An informal, incomplete, randomly annotated bibliography
- in chronological order of publication
Bibliography and relevant websites
1982: Tsang Nyön Heruka, translated by the Nalanda Translation Committee, The Life of Marpa
the Translator: Seeing Accomplishes All. Prajña Press. Boulder.
Dagmema’s final merging into Marpa’s heart-mind as his outer elements dissolved has longinspired my wish for consummate Guru Yoga, consummate p’howa. And, her fearless championing of Milarepa—even though Marpa found it misguided—is a model for compassion within the sangha of students.
1983: Namkhai Nyingpo, Oral Translation by Tarthang Tulku, edited by Jane Wilhelms, Mother
of Knowledge: The Enlightenment of Ye-shes mTsho-rgyal. Dharma Publishing. Berkeley, CA.
A beautiful book, the first of three translations of the same treasure, with great integrity of intention.
1984: Tsultrim Allione, Women of Wisdom. Routledge & Kegan Paul. London, Boston, Melbourne and Henley.
When it first appeared, I was moderately interested in the biographies and intensel interested in Lama Tsultrim’s introduction. Now I am so grateful for her prescience and effort, and fascinated with the stories.
1984: Keith Dowman, foreword by Trinley Norbu Rinpoche, Sky Dancer. Arkana, Penguin Group.
An early translation of Tertön Taksham Samten Lingpa’s treasure, with an interesting translator’s introduction and commentary, fully embellished with the translator’s interpretations.
1989: Keith Dowman, translator; Robert Beer, illustrations, Masters of Enchantment: The Lives
and Legends of the Mahasiddhas. Inner Traditions International, Ltd. Rochester, VT.
Although there were some sixty wisdom consorts of the mahasiddhas, individual biographies include only four female tantric practitioners. The book, however, is splendid, and the illustration of Laksminkara, “The Mad Princess,” arrests the nonsense in my mind.
1989: Janis D. Willis et al, Feminine Ground: Essays On Women And Tibet. Snow Lion. Ithaca, NY.
The contributors of this collection of essays demonstrate penetrating intelligence and diversity of approaches. They are scholars of Tibet, trained in its language as well as in Sanskrit, and conversant with and concerned about contemporary issues of feminism. I was fascinated by Janet Gyatso’s essay on the srin-mo demoness that lies under the geographical
ground of Tibet.
1994: Miranda Shaw, Passionate Enlightenment. Princeton University Press. Princeton, NJ.
Rich in research not found elsewhere about female Tantric practitioners in India, this work also corrects their depictions as merely passive partners in a male dominated system. Shaw finds their names, their writings, and their creation of Tantric systems.
1993: Lex Hixon, Mother of the Buddhas: Meditation on the Prajnaparamita Sutra. Quest Books.
So many translations of the Prajnaparamita sutra! This one is a warm embrace, a reminder that we have no other place to start than relative and ultimate bodhicitta.
1995: Anne Carolyn Klein, Meeting the Great Bliss Queen. Snow Lion Publications. Ithaca, NY.
Anne Klein is a formidable intellectual and Buddhist scholar, and this book is written with a vocabulary that reflects that. Yet it is interspersed with warm personal vignettes, particularly her meeting with Ani Mumtso, now the head lama of Larung Gar. She writes, “Seeing a woman on the traditional teacher’s throne gave me a visceral sensation of connectedness, a connectedness I had not been aware of missing before but could now see was different from what had occurred with male teachers.” She directs us toward wholeness and a compassionate identity that does not sacrifice strength or agency.
1995: Delog Dawa Drolma’s account of the bardo; Richard Barron’s translation, Delog: Journey
to Realms Beyond Death. Padma Publishing. Junction City, CA.
In 1991 Chagdud Rinpoche journeyed to Tibet to retrieve his mother’s account of her five-day sojourn as a delog. We photographed each page of the text in case of confiscation at the airport, but Rinpoche then took his students to Wutai Shan, and left me to manage about 300 pounds of luggage from Chengdu to Hong Kong and onward to San Francisco. In my transit through the crowded Chengdu airport (a very different place from the cavernous one
now), the check-in agent focused on calculating overweight fines, not searching luggage. The account took several years to translate, and it remains a book to be re-read in retreats, with bracing consideration of karmic consequences in the afterlife.
1996: Jérôme Edou, Machig Labdrön and the Foundations of Chöd. Snow Lion Publications.
Particularly valuable for its background material, which includes references to other female Vajrayana practitioners and recognizes Machig’s ability to authenticate the lineage of Chöd.
1998: Lama Chonam and Sangye Khandro, translators, The Lives and Liberation of Princess
Mandarava. Wisdom Publications. Boston.
With this book, Mandarava comes to life as more than the statue or painted image on Padma Jungney’s right. Her fierce beauty is vivid—she is the enlightened warrior woman sent on impossible mission to tame beings barbaric in their delusion. The range of her siddhis is astounding. Yet, so sweet in her devotion. . .
