Jan-Ulrich Sobisch is on the faculty of the Center for Religious Studies at Ruhr-Universität Bochum. He studied Tibetology, Indology, and philosophy at Hamburg University from 1985 to 1992 with David Seyfort Ruegg, Lambert Schmithausen, and David Jackson, under whom he completed his dissertation on the three-vows literature. From 1994 to 1999, he was working under Albrecht Wezler for the Nepal-German Manuscript Preservation Project when he discovered and cataloged the complete thirty volumes of the writings of Amé Shab (1597–1659). From 2003 to 2016, he was a professor at the University of Copenhagen, during which time he published on the Hevajra Tantra and its associated Tibetan teachings in the Sakya school. For the past ten years, he has been focused on the unique Dgongs gcig tradition of the Drigung Kagyü school. In 2016 he received the prestigious Humboldt Research Award in recognition of his scholarly achievements. In 2022 he started with several colleagues in Bochum a Collaborative Research Center “Metaphors of Religion” that is projected for up to twelve years. His sub-project’s main focus will be on metaphors used in mahamudra instructions. Click here to learn more.
The definitive presentation of one of the most unique and compelling works of classical Tibetan literature that weaves the thread of mahāmudrā through the entire fabric of Buddhism.
“The teaching of the Single Intention, or Dgongs gcig, of the renowned founder of the Drigung Kagyü order, Jikten Sumgön, was among the most original and, to some, controversial Tibetan innovations in the history of Buddhist thought. A clear and authoritative presentation of it has long been needed. Jan-Ulrich Sobisch, in The Buddha's Single Intention, now admirably presents the key texts in lucid translation with copious annotation and commentary. An essential contribution to Tibetan Buddhist studies and to the history of the Kagyü and Mahāmudrā traditions in particular.”—Matthew T. Kapstein, professor emeritus, École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris
THE BUDDHA’S SINGLE INTENTION
Drigung Kyobpa Jikten Sumgön’s Vajra Statements of the Early Kagyü Tradition
This book presents an influential and extraordinary teaching of the Kagyü tradition of Tibetan Buddhism known as the Single Intention by the master Drigung Kyobpa Jikten Sumgön (1143–1217), along with its chief commentaries, principally the Light of the Sun by Rikzin Chökyi Drakpa (1595–1659).
Early in the history of the Kagyü school, the teachings of Jikten Sumgön were condensed into 150 core formulations called vajra statements. These pithy, revelatory statements comprise the Single Intention (Dgongs gcig), which presents the thought of the Buddha and the nature of the ineffable (brjod du med pa) in concise and direct expression. The Single Intention weaves the thread of ineffable mahāmudrā through the entire fabric of Buddhism. It presents mahāmudrā as pervading disciplined conduct, meditative concentration, and discriminative knowledge; ground, path, and result; view, practice, and conduct; and the “three vows” of prātimokṣa, of the bodhisattvas, and of mantra. Jikten Sumgön teaches how the fundamental values and insights revealed by the Buddha are woven into reality and therefore accessible to all.
Jan-Ulrich Sobisch manages to convey the unity of the Buddha’s message both in its particulars and in its scope. His deep and authoritative skill makes this the definitive presentation of one of the most unique and compelling works of classical Tibetan literature.
Learn more about the Studies in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism series.
- 864 pages, 6 x 9 inches
- ISBN 9781614296393
- 864 pages
- ISBN 9781614296409
Ocean of Attainments
This commentary on Guhyasamāja tantra is the seminal guide to deity yoga and tantric visualization for the Geluk school of Tibetan Buddhism.
Ocean of Attainments was composed by Khedrup Jé Gelek Palsang (1385–1438), one of Tsongkhapa Losang Drakpa’s most prominent disciples. Its subject is the creation stage, a quintessential Buddhist tantric meditation that together with the completion stage comprises the path of unexcelled tantra. The Guhyasamāja Tantra, referred to as the “king of all tantras,” is one of the tantras of the unexcelled mantra; it is revered in Tibet, especially by the Geluk school, for its hermeneutic methods, which are in turn applied to other tantras.
