Gavin Kilty has been a full-time translator for the Institute of Tibetan Classics since 2001. Before that he lived in Dharamsala, India, for fourteen years, where he spent eight years training in the traditional Geluk monastic curriculum through the medium of class and debate at the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics. He also teaches Tibetan language courses in India, Nepal, and elsewhere, and is a translation reviewer for the organization 84000, Translating the Words of the Buddha.
TALES FROM THE TIBETAN OPERAS
Tales from the Tibetan Operas
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.
- 792 pages
- ISBN 9780861714704
- 792 pages, 6.25 x 9.25 inches
- ISBN 9780861714704
The Tārā Tantra
New release—coming in May!
This volume contains an English translation of the “root text” of the Tārā-mūla-kalpa, a scripture-ritual compendium that captures an important Buddhist tantric tradition in mid-formation. In this regard it is utterly unique and unlike any other text in the Buddhist canon. Its contents document the emergence of the quintessential female Buddha Tārā in seventh-century India. As her popularity grew, her cult spread throughout Southeast Asia, as well as Tibet, where she became revered as the “Mother” of the Tibetan people. Tārā is worshiped for a variety of reasons, from health and long life, to wealth, protection from enemies, and ultimately, the mind of enlightenment. Her presence pervades the evolution of Buddhism in Tibet, including within royal circles, as well as mentor and guide to many important Buddhist scholars, practitioners, and lineage holders.
Jan Willis was among the first Westerners to encounter exiled Tibetan teachers abroad in the late sixties, instantly finding her spiritual and academic home. TIME Magazine named her one of six “spiritual innovators for the new millennium,” both for her considerable academic accomplishments and for her cultural relevance. Her writing engages head-on with issues current to Buddhist practitioners in America, including dual-faith practitioners and those from marginalized groups.
This collection of eighteen scholarly and popular essays spans a lifetime of reflection and teaching by Willis. Grouped in four sections—Women and Buddhism, Buddhism and Race, Tantric Buddhism and Saints’ Lives, and Buddhist-Christian Reflections—the essays provide timeless wisdom for all who are interested in contemporary Buddhism and its interface with ancient tradition.
The Buddha’s Single Intention
This book presents an influential and extraordinary teaching of the Kagyü tradition of Tibetan Buddhism known as the Single Intention by the master Drigung 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.
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
The Rice Seedling Sutra
One of Tibet’s great scholars presents the Buddha’s profound teachings on the laws of karma and dependent arising.
In the Rice Seedling Sutra, the Buddha unpacks the law of cause and effect. He notes how in the natural world, a seed becomes a sprout, which produces a flower, which bears fruit. A seed has no intention to sprout; when the right conditions are assembled the fruit arises. Similarly, when our senses encounter an object, a sense consciousness arises naturally, without our intending it. This, says the Buddha, is also how karma works and how actions performed out of ignorance create suffering, whether we want it or not. And this same law of causality also governs enlightenment—when the right conditions are assembled, awakening is assured.
In many sutras like this one, the Buddha explains that to understand his Dharma is to understand dependent arising. Geshe Yeshe Thabkhe explores dependent arising, and the corollary teaching of emptiness, through this sutra and others. Commenting on the works of Indian masters such as Śāntarakṣita, he shows how belief in a creator god is incompatible with dependent arising, and by illuminating the teachings of Nāgārjuna and Candrakīrti, he shows how we do—and do not—exist.
Geshe Yeshe Thabkhe was among the last generation of scholars to be trained in Tibet before the Chinese occupation. He has been teaching Westerners for decades, having worked with top scholars in the United States, and he is especially familiar with this sutra, having translated the commentary by Kamalaśīla into Hindi. Here his deep familiarity, combined with his extensive command of the Buddhist scriptures, allows him to present the Buddha’s words in a rich and authoritative context.
The Vajra Rosary Tantra
The Vajra Rosary Tantra (Śrī Vajramālā Vyākhyā Tantra) is one of the most significant and detailed tantras attributed to the Buddha, in his emanation as Vajradhara. It instructs a practitioner how to overcome the 108 energies and their related instinctual conceptions that circulate in the subtle body and mind and drive continued rebirth in cyclic existence, in order to attain the freedom of enlightenment. One of the explanatory tantras of the Buddhist Esoteric Community (Guhyasamāja) Tantra, its unexcelled yoga tantric system is among the most advanced systems described in Tibetan Buddhist literature. It mainly focuses on the final stage of Buddhist tantric practice, the perfection stage by means of which a person is said actually to become a buddha.