1999: Padmakara Translation Group. Foreword Jigme Khyentse Rinpoche. Treasure revealed by
Tertön Taksham Samten Lingpa. Codified by Gyalwa Changchub & Namkhai Nyingpo. Lady of
the Lotus Born: The Life and Enlightenment of Yeshe Tsogyal. Shambhala. Boston & London.
An impeccable translation, notes, and production that honors Yeshe Tsogyal’s own care in recalling, writing and preparing treasures.
2001: Judith Simmer-Brown, Dakini’s Warm Breath: The Feminine Principle in Tibetan
Buddhism. Shambala. Boston & London.
This book has been a singular reference for my teachings, when I have the opportunity to teach the three roots to well-prepared Vajrayana practitioners. Amazing what Prof. Simmer-Brown managed to assemble, through skillful means and her own dakini wisdom!
2003: Sarah Harding, translator and introduction, Machik’s Complete Explanation: Clarifying the
Meaning of Chöd. Snow Lion Publications. Ithaca, NY.
Sarah Harding is a writer’s writer. She translated Dudjom Lingpa’s T’hröma Nagmo sadhana under the direction of Chagdud Rinpoche—a beautiful, evocative English (and now Portuguese) text that still awaits the addition of corresponding Tibetan. Machik’s Complete Explanation is unique in its details about how to tailor chöd responses to the delusory gods and demons of samsara while never wavering from the realization that though they appear,they do not exist.
2004: Bardor Tulku Rinpoche; Lama Yeshe Gyamtso, translator, Rest for the Fortunate: The
Extraordinary Practice of Nyungne: Its History, Meaning, and Benefits. Rinchen Publications.
Included for its story of Princess Lakshiminkara, Gelongma Palmo, who cured her leprosy through Nyungne practice and the blessing of the 1000-Armed Chenrezig, then became a Vajrayana adept.
2005: Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. Told to Erik Pema Kunsang & Marcia Binder Schmidt, Blazing
Splendor: The Memoirs of the Dzogchen Yogi, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. Ranjung Yeshe
Publications. Boudhanath, Hong Kong & Esby.
Who doesn’t love this book, redolent with the flavor of old Tibet and timeless realization? Of particular relevance, Tulku Urgyen’s memories of his grandmother, Könchok Paldrön. He said, “It was hard to find anyone so accomplished in so many ways.”
2006: Diana j. Mukpo with Carolyn Rose Gimian, Dragon Thunder: My Life with Chögyam Trungpa. Shambhala. Boston & London.
So honest, so brave to write.
2008: Padmasambhava; recorded and concealed by Yeshe Tsogyal; translated and edited by Erik Pema Kunsang & Marcia Binder Schmidt, Treasures from Juniper Ridge. Ranjung Yeshe Publications. Boudhanath, Hong Kong & Esby.
This book, part of a trilogy and endowed with many jewels, has one especially relevant jewel: “Instruction for Women on Attaining Enlightenment Without Abandoning Daily Activities.” On that occasion, as requested by Dakini Yeshe Tsogyal, Guru Rinpoche gave each of his consorts direct, personal spiritual advice. Aspiring to integrate all seven instructions. . .
2013: Lama Tsultrim Allione, introduction; Sarah Schneider, translator. Luminous Moonlight: The Biography of Do Dasal Wangmo. Machig Publications. Pagosa Springs, CO.
Do Dasal Wangmo, a doctor of Tibetan medicine, great-granddaughter of Do khyentse Yeshe Dorje, is a representative of many women who manifested their compassion and skillful means as healers and doctors in Tibet. Warm and full of details of what it is to be a bodhisattva and realization holder in troubled times. And, as with Women of Wisdom, Lama Tsultrim’s introduction is precious.
2013: Michaela Hass, interviewer. Dakini Power. Snow Lion. Boston & London.
I am interviewed in this book. Sullen, resistant, pressured by sangha friends, feeling inarticulate and inadequate, I complied. Now I see that such interviews—our stories—might be useful for those who travel the spiritual path in the future. We aspire to be flawless examples, but we can provide a measure of guidance and inspiration on the basis of our life experiences and our transformation through dharma. Michaela did an expert job of shaping the interviews, and in these accounts by modern women we find the qualities of renunciation, courage, vision, and determination that we honor in female practitioners of the past.
2013: Sera Khandro; translated by Christina Monson and Light of Berotsana Translation Group, The Excellent Path of Devotion: An Abridged Story of a Mendicant’s Experiences on Response to Questions from Vajra Kin. Kama Terma Publications. Boulder, CO.
There is so much love and care in this concise autobiography of Sera Khandro. Just to have it in hand is profoundly moving. The clarity of the translation, the delicate font, the spaciousness on the page—offered like a kata of pure, ethereal silk, one receives in return clouds of wisdom teachings.
