B. Alan Wallace
B. Alan Wallace is president of the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies. He trained for many years as a monk in Buddhist monasteries in India and Switzerland. He has taught Buddhist theory and practice in Europe and America since 1976 and has served as interpreter for numerous Tibetan scholars and contemplatives, including H. H. the Dalai Lama. After graduating summa cum laude from Amherst College, where he studied physics and the philosophy of science, he earned his MA and PhD in religious studies at Stanford University. He has edited, translated, authored, and contributed to more than forty books on Tibetan Buddhism, medicine, language, and culture, and the interface between science and religion.
Alan is also the founder of the Center for Contemplative Research (CCR), which now has retreat center locations in Crestone, Colorado, and in Castellina Marittima, Italy. A new center is also being established in New Zealand. The CCR is dedicated to researching the role and methods of the ancient contemplative practices of Shamatha and Vipashyana, and their involvement in mental health and wellbeing, as well as their role in fathoming the nature and origins of human consciousness.
The CCR vision builds on the results of the Shamatha Project. It is guided by a Scientific Advisory Board that includes the Nobel Prize-winning physicist and biologist Steven Chu (Stanford University), neuroscientist and clinical psychologist David Presti (UC Berkeley), theoretical physicist Marcelo Gleiser (Director of the Institute for Cross-Disciplinary Engagement at Dartmouth College), and philosopher Michel Bitbol (Director of Research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique). Cognitive scientists at the University of Pisa, the University of Trent, and the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna in Pisa are committed to conducting research in collaboration with the CCR.
For an introduction, listen to The Nature of Reality: A Dialogue Between a Buddhist Scholar and a Theoretical Physicist. In this public dialogue, Alan Wallace and Sean Carroll, a world-renowned theoretical physicist and best-selling author, discussed the nature of reality from spiritual and scientific viewpoints.
Books, Courses & Podcasts
Tibetan Buddhism from the Ground Up
As long as our minds are dominated by the conditions of the external world, we are bound to remain in a state of dissatisfaction, always vulnerable to grief and fear. How then can we develop an inner sense of well-being and redefine our relationship to a world that seems unavoidably painful and unkind?
Many have found a practical answer to that question in the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism. Here at last is an organized overview of these teachings, beginning with the basic themes of the sutras—the general discourses of the Buddha—and continuing through the esoteric concepts and advanced practices of Tantra. Unlike other introductions to Tibetan Buddhism, this accessible, enjoyable work doesn’t stop with theory and history, but relates timeless spiritual principles to the pressing issues of modern life, both in terms of our daily experience and our uniquely Western world view.
This fascinating, highly readable book asks neither unquestioning faith nor blind obedience to abstract concepts or religious beliefs. Rather, it challenges us to question and investigate life’s issues for ourselves in the light of an ancient and effective approach to the sufferings and joys of the human condition.
In life and in death, in meditation and in sleep, every transitional stage of consciousness, or bardo, provides an opportunity to overcome limitations, frustrations, and fears. The profound teachings in this book provide the understanding and instruction necessary to turn every phase of life into an opportunity for uncontrived, natural liberation.
Like the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Natural Liberation is a terma, a “hidden treasure” attributed to the eighth-century master Padmasambhava. Gyatrul Rinpoche’s lucid commentary accompanies the text, illuminating the path of awakening to the point of full enlightenment. Natural Liberation is an essential contribution to the library of both scholars and practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism.
Inspired by years of scholarly training and decades of solitary retreat, Tibetan monk Gen Lamrimpa offers a concise overview of all phases of the Kalachakra practice: the preliminaries, the initiation, and finally, the stages of generation and completion. With remarkable clarity, he makes the Six-Session Guruyoga practice accessible to all practitioners, and deepens our understanding and appreciation of this sublime teaching of the Buddha.
Gen Lamrimpa begins this eminently practical explanation by emphasizing the importance of a compassionate motivation for spiritual practice. He then explores the nature of suffering and the cycle of existence that traps all living beings, and concludes with a detailed account of the Six-Phase Yoga, which is meant to be recited and contemplated three times during the day and three times at night. Alan Wallace’s introduction illuminates both Kalachakra’s rich history and Gen Lamrimpa’s unique contribution to our understanding.
This book provides a clear explanation of Kalachakra as set forth within the context of the Six-Session Guruyoga, a daily meditation practice for initiates. Transcending Time presents all phases of Kalachakra practice—the preliminaries, the initiation, and finally, the stages of generation and completion.
The Attention Revolution
As featured in Psychology Today.
Meditation offers, in addition to its many other benefits, a method for achieving previously inconceivable levels of concentration. Author B. Alan Wallace has nearly thirty years’ practice in attention-enhancing meditation, including a retreat he performed under the guidance of the Dalai Lama. An active participant in the much-publicized dialogues between Buddhists and scientists, Alan is uniquely qualified to speak intelligently to both camps, and The Attention Revolution is the definitive presentation of his knowledge.
