For more than thirty years, she has been the abbot of a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in the wildest and remotest part of Nova Scotia. But from that isolated spot—where she spends a good deal of her time even more isolated in solitary retreat—she has become one of the most influential spiritual teachers of our time. That her best-selling books reach a remarkably broad audience, including many non-Buddhists, is testament not only to the universal applicability of the teachings to which she has dedicated her life, but also to her skill in conveying them in a way that cuts across boundaries and speaks directly to the heart.
Pema Chödrön was born Deirdre Blomfield-Brown in New York City in 1936 and grew up on a New Jersey farm. After graduating from UC Berkeley, she spent years as an elementary school teacher, wife, and mother of two children. But things changed for her dramatically the day Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche visited her classroom to talk to her young charges: He became her first root teacher, and, with his encouragement, she pursued the monastic life, ultimately taking full ordination as a nun in 1981. In 1984, at Trungpa Rinpoche’s request, she established Gampo Abbey in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, the first monastery in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition intended for Western monks and nuns.
Having recently celebrated the milestone of her eightieth birthday, Pema is currently spending a greater amount of her time in retreat under the guidance of her teacher Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, though her commitment to transmitting the buddhadharma to the world will continue to result in more books, audios, and live teachings in the future.
For a quarter-century now, we at Shambhala Publications have had the honor to be her publisher. Here, as a guide, is a list of her books, audios, and videos that we’ve published over the last twenty-five years, in chronological order.
This is the book that introduced Pema to the world, and it remains lots of peoples’ favorite. Based on her talks, it contains the main themes that recur throughout her teaching and are developed further in her later books. One of those main themes is actually contained in the title: that freedom is found not by escaping difficult situations or emotions, but by looking at them clearly, approaching them with curiosity and even friendliness.
Pema was among the first teachers to popularize the Tibetan Buddhist practice of lojong (mind training), one facet of which involves working with a series of “slogans” or sayings that help arouse the mind-heart of compassion known as bodhicitta. This wasn’t the first book on the topic for a popular audience, but it was a pioneering one, and it’s a beautiful introduction to this teaching that figures so prominently in her later work.
When your world is crumbling around you and you have no idea how to go on, this is the book to read. It’s not just a first aid treatment; it’s serious advice for the long haul, though the advice sounds daunting at first: don’t avoid the sadness and pain, but go into it head-on. The best-selling of all Pema’s books, this advice has been a lifesaver for millions of folks.
This pocket-sized abridgment of The Wisdom of No Escape is one you can carry around anywhere to consult whenever you want to apply the promise of its title to your life or any time loving-kindness seems to be lacking.
We always have a choice, Pema teaches: we can let the circumstances of our lives harden us and make us increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us and make us kinder. The path to this soft-hearted kindness is always available to us, but fear prevents us from accessing it. Here she teaches how to go through that fear to access the wonderful softness that’s one aspect of our indelible basic goodness.
A source of daily inspiration, for 108 days anyway. Or, if you ration the inspiration on a weekly basis, for nearly two years. The short (one-to-two-page) selections here are taken from among all of Pema’s books published before 2002. It’s a wonderful introduction to the breadth of her teaching in an especially accessible form.
Shantideva’s classic Bodhicharyavatara, or The Way of the Bodhisattva, is a guide to living one’s life guided by the most radical form of compassion. It’s the book that has guided Pema’s life for many years. This, her commentary on the text, is a course
in being the kind of person who puts others
first in every aspect of life.
This small-format book originated as Pema’s response to the events of 9/11. It was later reissued under the title Practicing Peace. It’s a sort of Buddhist first-aid kit for anyone faced with adversity or attack on a personal or global level.
This small-format hardcover is a kind of lojong primer, presenting each of the 59 slogans with a brief paragraph of Pema’s commentary on it. It also contains an audio CD that contains her instructions on tonglen, the practice of exchanging self for other.
The “hook” of this audio program’s title refers to the Tibetan term shenpa, which is basically that moment of irritation that arises from conflict—or sometimes out of nothing—and which, if we’re not mindful of it, can lead down the road to a lot of unnecessary suffering. Pema’s teaching here is about learning to be conscious of those shenpa moments, avoiding taking the bait they offer in order to suffer less—and so we can spend that time we might have been stewing in anger developing compassion instead.
Her second mini-book is packed with short,
from her pre-2008 books.
Ten teachings recorded live in retreat, on topics such as
lojong, tonglen, and on transforming the “Three Poisons” (aggression, craving, and ignorance)
that heart-mind of enlightened compassion.
Here are teachings similar to the ones in the Don’t Bite the Hook audio program in book form. The “leap” in question is the movement away from our habitual reactions, and that’s a big jump indeed. Every time you
recognize a moment of shenpa,
you’re potentially on the diving board.
This eight-hour audio program is a complete course in the Four Limitless Ones mentioned in the title—also sometimes known as the brahma viharas, or heavenly abodes—qualities that are like seeds in us waiting to be cultivated through practice so they can bloom to bless the world.
Fear and guilt are two of the greatest challenges we face on the spiritual path—but there is a way to transform these painful feelings into courageous self-acceptance. In this program, Pema presents the five aphorisms for developing fearlessness that were given to Machig Lapdronma, one of Tibetan Buddhism’s greatest female teachers.
For those already familiar with lojong practice, here’s a chance to go deeper
with Pema into one of her favorite topics. The seven-hour
audio program contains her teaching on mind training in greater depth than you’ll find in any of her books.
It’s a fear of ourselves that lies behind any other fear we may think we have. In this program, Pema gets to the root of the problem to discover that our inherent bravery is actually deeper than fear. It’s based on material in the book by her teacher, Chögyam Trungpa, Smile at Fear.
This guide to living fully alive even when you stand on shaky ground (as you always do…) presents Pema’s wisdom on what are called the Three Commitments: The Pratimoksha Vow, the foundational commitment for personal liberation; The Bodhisattva Vow, by which we extend that commitment to all other beings; and The Samaya Vow, a commitment to see everything and anything as a means by which we can awaken further.
The topic of this audio program from a presentation at the Omega Institute is the same as of the book (above) released the same year: the Three Commitments, and how living with them enables us to live rich and real lives in the midst of whatever happens.
In this audio/video program, recorded live during a retreat, Pema gives
oral teachings on the same text she covers in her book
No Time to Lose:
Shantideva’s Way of the Bodhisattva.
This five-hour program—available in audio and video formats—
was recorded live and contains these two revered teachers’ wisdom
on cultivating courage, the non-aggressive, compassionate kind
that’s so needed in today’s world.
This beautifully reformatted edition of Always Maintain a Joyful Mind contains the lojong slogans on cards that can be displayed on the provided easel stand, which is a very traditional way to practice with them.
We hope you enjoy the extensive work of Ani Pema Chödrön, and that it helps you become more happy and free.