There is no more authoritative endorsement than that of the great Tibetan renaissance scholar, Lama Tsong Khapa, who strongly recommended the Vajra Rosary Tantra as follows: “Nāgārjuna, in condensing the perfection stage into the five stages, follows this tantra; he also follows it regarding the creation stage three samadhis, four yogas, thirty-two deities, and so forth. . . . It explains the many stages of creation and dissolution of the body in terms of the channel structure, wind energy movement, and enlightenment-spirit substance as a factor in the decisive ascertainment of the internal and external life-energy controls for bringing forth the four voids and the magic body, depending on . . . the hidden discipline of desire and of the vajra recitation . . . and the limitless ways for the dawning of realization. . . . It seems that such excellent elucidation is rarely seen.”
The Essence of the Vast and Profound
The Essence of the Vast and Profound will soon find its place as one of the greatest lamrim commentaries ever given.
Drawn from teachings by Pabongkha Rinpoche, which were given over the course of thirty-six days in 1934 in Tibet’s capital city of Lhasa, The Essence of the Vast and Profound masterfully weaves together Tsongkhapa’s Middle-Length Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, the Second Panchen Lama’s Swift Path, and the Third Dalai Lama’s Essence of Refined Gold. Rinpoche offers wise and compassionate guidance on such crucial subjects as how to rely on a spiritual teacher, how to develop certainty on the path, what it means to take refuge, how to understand karma, and the importance of compassion—explaining the entire spectrum of the Buddhist path, and also inspiring the reader to follow it.
The definitive history of Sera Monastery, one of the great monastic universities of Tibet, from its founding to the present.
Founded in 1419, Sera Monastery was one of the three densas, the great seats of learning of the Geluk school of Tibetan Buddhism. With over 9,000 monks in residence in 1959, it was the second largest monastery in the world. Throughout its history, Sera has produced some of Tibet’s most important saints, scholars, and political leaders.
The scholars José Cabezón and Penpa Dorjee begin Sera Monastery with the history of monasticism from the time of the Buddha through its early development in Tibet and then tell the 600-year story of Sera from its founding to the present. They recount how the monastery grew and evolved during the centuries, how it has fared under Chinese rule, and how it was transplanted in the Tibetan refugee camps of South India. We are introduced to some of Sera’s most important lamas and hermits, as well as its curriculum, yearly calendar, the daily life of scholar monks, and the role Sera monks played in the political history of Tibet.
Former Sera monks themselves, Cabezón and Dorjee demonstrate their firsthand knowledge of the monastery, its traditions, and daily life on every page. Scrupulously researched over decades, Sera Monastery is the most comprehensive history of a Tibetan monastery ever written in a Western language.
Beautiful Adornment of Mount Meru
The lucid literary style of Beautiful Adornment of Mount Meru has made it a classic in the study of Indian philosophical thought, both in Tibetan monasteries and contemporary academic circles.
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.
Mind Seeing Mind
The hardback version of this book is currently out of stock. Check back soon.
A definitive study of one of the most important practice lineages in Tibetan Buddhism, with translations of its key texts.
Mahāmudrā, the “great seal,” refers to the ultimate nature of mind and reality, to a meditative practice for realizing that ultimate reality, and to the final fruition of buddhahood. It is especially prominent in the Kagyü tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, so it sometimes comes as a surprise that mahāmudrā has played an important role in the Geluk school, where it is part of a special transmission received in a vision by the tradition’s founder, Tsongkhapa. Mahāmudrā is a significant component of Geluk ritual and meditative life, widely studied and taught by contemporary masters such as the Dalai Lama.
Roger Jackson’s Mind Seeing Mind offers us both a definitive scholarly study of the history, texts, and doctrines of Geluk mahāmudrā and masterful translations of its seminal texts. It provides a skillful survey of the Indian sources of the teaching, illuminates the place of mahāmudrā among Tibetan Buddhist schools, and details the history and major textual sources of Geluk mahāmudrā. Jackson also addresses critical questions, such as the relation between Geluk and Kagyü mahāmudrā, and places mahāmudrā in the context of contemporary religious studies. The translation portion of Mind Seeing Mind includes ten texts on mahāmudrā history, ritual, and practice.
Mind Seeing Mind adds considerably to our understanding of Tibetan Buddhist spirituality and shows how mahāmudrā came to be woven throughout the fabric of the Geluk tradition.
Reasons and Lives in Buddhist Traditions
Particularly known for his groundbreaking and influential work in Tibetan studies, Matthew Kapstein is a true polymath in Buddhist and Asian studies more generally; possessing unsurpassed knowledge of Tibetan culture and civilization, he is also deeply grounded in Sanskrit and Indology, and his highly accomplished work in these cultural and civilizational areas has exemplified a whole range of disciplinary perspectives.
