In their own words from their own experiences.
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, describes himself as a simple Buddhist monk. He is the spiritual leader of Tibet. He was born on July 6, 1935, to a farming family, in a small hamlet located in Taktser, Amdo, northeastern Tibet. At the very young age of two, the child who was named Lhamo Dhondup at that time, was recognized as the reincarnation of the previous 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso.
The Dalai Lamas are believed to be manifestations of the Bodhisattva (enlightened being) of Compassion and the patron saint of Tibet. Bodhisattvas are believed to be enlightened beings who have postponed their own nirvana and chosen to take rebirth in order to serve humanity.
His Holiness began his monastic education at the age of six. In 1950, His Holiness was called upon to assume full political power after China’s invasion of Tibet in 1949/50. In 1954, he went to Beijing for peace talks with Mao Zedong and other Chinese leaders, including Deng Xiaoping and Chou Enlai. But finally, in 1959, with the brutal suppression of the Tibetan national uprising in Lhasa by Chinese troops, His Holiness and over 80,000 Tibetan refugees were forced to escape into exile. The Dalai Lama has been living in exile in Dharamsala, northern India.
On September 21, 1987, in his address to members of the United States Congress in Washington, DC, His Holiness proposed a Five-Point Peace Plan for Tibet as the first step towards a peaceful solution to the worsening situation in Tibet. The peace plan contained five basic components:
- Transformation of the whole of Tibet into a zone of peace.
- Abandonment of China’s population transfer policy that threatens the very existence of the Tibetans as a people.
- Respect for the Tibetan people’s fundamental human rights and democratic freedoms.
- Restoration and protection of Tibet’s natural environment and the abandonment of China’s use of Tibet for the production of nuclear weapons and dumping of nuclear waste.
- Commencement of earnest negotiations on the future status of Tibet and of relations between the Tibetan and Chinese peoples.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama is a man of peace. In 1989, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent struggle for the liberation of Tibet. He has consistently advocated policies of non-violence, even in the face of extreme aggression. He also became the first Nobel Laureate to be recognized for his concern for global environmental problems.
On March 14, 2011, His Holiness sent a letter to the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies (Tibetan Parliament in exile) requesting them to devolve him of his temporal (political) power. According to The Charter of the Tibetans in Exile, His Holiness was technically still considered to be the head of state. The historic announcement would bring an end to the dual spiritual and political authority of the Dalai Lama and revert to the previous tradition of the first four Dalai Lamas being only the spiritual leader of Tibet. The democratically elected leadership would assume complete formal political leadership of Tibet. The Ganden Phodrang, the institution of the Dalai Lamas, would continue and remain intact.
On May 29, 2011, His Holiness signed into law the formal transfer of his temporal power to the democratically elected leader. This brought to an end the 368-year old tradition of the Dalai Lamas being both spiritual and temporal head of Tibet.
His very existence has been focused on helping mankind seek understanding of compassion, loving kindness, equanimity and joy.
Dr. Martin Brauen
Dr. Martin Brauen is an anthropologist from Bern, Switzerland, who specializes in Tibetology and Bhutanese culture.
Brauen studied ethnology and religious history at the University of Zurich and Buddhology at the University of Delhi. He earned a doctorate after defending a thesis in Zurich on holidays and ceremonies in Ladakh. Since 1975, he has been head of the “Himalaya, Tibet and the Far East” department at the Ethnological Museum of the University of Zurich, as well as becoming a lecturer within that subject. From 2008 to 2012, he was chief curator at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York.
Brauen is the author of several books and exhibitions on Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, Ladakh, and Japan. Among his books, Mandala: Sacred Circle in Tibetan Buddhism is best known to the general public and has been translated into six languages.
Brauen has also produced several films and documentaries on Tibet and the Himalayas, and has worked in the areas of aid and development policy in an NGO. He met the 14th Dalai Lama for the first time in 1970 during an interview, and has since been committed to the Tibetan cause. He is married to the Tibetan artist Sonam Dolma Brauen, with whom he has two children, actress and writer Yangzom Brauen and Tashi Brauen, teacher and artist. The great-grandfather of Brauen, Elie Ducommun who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1902, was a notable pacifist.
Mark Epstein, MD
Mark Epstein is an American psychiatrist who has written extensively about Buddhism and psychotherapy.
Epstein is a graduate of Harvard College and the Harvard Medical School. He has been a practicing Buddhist since his early twenties, primarily as a student of Joseph Goldstein and Jack Kornfield. He is a psychotherapist with a private practice in New York City, contributing editor to Tricycle: The Buddhist Review and Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychology at New York University. His books include The Trauma of Everyday Life, Thoughts Without a Thinker and Going to Pieces without Falling Apart—which deal with the difficult and counter-intuitive Eastern teachings of non-self, a concept which has sometimes proved so alien to the Western mind as to be out of reach for many Western Buddhists.
