Conversations on Buddha-Nature

From Buddha-Nature

Conversations on Buddha-Nature
Regular live interviews with Buddhist practitioners, scholars, and thinkers.

View podcast audio files for download or listen online here.

This is a space for stimulating and inspiring conversations on Buddha-Nature and related subjects. As a part of the Buddha-Nature Project of the Tsadra Foundation, Karma Phuntsho will host conversations with a Buddhist leader, influencer or expert each month on the theories and practices of Buddha-Nature, which will be live on Facebook and recorded on Zoom. An exercise of mindful listening, right speech, and wholesome exploration of meaning and nature of life, these conversations aim to enhance the understanding and awareness of Buddha-Nature and promote the ethos of innate goodness and positive perception.

Dr. Peter Skilling and Lopen Karma Phuntsho will discuss a key early quote attributed to the Buddha that serves as a source for buddha-nature teachings, among other things textual, historical, and beyond.

Peter Skilling is the founder of the Fragile Palm Leaves Foundation (Bangkok). He received a PhD with honors and a Habilitation in Paris (Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes). Peter’s publications include numerous articles and several books, including Questioning the Buddha (Wisdom, 2021), How Theravada is Theravada? (University of Washington Press, 2012), and Mahāsūtras: Great Discourses of the Buddha (2 vols., Oxford, The Pali Text Society, 1994 and 1997). His interests include the art and archaeology of South and Southeast Asia, as seen for example in the edited volume Wat Si Chum, Sukhothai: Art, Architecture and Inscriptions (River Books, Bangkok, 2008).

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Karma Phuntsho and David Germano discuss buddha-nature in Dzogchen, early Nyingma tantras, termas, Nyingtik Teachings, and touch on the commentarial writings of Longchenpa and others.

David Germano is the Executive Director of the Contemplative Sciences Center at the University of Virginia. He has taught and researched Tibetan and Buddhist Studies at the University of Virginia since 1992. He is currently focused on the exploration of contemplative ideas, values, and practices involving humanistic and scientific methodologies, as well as new applications in diverse fields; he also holds a faculty appointment in the School of Nursing. He has been a leader in the field of Tibetan Buddhist studies for many years and has long immersed himself in Dzogchen teachings and texts. 

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Lama Shenpen Hookham is the founding Lama of the Awakened Heart Sangha and principle teacher of the Living the Awakened Heart training. Lama Shenpen has trained for over 50 years in the Mahamudra & Dzogchen traditions of Tibetan Buddhism.

Lama Shenpen wrote a seminal work in the western study of Buddha-Nature, her doctoral thesis at Oxford, The Buddha Within, which was then the first work by a Western writer to present an analysis of the Shentong tradition based on previously untranslated sources. She is also the author of There’s More to Dying than Death, Keeping the Dalai Lama Waiting and Other Stories, and The Guru Principle.

She has spent over 12 years in retreat and has been a student of Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, one of the foremost living masters of the Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, since the late 70s.

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John Canti, longtime practitioner and translator, founder of Padmakara Translation Group, and Editorial Director at the 84000 Project, will speak with Lopen Dr. Karma Phuntsho about a wide range of topics related to buddha-nature teachings:

  • The traditional accounts of Asaṅga receiving the byams chos sde lnga (Five Treatises) from Maitreya
  • The rgyud bla ma as sūtra commentary, and its relationship to the other four texts
  • The mystery of its apparent disappearance in India between the fifth and tenth centuries
  • Mipham’s commentary and its sources
  • The “other” less discussed aspects of the rgyud bla ma — its explanations of the Three Jewels, of the qualities and activity
  • The impact of Buddha-nature teachings as a Western practitioner

John Canti studied medicine and anthropology at Cambridge University (UK) and qualified as a doctor in 1975. While still a medical student he met and began to study with some of the great Tibetan Buddhist masters of the older generation, especially Kangyur Rinpoche, Dudjom Rinpoche, and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. After some years of medical work in northeastern Nepal in the late 1970s he went to the Dordogne, France, to complete two three-year retreats at Chanteloube, and has remained primarily based there ever since.