Reflecting something of the astonishing range of Matthew Kapstein’s work and interests, this collection of essays pays tribute to a luminary in the field by exemplifying some of the diverse work in Buddhist and Asian studies that has been impacted by his scholarship and teaching. Engaging matters as diverse as the legal foundations of Tibetan religious thought, the teaching careers of modern Chinese Buddhists, the history of Bhutan, and the hermeneutical insights of Vasubandhu, these essays by students and colleagues of Matthew Kapstein are offered as testament to a singular scholar and teacher whose wide-ranging work is unified by a rare intellectual selflessness.
Following in the Buddha’s Footsteps
Delve into the substance of spiritual practice in this fourth volume of the Dalai Lama’s definitive series on the path to awakening, Following in the Buddha’s Footsteps. You’ll first hear His Holiness’s explanation of the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, why they are reliable guides on the path, and how to relate to them. His Holiness then describes the three essential trainings common to all Buddhist traditions: the higher trainings in ethical conduct, concentration, and wisdom. These chapters show us how to live a life free of harm to self or others and give us detailed instructions on how to develop single-pointed concentration as well as the higher states of concentration available to an earnest practitioner. In addition, the chapters on wisdom contain in-depth teachings on the noble eightfold path and the four establishments of mindfulness for developing greater awareness and understanding of our body, feelings, mind, and other phenomena. Together, these topics form the core of Buddhist practice.
This is a book to treasure and refer to repeatedly as you begin the path, progress on it, and near the final goal of nirvāṇa.
Brilliantly Illuminating Lamp of the Five Stages
The Brilliantly Illuminating Lamp of the Five Stages (rim lnga rab tu gsal ba’i sgron me) is Tsong Khapa’s master commentary on the perfection-stage practices of the Esoteric Community (Guhyasamāja), the tantra he considered fundamental for the “father tantra” class of unexcelled yoga tantras, as the primary source for the development of the “magic body” technique for attaining buddhahood. Based on Nāgārjuna’s Five Stages (Pañcakrama) and Āryadeva’s Lamp That Integrates the Practices (Caryāmelāpakapradīpa), as well as a vast range of other works by Indian and Tibetan scholars and adepts, it also reveals openly the experiences of the author, himself a master practitioner.
This blockbuster work of Jey Tsong Khapa opens a window on one of the most amazing, incredibly advanced attainments ever claimed to be possible for a human being within a single lifetime. The author explains in detail the relation between exoteric and esoteric teachings and practices on the path to complete enlightenment, with its seemingly superhuman awarenesses and abilities. He clarifies the interconnections between the various categories of secret tantras, inspires by showing how far-reaching are the systematic methods of positive personal transformation developed and taught in India and Tibet, and openly shows what this tradition considered possible, giving us a whole new vision of life’s meaning and a strengthened confidence in our horizon of opportunities. This bold and well-reasoned work presents a fascinating new way to understand our own body and mind, to manage more confidently our own life and death trajectories, and to rejoice in the sense of the extreme value of our human lifetime as a platform for realizing our personal evolutionary potential.
Illumination of the Hidden Meaning, Vol. 2
This is the second of two volumes presenting Dr. David Gray’s study and translation of the Illumination of the Hidden Meaning (sbas don kun gsal) by the Tibetan Buddhist scholar-yogi Tsong Khapa Losang Drakpa (1357–1419). The Illumination contains Tsong Khapa’s magnificent commentary on the Indian Buddhist Cakrasamvara Tantra, one of the earliest and most influential of the yoginī tantras, a genre of tantric Buddhist scripture that emphasizes female deities, particularly the often fiercely depicted yoginīs and ḍākinīs. Together with the first volume, this contains the first English translation of this important work that marks a milestone in the history of the Tibetan assimilation of the Indian Buddhist tantras.
This second volume, which includes Tsong Khapa’s detailed introduction to chapters 25–51 of the 51-chapter Cakrasamvara root tantra, covers the vows, observances, and conduct of the initiated yogī, particularly in relation to the yoginīs, whose favor he must cultivate. It describes in great detail the rites of the tradition, including homa fire sacrifice and the uses of the mantras of the maṇḍala’s main deities. The author provides a trilingual English–Tibetan–Sanskrit glossary.
Together with the author’s related publications in this series—including translations of the root Cakrasamvara Tantra (2007, 2010, 2019); the critically edited Sanskrit and Tibetan texts of the root tantra (2012); and the first volume of this master Tibetan commentary (chapters 1–24), subtitled Maṇḍala, Mantra, and the Cult of the Yoginīs (2017)—the reader will have the first full study of this important tantra available in English.
Illumination of the Hidden Meaning, Vol. 1
This is the first volume of the annotated translation of Tsong Khapa’s Illumination of the Hidden Meaning (sbas don kun gsal), a magnificent commentary on the Cakrasamvara Tantra. This is the first English translation of this important work, which marked a milestone in the history of the Tibetan understanding and practice of the Indian Buddhist tantras.
