexuality to arouse disillusionment, insight, and delight in all he encountered. With consummate skill he followed the path of tantra, or the realization of bliss in the union of opposites, employing sexuality to quicken the awakening of his consorts.

Dawn Horse Press (1982) ISBN 0913922757


Machig Labdron and the Foundations of Chod

Jerome Edou

This translation of the most famous biography of Machig Labdron, the founder of the unique Mahamudra Chod (“cutting through ego clinging”) tradition, is presented together with a comprehensive overview of Chod’s historical and doctrinal origins in Indian Buddhism, and its subsequent transmission to Tibet. Chod refers to cutting through the grasping at a self and the emotional afflictions. Most well known for its teaching on transforming one’s body and aggregates into an offering of food for demons as a compassionate act of self sacrifice, Chod aims to free the mind from fear and to arouse realization of its true nature, primordially clear bliss and emptiness. Historically, Machig Lapdron was a Tibetan woman who was a contemporary of Milarepa and she founded the Chod lineage, but she is also popularly considered to be both a dakini and an emanation of Prajnaparamita.

Snow Lion Publications (1995) ISBN 1559390395


Former Lives of the Karmapas: Dzalendara and Sakarchupa

16th Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje

Wondrous tales from the former lives of the Karmapa, the head of the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. The Fifteenth Karmapa once told Khyentse Rinpoche about ten former lives, mainly in other time-space dimensions, in a series of stories now known as Sakarchupa. Later, when the Sixteenth Karmapa was eight years old, he told many a story of his previous lives to one of his gurus, Gongkar Pandita, who carefully kept in writing the nectar of the young Karmapa’s words. However, when His Holiness had to leave Tibet, Gongkar Pandita was himself unable to escape and his precious records were no longer available. In 1976, His Holiness and his party were driving through Himachal Pradesh through a place called, by Tibetans, Dzalendara. It was raining very slightly and the peacocks were singing softly. His Holiness had the car stopped and said to his attendents, “I have come back to my motherland.” He then told the following wondrous story…

Dzalendara (1981) ISBN 0906181038


The Lives and Liberation of Princess Mandarava: The Indian Consort of Padmasambhava

Lama Chonam and Sangye Khandro

This lucid translation of a Tibetan “treasure text” tells the story of the Indian heroine Princess Mandarava, recounting her struggles and triumphs as a Buddhist adept over many lives. As the principal consort of the eighth-century tantric master Padmasambhava before he introduced Buddhism to Tibet, Mandarava is the Indian counterpart of the Tibetan consort Yeshe Tsogyal.

Wisdom Publications (1998) ISBN 0861711440


Buddhas Lions: The Lives of the 84 Mahasiddhas

James B. Robinson (Translator)

From farmers and wood gatherers to royal ministers, scholars and kings, these are the biographies of the Mahasiddhas, the great tantric masters of India. Abhayadatta`s account of these eighty-four siddhas is translated here from the Tibetan and includes the Tibetan text. These mahasiddhas are famous for all attaining direct realization of the Buddha’s teachings within a single lifetime, for their miraculous powers, and for bringing about a flowering of the tantric tradition during the later period of Indian Buddhism. When Buddhism took root in Tibet, the siddhas provided important links between Indian and Tibetan Buddhism, giving life to lineages which have continued in Tibet up to the present. They are thus venerated for gaining the highest spiritual attainment of Mahamudra by their own incredible efforts, and for guiding innumerable beings to follow in their path. “The siddha tradition could, in many ways, be considered the foundation of Tibetan Buddhism, for the siddhas and their lives provide us with a central vision of the Vajrayana teachings, the way to live in perfect freedom… More than simply life stories, these biographies embody profound teachings designed to contribute to our inner development.” – Tarthang Tulku.

Dharma Publishing (1997) ISBN 0913546615


Mother of Knowledge: The Life story of Yeshe Tsogyal

Namkhai Nyingpo and translated by Tarthang Tulku

A powerful biography of the supreme female tantric practitioner and consort of Padmasambhava. Also a compelling work on how to approach, reflect upon, and practice the Vajrayana Path. “Her intelligence, perseverance, devotion, and pure motivation all were exceptional, even in the company of the many accomplished masters who were Padmasambhava’s disciples. As well as being the most important woman in the Nyingma lineage, she occupies a place of central importance within the Vajrayana and especially the lineage of Padmasambhava. For Yeshe Tsogyal received all of Padmasambhava’s teachings, as if the contents of one vessel were poured into another. Traditionally she is compared to a crown, a jewel, a leader, a guide. Her accomplishments and realizations have seldom been equalled, and the merit of her actions is beyond description…She brought inconceivable benefit to so many people, it is difficult to imagine how much suffering she removed from the world.” – Tarthang Tulku.

Dharma Publishing (1997) ISBN 0913546917


The Life of Shabkar – The Autobiography of a Tibetan Yogin

Matthieu Ricard

This epic biography has long been recognised by Tibetans as one of the master works of their religious heritage, documenting the struggle of Shabkar Tsodruk Rangdrol to master the highest and most profound practices of the Tibetan tradition of the Great Perfection (Tib. Dzogchen). Shabkar devoted himself to many years of meditation in solitary retreat after his inspired youth and early training in the province of Amdo under the guidance of several extraordinary masters. This work vividly reflects the values and visionary imagery of Tibetan Buddhism, with extensive notes and appendices full of valuable information on Tibetan Buddhist practice. An excellent translation of a Tibetan Buddhist classic.

Snow Lion Publications (2001) ISBN 1559391545


Bringing The Teachings Alive: The Buddhist Heritage Of Tibet

Crystal Mirror Vol. 4

From the popular Crystal Mirror series of publications from Dharma Publishing. This collection of articles includes: the life of Padmasambhava and his twenty-five disciples, and the early chronicles of Buddhism in Tibet by Tarthang Tulku, including the Mandala of Samye Temple; a translation by Herbert Guenther of Longchenpa`s Natural Freedom of Mind; Tibet, the Land, People and Culture; two articles by Lama Anagarika Govinda: Pilgrims and Monasteries in the Himalayas; and a Tibetan Buddhist Looks at Christianity, plus Christian Missionaries in Tibet; and Taking the Teachings to Heart by Tarthang Tulku; Sustaining Practice by Tarthang Tulku, including Opening to the Dharma.

Dharma Publishing (2004) ISBN 0898003628


Happy reading!

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