In the creation stage, meditators visualize themselves as buddhas at the center of the celestial maṇḍala, surrounded in all directions by male and female bodhisattvas and enlightened beings. Since the core of the practice is visualization, this meditation—perhaps more than other meditations—presumes the creative power of the mind. Visualizations form the basis not only of the creation stage and deity yoga but of all tantric practices and rituals, since tantric practice takes place not in mundane existence but in the illusion-like purity of the enlightened view.
While the previously published Essence of the Ocean of Attainments is a concise manual for practice of the Guhyasmamāja sādhana, Ocean of Attainments is much more detailed, providing extensive scriptural citations, clear explanation of the body maṇḍala, arguments on points of contention, reference to other tantric systems, and critiques of misinterpretations. Complemented by the extensive and clear introduction, this volume is a vital contribution to the growing body of scholarship on Guhyasamāja and on Buddhist tantra in general.
Learn more about the Studies in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism series.
Saraha’s Spontaneous Songs
This is the first volume in over six decades to bring to light new original material on Saraha’s Treasury of Spontaneous Songs (Dohākoṣa).
“Completely abandon thought and no-thought, and abide in the natural way of a small child.” —Saraha
To find liberation and realize the true nature of reality, the Indian Buddhist master Saraha says we must leave behind any conceptual assessment of reality, since no model of it has ever been known to withstand critical analysis. Saraha’s spontaneous songs, or dohās, represent the Buddhist art of expressing the inexpressible. The most important collection of Saraha’s songs is the Dohākoṣa, the Treasury of Spontaneous Songs, better known in Tibet as the Songs for the People, better known in Tibet as the Songs for the People, and the Tibetan mahāmudrā tradition, especially within the Kagyü school, has done the most to preserve the lineage of Saraha’s instructions to the present day.
But Saraha was also widely cited in Indian sources starting around the eleventh century, and one Indic commentary, by the Newar scholar Advayavajra, still exists in Sanskrit. In addition, we have independent root texts of Saraha’s songs in the vernacular Apabhraṃśa in which they were recorded. These Indian texts, together with their Tibetan translations, are here presented in masterful new critical editions, along with the Tibetan translation of the commentary no longer extant in Sanskrit by Mokṣākaragupta. Finally, both commentaries are rendered in elegant English, and the authors offer a brisk but comprehensive introduction.
Saraha’s Spontaneous Songs provides the reader with everything needed for a serious study of one of the most important works in the Indian Buddhist canon.
Learn more about the Studies in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism series.
The Fourteenth Dalai Lama’s Stages of the Path, Volume 2
Central to Buddhism is knowing our own minds. Until we do, we are driven by unconscious, often destructive desire and aversion. We couldn’t have a better guide for inner transformation than the Dalai Lama.
The Fourteenth Dalai Lama’s Stages of the Path, Volume 2: An Annotated Commentary on the Fifth Dalai Lama’s Words of Mañjuśrī is the second volume of the Dalai Lama’s outline of Buddhist theory and practice. Having introduced Buddhist ideas in the context of modern society in volume 1, the Dalai Lama turns here to a traditional presentation of the complete path to enlightenment, from developing faith in the Dharma to attaining the highest wisdom. This book, compiled by the revered Tibetan lama Dagyab Rinpoché, comments on the Fifth Dalai Lama’s stages of the path titled Oral Transmission of Mañjuśrī. The volume will appeal to all readers interested in the Dalai Lama’s works, both those new to Buddhism and those looking to deepen their understanding of the Tibetan presentation of the Buddhist path.
Click here to read about His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama’s achievements.
The Fourteenth Dalai Lama’s Stages of the Path: Volume 1: Guidance for Modern Practitioners is available here.