This first volume, which includes Tsong Khapa’s detailed introduction to chapters 1–24 of the 51-chapter Cakrasamvara root tantra, covers the history of the tradition, its interpretation, and a wide range of topics including the construction of the maṇḍala, the consecration therein, the decoding of mantras and their ritual applications, and details concerning the clans of the yoginīs.
The author situates the work in context, and explores in depth the sources used by Tsong Khapa in composing this commentary. He also provides detailed notes, a trilingual English–Tibetan–Sanskrit glossary, and an appendix that includes a translation of Sumatikīrti’s synopsis of the Cakrasamvara Tantra entitled the Laghusaṃvaratantrapaṭalābhisandhi, which is quoted by Tsong Khapa in its entirety in his commentary.
Together with the author’s related publications in this series—including translations of the root Cakrasamvara Tantra (2007, 2010, 2019); the critically edited Sanskrit and Tibetan texts of the root tantra (2012); and the second volume of this master Tibetan commentary (chapters 25–51), subtitled Yogic Vows, Conduct, and Ritual Praxis (2019)—the reader will have the first full study of this important tantra available in English.
Manjushri’s Innermost Secret
Highly informative and deeply moving, Manjushri’s Innermost Secret contains the entire path to enlightenment that was transmitted in direct communication with Lama Tsongkhapa by the wisdom-buddha Manjushri. This invaluable commentary provides an authoritative illumination of the Lama Chöpa ritual text for practitioners and is widely revered and commented upon in its own right. Designed for those who have received the highest yoga tantra empowerment, these texts swiftly guide the spiritual practitioner to the state of complete enlightenment through the full spectrum of teachings on the lamrim and mind training (lojong). It also covers the generation and completion stages of highest yoga tantra, all of which are grounded in deep, heartfelt faith and devotion for one’s spiritual guide.
The Essence of Tsongkhapa’s Teachings
His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s commentary on Tsongkhapa’s Three Principal Aspects of the Path helps us integrate the full Buddhist path into our own practice. His Holiness offers a beautiful elucidation of the three aspects of the path: true renunciation and the wish for freedom, the altruistic awakening mind (bodhichitta), and the correct view of emptiness. These three aspects of the path are the foundation of all the sutric and tantric practices, and encapsulate Tsongkhapa’s vision of the Buddhist path in its entirety.
Practitioners will find The Three Principal Aspects of the Path invaluable as a manual for daily meditation. The universal and timeless insights of this text speak to contemporary spiritual aspirants, East and West. The root verses are presented in both Tibetan and fluid English translation to accompany these profound teachings.
The concept of nonduality lies at the very heart of Mahayana Buddhism. In the West, it’s usually associated with various kinds of absolute idealism in the West, or mystical traditions in the East—and as a result, many modern philosophers are poorly informed on the topic. Increasingly, however, nonduality is finding its way into Western philosophical debates. In this “scholarly but leisurely and very readable” (Spectrum Review) analysis of the philosophies of nondualism of (Hindu) Vedanta, Mahayana Buddhism, and Taoism, renowned thinker David R. Loy extracts what he calls “a core doctrine” of nonduality. Loy clarifies this easily misunderstood topic with thorough, subtle, and understandable analysis.
Tales from the Tibetan Opera invites us into the world of an important tradition of Tibet. Having been born in Chung Riboché, Tibet, the birthplace of the operas, I have witnessed this joyful event annually. Many of the stories are derived from the Jataka Tales, which express spiritual messages. This unique book is educational and informative.
The Venerable Lama Losang Samten, Spiritual Director, The Tibetan Buddhist Center of Philadelphia
More than the treasure text or the Dharma discourse, over the centuries, the people of Tibet have imbibed the principles of Buddhism from the songs, dances, and dramas of Tibetan opera. Here, for the first time, the most famous of those operas appear in English, masterfully translated by Gavin Kilty, who provides a fascinating introduction to the genre and its history. Some of the stories are familiar from India, some are set in Tibet, some are set in India. Together, they evoke the spirit of the performing arts of Tibet.
Donald Lopez, Arthur E. Link Distinguished University Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies, University of Michigan
This book makes available for the first time the stories on which Tibet’s greatest operas are based. These wonderful legends are also Tibet’s most important and enduring folk tales. Rendered into beautiful English by Gavin Kilty and prefaced with an important essay on the history of the lhamo operatic tradition, Tales from the Tibetan Operas is a superb addition not just to the Library of Tibetan Classics but to world literature itself.
José Ignacio Cabezón, Dalai Lama Professor of Tibetan Buddhism and Cultural Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara