Help wanted! Looking for books and academic articles

Hello everybody!

I´m doing a philosophy master thesis and it will include some vajrayana buddhist stuff. Now I´m looking for books and academic/scientific articles for it. Maybe you can help me. I have two different criteria:

  1. Academic books and articles. The best and most rigorous stuff (probably new stuff).
  2. Books and texts from inside the vajrayana tradition. Mostly needed is Dzogchen and Mahamudra, but others are considered also if they are really good.

I have already considered three books:
Brown, P. Daniel. 2006. Pointing Out the Great Way. The Stages of Meditation in the Mahamudra Tradition. Somerville (MA): Wisdom Publications. I think this is pretty good and it is also written by an established researcher/scientist.

Dzogchen Ponlop. 2003. Wild Awakening. The Heart of Mahamudra and Dzogchen. Boston: Shambhala. Pretty technical, but a good book to find translations, terms and I believe also pretty highly valued inside buddhism.

Dalai Lama. 2008. How to See Yourself as You Really Are. A Practical Guide to Self-Knowledge. London: Rider. I don´t think this book is really good, but it is Dalai Lama. If there is a better book from him about the same subject, let me know.

And of course, I will include stuff from Lonchenpa, because he is the man. So, if you know good academic books or articles and/or good and also “authoritative enough” texts from inside vajrayna buddhism, help me out. Thank you!

Nagarjuna and shantarakshita and Je Tsongkhapa are the analytical ones.
The adornment of the middle way etc… might be interesting.

Hey Vee!

That’s great to hear that you write your master thesis on philosophical topic related to Vajrayana Buddhism. I did something very similar back then in 2015 when I finished my master in philosophy. However back then I only read some Western academic works on buddhist philosophy and not the masters from Tibet or India.

So to help you, I have to ask to be a little bit more specific because Vajrayana literature is as vast as it gets. Also the texts of Dzogchen and Mahamudra. Some are practice manuals, some are treatises on specific topics like Bodhicitta or the stages of the path and some are rather general.

So can you share a little bit about the topic of your thesis? What’s the main question you’re adressing?


Thanks Oskar! Shantarakshita´s The Adornment of the Middle Way with commentary by Ju Mipham is very interesting! But “analytical stuff” is not exactly what I´m looking for. I should have been more clear about this.

Thanks Ugi! You are right. I should have been more clear. I´m not looking for general or boddhicitta texts. I´m looking more like practice manuals and texts about stages of the path. But from the viewpoint of Dzogchen, meaning that pointing out is very much emphasized. If there are texts where practice manual is somehow combined with the explanation of stages in a clear way, that would be great.

I don`t want to share the topic in here yet, it´s not clearly defined. I´m just in the beginning of the writing process. Do you have your thesis available online? It would be nice to read it.

Oki. There is moonbeams of mahamudra, its a thick book/manual, but it touches on some of these topics, and in general explains the four yogas very well + there is a shorter text “dispelling the darkness of ignorance” by the ninth karmapa in my copy of the book. Have to admit I have not read all of this, but liked the stuff I read. Other than that my book knowledge is pretty limited. I love the book by Dudjom Lingpas Buddhahood without meditation which takes you step by step in (for you) should be quite clear manner, but I dont think(?) it goes into pointing out instructions, actually not so sure, though I think it goes into the great perfection in the end as the final stage. Its only 30 pages so would be easy to find out though, free pdf online :wink:

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Alright, I think you will find some helpful stuff in the books mentioned by Oskar.

Some other recommendations in the style of manuals are:

  • Clarifying the Natural State by Dakpo Tashi Namgyal
  • The Ocean of Definitive Meaning by 9th Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje
  • The Royal Seal of Mahamudra (Vol. 2 contains the written Pointing-Out instructions)

Then you could also look into the book “When The Clouds Part” by Karl Brunnhölzl which is a extensive academic commentary on the influential Uttaratantra by Maitreya. This book is all about the doctrine of buddha nature and about the history and philosophy of Mahamudra.