John is a founding member of the Padmakara Translation Group, was a Tsadra Foundation Fellow from 2001-2014, and was awarded the 2016 Khyentse Foundation Fellowship. In 2009, when 84000 first started, he was appointed Editorial Chair of 84000, and in 2020 has become Editorial Co-Director.

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Khenpo Tenzin Norgay Rinpoche will talk with Lopen Dr. Karma Phuntsho about the study and practice of Buddha-Nature Teachings in the Nyingma Tradition.

Khenpo Tenzin Norgay Rinpoche was born in Bhutan in 1965. He became a senior colleague at Ngagyur Nyingma Institute, the prestigious Buddhist studies and research center, at Namdroling Monastery in Mysore. At the Institute he studied under Khenchen Pema Sherab, Khenpo Namdrol Tsering, Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso, and other visiting professors, including Khenchen Jigme Phuntsok and Khenpo Pema Tsewang from Tibet. He completed the Shedra program in 1995 and joined the Institute staff, teaching there for three years. He was formally enthroned as Khenpo by His Holiness Penor Rinpoche in 1998 and was assigned by His Holiness to teach at the Buddhist college at Palyul monastery in Tibet. He is now the main resident master at Palyul Dharma Center in the New York City metropolitan area.

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Dr. Cholvijarn and Dr. Karma Phuntsho will discuss similarities and disimilarities in debates about interpretations of the ultimate in Thai and Tibetan Buddhisms.

Potprecha Cholvijarn is the author of Nibbāna as True Reality beyond the Debate, a book about the recent debate in Thailand over the nature of nibbāna (nirvāṇa), the unconditioned, whether it is attā (self) or anattā (not-self). Western Buddhist studies, especially of recent years, have assumed that Theravāda Buddhism straightforwardly teaches the doctrine of anattā: that Theravāda Buddhism rejects attā in all respects, including in the ultimate sense. However, as the well-known debate in Thailand, which reached its zenith in 1999, has shown, there appears to be a significant minority of Theravāda monks, respected by significant numbers of Theravāda laity, arguing that nibbāna is attā.

In the book, Dr. Cholvijarn compares the Thai debate to the Tibetan Rang Stong and Gzan Stong dispute and concludes that "they reveal two similar trends found in the history of Buddhist thought, one positing a substantial absolute beyond all conceptualization, and the other rejecting all kinds of substantial absolute. Both trends are found at various points in the history of Buddhism in different traditions."

Potprecha Cholvijarn holds a PhD in Buddhist Studies from the University of Bristol, in the UK. He is currently a special lecturer at the Thai Studies Centre, Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University.

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Karl Brunnhölzl is one of the most prolific translators of Tibetan texts into English and has worked on all of the Five Treatises of Maitreya. He was originally trained as a physician and then studied at Kamalashila Institute, Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso's Marpa Institute, and Hamburg University. Since 1989, Karl has served as a translator, interpreter, and Buddhist teacher mainly in Europe, India, and Nepal. Since 1999, he has acted as one of the main translators and teachers at Nitartha Institute (director: Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche) in the USA, Canada, and Germany. He has translated and written about buddha-nature extensively and he is the author of several books on Buddhism, such as The Center of the Sunlit Sky, Luminous Melodies, Milarepa's Kungfu, and The Heart Attack Sutra. He has also completed several ground-breaking translations in the Tsadra Foundation series, including a three-volume work on the Abhisamayālaṃkāra. He has also completed the work Prajñāpāramitā, Indian "gzhan stong pas", and the Beginning of Tibetan gzhan stong in the Wiener Studien zur Tibetologie und Buddhismuskunde series. When the Clouds Part: The Uttaratantra and Its Meditative Tradition as a Bridge between Sutra and Tantra, formed the basis for the Buddha-Nature website project. In 2019 his translation of the Mahāyānasaṃgraha with Indian and Tibetan commentaries was published and won the Khyentse Foundation Prize For Outstanding Buddhist Translation.

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Please join us online for a special event at the start of 2022 with the world-renowned speaker, author, and translator, Thupten Jinpa.