Reality and Wisdom
Written in a warm and accessible style by one of today’s most respected Tibetan Buddhist masters, Reality and Wisdom leads the reader on a journey of discovery beginning with the very first teachings of the Buddha and into the profound experience of emptiness.
The first section of the book explores the bedrock Buddhist teachings of the four noble truths—insights into freedom from suffering from craving—which underpin all schools of Buddhism. Lama Migmar presents and explores these foundational Buddhist truths with humor and insight, explaining how, from a Mahayana Buddhist perspective, these truths serve as crucial supports for cultivating the transformative wisdom of emptiness.
In the book’s second half, Lama Migmar illuminates the terse and enigmatic lines of the Heart Sutra, perhaps the most studied and revered of all Mahayana Buddhist scriptures. The Heart Sutra presents the reader with a vision of reality as it is perceived by a buddha, a vision underpinned by and infused with the radical flexibility and possibility of emptiness and the engagement and responsiveness of profound compassion.
The clarity, warmth, and vibrancy of Lama Migmar’s writing combined with the comprehensiveness and detail of his presentations of key Buddhist teachings make this book a valuable resource for a range of readers, from beginners to more advanced practitioners seeking to deepen their practice.
Appearing and Empty
In Appearing and Empty the Dalai Lama skillfully reveals the Prāsaṅgikas’ view of the ultimate nature of reality so that we will gain the correct view of emptiness, the selflessness of both persons and phenomena, and have the means to eliminate our own and others’ duḥkha.
In this last of three volumes on emptiness, the Dalai Lama takes us through the Sautrāntika, Yogācāra, and Svātantrika views on the ultimate nature of reality and the Prāsaṅgikas’ thorough responses to these, so that we gain the correct view of emptiness—the selflessness of both persons and phenomena. This view entails negating inherent existence while also being able to establish conventional existence: emptiness does not mean nothingness. We then learn how to meditate on the correct view by cultivating pristine wisdom that is the union of serenity and insight as taught in the Pāli, Chinese, and Tibetan traditions. Such meditation, when combined with the altruistic intention of bodhicitta, leads to the complete eradication of all defilements that obscure our minds. This volume also introduces us to the tathāgatagarbha—the buddha essence—and how it is understood in both Tibet and China. Is it permanent? Does everyone have it? In addition, the discussion of sudden and gradual awakening in Zen (Chan) Buddhism and in Tibetan Buddhism is fascinating.
Science and Philosophy in the Indian Buddhist Classics, Vol. 4
This fourth and final Science and Philosophy in the Indian Buddhist Classics volume provides, through extensive passages, a window into the works of the great thinkers from the flowering of philosophy in classical India.
This is the second philosophy volume in the Science and Philosophy series. Whereas the first philosophy volume presented the views of the non-Buddhist and Buddhist schools in sequence, the present works selects specific topics for consideration, including the nature of the two truths, the analysis of self, the Yogacara explanation of reality, emptiness in the Madhyamaka tradition, a survey of logic and epistemology, and the Buddhist explanation of language and meaning. Like earlier volumes, it provides, through extensive extracts, a window into the works of the masters of the Nalanda tradition. The final section on language is particularly unique and largely crafted by Thupten Jinpa.
Explore the entire series here.
The Power of Mantra
Energize your practice with the potent energy of mantra.
In this book, beloved teacher Lama Zopa Rinpoche guides us through the most popular mantras in Tibetan Buddhism: Shakyamuni Buddha, Chenrezig, Manjushri, Tara, Medicine Buddha, Vajrasattva, and more.
A mantra—literally “that which protects the mind”—is a series of Sanskrit syllables that evoke the energy of a particular buddha or bodhisattva. It works as a sacred sound that brings blessings to ourself and others, and as a tool to transform our mind into one that is more compassionate and wise.
In clear and succinct teachings, Lama Zopa shows us why we need different mantras and how each mantra works. He also explains their importance and power, giving specific instructions for practicing them. The exquisite, full-color illustrations of the deities that accompany the text make this book a beautiful guide, one suitable for both beginners and experienced practitioners.