2014: Sarah H. Jacoby, Love and Liberation: The Autobiographical Writings of the Tibetan Buddhist Visionary Sera Khandro. Columbia University Press. New York.
This masterful presentation of Sera Khandro’s extensive autobiography has filled my mind space and generated a landscape and characters more alive than the most wonderful literary novels. As one speaker commented in the recent Symposium, it is hard to fathom how Sera Khandro maintained the courage of her pure intention throughout long years of unbearable hardship and abuse. Like a lotus from the mud, her transcendent love and wisdom prevails, along with her remarkable activity.
2014 Karma Lekshe Tsomo, editor, Eminent Buddhist Women. State University of New York Press. Albany, NY.
A wide-ranging series of essays, primarily focused on the experience of nuns. I was particularly interested in Padma’tsho’s chapter on the nuns at Yarchen Monastery in Kham because I visited it in 2009. The difference in her nuanced and detailed description and my superficial traveler’s perception alerts me not to form facile opinions. The book as a whole generates a deep respect for the ordained sangha, and the urgency to support and strengthen nunneries and the education they provide.
2017: Chönyid Drolma, translator. Foreword, Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche. Treasure revealed by Drimé Kunga. The Life and Visions of Yeshé Tsogyal: The Autobiography of the Great Wisdom Queen. Snow Lion. Boulder.
Among the several revealed treasures of Yeshe Tsogyal’s life, this one has a directness and simplicity that makes it particularly accessible. However, the chapter of prophesies near the end of the book, is quite alarming, and reminds us that we must fortify ourselves with the truth of the dharma in order to persevere when samsara’s delusory display becomes very dark and almost unbearable.
2017: Holly Gayley, Love Letters from Golok, A Tantric Couple in Modern Tibet. Columbia University Press. New York.
It is impossible to praise this book highly enough. It brings us into the heart of Tibet in the last decades of the 20th century, into the poetry of a Tantric love relationship, and into the fulfillment of lineage aspirations. Its bibliography is not only a validation of years of research, but also a starting point for future researchers.
The Red Tara treasure of Tāre Lhamo’s father, Apang Terton, has been the main practice in western Chagdud Gonpa centers for forty years. In our 1991 trip to Tibet, Chagdud Rinpoche visited Tāre Lhamo and her consort Namtrul Rinpoche. I could not accompany him because their region was off limits and my western appearance would not evade detection. So, I waited in a truckers’ hotel for several days. It was not a hardship; I only regret that I did not ask Rinpoche more about his visit. But, when he returned, he was deeply introverted and inaccessible to my prying.
2021: Holly Gayley, translator, editor. Voices from Larung Gar. Shambhala. Boulder, CO.
Two chapters of this wonderful book highlight the dynamic changes for women practitioners in Tibet. Chapter 9, Padma ‘tsho’s “The Future of Tibetan Women” is an account of Khenmo Kusum Chodron’s founding of the journal Gankar Lhamo. An important article published in that journal—Khenmo Rigzin Chodron’s article “The Way Forward for You and Me”—is translated in the book. Padma ‘tsho writes, it is “an empowering call to seek knowledge and reclaim their own confidence on the basis of newly found opportunities and capacities.”
Chapter 10, translated by Padma ‘tsho and Sarah H. Jacoby, “Lessons from Buddhist Foremothers: The Editors of the Ārya Tāre Book Series” focuses on an anthology of writings by and about women entitled Ḍākinīs’ Great Dharma Treasury. This project, which took place between 2011 and 2017, required a huge effort of collecting, typing, editing and correcting a collection of manuscripts that now comprises fifty-three volumes.
Given the meager biographical materials about female Tibetan available in the West, it would be excellent if these volumes could be translated. But, the priority might be to sponsor the distribution to Tibetan nunneries—and monasteries—so that the names and accomplishments of these women practitioners from the past become known throughout Tibetan culture.
Unpublished: Christine Boedler, The Art of Manifesting the Sacred: Creation, Filling, and Consecration of Statues and Stūpas Within the Heritage of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism. Hamburg University.
I include this thesis because it began with the building of a Zangdog Palri at Chagdud Gonpa Khadro Ling in southern Brazil. Christine organized the printing of the mantras (a Herculean task), the arrangements of murals and the preparation of the substances in collaboration with our consecration lama, Rigdzin Samdrup. After the consecration ceremonies of the Zangdog Palri in 2008, she continued by going to India to study Tibetan, and then Sanskrit. At that point she worked through masters and PhD programs at the University of Hamburg and translated Jamgon Kongtrul’s consecration manuals, producing nine volumes with all substances and mantras completely documented. This represents fifteen years of nonstop work and steely determination in the face of health and financial adversities. Who can doubt the capability of women? Rejoicing that now Westerners will be able to prepare and participate in the consecration of statues, stupas and other sacred creations with some confidence.