The best biographies within the Tibetan Buddhist tradition

Lorne Ladner Author Of The Lost Art of Compassion: Discovering the Practice of Happiness in the Meeting of Buddhism and Psychology
By Lorne Ladner

Who am I?

I'm a clinical psychologist who also writes about and teaches Buddhist philosophy, psychology, and meditation. I've had the great good fortune to be closely mentored by a number of elder Tibetan teachers who were educated in old Tibet.  Over the decades, when seeking wisdom and compassion in the midst of life's challenges, I've repeatedly found inspiration, education, solace, and guidance along my own path in the enlightened and enlightening life stories of a number of the great scholar/yogis of the Himalayan Buddhist traditions. 

I wrote...

The Lost Art of Compassion: Discovering the Practice of Happiness in the Meeting of Buddhism and Psychology

By Lorne Ladner,

Book cover of The Lost Art of Compassion: Discovering the Practice of Happiness in the Meeting of Buddhism and Psychology

What is my book about?

Compassion is often seen as a distant, altruistic ideal cultivated by saints, or as an unrealistic response of the naively kind-hearted. But by seeing compassion in this way, we lose out on experiencing the transformative potential of one of our most neglected inner resources.

Clinical psychologist and Tibetan Buddhist practitioner Dr. Lorne Ladner rescues compassion from this marginalized view, showing how its practical application in our life can be a powerful force in achieving happiness. Ladner provides a clear explanation of what healthy compassion is and why it is so essential to our lives. Combining the wisdom of Tibetan Buddhism and Western psychology, The Lost Art of Compassion presents clear, effective practices for cultivating compassion in daily living.

The books I picked & why

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Dreaming Me: Black, Baptist, and Buddhist — One Woman's Spiritual Journey

By Jan Willis,

Book cover of Dreaming Me: Black, Baptist, and Buddhist — One Woman's Spiritual Journey

Why this book?

A deeply moving and beautifully written exploration of what the Tibetan Buddhist tradition has to offer for healing for Americans. This book is also a deeply intimate exploration of the impacts of racism in America told in the context of Willis' own experiences marching with Dr. King as a teenager, being targeted by the KKK, being sought out by the Black Panthers, healing, and becoming a healing presence for others, and becoming a professor and renowned teacher.


The Life of Milarepa: A New Translation from the Tibetan

By Lobsang P. Lhalungpa, Unknown,

Book cover of The Life of Milarepa: A New Translation from the Tibetan

Why this book?

For me personally, this book changed my life more than any other, opening me up to the inspiring possibility that a deeply imperfect person could become enlightened through sincere and mighty efforts. This work is one of the world's great stories. The name Milarepa has inspired people for a millenium throughout Central Asia, being almost synonymous with being a yogi and with redemption through heartfelt efforts. It includes Milarepa's life story and some of the many poems which he spontaneously composed to educate and enlighten others as he wandered through the Himalayas.


Tsongkhapa: A Buddha in the Land of Snows

By Thupten Jinpa,

Book cover of Tsongkhapa: A Buddha in the Land of Snows

Why this book?

Thubten Jinpa is the foremost English language translator for the Dalai Lama, a prolific author and translator, and someone highly involved in scientific research on compassion and positive emotions. Here, he shares in detail for the first time a biography of Tsongkhapa who is one of the great geniuses of our shared, human heritage. Anyone interested in Buddhist philosophy or practice will benefit from an understanding of Tsongkhapa's life and work. And anyone interested in Asian history will find his life illuminating.


The Life and Teaching of Naropa

By Herbert V. Guenther,

Book cover of The Life and Teaching of Naropa

Why this book?

Naropa was an important figure in Indian Tantric Buddhism whose lineages gained great popularity in Tibet. His life story beautifully embodies many archetypal elements of the spiritual journey in a way that has proved compelling, inspiring, and educational for Buddhist practitioners for well over a millenium. He goes from being a great scholar to a seeker who bears many hardships to an enlightened master. If you yourself are someone deeply committed to a spiritual journey, then it's likely that you'll find moments of your own experience reflected back for you in his remarkable story.


Enlightened Beings: Life Stories from the Ganden Oral Tradition

By Jan Willis,

Book cover of Enlightened Beings: Life Stories from the Ganden Oral Tradition

Why this book?

This book does a remarkable job of exploring the nature of spiritual biography itself. It compares and contrasts Western hagiographical traditions with the unique ways that Tibetans (and other Central Asians) use outer, inner, and secret biographies not only to share the stories of great Buddhist masters but also to share history, inspiration, and implicit teachings to apply to one's own practice of the path. Willis explores these themes in complex ways and also provides translations of the life stories of 6 Tibetan lamas of the Ganden tradition who combined profound scholarly and deep yogic pursuits in unique ways.

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