Study Guide

Pema Chodron expressed to us that it would be good if students interested in her teachings had a study guide, using a number of her own books as well as a book by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche (The Myth of Freedom and the Way of Meditation) as the basis. This is an attempt to give shape to a study approach, connecting these books to other complementary resources, such as audio, video, and syllabi. We understand that there are many possible approaches utilizing these materials; this is just one of them. The titles of the recommended books, all produced by Shambhala Publications and available through Great Path, are:

Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change
The Wisdom of No Escape
Taking the Leap
Practicing Peace in Times of War
The Places that Scare You
Start Where You Are
No Time to Lose
The Myth of Freedom and the Way of Meditation
(by Trungpa Rinpoche)

Looking at these books in terms of their major themes and especially the meditation and meditation-in-action practices which go along with and train students in these teachings, one could come up with the following list:

--Mindfulness meditation as the ground for working with oneself and opening the heart;
--Seeing experience clearly with mindfulness, one discovers shenpa -- the subtlety and crudeness of how we "bite the hook" of our addictions and withdraw from life;
--The practice of compassionate abiding, which extends and puts into practice the shenpa teachings, a way to train in not biting the hook and, along with mindfulness practice, to train further in "learning to stay." Compassionate abiding practice is an excellent ground for the mahayana practices devoted to benefiting others as well as ourselves.
--The practice of the four limitless qualities -- limitless equanimity, love, compassion, and rejoicing in the good fortune of others -- the bridge to the practice of the great vehicle / mahayana teachings in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and the heart of being of benefit to others;
--The practice of tonglen, sending and taking, which brings further extension of compassion and love to oneself and others. Also, the mind training (lojong) teachings and contemplations, which extend that good heart and intelligence into all of our activities;
--Practicing peace in times of war includes further specific application of these teachings to our lives and our confused, suffering world
--Further meditation in action teachings, including an overview of the three yanas (vehicles) of Tibetan Buddhism and the teachings of Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche.

Working from this outline, here are the recommended books again, annotated with the gist of what's presented in those books and some recommended support teachings (mostly audios and videos) which could be enlisted in a study program:

Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change
A pdf file is provided here with some of the sources and/or complementary audio and videos that could accompany a study program or class based on the book Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change by Pema Chodron. Spicing up a class with one or more videos or audios brings depth and clarity to the educational process. If you know of other audios or videos in our collection that also might go with these particular chapters, please share this information with us, and we will share it with others.
The talks that complement each chapter are listed below and were given at these retreats:
144: Turning Toward Enlightenment: The Three Vows (Gampo Abbey, 1999)
158: The Propensity To Be Bothered (Gampo Abbey, 2011)
161: Awakening in the Charnel Ground (Colorado, 2011)
165: Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change (Omega Institute, 2011)
Click here for a pdf file matching up the talks with each chapter.

The Wisdom of No Escape
This book is based on teachings given during a one-month meditation intensive at Gampo Abbey Monastery in Nova Scotia in 1989. These are excellent talks on the basic Buddhist path and mindfulness and compassion practices, beginning with the all-important ground of maitri, unconditional loving- kindness, and mindfulness meditation. A 6-class syllabus has been developed for use with this book -- a pdf file is available here. Apart from our specific recommendations of audio and video, since mindfulness meditation is such a foundation for all the teachings which come after it, any of the offerings in the "Basic Meditation" section of the Great Path website would be recommended at this initial stage of study and practice. The Great Path set, "Peaceful Abiding Meditation: When Things Fall Apart" (item 106), leads naturally to the shenpa teachings. Available in these formats: Audio CDs, MP3 CD, and MP3 download.

Taking the Leap
In this book Pema Chodron shows us how to break free of destructive patterns in our lives and experience a new sense of freedom and happiness. Drawing on the Buddhist concept of shenpa, she helps us to see how certain habits of mind tend to "hook" us and get us stuck in states of anger, blame, self-hatred, and addiction. The good news is that once we start to see these patterns, we can begin to change our lives for the better. In this book, this intention is carried forth through the practice of mindfulness meditation, for one, but especially with the practice of "compassionate abiding," which has become a core practice for students of Pema Chodron in recent years. Pema Chodron presented shenpa beautifully in the following Great Path sets:
"The Doorway to Freedom" (Item 100): Audio CDs, MP3 CD, MP3 download
"Learning to Stay" (Item 94): Audio CDs, DVDs
"Learning to Stay: Shambhala Mountain Center" (Item 105): Audio CDs, MP3 CD
"Choosing a Fresh Alternative" (Item 109): Audio CDs, DVDs, MP3 CD, MP3 download

