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Inspired by The Truth of Suffering

Carolyn Gimian here with musings on a newly published book by Chögyam Trungpa:

2009 is proving to be a prolific year for the publication of new material by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Twenty-two years after his parinirvana, or death, his editors are still producing new books based on the extensive archive of his lectures. A recent addition to his published works is The Truth of Suffering and the Path of Liberation, edited by Judith L. Lief.

Acharya Judith Lief has been editing the work of Chögyam Trungpa since the early ’70s. She has dedicated herself to the propagation of the buddhadharma in the West for close to forty years, mixing her work as an editor with an equally distinguished teaching career. In the late ’70s, she served as the Dean of Naropa University, the equivalent today of the presidency of the school. During her tenure there, she was instrumental in developing a solid financial base for the institution, and she remains on their board of directors. She has worked with palliative care and issues of death and dying for many years. In 2001 Shambhala published her book, Making Friends with Death: A Buddhist Guide to Encountering Mortality.

Judy attended many of the Vajradhatu Seminaries conducted by Chögyam Trungpa for his senior students. At these gathering, Trungpa Rinpoche presented extensive teachings on the nine yanas, or stages of the path. Much of this material was based on his own study of Jamgon Kongtrul’s The Treasury of Knowledge, an encyclopedic presentation of the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism by one the great masters of the Rime, or ecumenical movement, of the late nineteenth century in Tibet. Up until now, this material has only been available to Trungpa Rinpoche’s students, in the form of edited transcripts.

Judy was often a senior teacher and the head of Practice and Study for these three-month gatherings. For the last few years, one of her major editorial projects has been to bring together all the material presented by Trungpa Rinpoche at the seminaries, and to begin to create volumes based on these seminal teachings. This is being called the Root Text Project, and in 2012, it will result in the publication of three major volumes based on this material.

As a “teaser” and an important book in it own right, Judy completed the small volume mentioned above, entitled The Truth of Suffering and the Path of Liberation, which was published by Shambhala earlier this year. In this volume, teachings on the Four Noble Truths are presented. Seeing both the breadth and the depth of the teachings given by Trungpa Rinpoche provides insight into the richness of the Root Texts. Their publication will be a valuable and, I think, mind-blowing contribution to Buddhism in the West. I offer a bow of gratitude to Acharya Lief for undertaking this project, (also to assistant editor Ellen Kearney), as well as a full prostration to Chögyam Trungpa for this brilliant manifestation of his buddha activity.