The Library of Tibetan Classics
“I am very happy to welcome the initiatives of the Institute of Tibetan Classics, especially its ambitious Library of Tibetan Classics. This collection will help make Tibet’s classical thought truly a world heritage, an intellectual and spiritual resource open to all.”—His Holiness the Dalai Lama
The Library of Tibetan Classics is a major, exciting effort to support Tibetan culture. Edited by Thupten Jinpa— renowned scholar, author, translator, and interpreter for His Holiness the Dalai Lama—the Library is making key Tibetan texts part of the global literary and intellectual heritage. The thirty-two-volume series, when complete, will span nearly a millennium and a half and will cover the entire expanse of Tibet’s classical literary heritage, from religion and folklore to art and poetry, from philosophy and psychology to medicine, and much more.
When Thupten Jinpa first approached Wisdom Publications to collaborate with him and his Institute of Tibetan Classics in Montreal, Canada on the monumental Library of Tibetan Classics, we were honored to accept. The texts in this series have been selected in close consultation with preeminent lineage holders and with senior Tibetan scholars, especially His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
In every way, the series has been designed with a broad audience in mind—while being “…of great value to scholars, the translations are accessible to nonspecialists as well, and thus should allow a wide audience to gain access to the treasures of the Tibetan tradition” (Georges Dreyfus, Williams College). The series includes the works of many great Tibetan teachers, philosophers, scholars, and practitioners, representing all major Tibetan schools and traditions. It is our privilege to play a part in the preservation and sharing of their invaluable writings, with their ability to teach, enrich, and inspire. With more than a dozen volumes published and the rest underway, we are in the midst of an extraordinary journey, and we would like to invite you to join us. Click here to learn more about becoming a supporter of the series.
Thupten Jinpa photo by Tad Fettig.
Explore the Series
Written as a supplement to Nagarjuna’s Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way, Candrakirti’s text integrates the central insight of Nagarjuna’s thought—the rejection of any metaphysical notion of intrinsic existence—with the well-known Mahayana framework of the ten levels of the bodhisattva, and it became the most studied presentation of Madhyamaka thought in Tibet.
Completed the year before the author’s death, Tsongkhapa’s exposition of Candrakirti’s text is recognized by the Tibetan tradition as the final standpoint of Tsongkhapa on many philosophical questions, particularly the clear distinctions it draws between the standpoints of the Madhyamaka and Cittamatra schools.
Written in exemplary Tibetan, Tsongkhapa’s work presents a wonderful marriage of rigorous Madhyamaka philosophical analysis with a detailed and subtle account of the progressively advancing mental states and spiritual maturity realized by sincere Madhyamaka practitioners.
The work remains the principal textbook for the study of Indian Madhyamaka philosophy in many Tibetan monastic colleges, and it is a principal source for many Tibetan teachers seeking to convey the intricacies of Madhyamaka philosophy to non-Tibetan audiences.
Though it is often cited and well known, this is the first full translation of this key work in a Western language.
The Kālacakra, or “wheel of time,” tantra likely entered Indian Mahayana Buddhism around the tenth century. In expounding the root tantra, the Indian master Puṇḍarīka, one of the legendary Kalkī kings of the land of Shambhala, wrote his influential Stainless Light. Ornament of Stainless Light is an authoritative Tibetan exposition of this important text, composed in the fifteenth century by Khedrup Norsang Gyatso, tutor to the Second Dalai Lama.
One of the central projects of Kālacakra literature is a detailed correlation between the human body and the external universe. In working out this complex correspondence, the Kālacakra texts present an amazingly detailed theory of cosmology and astronomy, especially about the movements of the various celestial bodies. The Kālacakra tantra is also a highly complex system of Buddhist theory and practice that employs vital bodily energies, deep meditative mental states, and a penetrative focus on subtle points within the body’s key energy conduits known as channels. Ornament of Stainless Light addresses all these topics, elaborating on the external universe, the inner world of the individual, the Kālacakra initiation rites, and the tantric stages of generation and completion, all in a highly readable English translation.
