Dr. Karen Derris is a scholar of South and Southeast Asian Buddhist traditions and professor of religious studies at the University of Redlands. Her research focuses on the intersection of literature and feminist ethics in pre-modern Buddhist traditions, particularly focusing upon the central importance of community in Buddhist ethical and spiritual development. Dr. Derris received her PhD from the Committee on the Study of Religion at Harvard University in 2000.
“Karen Derris writes of her journey through life, cancer, and facing death with such eloquence in Storied Companions. Often paired with Buddhist narratives, she tells how living with an open heart is possible even when living with a terminal illness. This is a touching and inspirational book.”
—Sharon Salzberg, author of Lovingkindness and Real Change
“This book holds an astonishing combination of hard reality with visionary light and love. Neither cancels out the other. The result is a gift to its readers, teaching us how to see our own reality, whatever that might be; teaching us how to place ourselves directly into stories of great profundity from Buddhist tradition; and teaching us how to read our own life stories through the lucid lens of honesty with which Derris tells us hers. This is a book of great compassion and clarity.”—Janet Gyatso, Hershey Professor of Buddhist Studies Harvard Divinity School
“In the right hands, Buddhist narratives can offer us abundant and consequential lessons about how to live and how to die. After reading this nuanced, layered, tender, and courageous book, we are left feeling profound gratitude. Because of Karen Derris’s deep practice of reading and re-telling Buddhist stories, we can clearly sense that she is ‘looking over her shoulder,’ extending to us her hand, and encouraging us to orientate our lives by love rather than by fear. This is an amazing gift, one beyond measure.”—Jan Willis, author of Dreaming Me; Black, Baptist, and Buddhist and Dharma Matters: Women, Race, and Tantra
“There are many miracles in Karen Derris’s life. Not the least of which is this shimmering memoir. Reading the life story of this smart, compassionate scholar and writer, as intellectually bold as she is physically courageous, I learned how the great Buddhist stories reflect and intermingle with the most profound human experiences. This is a book about love in its infinite manifestations. In the face of daunting circumstances, Derris’s voice is sweet and strong, an aria of benevolence. Reading Storied Companions made me want to be a better person.”
—Leslie Brody, author of Sometimes You Have to Lie: The Life and Times of Louise Fitzhugh, Renegade Author of Harriet the Spy
Cancer, Trauma, and Discovering Guides for Living in Buddhist Narratives
“With my diagnosis of grade IV brain cancer, I no longer observe the truth of impermanence from a critical, analytical distance. I am crashing into it, or it into me.”
Facing a terminal cancer diagnosis, Karen Derris—professor, mother, and Buddhist practitioner—instinctually turned to books. By rereading ancient Buddhist stories with fresh questions and a new purpose in mind, she discovered evolving ways to make them immediate and real. Storied Companions interweaves Karen’s memoir of her lived experiences of trauma and terminal illness with stories from Buddhist literary traditions, sharing with the reader how she found ways to live fully even with the reality that she won’t live as long as she needs—or wants.
Using her knowledge, practice, and imagination, Karen illustrates how placing yourself within narratives can turn them from distant and static sources into companions, and from companions into guides. Reading along with her, you’ll realize how this practice of reading and these ancient narratives can help us come to terms with impermanence, develop empathy and compassion, and realize our own interconnectedness.
Honest, powerful, and insightful, Storied Companions itself becomes an invaluable companion, guiding the reader to discover new ways of facing and experiencing life, death, and impermanence.
- 216 pages, 6 x 9 inches
- ISBN 9781614295754
- 216 pages
- ISBN 9781614295990
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.
A new volume of original poetry from the bestselling creator of Poetry of Impermanence, Mindfulness, and Joy.
In Dharma Talk, award-winning poet John Brehm explores the perennial themes of aging, compassion, emptiness, nonseparation, and more. At once poignant and humorous, Brehm’s gentle, wry poems remind us that the personal and the universal are not different—and point us to the Dharma of everyday life.
Impermanence in Plain English
The bestselling author of Mindfulness in Plain English guides the reader toward a direct and personal realization of one of the foundational tenets of Buddhism: all things that arise must pass away.
Once-youthful bodies grow old and weary. New thoughts, feelings, and sensations arise and fade every second. Impermanence is not some abstract metaphysical idea. This is the Dhamma, and you can see it for yourself.
Drawing from Pali scriptures and writing with fresh, direct language, Bhante Gunaratana and his student Julia Harris highlight the Buddha’s exhortation that we must directly realize for ourselves the liberating insights that free us from suffering and cyclic existence, without relying only on the word of religious authorities or academic or philosophical musings.
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.
Being Human and a Buddha Too
In writing that sparkles and inspires, Anne Klein (Lama Rigzin Drolma) shows us how to liberate our buddha nature to be both human and a buddha too.
This first volume in the House of Adzom series centers on Longchenpa’s seven trainings in bodhicitta, our awakened mind, the ultimate purpose of our practice and training. Anne Klein’s original composition masterfully weaves in Adzom Paylo Rinpoche’s commentary and Jigme Lingpa’s five pith practices and commentary on the trainings, in keeping with Longchenpa’s skillful integration of sutra, tantra, and Dzogchen, to resolve our most challenging questions about what awakening involves and how it relates to the truth of our human situation right now. As foundational teachings for Dzogchen practitioners, the seven trainings are framed as contemplations on impermanence, the adventitiousness of happiness and its short duration, the multiple causes of death, the meaninglessness of our worldly activities, reliance on the Buddha’s good qualities, the teacher’s pith instructions, and ultimately nonconceptual meditation on bliss and emptiness, clarity and emptiness, and reality itself.
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.
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 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.
How to Enjoy Death
“When suddenly one day one of your loved ones dies and you don’t know what to do to help, you’ll feel so confused, so lost. This made me think that knowing how to help others at the time of death is such important education to have. By providing the right support, the right environment, you can help your loved one die peacefully, with virtuous thoughts, and thus have a good rebirth.”—Lama Zopa Rinpoche
For years Lama Zopa Rinpoche has envisioned a practical book to inform students of how to help loved ones have a beneficial death. How to Enjoy Death has been compiled from years of Rinpoche’s teachings and has been lovingly edited by Venerable Robina Courtin. Here Lama Zopa Rinpoche provides detailed advice on how best to prepare ourselves to face the inevitable end of our own and our loved one’s lives with courage, grace, and a mind free of fear. With great care, Rinpoche explains what to do in the months, weeks, and days that precede death, as well as how to handle the moment itself and the mantras, prayers, and meditations that must follow the death of a loved one. All of the practices one needs to be prepared to face death are handily included between the covers of this thoroughly pragmatic volume, making this an essential reference for Tibetan Buddhist practitioners, caregivers, hospice workers, or chaplains.
This limited edition book includes:
- 16 full color images, including the Wheel of Life, Buddha Śhākyamuni, and more
- 2 pull-out cards printed with mantras requested specifically by Lama Zopa Rinpoche
- the full text of essential prayers and rituals
- 2 ribbon page markers to mark common practices and keep place in your process
- Beautiful and durable faux leather flexible cover
- 2-color interior to help you navigate the different practices