Life and Teaching of Naropa
Life and Teaching of Naropa
Life and Teaching of Naropa
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Price: $15.20 FREE for Members
Type: eBook
Publisher: Shambhala
Page Count: 312
Format: pdf
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1570621012
ISBN-13: 9781570621017
User Rating: 4.3333 out of 5 Stars! (3 Votes)

Life and Teaching of Naropa free

Herbert V. Guenther free

Text: English, Tibetan (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Translator:
Herbert V. Guenther is the author of The Royal Song of Saraha, The Jewel Ornament of Liberation, Treasures on the Tibetan Middle Way, and Buddhist Philosophy in Theory and Practice.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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| 5 out of 5 Stars!

This is an advanced philosophically-oriented book on Mahamudra (MM) & is, therefore, appropriate only for those who have already extensively studied it. The author elucidates many subtle & esoteric points of knowledge, making this a rare & valuable work. It is also unusual in that he correctly criticizes prior translations of Tibetan texts, esp. regarding Western interpretations, literal word-for-word mappings, & translators' lack of appropriate philosophical & experiential knowledge. Examples include: nothingness vs. emptiness, king vs. administrator, contemplation vs. prayer, channels & other completion stage terms which do not map directly to the physical body, & body/speech/mind. He says "Linguistic specialists very often produce translations which are philosophically irrelevant, if not wrong & misleading." & "The practice itself remains unintelligible & meaningless if its theoretical background is not grasped." This parallels his view of MM where, "Only when the individual frees himself from all bias & removes himself to a point whence he can apprehend reality as it is without internal warping." He also points out that "Tibetan calligraphies abound in orthographic mistakes. Moreover, the letters n & d are, even in print, easily mistaken for each other."

However, while this critique is necessary in order to comprehend his many deviations from standard (though IMHO nonsensical) terms, the bulk of the book is a translation of an old Buddhist "biography" (with embedded teachings) & a separate, structured (but not mapped to the text) commentary on Naropa's teachings including the six exercises & MM. The text is, of course, not Western literal/objective biography but rather a symbolic rendition mostly of Naropa's enlightenment under the guidance of his teacher Tilopa. This story is well known. What is not common, however, is Guenther's extraordinarily erudite, psychological & philosophical analysis--esp. explaining Tibetan symbolic teachings in Western parlance. Still, this teaching is extremely profound-not for the faint of heart. Guenther also pays proper attention to mysticism, both Eastern & Western. As he says, "To experience one's being-in-the world as a god or goddess in a mansion has the character of a magic spell. It is the magic that is important, not the spell or its content." Thus he elucidates & demystifies Tantric love, Being-in-itself vs. being-oneself, & gives the Karnatantravajrapada's pithy definition of MM: "acquisition of non-dual knowledge...bliss...authentic being, free in itself & being the shining lamp of coincidence." He also provides an extensive apologetic for both development & completion stages & the 4 initiations. Unfortunately, he equates Kagyu with Vajrayana, overlooks the mythological nature of Tantric models, & is too philosophical vs. scientific. But, this is one of few relatively advanced English language MM books vs.many introductory & some mid-level ones. It's a pleasure to slowly study & absorb the book--it's hardly a fast read. It's value far outweighs its few flaws. For a fine, less esoteric, but easier text: Mind at Ease: Self-Liberation through Mahamudra Meditation.

| 4 out of 5 Stars!

I enjoyed reading the biography of the great Buddhist teacher, Naropa. I found it very moving in places, and a few times Naropa's determination, his love for his Guru (Tilopa), and his challenges even brought a few tears.

However, I found the non-biographical parts -- the parts that were oriented more around Tilopa's teachings to Naropa -- to be "jargony" in the extreme. Sometimes the footnotes explaining the text on a given page were longer than the actual text! If I was not a practicing Buddhist with a basic understanding of the concepts that Tilopa was presenting, I definitely wouldn't have understood any of what was being said. I don't know if this was an issue with the way the book was translated or if it would be that difficult regardless of how it was translated, but I found parts of it nearly unreadable.

So as a biography: Awesome, five stars. But as a book about Vajrayana teachings...? I would instead recommend Geshe Kelsang's book Tantric Grounds and Paths, or, for something simpler, Mahamudra Tantra.

| 4 out of 5 Stars!

This biography narrates the spiritual development of Naropa, the Indian Buddhist master from whom Mapra the Translator of Tibet, received instruction and started the Tibetan Kagyu lineage of Tantric Mahayana Buddhism.

It's not a biography in the traditional sense - it only provides sketchy details about Naropa's early life. But it delves into great detail on the teachings of Tilopa to Naropa during Naropa's 12 year apprenticeship with his guru, Tilopa.

Specifically, it covers the twelve major trails and twelve minor ones, each of which represents a turning point in Naropa's journey to spiritual perfection and also on the recommended path for any Buddhist.

This is however, not a book that you can soak up without reflection and any understanding at first reading will not capture everything in essence. The prose is difficult, abstruse and at places deeply symbolic.

Guenther's translation is primarily written for Western rather than Eastern readers and explains Tantric philosophy in western philosophical terminology to compare and contrast it with Western philosophy. This makes it eminently suitable for Western readers steeped in Western philosophy, although Geunther's use of terminology borrowed from twentieth century existentialism, pragmatism, phenomenology etc. to describe eleventh century Buddhist thought makes me distrust the translation to some extent.

As a reader from the East, I did not feel the directness with which an Easterner grasps Eastern philosophy while reading this translation. Eastern readers may also find it difficult to understand Guenther's references to Western philosophy and use of similar terminology.

Nevertheless, the effort is highly commendable because Guenther makes extensive commentary based on other sources to elucidate difficult passages and also to throw more light on the twelve trials and their significance. Guenther also takes special pains to explain the essence of the teachings, against possible misinterpretations.

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