The Wisdom Culture Series, published under the guidance of Lama Zopa Rinpoche, features translations of key works by masters of the Geluk tradition. Also available in the Wisdom Culture Series are Tsongkhapa’s Middle-Length Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment and The Swift Path, translated by Szegee Toh.
Now in Paperback!
An accessible, inspiring book on one of the most important topics in Tibetan Buddhism, written by one of its renowned masters who has an international following of thousands.
Bodhichitta is a Sanskrit word meaning “the mind of enlightenment” or “the awakening mind”—the mind that wishes to achieve enlightenment in order to lead all other beings into that same state. It is the attitude of the bodhisattva, of the person who makes the compassionate vow to save others from suffering. In this book, the renowned teacher Lama Zopa Rinpoche shows us how to achieve it.
First, Lama Zopa gives a clear and comprehensive explanation of bodhichitta, its benefits, and its importance to the path. Then, he walks us through the two main methods for achieving bodhichitta: the seven points of cause and effect, and equalizing and exchanging self and others. Finally, the book closes with meditation instructions to guide and strengthen our practice.
Readers will find Bodhichitta to be a comprehensive guide to this core Buddhist principle, one rich in both accessible philosophical explanation and concrete advice for practitioners.
How to Face Death without Fear
“Helping our loved ones at the time of death is the best service we can offer them, our greatest gift. Why? Because death is the most important time of life: it’s at death that the next rebirth is determined.”—Lama Zopa Rinpoche
For years Lama Zopa Rinpoche envisioned a practical book to inform students of how to help loved ones have a beneficial death. How to Face Death without Fear has been compiled from years of Rinpoche’s teachings and has been lovingly edited by Venerable Robina Courtin.
Rinpoche provides detailed advice on how to help your loved ones prepare for the end of their life with courage, acceptance, and a mind free of fear. With great care, he explains what to do in the months, weeks, and days before death, how to handle the moment itself, what to do after the breath has stopped, and finally, what to do after the mind has left the body. Rinpoche provides the mantras, prayers, and meditations appropriate for each stage. This new edition of Rinpoche’s modern classic How to Enjoy Death makes it easy for the reader to find the right practice at the right time.
This handbook is an essential reference for Tibetan Buddhist caregivers, hospice workers, and chaplains. But, as Rinpoche points out, it is not only for people who work with the dying; it is education we all need.
You’ll find solace in this wealth of advice, and you’ll also gain the confidence to ensure that your loved one’s death—and your own—will be joyful and meaningful.
The sixth chapter of Shantideva’s classic A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life is a beacon of inspiration that shows what patience—one of the essential actions of the bodhisattvas—can really mean, leading us to profound self-realization and a heightened determination for awakened action in the world.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche—a teacher whose very name means “patience”—explores Shantideva’s teachings verse by verse, unpacking their lessons for the modern reader, including:
- overcoming anger,
- accepting suffering,
- and respecting others and finding happiness in their happiness.
In explaining this quintessential quality of a bodhisattva, Rinpoche shows us ordinary beings the profundity of the practice of patience and the relevance it has in our everyday lives.
“Shantideva was like us, but he worked on his mind until he became completely free from delusions . . . A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life has inspired countless people since it was written over thirteen hundred years ago. It tells us that we too can develop our mind to the levels of realizations that the great masters have attained—and it shows us how to do it.”—Lama Zopa Rinpoche
The Six Perfections
The six perfections are the actions of the bodhisattvas—holy beings who have transcended selfless concerns. But they’re also skills we can and should develop right now, in our messy, ordinary lives.
In this clear, comprehensive guide to the backbone of Mahayana Buddhist practice, Lama Zopa Rinpoche walks us through each of the six perfections:
As he carefully describes each perfection, he not only reveals the depth of its meaning and how it intertwines with each other perfection, but he also explains how to practice it fully in our everyday lives—offering concrete ways for us to be more generous, more patient, more wise. With the guidance he gives us, we can progress in our practice of the perfections until we, like the bodhisattvas, learn to cherish others above ourselves.