Regarding my master’s thesis, unfortunately it is written in German and not online. It was about the basic question: Is the self an illusion?

Thank you Ugi and Oskar! I will check these texts.

Might be interesting?

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Yeah, awesome Oskar! I mostly agree with the stuff from your link. Felt like wasting some time and avoid doing schoolwork, so here´s some philosophical nonsense back to you :blush: I like Rana Rinpoche. I´ve read some of his stuff and watched some videos. Yogachara/chittamatra and zen is wrong when/if they say that “table (appearance) is the mind.” Dzogchen is right when/if they say, “table appears but is not the mind.” Although nowadays if we want to talk with cognitive scientists, and why not do it, instead of mind it would probably be better to use words like awareness or consciousness. Mind may refer more to the “mechanics” that can be conscious or unconscious. Also, comparing to academic philosophy, Dzogchen view seems somewhat similar to subjective epistemological idealism (not ontological idealism). It roughly says that there is something outside the mind, independent of the mind, but everything we know and can know about it comes through the constructive activities of the mind.

But I think there may also be little more to this. Zen master asks: when the tree falls, if there is nobody in the woods to hear it, does it make a sound? You could ask back, what do you mean by sound? Surely, we can say that if there is nobody listening, there is no experience of the sound. But through physics we know that sound is vibration that makes acoustic waves that go through some medium (air, water, etc…) and we can measure the waves without hearing the sound. But waves doesn´t itself sound like anything if they do not hit the ear and then transform into electrical signals that go into brain and in there, turn into an experience in a way that nobody can yet explain. So here comes another layer that has never been there in Buddhism. Physics has made the whole idealism project not so appealing anymore. But surprisingly, idealism is gaining some momentum today in the philosophy of mind and there are some proper arguments. And so on, and so on… So, what if Tsong Khapa saw into the future when he said that conventional is real? :blush:

It also makes sense to me, that Longchenpa, Mipham, etc… denies being Rangtong or Shentong and says that pure vision is also empty. And to note, I don´t know the specifics of all tibetan stuff and I´m not any kind of expert in this. And also, it is obvious that remaining in the thoughtless non conceptual awareness is simply ignorance. But Khenpo on this is excellent: “small child, samadhi, unconsciousness, stone…” :blush:

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Thank you for this Ville! And thanks for elaborating on your view.
I just talked yesterday with Helena, about the fox koan in zen, which we both feel have this sense of “if no one hears the tree falling, does it fall”, in this sense the nature of interconnectedness became very clear from that. The three might not fall, but the waves will tickle you :stuck_out_tongue:

From Buddhahood without meditation, this example is given on the one taste stage compared to other stage/views. I used to say this feels like “merging” with outer phenomena, but if you are to be really techniqual, it is not like that. There is more the illusory appearance of phenomena that becomes evident, due to seeing the empty nature of subtle concepts, relating to time and space mainly. So it might feel like merging, but as the first metaphor suggest, its not.

“Authentically knowing how all the phenomena included in saṃsāra and
nirvāṇa are of one taste in the nature of suchness, ultimate reality, is the wisdom that knows reality as it is. Even while dwelling in the essential nature of
pristine awareness, the self-emergence of unimpeded consciousness that is
all-knowing and all-cognizing is the wisdom that perceives the full range of
phenomena. Although such wisdom is unimpeded, it does not merge with
objects, like a drop of mercury [does not merge with soil] when it falls on
the ground.
“The mind views saṃsāra and nirvāṇa as autonomous, reifies appearances,
and is unaware of the nature of existence of the ground. From this mind
emerge thoughts that arise and pass, merging with their objects, like drops of
water falling on dry ground.
“As a result of ignorance obscuring your own face of buddhahood of the
pure ground, which has mastery over the ground of being, all the kāyas and
facets of primordial consciousness of the natural inner glow of the ground
subside into that inner glow. [327] The outer radiance is projected externally,
with the aspects of the five lights manifesting as displays of the five elements.