Compiled in the fifteenth century, Mind Training: The Great Collection is the earliest anthology of a special genre of Tibetan literature known as “mind training,” or lojong in Tibetan. The principal focus of these texts is the systematic cultivation of such altruistic thoughts and emotions as compassion, love, forbearance, and perseverance. The mind-training teachings are highly revered by the Tibetan people for their pragmatism and down-to-earth advice on coping with the various challenges and hardships that unavoidably characterize everyday human existence.
The volume contains forty-four individual texts, including the most important works of the mind training cycle, such as Serlingpa’s well-known Leveling Out All Preconceptions, Atisha’s Bodhisattva’s Jewel Garland, Langri Thangpa’s Eight Verses on Training the Mind, and Chekawa’s Seven-Point Mind Training together with the earliest commentaries on these seminal texts. An accurate and lyrical translation of these texts, many of which are in metered verse, marks an important contribution to the world’s literary heritage, enriching its spiritual resources.
The tradition known as the Path with the Result, or Lamdré‚ is the most important tantric system of meditation practice and theory in the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism. This volume contains an unprecedented compilation of eleven vital works from different periods in the history of the Path with the Result in India and Tibet, including the Vajra Lines of the great Indian adept Virūpa (ca. seventh–eighth centuries), the basic text of the tradition. The collection also includes six writings by Jamyang Khyentsé Wangchuk (1524–68) and an instruction manual composed by the Fifth Dalai Lama (1617–62). None of the works in this book have ever been published before in any European language, and most of these writings traditionally have been considered secret. The present translation, an important new volume of the Library of Tibetan Classics, has been made with the personal approval and encouragement of His Holiness Sakya Trizin, head of the Sakya tradition. Students of the Lamdré will rejoice at the availability and lucidity of this major translation of key Sakya texts.
The Kadam school of Tibetan Buddhism emerged in the eleventh century from the teachings of the Indian master Atiśa and his principal Tibetan student, Dromtönpa. Although it no longer exists as an independent school, Kadam’s teachings were incorporated into the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism and are still prized today for their unique practical application of the bodhisattva’s altruistic ideal in everyday life. One of the most cherished teachings stemming from Atiśa and Dromtönpa is the collection of esoteric oral transmissions enshrined in The Book of Kadam. This volume includes the core texts of the Book of Kadam, notably the twenty-three-chapter dialogue between Atiśa and Dromtönpa that is woven around Atiśa’s Bodhisattva’s Jewel Garland, as well as complementary texts that illuminate the history and practices of the Kadam tradition.
The Crystal Mirror of Philosophical Systems, by Thuken Losang Chökyi Nyima (1737–1802), is arguably the widest-ranging account of religious philosophies ever written in pre-modern Tibet. Like most Tibetan texts on philosophical systems, this work covers the major schools of India, both Buddhist and non-Buddhist, but then goes on to discuss in detail the entire range of Tibetan traditions as well, with separate chapters on the Nyingma, Kadam, Kagyü, Shijé, Sakya, Jonang, Geluk, and Bön schools. Not resting there, Thuken goes on to describe the major traditions of China—Confucian, Daoist, and the multiple varieties of Buddhist—as well as those of Mongolia, Khotan, and even Shambhala. The Crystal Mirror of Philosophical Systems is unusual, too, in its concern not just to describe and analyze doctrines, but to trace the historical development of the various traditions. The Crystal Mirror of Philosophical Systems is an eloquent and erudite presentation exploring the religious history and philosophical systems of an array of Asian Cultures—and offering evidence that the serious and sympathetic study of the history of religions has not been a monopoly of Western scholarship.