“The perfections are the practices of bodhisattvas, holy beings who have completely renounced the self; they have transcended selfish concerns and cherish only others. Each perfection is perfect, flawless. Each arises from bodhichitta and is supported by the other perfections, including the wisdom of emptiness. Because of that, a bodhisattva generates infinite merit every moment, whether outwardly engaged in working for others or not. A bodhisattva’s bodhichitta never stops.”
—Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Dear Lama Zopa
Unconventional wisdom, affirmation, and advice from one of Tibetan Buddhism’s most influential living teachers.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche was a master at explaining Buddhism’s radical but effective methods for transforming suffering into happiness, which have been practiced and taught by Tibetans for a thousand years. It’s a challenging way to think—how can it be that the things that cause us pain are actually blessings?
In Dear Lama Zopa, Rinpoche applies that challenge to our everyday, real-life problems—from the littlest to the biggest. Every year he received thousands of letters from people around the world asking for advice—on coping with everything from addiction, grief, and depression, to war, terrorism, and death.
In his detailed and deeply caring responses to these letters, reproduced here, Rinpoche shows again and again that the best method for solving our problems is to radically change the way we perceive them; that by emphasizing their inner causes we can even change the resulting outer circumstances.
Even people familiar with notions like karma and reincarnation, which imply that we are the creators of our own experiences, may find the advice difficult. Yet uncountable thousands of people of all backgrounds have put Rinpoche’s loving guidance into practice—and have seen real and positive change in their lives. Now, with Dear Lama Zopa, you can see for yourself…
The Four Noble Truths
The Four Noble Truths begins with an excellent elucidation of the nature of the mind and its role in creating the happiness we all seek. Lama Zopa Rinpoche then turns to an in-depth analysis of the four truths. The first truth is that we are suffering because we are in cyclic existence, or samsara, the beginningless cycle of death and rebirth characterized by three types of suffering: the suffering of suffering, the suffering of change, and pervasive compounding suffering. These are not inflicted on us without cause, nor do they come from others. The second truth tells us that there is a cause for all this suffering—the delusions and karma that arise from the ignorance that fails to see the way in which things exist. Because there is a cause and because we can develop the wisdom realizing emptiness, the antidote to ignorance, we are able to actualize the third truth, the cessation of suffering. How we do that is explained in the fourth truth, the path to the cessation of suffering.
The Door to Satisfaction
In Door to Satisfaction Lama Zopa Rinpoche reveals a text he discovered in a cave in the Himalayas that captures the essential point of Buddhist training. Rinpoche says, “Only when I read this text did I come to know what the practice of Dharma really means.”
Without proper motivation, it does not matter what we do. Whether reciting prayers, meditating, or enduring great hardships, if our actions are devoid of good intention they will not become Dharma practice. Proper motivation transcends our ordinary, ephemeral desires and ultimately seeks the happiness of all living beings. “In your life,” says Rinpoche, “there is nothing to do other than to work for others, to cherish others. There is nothing more important in your life than this.”
This powerful, simple message applies to Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike—we all have the power to unlock our greatest potential. Open this book and open the door to a timeless path leading to wisdom and joy.
We experience illness on a physical level, but in order to be healed, we must understand where true healing begins: within our hearts and minds. In Ultimate Healing, internationally renowned meditation master Lama Zopa Rinpoche helps us to recognize the root of illness and gives us the tools to create our future happiness. Beginning with stories of people who have recovered from disease through meditation, Rinpoche addresses the central role played by karma and by the mental habit of “labeling” in causing illness, and shows how meditation and other thought techniques for developing compassion and insight can eliminate the ultimate cause of all disease.
