Ocean of Dharma

From the Vajradhatu Transcripts to The Profound Treasury

Book CoverEvery year but one between 1973 and 1986, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche spent three months presenting Buddhist teachings to a group of his senior students, who came together with him to practice and study intensively. These programs were called the Vajradhatu Seminaries. The people who attended them had generally spent a number of years practicing and studying Buddhism before they attended these advanced programs. The talks were organized around the three yanas, or major stages, of the Buddhist path: hinayana, mahayana, and vajrayana. It was a landmark moment in a practitioner’s life to be accepted to seminary and even moreso to be able to hear the vajrayana teachings in particular.

Transcripts of the teachings that Trungpa Rinpoche gave each year were edited and published following the conclusion of the program. Many of his senior editors, including myself, were in part trained by the careful work that we did to produce transcripts that were well-edited but that retained the flavor of the original talks, and that included material from the extensive question-and-answer periods.

Book CoverThe Vajradhatu Transcripts were available only to authorized students, and the vajrayana material, in particular, was highly restricted, at Rinpoche’s insistence. At the same time, beginning just a few years after the seminaries started, he began talking about compiling this material and editing it for a general audience. The chief editor within his organization at this time was Judith Lief, who in the mid-1970s began the tedious and extensive work of compiling the existing material. In those days, no one used personal computers. Judy and several other editors were literally cutting up and pasting parts of one transcript and another to create chapters for this giant compendium.

The story goes on, with many twists and turns, halts and stumbles. It’s a pretty good story, but too long for this blog. Suffice it to say, forty years after the first Vajradhatu Seminary took place, Judy Lief, now Acharya Emeritus Lief, has completed this mammoth work. It has just been published in three volumes totaling more than two thousand pages, as The Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma. For the first time, all of this material is available to the world at large. It is a stunning and somewhat shocking moment, especially for those of us who have held these teachings close for so long.

It would be a mistake, I think, to consider The Profound Treasury as simply a repackaging of the original transcripts.  The whole here is much greater than the sum of its parts. (This is not to deny the importance of the original transcripts. But The Profound Treasury is its own work of brilliance.) Acharya Emeritus Lief has taken what were chronologically organized transcripts and compiled them by topic, incorporating the essence of the questions and answers into the body of the talks. As Trungpa Rinpoche himself suggested, the material has been carefully structured to reflect a traditional approach to the three-yana journey on the Buddhist path. When Rinpoche talked about his desire for this project to be undertaken, he expressed the wish that this more scholarly side of his teachings be available. He himself talked about looking at traditional literary arrangements of such teachings, referring to shila, samadhi and prajna, for example, as organizing principles for some material. By seeing the material presented in this way, one can see the depth, the breadth, and the systematic genius of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s presentation of the path of dharma for Western students.

Over the next year and probably well beyond, Ocean of Dharma Quotes of the Week will draw heavily from the three volumes of The Profound Treasury. The material is so fresh, so elegant, and so penetrating that it is simply too magnetizing to ignore.  These are not particularly easy books to read, but they reward the serious student and practitioner. And within them are many passages that are accessible, direct, and inspiring.

There will be a number of events related to the publication of this material, and updates will be forthcoming on Ocean of Dharma Quotes of the Week. Panel discussions to celebrate The Profound Treasury and its author will be held in a number of cities. Judy Lief will be teaching  several programs presenting material from The Profound Treasury. Links to her programs and those taught by other senior students will be provided.

As well, there will be a read-a-thon, or resounding, of The Profound Treasury. Each of the two-thousand-plus pages will be read aloud somewhere by someone over the course of several months. The first readings will take place around the time of the anniversary of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s death, April 4th, and the resounding will continue for some months. Group readings of parts of The Profound Treasury may occur in a number of places, and both organizations and individuals will be invited to organize and participate in readings of anything from one chapter to one entire volume.

Book CoverAt the beginning of Volume Two of The Profound Treasury: The Bodhisattva Path of Wisdom and Compassion, Chögyam Trungpa says of bodhichitta, or awakened heart, that it is, “not much of a fanfare, but at the same time, it may be a spiritual atomic bomb.” No doubt The Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma is a spiritual atomic bomb of great power, and it is up to us to create the fanfare for its publication. Please join in celebrating the arrival of this most pristine wisdom in the world. May it benefit countless beings!






2 thoughts on “From the Vajradhatu Transcripts to The Profound Treasury

  1. I wish to purchase all of the Profound Ocean of Dharma books at some point, probably one at a time. I was wondering how it is that the same books can sold cheaper by other sales outlets.

  2. Carolyn: I enjoyed reading your explanation about the context for the three-volumes of The Profound Treasury. I noticed that Shambhala Publications is possibly planning a group reading for the volumes around April 4. Even though I have never attended Seminary, I would be interested in being in a group that reads from the “Path of Individual Liberation” and maybe from the “Bodhisattva Path of Wisdom and Compassion.” Are any group readings being planned in either Boulder, Longmont, Loveland, or Ft. Collins CO USA? If so, perhaps I could attend? Thank-you for your consideration. (PS. I have not purchased the books but perhaps could use a library copy.)

    Most sincerely and best wishes for the 2013 New Year,
    Christine S. Ahrens Johnstown CO 80534 1/22/2012

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