Composed while its author was the ruler of Tibet, Mirror of Beryl is a detailed account of the origins and history of medicine in Tibet through the end of the seventeenth century. Its author, Desi Sangyé Gyatso (1653–1705), was the heart disciple and political successor of the Great Fifth Dalai Lama and the author of several highly regarded works on Tibetan medicine, including his Blue Beryl, a commentary on the foundational text of Tibetan medicine, The Four Tantras. In the present historical introduction, Sangyé Gyatso traces the sources of influence on Tibetan medicine to classical India, China, Central Asia, and beyond, providing life stories, extensive references to earlier Tibetan works on medicine, and fascinating details about the Tibetan approach to healing. He also provides a commentary on the pratimoksha, bodhisattva, and tantric Buddhist vows. Desi Sangyé Gyatso’s Mirror of Beryl remains today an essential resource for students of medical science in Tibet.
The Kagyü school of Tibetan Buddhism began in the eleventh century with such renowned figures as Marpa and Milarepa, and its seminal meditative traditions are Mahāmudrā and the six Dharmas of Nāropa. Mahāmudrā teachings focus on the cultivation of profound insight into the nature of the mind. The Mahāmudrā texts in this volume include a lucid work by the celebrated master Tselé Natsok Rangdröl and works by the twelfth-century master Shang Rinpoche, the great Third Karmapa, the Eighth Tai Situ, and Drukpa Pema Karpo. The volume also contains an inspirational work by Gampopa, the Drigung Kagyü root text, The Single Viewpoint, the Sixth Shamarpa’s guide to the six Dharmas of Nāropā, and finally an overview of tantric practice by Dakpo Tashi Namgyal, author of the famous Moonlight of Mahāmudrā. The texts in this volume were selected by the preeminent scholar of the Kagyü school, Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche.
Tsongkhapa’s A Lamp to Illuminate the Five Stages (1419) is a comprehensive presentation of the highest yoga class of Buddhist tantra, especially the key practices—the so-called five stages (pancakrama)—of the advanced phase of Guhyasamāja tantra. Beginning with a thorough examination of the Indian sources, Tsongkhapa draws particularly from the writings of Nāgārjuna, Aryadeva, Candrakīrti, and Nāropā to develop a definitive understanding of the Vajrayana completion stage. Whereas in the generation stage, meditators visualize the Buddha in the form of the deity residing in a mandala palace, in the completion stage discussed in the present volume, meditators transcend ordinary consciousness and actualize the state of a buddha themselves. Among other things, Tsongkhapa’s work covers the subtle human physiology of channels and winds along with the process of dying, the bardo, and rebirth. This definitive statement on Guhyasamaja tantra profoundly affected the course of Buddhist practice in Tibet.
The “stages of the teachings” or tenrim genre of Tibetan spiritual writing expounds the Mahayana Buddhist teachings as a systematic progression, from the practices required at the start of the bodhisattva’s career to the final perfect awakening of buddhahood. The texts in the present volume each exerted seminal influence in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. The first text, The Blue Compendium, presents the instructions of the Kadam teacher Potowa (1027/31–1105) as recorded by his student Dölpa (1059–1131). This verse work is followed by Gampopa’s (1079–1153) revered Ornament of Precious Liberation, which remains the most authoritative text on the path to enlightenment within the Kagyü school with its extensive quotations from the Indian scriptures. The final selection is Clarifying the Sage’s Intent, a masterwork by the preeminent sage of the Sakya tradition, Sakya Paṇḍita (1182–1251).
The Tibetan Book of Everyday Wisdom: A Thousand Years of Sage Advice presents a genre of Tibetan works known as “wise sayings” (lekshé). While most Tibetan literature focuses on the Buddhist path, wise sayings literature has traditionally been a centerpiece of secular education in Tibet and in the cultivation of social mores and an honorable way of life. Drawing inspiration from classical Indian literature on human virtue and governance (nitisastra), including the folktales in the Pañcatantra, the authors of these Tibetan works strove to educate young minds in the ways of the civilized world, especially by distinguishing the conduct of the wise from that of the foolish.