Epstein notes that Buddhism teaches that the connection, the ability to find intimacy or connection, is inherent within us—if we can just surrender back into that capacity for love, that is all of our birthrights—all babies are born with that; they instinctively love their caretakers. So if we can find that again, then our relationships will take care of themselves.
James S. Gordon, MD
A Harvard educated psychiatrist, James Gordon is a world-renowned expert in using mind-body medicine to heal depression, anxiety, and psychological trauma. He is the Founder and Director of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine; founding Dean of the College of Mind-Body Medicine at Saybrook University; a Clinical Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Family Medicine at Georgetown Medical School; and has served as Chairman of the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy. He has also served as the first Chair of the Program Advisory Council of the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Alternative Medicine and is a former member of the Cancer Advisory Panel on Complementary and Alternative Medicine of the NIH.
Gordon has devoted over 40 years to the exploration and practice of mind-body medicine. After graduating Harvard Medical School, he was for 10 years a research psychiatrist at the National Institute of Mental Health. There he developed the first national program for runaway and homeless youth, edited the first comprehensive studies of alternative and holistic medicine, directed the Special Study on Alternative Services for President Carter’s Commission on Mental Health, and created a nationwide preceptorship program for medical students.
Gordon has created ground-breaking programs of comprehensive mind-body healing for physicians, medical students, and other health professionals; for people with cancer, depression and other chronic illnesses; and for traumatized children and families in Bosnia, Kosovo, Israel and Gaza, Haiti, in post-9/11 New York and post-Katrina southern Louisiana, and for U.S Military returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. In areas where psychological trauma is widespread, they have created local leadership teams to fully integrate the CMBM model into the ongoing services of the entire community or nation.
His most recent book is Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven Stage Journey Out of Depression. He is also the author of Comprehensive Cancer Care: Integrating Alternative, Complementary and Conventional Therapies and Manifesto for a New Medicine: Your Guide to Healing Partnerships and the Wise Use of Alternative Therapies. In addition, he has written or edited nine other books, including the award-winning Health for the Whole Person, and more than 120 articles in professional journals and general magazines and newspapers, among them the American Journal of Psychiatry, Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, Journal of Traumatic Stress, Psychiatry, The American Family Physician, The Atlantic Monthly, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. He also helped develop and write the educational materials to supplement the public television series “Healing and the Mind with Bill Moyers.”
Gordon’s work has been featured on Good Morning America, The Today Show, CNN, CBS Sunday Morning, FOX News and National Public Radio, as well as in The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, Newsweek, People, American Medical News, Clinical Psychiatry News, Town and Country, Hippocrates, Psychology Today, Vegetarian Times, Natural Health, Health, and Prevention.
John DiLeva Halpern
John DiLeva Halpern, a film director/producer and artist based in New York, is currently producing/directing WAKING BUDDHA, about the story of the meditation movement and Buddhism’s relationship to today’s new consciously engaged culture for a sustainable future.
Growing up in a richly creative and intellectual Italian-American household on Long Island, DiLeva Halpern learned photography and filming from his grandfather John, as well as jazz improvisation on the bongos from his uncle Tom, a Beatnik and pianist. Through their friendships with Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, John’s mother and uncle introduced him to Buddhist lore and concepts.
As a young student, DiLeva Halpern gained inspiration not only from the Beatniks, but also from cultural movements such as Dadaism, Pop Art and Happenings, and the Neo-Realist /New Wave films of the 1950s, ′60s and ′70s. During high school, instructor Gerard Rinaldi, an artist and former Green Beret, helped influence his artistic outlook, and he later received mentoring at SUNY Purchase from noted Beat filmmaker and photographer John Cohen (interviewed in Martin Scorsese’s film on Bob Dylan, No Direction Home) and his Buddhist colleagues.
DiLeva Halpern’s early love of Buddhism blossomed during his final college years. During the time he earned his BFA in fine art and filmmaking in 1977, he lived in the Massachusetts cabin where lama Chögyam Trungpa realized the “Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism” lectures, which later become his hallmark book of the same name.
Within a few months, DiLeva Halpern and his friends executed BRIDGING, a conceptual art event involving a climb on all seven suspension bridges in Manhattan, during rush hour, with the goal of keeping “terrorism off the front page for one day.” It won Best News of the Year in 1977 (WABC-TV).
By 1977, he had already directed several art films. But it wasn’t until after Ronald Feldman, a New York gallerist, introduced avant-garde German artist Joseph Beuys to DiLeva Halpern’s work, that the director would begin work on his first documentary, JOSEPH BEUYS/ TRANSFORMER.
However, after the overwhelming media attention paid to BRIDGING, followed by a three-month collaboration with Beuys in Germany, DiLeva Halpern decided to immerse himself in contemplative practices for the next three years, retreating to Italy to learn yoga from Radames Silvestri, a B.K.S. Iyengar protégé. This would ultimately lead him to keep the final editing of TRANSFORMER on hold until 1987.
Shortly after his immersion in yoga, His Holiness Jigrel Yeshe Dorje Dudjom Rinpoche initiated him in the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism and yoga. His Holiness passed away in 1987, as did Beuys and Andy Warhol, another supporter and co-exhibitor of DiLeva Halpern’s.