Thupten Jinpa is a former Tibetan monk and a Geshe Lharampa with B.A. in philosophy and a Ph.D. in religious studies, both from Cambridge University. Since 1985, he has been the principal English translator to H.H. the Dalai Lama and has translated and edited numerous books by the Dalai Lama, including the New York Times Bestsellers Ethics for the New Millennium and The Art of Happiness. Jinpa’s own publications include works in Tibetan, English translations as well as books, the latest being Tsongkhapa: A Buddha in the Land of Snows and Illuminating the Intent, a translation of Je Tsongkhapa's commentary on Entering the Middle Way. Jinpa is the general series editor of the 32-volume Bod kyi tsug lag gces btus series, whose translations are published in English as The Library of Tibetan Classics. His current projects include the editing of classical Indian Buddhist texts from Tengyur for a special anthology known as Rgya gzhung gnad che bdam bsgrigs (Selected Indian Buddhist treaties). He is the main author of CCT (Compassion Cultivation Training), an eight-week formal program developed at Stanford University, and co-founder and president of the Compassion Institute. He is the Chair of Mind and Life Institute, founder of the Institute of Tibetan Classics, and an adjunct professor at the School of Religious Studies at McGill University. Jinpa lives in Montreal and is married with two daughters.

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Join Anne Burchardi and Lopen Karma Phuntsho as they discuss the purpose of the Buddha-Nature teachings in the context of Kagyu and Nyingma traditions and beyond. Handout Available: See an artist's modern rendition of the traditional examples of buddha-nature from the sutras.

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Join Lama Palden Drolma and Lopen Karma Phuntsho as they discuss experiences of Buddha-Nature.

Lama Palden was one of the first Western women to be authorized as a lama in 1986, by her primary teacher, Kalu Rinpoche, following her completion of the traditional Tibetan three year, three month retreat. She has been a student and practitioner of Buddhism and of Comparative Mysticism for over 40 years. She is the founding teacher of Sukhasiddhi Foundation in the SF Bay Area, a Tibetan Buddhist center in the Shangpa and Kagyu lineages. Lama Palden has a deep interest in helping to make the teachings and practices of Vajrayana Buddhism accessible and practical for Westerners in order to help students actualize our innate wisdom, love and joy. As a teacher, she is committed to each student's unique unfolding and blossoming. In 1993 Lama Palden completed a Masters degree in Counseling Psychology at Santa Clara University in Silicon Valley. After licensing as a psychotherapist, she engaged in facilitating clients psycho-spiritual integration and development, through bringing together understandings and methods from Buddhism and Psychology, as well as from the Diamond Heart work, that she engaged with and trained in for many years.

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HANDOUT FOR EVENT: Media:Yaroslav Komarovski-2021-10-30-Tsadra Buddha Nature.pdf

Lopen Dr. Karma Phuntsho will have another "Conversation on Buddha-Nature" with one of the world's most knowledgeable scholars of Śākya Chokden (1428–1507), Yaroslav Komarovski.

Śākya Chokden (1428–1507) was one of the most important thinkers of the Sakya tradition and had many complex views on Buddhist philosophy and practice, especially Madhyamaka and theories related to buddha-nature teachings, some of which are quite unique in the history of Buddhism.

Yaroslav Komarovski is a full professor of Classics and Religious Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His recent books include Radiant Emptiness: Three Seminal Works by the Golden Paṇḍita Shakya Chokden (Oxford 2020), Tibetan Buddhism and Mystical Experience (Oxford 2015), and Visions of Unity: The Golden Paṇḍita Shakya Chokden’s New Interpretation of Yogācāra and Madhyamaka (SUNY 2011). If you would like to read some of his papers on Shakya Chokden, you can find them freely available online here:

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The Nyingma tradition is an eclectic and complex Tibetan tradition with a rich history of teachings that relate to the idea of Buddha-Nature in different ways. In this video Lopen Dr. Karma Phuntsho and his compatriot Professor Dorji Wangchuk discuss interpretations of Buddha-Nature theory in the Nyingma tradition, of which they are both trained specialists.