Practicing Peace in Times of War
This also presents the basic view of shenpa and the compassionate abiding practice, the ground for the compassion practices of the 4 limitless ones and tonglen. The discussion of this intention in the context of politics and the pain of our modern world brings an added dimension of depth to this discussion. This book is based on excerpts from four of our audio sets:
"Going to the Places that Scare You" (Item 88): Audio CDs, DVDs, MP3 CD, MP3 download
"Learning to Stay" (Item 94 - see links in the section above)
"Practicing Peace in Times of War: Public Talk" (Item 104): Audio CD, MP3 download
"Losing Our Appetite For Aggression: Public Talk" (Item 108): Audio CD, MP3 download
Shambhala Publications created their own 2-CD audio by the same title which also excerpts the 4 sources, above.
We also very much recommend one of the three long teaching sets by Pema Chodron and Richard Reoch by the same title - the California version (Item 126, good content, best video); the Shambhala Mountain Center version (Item 128, best content, audio only); and, the Omega Institute version (Item 124, best single talk by Richard Reoch).

The Places that Scare You
This text puts forth the theme that the seeds of spiritual awakening lie at the core of our most painful life experiences. The exposure to sitting practice in the first class is important here because "sitting meditation is our support for learning ... how to stay with our vulnerability." In particular, this book provides in-print guidance to working with the practice of the four limitless qualities - equanimity, love, compassion, and joy - which is considered to be the gateway to mahayana practice, practice which extends love and compassion to others as well as oneself. Pema Chodron has taught brilliantly on these four limitless qualities many times over the years. We particularly recommend the most recent 157 set, "Practicing the Four Limitless Qualities".
Available in these formats: Audio CDs, DVDs, MP3 CD, and MP3 download.
Other teachings on this theme can be found in The Four Limitless Ones section of our website.

Start Where You Are
Pema Chodron's main in-print commentary on the mind training (lojong) slogans, goes further with contemplation and practice of the 7 points of mind training presented by Atisha Dipankara as presented by his student Chekawa Yeshe Dorje. These talks are an edited version of the Great Path audio 64 set by the same name (audio CDs, MP3CDs). The compassion practice of tonglen, sending and taking, is part of this mahayana contemplative approach. Pema Chodron has taught on the 7 points of mind training and tonglen many times, sometimes in the context of the overall approach of the 7 points of mind training, sometimes focusing on the tonglen practice of "sending and taking" itself.
An excellent basic tonglen set is the recent 156 set, "Tonglen for Modern Day Bodhisattvas".
Available in these formats: Audio CDs, DVDs, MP3 CD, and MP3 download. This set of teachings also includes one of the best presentations of the compassionate abiding practice.
The Great Path 88 set, "Going to the Places that Scare You" (not related to the book of the same name), is an excellent, more advanced tonglen set. In addition to the Great Path 64 set mentioned above, on which the book is based, there are a number of sets which teach the seven points of mind training listed in the Lojong and Tonglen section of the Great Path website. Trungpa Rinpoche's book Training the Mind, as well as a number of books by other teachers, complement this material.

No Time to Lose
This is Pema Chodron's commentary on the first eight chapters of the classic text by Shantideva, A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life, which she has taught on many occasions. Various complementary audios and videos can be found in the section of the Great Path website entitled: Shantideva (The Way of the Bodhisattva), Six Paramitas, Heart Sutra, including the Great Path 180 set (MP3 CDs or audio CDs), which is a compilation of our favorites on each chapter. As suggested by this title of Shantideva's text, this commentary presents the foundations of the bodhisattva path as well as the first five paramitas. The paramita of prajna, discriminating awareness wisdom, is presented elsewhere, particularly in the audio/video set -- item 115 (audio CD, DVDs, MP3 CDs, MP3 download), which Pema Chodron taught with her fellow Shambhala Acharya (master teacher), Judith Simmer-Brown. Other related teachings on the paramitas by Pema Chodron, not utilizing the Shantideva book, may also be found in this section.

The Myth of Freedom and the Way of Meditation
This book by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, is a complete overview of the Buddhist path. Pema Chodron used this book as the basis of a teaching she gave in California in 2007, the Great Path 125 set.
Available in these formats: Audio CDs, DVDs, MP3 CDs, and MP3 download. In fact, in that seminar, her talk titles correspond to the various sections of that book. So, this book and Pema Chodron's teaching set are natural companions.
Pema Chodron's 2008 California seminar, "Meditation in Action" set (Item 67: audio CD, MP3 CD, MP3

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