Ultimate Healing shows us that by transforming our minds, especially through the development of compassion, we can eliminate the ultimate cause of all disease. In addition to relating stories of people who have recovered from disease through meditation, Lama Zopa presents practical healing meditations, including white-light healing, compassion meditation, “taking and giving”, and techniques to cure depression.
With the right perspective, our anxiety around sickness, old age, and death can be a “wholesome fear”—a fear with a positive quality that ultimately enriches and nourishes our lives. Lama Zopa Rinpoche shows us how we can use our anxiety as a high-octane fuel to really live what’s most important. Alongside Rinpoche’s teachings, Kathleen McDonald presents meditations that lead to peace, compassion, and joy for ourselves and others. Approaching our physical realities in this way will help us to live well and, when the time comes as it inevitably will, to die well too. It’s never too early to start making this most important of efforts—and, fortunately, it is never too late. An essential guide for anyone confronting the challenges of death and dying, Wholesome Fear serves as a reminder of the gift and truth of impermanence.
Transforming Problems into Happiness
“Happiness and suffering are dependent upon your mind, upon your interpretation. They do not come from outside, from others. All of your happiness and all of your suffering are created by you, by your own mind,” says Lama Zopa Rinpoche.
Commenting on an early-twentieth-century Tibetan text of instructions and practical advice for everyday spiritual living, Lama Zopa Rinpoche teaches us how to be happy during hard times by adopting skillful attitudes—ways of interpreting reality that can permit us to live a joyful and relaxed life regardless of circumstance. In Transforming Problems Into Happiness, Lama Zopa Rinpoche brings his own special flavor and contemporary relevance to a timeless teaching on Buddhist psychology. This volume will be valuable to all, no matter the spiritual background of the reader or the kind of problems that have led them to ask that ageless question: How can I achieve happiness?
This new edition includes a translation of the root text, Dodrupchen Rinpoche’s (1865–1926) Instructions on Turning Happiness and Suffering into the Path of Enlightenment, translated by Tulku Thundop. Learn more about Dodrupchen Rinpoche at the Treasury of Lives.
How to Be Happy
In How to Be Happy, Lama Zopa Rinpoche helps us find our good heart, the heart that rejoices in the happiness of others.
How to transform problems into happiness, how to find compassion for our “enemies”, how to treat ourselves with kindness; it is on these persistent and universal challenges that Lama Zopa offers his wise and warm teachings. Including three wonderfully rich and evocative guided meditations, How to Be Happy works with the reader to show that happiness in this present moment is dependent on the wisdom of a truly open and generous heart.
Anyone looking for advice on how to be happy—truly, meaningfully happy—will find Lama Zopa Rinpoche to be a trustworthy and skillful guide. He is a tireless teacher of methods that work for us when all is well, and also when life’s troubles, big and small, seem unmanageable.
Tibetan masters excelled at crafting comprehensive visions of the entire Buddhist path. The Single Intention tradition is among the most important of these. Sobisch’s magisterial work makes this essential teaching available in all its splendor for the first time.
Kurtis R. Schaeffer, University of Virginia
The Single Intention by Kyobpa Jikten Sumgön not only is the most important work of the Drigung Kagyü school but also plays a central role in Indo-Tibetan hermeneutics. The huge diversity of at times contradictory statements attributed to the Buddha is thus taken to mask an underlying single common intent, namely to further and establish all sentient beings in complete awakening. Jikten Sumgön, in other words, does not accept the common claim that the different cycles of teachings were meant for different types of beings but rather that all disciples need to be guided through them sequentially on a gradual path.
Jan-Ulrich Sobisch’s meticulous and well-annotated translation of the Single Intention and the extensive commentary on it by Rikzin Chökyi Drakpa is thus a most welcome contribution. It profits from a rare combination of the translator’s privileged access to traditional Tibetan learned masters on the one hand and rigorous academic scholarship on the other. The book is highly readable and can be recommended even to newcomers to the field of Buddhist philosophy and hermeneutics.”
Klaus-Dieter Mathes, professor of Tibetan and Buddhist studies, University of Vienna