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We were on Facebook live on Saturday, June 26th at 11:00 AM Eastern Standard Time, 5:00 PM CET, 9:00 PM Bhutan Time. The discussion is available online and sections will also be made available as answers to specific questions on this website.

Lopen Dr. Karma Phuntsho had a wonderful, animated, and detailed discussion with Rev. Kokyo Henkel about Buddha-Nature in Early Chan and Japanese Zen and comparisons with Tibetan Dzogchen. They also discussed some Koans, Dogen, and many textual sources from Indian sutras in Tibetan and Chinese translation to sources for key schools of Buddhism in China and Japan up to more modern texts.

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Professor Klaus-Dieter Mathes, one of the world’s most learned and published specialists on the topic of buddha-nature in Tibetan Buddhism, spoke with Lopen Karma Phuntsho about the various interpretations of tathāgatagarbha teachings in Tibet, including those of the Third Karmapa Rangjung Dorje, Longchenpa, Gö Lotsawa, Dölpopa, Butön, and Tsongkhapa.

Prof. Dr. Klaus-Dieter Mathes is the Head of the Department of South Asian, Tibetan and Buddhist Studies at the University of Vienna, Austria. Dr. Mathes has published widely on Mahāmudrā, Tibetan Madhyamaka, Yogācāra, and the interpretations of Buddha-nature in Tibet. Many of his books can be found on this website, including the recent The Other Emptiness: Rethinking the Zhentong Buddhist Discourse in Tibet and A Direct Path to the Buddha Within. Klaus-Dieter also hosted the Tathāgatagarbha Across Asia Symposium in 2019. From 1980-1984 he lived in the Himalayas and studied Buddhism, later obtaining a master's degree in Tibetology from the University of Bonn and then a Doctorate from Marburg in 1994 with a study of the Yogācāra text Dharmadharmatāvibhāga (published in 1996 in the series Indica et Tibetica). He served as the director of the Nepal Research Centre and the Nepal-German Manuscript Preservation Project in Kathmandu from 1993 to 2001.

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We were live on Facebook and Zoom on Saturday, April 24th at 11:00 AM Eastern Standard Time.

"Before any kind of perception occurs, wakefulness is already there—beyond concept, beyond limitation, beyond anything measurable. We can all awaken—that is the hope and the potential."—Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Judith L. Lief is a Buddhist teacher, writer, and editor. She was a close student of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, who empowered her as a teacher, and she has edited many of his books including The Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma volumes and Milarepa. She has been a teacher and practitioner for over 35 years and continues to teach and lead retreats throughout the world. Lief is also active in the field of death and dying and is the author of Making Friends with Death.

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We were live with Karma Lekshe Tsomo on Saturday, February 27th at 9:30 PM Eastern Standard Time (6:30 PM Pacific Standard Time)

Venerable Tsomo is an inspiration to all Buddhists interested in living a socially conscious life and is known around the world for her warmth, knowledge, and clear approach to teaching and speaking about life, Buddhism, and social activism. She co-founded Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women, which hosts the Sakyadhita Conference, the largest and most important meeting of Buddhist women in the world.

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What is our capacity for compassion? Lopen Dr. Karma Phuntsho will discuss themes of buddha-nature and human flourishing with renowned Buddhist monk and Director of the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamsala, Venerable Geshe Lhakdor.

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In this online interview, the second in a series titled "Conversations on Buddha-Nature," Lopen Dr. Karma Phuntsho discusses themes of freedom, spirituality, and buddha-nature with world-renowned Buddhist scholar, translator, writer, and activist Robert Thurman.

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In this online interview, the first of a series titled "Conversations on Buddha-Nature," Lopen Dr. Karma Phuntsho and Matthieu Ricard discuss the meaning of buddha-nature, Matthieu's first encounter with buddha-nature teachings, whether buddha-nature is a seed to be cultivated or something that must be revealed, and whether it is possible to enhance the qualities of buddha-nature without meditation and practice. In addition to these topics, Matthieu also answers questions from the attendees.

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