Keith Dowman is a translator and teacher of Dzogchen, the quintessence of Buddhism. A student of the great Dzogchen lamas Dudjom Rinpoche and Kanjur Rinpoche, he lived in Benares, India, and Kathmandu, Nepal for fifty years. He now travels the world teaching Dzogchen.
A cultural refugee from his native England, Keith Dowman arrived in Benares, India, in 1966. Apart from an occasional foray back to the West, he has spent a lifetime in India and Nepal engaged in existential Buddhadharma. He has lived as a yogin, monk, pilgrim, and then as a householder, and as a scholar and poet free of all institutional and or political constraints.
In India in the 1960s, he was destined to encounter the grandfather-lama refugees arriving in India in the wake of the Chinese invasion of Tibet. In those heady years when the old lamas were totally receptive to the solicitation of Western disciples seeking confirmation of the validity of their existential trajectories, he received initiation, empowerment, pith instruction, and personal guidance from Dudjom Rinpoche Jigdral Yeshe Dorje and Kanjur Rinpoche Longchen Yeshe Dorje, who became his root gurus, among any other Nyingma lamas and lamas of other schools, notably the Eighth Khamtrul Rinpoche and the Sixteenth Karmapa Rikpai Dorje. As Chogyal Namkhai Norbu remarked, “In communion with many great masters [Keith Dowman] has fortuitously absorbed the realization of Dzogchen.”
In the 1980s he focused on translations of various Vajrayana texts. When Tibet opened, three years of seasonal trekking in central Tibet resulted in a pilgrims’ guide to Tibet. More recently, he has concentrated exclusively on the translation of Dzogchen texts, including Natural Perfection, Original Perfection, and The Flight of the Garuda. Likewise, although he has taught Vajrayana since 1992, more recently he has focused entirely on Dzogchen. He lives a peripatetic lifestyle teaching the radical Dzogchen derived from the early Nyingma tantras that is free of the tendency toward the spiritual materialism so evident in western Buddhism, a dharma easily assimilable into Western culture.
Books, Courses & Podcasts
The Flight of the Garuda
Flight of the Garuda conveys the heart advice of one of the most beloved nonsectarian masters of Tibet. Ordained as a Gelug monk, the itinerant yogi Shabkar was renowned for his teachings on Dzogchen, the heart practice of the Nyingma lineage. He wandered the countryside of Tibet and Nepal, turning many minds toward the Dharma through his ability to communicate the essence of the teachings in a poetic and crystal-clear way. Buddhists of all stripes, including practitioners of Zen and Vipassana, will find ample sustenance within the pages of this book and be thrilled by the lyrical insights conveyed in Shabkar’s words.
Dzogchen practice is considered by many to be an extremely powerful path to enlightenment; it brings us into direct communion with the subtlest nature of our experience: the unity of samsara in nirvana as experienced within our own consciousness. Within the Nyingma school, it is held higher than even the practices of tantra for bringing the meditator face to face with the nature of reality.
This ground-breaking book offers translations of four sacred texts of the Dzogchen tradition alongside the song by Shabkar: Secret Instruction in a Garland of Vision by Padmasambhava, Emptying the Depths of Hell by Guru Chowang, The Extraordinary Reality of Sovereign Wisdom by Patrul Rinpoche, and the Wish-Granting Prayer of Kuntu Zangpo, revealed by Rigdzin Godemchen. With an informative introduction by the translator, Flight of the Garuda is an invaluable resource for both practice and scholarship.
Dzogchen, or the “Great Perfection,” is considered by many to be the apex of Tibetan Buddhism, and Longchen Rabjam is the most celebrated of all the saints of this remarkable tradition. Natural Perfection presents the radical precepts of Dzogchen, pointing the way to absolute liberation from conceptual fetters and leading the practitioner to a state of pure, natural integration into one’s true being.
Transcending the Tibetan context or even the confines of Buddhist tradition, Longchen Rabjam delivers a manual full of practical wisdom. Natural Perfection is a shining example of why people have continued to turn to the traditions of Tibet for spiritual and personal transformation and realization. Keith Dowman’s illuminating translation of this remarkable work of wisdom provides clear accessibility to the profound path of Dzogchen in the here-and-now.
These early, foundational Dzogchen texts—clear, lyrical, and rich in metaphor—were smuggled into Tibet in the eighth century on white silk, written in goat-milk ink that would become visible only when exposed to heat. These five texts are the root of Dzogchen practice, the main practice of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism. Vairotsana, a master among the first generation of Tibetan Buddhists, reveals here a truth that is at once simple and deeply profound: that all existence—life itself, everyone one of us—is originally perfect, just as is. Keith Dowman’s sparkling translation and commentary provide insight and historical background, walking the reader through the truths encountered in this remarkable book.