Beginning by pointing out the ill effects that follow from our inability to focus, Wallace moves on to explore a systematic path of meditation to deepen our capacity for deep concentration. The result is an exciting, rewarding “expedition of the mind,” tracing everything from the confusion at the bottom of the trail to the extraordinary clarity and power that come with making it to the top. Along the way, the author also provides interludes and complementary practices for cultivating love, compassion, and clarity in our waking and dreaming lives.
Attention is the key that makes personal change possible, and the good news is that it can be trained. This book shows how.
Stilling the Mind
In his previous book, The Attention Revolution, bestselling author Alan Wallace guided readers through the stages of shamatha, a meditation for focusing the mind. In Stilling the Mind, he uses the wisdom of Dzogchen—the highest of all the meditation traditions—to open up the shamatha practice into a space of vast freedom. Here, Wallace introduces us to Dudjom Lingpa’s Vajra Essence, one of the most cherished works of the Nyingma school from which Dzogchen stems. With his trademark enthusiasm and keen intelligence, Wallace makes obscure concepts intelligible to contemporary readers and allows us to glimpse the profound realizations of a great nineteenth-century spiritual adept.
Read Dudjom Lingpa’s biography at the Treasury of Lives.
Dudjom Lingpa’s Visions of the Great Perfection
Runner-up for 2017 Shantarakshita Award for Excellence in Translation from the Tsadra Foundation
From the preeminent Tibetan scholar B. Alan Wallace comes the much-anticipated Dudjom Lingpa’s Visions of the Great Perfection.
This limited-edition set includes elegant clothbound editions of all three volumes, beautifully presented in a slipcase.
Düdjom Lingpa (1835–1904) was one of the foremost tantric masters of nineteenth-century Tibet. This new series includes Düdjom Lingpa’s five visionary teachings on the Great Perfection (Dzogchen), the pinnacle of practice in Tibet’s oldest Buddhist school, along with three essential commentaries. The teachings in this series have inspired generations of Tibetans.
Volume 1 contains four works, beginning with The Sharp Vajra of Conscious Awareness Tantra, considered the root distillation of Düdjom Lingpa’s wisdom. Unpacking these quintessential verses is the Essence of Clear Meaning, a definitive commentary based on Düdjom Lingpa’s oral teachings recorded by his disciple Pema Tashi. In The Foolish Dharma of an Idiot Clothed in Mud and Feathers, Düdjom Lingpa narrates the essential Dharma teachings from the perspective of an old man rejecting superficial appearances. Finally, The Enlightened View of Samantabhadra is a masterful exposition of the Great Perfection revealed as a dialogue between wisdom beings who bestow a treasury of pith instructions and specific advice for practitioners.
Volume 2 includes Düdjom Lingpa’s most widely taught work, Buddhism Without Meditation, and two complementary works by his charismatic female disciple, Sera Khandro, who is accomplished and well loved in her own right. Her Garland for the Delight of the Fortunate spells out the implications of the root text’s highly condensed verses.
Volume 3 contains Düdjom Lingpa’s magisterial Vajra Essence, his most extended meditation on the path of Great Perfection, in many senses a commentary on all his other Dzogchen works.
Buddhahood Without Meditation
The practice of Dzogchen, the Great Perfection, is the pinnacle of the nine vehicles of practice taught in the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism. The highly influential mystic Düdjom Lingpa (1835–1904) and his disciple Sera Khandro (1892–1940), the most prolific female writer in Tibetan history, here illuminate the methods to discover our own primordial purity and abide in uncontrived awareness.
Buddhahood Without Meditation: This is Düdjom Lingpa’s most widely taught visionary text. In it wisdom beings and historical figures in the Great Perfection lineage emphasize the view of cutting through (trekchö) to the original purity of pristine awareness via the four special samayas, or pledges, of the Great Perfection: nonexistence, oneness, uniform pervasiveness, and spontaneous actualization. At each stage of his spiritual progress, Düdjom Lingpa’s doubts are dispelled and his realizations enhanced by pithy advice.
The Fine Path to Liberation: Sera Khandro establishes the necessary motivation and conduct for receiving teachings such as Buddhahood Without Meditation. This sublime Dharma is to be seen in the context of the five perfections of the sambhogakaya: the teacher, place, time, disciples, and Dharma are fully perfected and must not be reified as ordinary.
Garland for the Delight of the Fortunate: Sera Khandro fills in the gaps of Buddhahood Without Meditation, explaining the metaphors, and spelling out the implications of the root text’s highly condensed verses. This is an essential key for unlocking Düdjom Lingpa’s profound wisdom.
Heart of the Great Perfection
Düdjom Lingpa (1835–1904) was one of the foremost tantric masters of his time. This new series includes his visionary teachings on the Great Perfection (Dzogchen), the pinnacle of practice in Tibet’s oldest Buddhist school. Volume 1 contains four works explaining the view and practice of the Great Perfection, the signature style of meditation of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism:
The Sharp Vajra of Conscious Awareness Tantra: This work is considered the root distillation of Düdjom Lingpa’s wisdom.
Essence of Clear Meaning: This definitive commentary, which unpacks the quintessential verses of The Sharp Vajra, is based on Düdjom Lingpa’s oral teachings recorded by his disciple Pema Tashi.
The Foolish Dharma of an Idiot Clothed in Mud and Feathers: Düdjom Lingpa narrates the essential Dharma teachings from the perspective of an old man rejecting superficial appearances.
The Enlightened View of Samantabhadra: A masterful exposition of the Great Perfection is revealed as a dialogue between wisdom beings who bestow a treasury of pith instructions and specific advice for practitioners.
While the teachings in this series have inspired generations of Tibetans, few have been published in translation—until now.
Lerab Lingpa (1856–1926), also known as Tertön Sogyal, was one of the great Dzogchen (Great Perfection) masters of the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries and a close confidant and guru of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama. This volume contains translations by B. Alan Wallace of two works that are representative of the lineage of this great “treasure revealer,” or tertön.
The first work, composed by Lerab Lingpa himself, is The Vital Essence of Primordial Consciousness. It presents pith instructions on all the stages of the Great Perfection, which is the highest form of meditation and practice in the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism. In this practice, the meditator comes to see directly the ultimate nature of consciousness itself. The work guides the reader from the common preliminaries through to the highest practices of the Great Perfection—the direct crossing over and the achievement of the rainbow body.
The second work, Selected Essays on Old and New Views of the Secret Mantrayana, is a collection of seven essays by two of Lerab Lingpa’s close disciples, Dharmasara and Jé Tsultrim Zangpo. Dharmasara wrote six of the essays, providing detailed, erudite explanations of the compatibility among the theories and practices of Great Perfection, Mahamudra (a parallel practice tradition found in other schools), and the Madhyamaka view, especially as these are interpreted by the Indian pandita Candrakirti, the Nyingma master Longchen Rabjam, and Tsongkhapa, founder of the Geluk school of Tibetan Buddhism. The one essay by Jé Tsultrim Zangpo (a.k.a. Tulku Tsullo), “An Ornament of the Enlightened View of Samantabhadra,” contextualizes the Great Perfection within the broader framework of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism and then elucidates all the stages of practice of the Great Perfection, unifying the profound path of cutting through and the vast path of the spontaneous actualization of the direct crossing over.
This volume will be of great interest for all those interested in the theory and practice of the Great Perfection and the way it relates to the wisdom teachings of Tsongkhapa and others in the new translation schools of Tibetan Buddhism.
Fathoming the Mind
Fathoming the Mind continues the commentary to Düdjom Lingpa’s Vajra Essence that appeared in Stilling the Mind, daringly contextualizing Buddhist teachings on the Great Perfection as a revolutionary challenge to many contemporary beliefs. This companion volume stems from an oral commentary that B. Alan Wallace gave to the next section of the Vajra Essence, on the cultivation of contemplative insight, or vipaśyanā, that fathoms the nature of existence as a whole. Düdjom Lingpa’s revelation consists of a fascinating dialogue that occurred during his pure vision of Samantabhadra, personification of primordial consciousness, manifesting as the youthful form of the Lake-born Vajra emanation of Padmasambhava, in dialogue with an entourage of bodhisattvas symbolizing various aspects of Düdjom Lingpa’s mind.
In continuing to reflect on Düdjom Lingpa’s writings and their relevance to the modern world, Wallace was inspired to elaborate extensively on his original commentary. This book includes introductory essays and an afterword, which explore how the insights discussed here might contribute to yet a new “contemplative revolution,” one that would be as far-reaching in its implications as the scientific revolutions triggered by the discoveries of Galileo, Darwin, and Einstein.
The Vajra Essence
Düdjom Lingpa (1835–1904) was one of the foremost tantric masters of nineteenth-century Tibet, and his powerful voice resonates strongly among Buddhist practitioners today. The Vajra Essence is Düdjom Lingpa’s most extended meditation on the path of Great Perfection, in many senses a commentary on all his other Dzogchen works. Dzogchen, the pinnacle of practice in the Nyingma school, is a radical revelation of the pure nature of consciousness that is delivered from master to disciple and perfected in a meditation that permeates every moment of our experience.
Revealed to Düdjom Lingpa as a visionary “treasure” text in 1862, the Vajra Essence takes the reader through seven stages of progressively deeper practice, from “taking the impure mind as the path” up to the practice of “direct crossing over” (tögal). The longest of Düdjom Lingpa’s five visionary works on Dzogchen, readers will find this a rich and masterful evocation of the enlightened experience. This is the first translation of this seminal work in any Western language, and B. Alan Wallace, with his forty-five-plus years of extensive learning and deep meditative experience, is one of the most accomplished translators of Tibetan texts into English.