This anthology includes some of the best-loved classics of Tibetan literature, such as Sakya Pandita’s Jewel Treasury of Wise Sayings, Panchen Sönam Drakpa’s Ganden Wise Sayings, and Gungthang’s Treatise on Trees and Treatise on Water. The final work is the intriguing Kaché Phalu’s Advice. Ostensibly written by a wise Tibetan Muslim, this versified text enjoys great popularity within Tibetan-speaking communities, such that many Tibetans are able to recite at least a few verses from memory.
This work by a scholar of the Kadam school is the most authoritative Tibetan commentary on Vasubandhu’s Treasury of Abhidharma (Abhidharmakośa). In terms of stature and authority, Vasubandhu’s Treasury rivals Buddhaghosa’s contemporaneous Path of Purification and deals with such central themes as the dynamics of emotions and karma, of mental and meditative states; it treats both the cosmos and the life within. Chim Jampaiyang’s exposition of it is the greatest flowering of Abhidharma studies in Tibet. Usually referred to as the Chimzö, it is to this day a key textbook in the great monastic universities. A veritable encyclopedia, it spans all areas of classical Indian Buddhist knowledge and is an indispensable reference for scholars of Buddhism.
In Tales from the Tibetan Operas, timeless Buddhist ideas are brought to life through enchanting myths and vivid stories. Poetically vibrant, these eight classic lhamo stories have continued to delight and edify Tibetan audiences of all backgrounds, from village children to learned scholar-monks and Dalai Lamas.
Western readers can now get a glimpse into ancient Indian and Tibetan mythology through the cultural touchstone of eight classic lhamo stories. On visual display are the human and nonhuman characters of history and folklore — kings, queens, conniving ministers, ordinary folk, yogis, monks, and powerful beings from other realms such as gods and nāgas — engaged in plotting, kidnapping, fighting, journeys to faraway lands, separation, and reconciliation, often with a quest for seemingly impossible treasure. The suspenseful tales have many dramatic plot twists, but they all end in happiness, where the good achieve their goals and the bad receive their just desserts. The operas thus bring to the people the fundamental ethical laws of behavior and teachings of natural justice based on Buddhist doctrine.
The book features more than 50 gorgeous photos of the operas performed on location in Tibet and India.
Beautiful Adornment of Mount Meru is a work of doxography, presenting the distinctive philosophical tenets of the Indian Buddhist and non-Buddhist schools in a systematic manner that ascends through increasingly more subtle views. It is a Tibetan corollary to contemporary histories of philosophy. The “Mount Meru” of the title is the Buddha’s teachings, and Changkya’s work excels in particular in its treatment of the two Mahayana Buddhist schools, the Yogācāra (here called the Vijñaptimātra) and the Madhyamaka. Beautiful Adornment is often praised for the clarity of its prose and its economical use of citations from Indian texts. It skillfully examines core philosophical issues, supplemented with several intriguing ancillary discussions, and draws heavily on the works of Tsongkhapa and his disciples in the Geluk tradition he founded.
Drawing primarily from the Pacification, Severance, Shangpa Kagyü, and Bodongpa traditions, Four Tibetan Lineages presents some of Tibet’s most transformative yet lesser-known teachings on meditative practice. Most works in this volume are drawn from a Tibetan anthology known as the Treasury of Precious Instructions compiled by Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thayé (1813–1900). A vast preservation project, this anthology reflects Kongtrul’s attempt to rescue rare teachings from disappearing. By foregrounding the teachings of masters like Khedrup Khyungpo Naljor (d. 1135), Dampa Sangyé (d. 1117), Machik Labdrön (1031/55–1126/50), Jonang Tāranātha (1575–1634), and Jamyang Khyentsé Wangpo (1820–92), this volume extends Jamgön Kongtrul’s preservation efforts into the modern world.