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Masters of Meditation and Miracles: Lives of the Great Buddhist Masters of India and Tibet

by Tulku Thondup, Harold Talbott

Buy the book: Tulku Thondup. Masters of Meditation and Miracles: Lives of the Great Buddhist Masters of India and Tibet

Release Date: December, 1999

Edition: Paperback


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Buy the book: Tulku Thondup. Masters of Meditation and Miracles: Lives of the Great Buddhist Masters of India and Tibet

An inspired work of scholarship and translation

Tulku Thondup's book is a great contribution to English language resources on Tibetan Buddhism. The background information in the introduction and footnotes is extensive and provides what scholars and neophytes alike would need to know about Vajrayana Buddhism in general, and the Nyingma tradition in particular, in order to better understand and appreciate the sacred biographies of great masters that are collected here. The life-stories themselves are redolent of the spirit of enlightenment, and as the title suggests, abound in descriptions of meditational experience and miraculous events. This is a good book for Buddhist practitioners, because it shows the true meaning of discipline and devotion, as exemplified by the lives of great masters.

Though the life-stories are not all told chronologically, as tends to be the case with Western sacred biographies, this also tends to be true of the original Tibetan biographies. Tulku Thondup, with the skillful editorship of Harold Talbot, has done a great service in navigating many difficult and rare primary sources in Tibetan language, and compiling and translating these stories from them.

A small word of caution regarding the first book review above, frank@philos.rug.nl from Groningen, Holland. Tulku Thondup's book has little if anything to do with Phowa. The Phowa or "transference of consciousness" taught by Ole Nydahl is a distinct practice of the Karma Kagyu tradition (though it is found in similar forms elsewhere, including the Nyingma traditions such as the Longchen Nyingthig). The Nyingthig tradition is much more than just Phowa, so the two should not be confused, as our Dutch friend suggests here. Those interested in the Kagyu tradition of Phowa can learn something of its transmission in another excellent example of Tibetan sacred biography in translation, _The Life of Marpa the Translator_, Shambhala (1995 et. al.).

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If you are interested in Tibetan Buddhism, I've found that it's much more useful to start of with reading some biographies, rather than reading theoretical works. Buddhism is, by definition, a matter of practice and experience, not of letters and concepts. These are the lifestories of the masters of the Longchen Nyinthig. Some stories are amazing fairietales, full of symbolical and theatrical events. Some stories are very close to our own experience. All stories are valuable accounts of the lifes of people who were willing to look beyon their own gardengate, to the needs of others. Very, very inspiring.

But... I have two points of criticism: 1) the text is sometimes very sloppy, with alineas full of unrelated facts and remarks,which are not necessarily in chronological order. 2) The style is somewhat Tibetan, and not all jargon is explained. This may be an obstacle to new readers.

But anyway, this book is a definite must-have, especially for people with an interst in the Nyingma-tradition, or people who have done a Phowa-course with Lama Ole Nydahl (this Nyinthig-lineage is the Phowa-lineage).

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