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Chogyam Trungpa: His Life and Visionby Fabrice Midal
Synopses & Reviews
Master of meditation, social visionary, artist, poet—Chögyam Trungpa was all these and more. Yet "Who was Chögyam Trungpa?" is a slippery question, for who can nail down the personality of a man who by all accounts seemed to be a different person to different people at different times and on different occasions?
Fabrice Midal, by steering his way between conventional Western biography and traditional Tibetan hagiography, has succeeded in painting a detailed portrait of this unconventional Tibetan lama, who is regarded as one of the most influential forces in spreading Buddhism to the West.
From his first years of teaching in Britain and the United States, Trungpa began making friends with his students in a completely free style, adapting to the language and understanding of young Westerners. Yet, although Trungpa appeared to be a modern teacher at first glance, he was really one of the most traditional teachers because of his radical emphasis on the source: the root practice of sitting meditation.
In his oral teachings, Trungpa surprised his audiences by making no concession to their expectations, speaking directly from his heart and experience to their hearts, without alluding to techniques and philosophy, often bypassing their intellects.
His approach was unique in its emphasis on a secular rather than religious approach to spiritual practice. Among other studies that he encouraged among his students were calligraphy, flower arranging, Japanese archery, tea ceremony, dance, theater, health care, psychotherapy, poetry, elocution, and translation. His founding of centers, communities, and innovative educational institutions was also part of the flowering of a new culture of Buddhism in the West that he inspired.
Fabrice Midal's biography puts the overall scope of Trungpa's work into illuminating perspective. The reader will come away from the book deeply impressed by the versatility of Trungpa's vision, talents, and teachings, and with an appreciation for the "outrageousness" of this master and how it manifested in all his activities.
Chögyam Trungpa is virtually synonymous with the transmission of Tibetan Buddhism to the West. Over the course of his seventeen-year teaching career in North America, Trungpa ushered in a radically new approach to spirituality—both rooted in the ancient wisdom of the buddhadharma and thoroughly situated in the contemporary world. His teachings, grounded in what he called the “Shambhala vision,” focused on the development of an enlightened society through the transformation of ordinary, everyday life into sacred activity.
Steering between Western biography and traditional Tibetan hagiography, Fabrice Midal takes you on a soaring journey through Trungpa’s life and teachings. Touching on all of the most momentous events, this series of glimpses into Chögyam Trungpa’s world provides a rare view on the formation of Trungpa’s thought and the remarkable body of teachings and writings that remain as his legacy. Included are accounts of:
• Chögyam Trungpa’s education in Tibet under the tutelage of great tantric masters, like Jamgön Kongtrül of Sechen and Khenpo Gangshar
• The founding of landmark centers for Buddhist practice and education, such as the Naropa Institute (now Naropa University), Karmê Chöling, and the Rocky Mountain Dharma Center (now the Shambhala Mountain Center)
• Trungpa’s historic meeting with the sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa in 1974, the first-ever visit of the Karmapa to America
• Behind-the-scenes stories of Trungpa’s most treasured writings, including Meditation in Action, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, and Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior
• And much more
About the Author
Fabrice Midal is a professor of philosophy at the University of Paris. He holds a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Paris, Sorbonne, and teaches the dharma in France and elsewhere in Europe. A practicing Buddhist in the tradition of Chögyam Trungpa, he is well known in Buddhist circles in France and has published books on religious topics with major French publishers, among them several titles on Tibetan Buddhism.
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