In 1988, due to the TRANSFORMER’s immediate success and acceptance in the art world, DiLeva Halpern directed and produced numerous interactive public art events in Europe and the US, engaging many thousands of participants. His SMOKESCULPTURE; BREATHSCULPTURE; FRESH AIR; and, NEW CONSUME events addressed the ecologic/ environmental crisis that subsequently became the cornerstone of 21st century activism.
In 1992, at the Tate Modern in London, DiLeva Halpern exhibited these public works under the rubric “Art For The 21st Century.” The Swiss government, in 1996, awarded his New Consume studio in Bern a prize for its innovative ALPS project for art and economy.
Throughout his career, DiLeva Halpern has related to mass media as a primary communication medium for social-creative messaging and “cultural activism.” Using Pop icons like Joseph Beuys, the Dalai Lama, James Cameron, Martin Scorsese, Oliver Stone, and others, as characters in a great cultural tapestry or “thanka,” he attempts to catalyze and inspire in audiences an initiative of personal and collective humanitarian-ecologic advocacy through the films TRANSFORMER; REFUGE; and, TALKING WITH THE DALAI LAMA.
Through personal and professional exposure since the late 1970s to Tibetan Buddhist culture and spirituality, he advocated for the Tibetan humanitarian crisis at the United Nations in 2011. He also contributes to the religion section of The Huffington Post.
WAKING BUDDHA, DiLeva Halpern’s new film about spiritual-intelligence and altruism, weaves together in natural progression the story of 20th century Tibet with the 21st century’s social evolution of aware and engaged activism.
DiLeva Halpern is married to Swiss artist, Katrin Roos. They live in the Inwood section of Manhattan. His filmmaker brother, Alex, and sister-in-law, Caryn, own Post Factory NY, a major boutique editing studio. Together with Julia and Jim Miller of Digipowers, they are providing in-kind services to WAKING BUDDHA.
Joseph (Joe) Loizzo, MD, PhD
Joseph (Joe) Loizzo, MD, PhD, is a Harvard-trained psychiatrist and Columbia-trained Buddhist scholar with over thirty years’ experience studying the beneficial effects of meditation on healing and learning. He is Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry in Integrative Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, where he researches and teaches mind/body health. He has taught science and religion, the scientific study of religious experience, and the Indo-Tibetan mind sciences at Columbia University, where he currently is adjunct Assistant Professor of Religion at the Columbia Center for Buddhist Studies.
In 1998, Loizzo opened the Center for Meditation and Healing at Columbia University’s Presbyterian Hospital, the first mind/body center in the U.S. to offer programs in stress-reduction, self-healing and lifestyle change based on the Tibetan health and mind sciences.
In 2003, the Center for Meditation and Healing joined the Center for Integrative Medicine at Weill Cornell College of Medicine, to better test and refine the effectiveness of its programs. Nalanda Institute for Contemplative Science opened in 2005 to make these programs available to the public at large.
Raised in Switzerland and educated in a Marianist Catholic boy’s school in New York, Loizzo was graduated summa cum laude in Independent Study from Amherst College. He completed his medical studies at New York University and his post-graduate training in psychiatry at Harvard. His Columbia Ph.D. is in Indo-Tibetan Studies. He also holds an M.F.A. from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers.
His academic honors include: Phi Beta Kappa; the Father Chaminade Awards for English and Religion; the first Mosely Prize in Philosophy and Religion; the Herman Wortis Prize in Neuropsychiatry and Medicine; a Mellon Faculty Fellowship in Indo-Tibetan Studies; and a Columbia University President’s Fellowship in Religion.
Beyond his teaching posts at Harvard, UC Davis, Columbia and Cornell, Loizzo has lectured internationally on the health benefits of meditation to a wide range of professional and lay audiences. He gives frequent public talks at Tibet House US on his work infusing the contemplative sciences and healing arts of India and Tibet into Western medicine, psychotherapy, and health education.
Loizzo’s meditation research has taken him from the West at Harvard Mind/Body Medical Institute and Harvard’s Cambridge Hospital to the Psychiatry Training Program at Napa, California and to the East at Drebung Monastic University in Mundgod, India. Now at the Weill Cornell Center for Integrative Medicine, he has just completed his second of two pilot studies funded by the Avon Foundation on the impact of Tibetan visualization and contemplative skills on the lives of women with breast cancer and other gynecologic cancers. The results of the first study were published in the May 2010 issue of Alternative Therapies.
Loizzo has published numerous scientific articles and scholarly chapters on the challenges of researching Indo-Tibetan mind and health science, the role of mind-body methods in modern medicine and psychiatry, and meditative approaches to psychotherapy and health education. These include three articles in the recent New York Academy of Sciences volume, Longevity, Regeneration and Optimal Health, edited by Nalanda faculty Drs. Erin Olivo, Bill Bushell and Neil Theise. His translation study, Nagarjuna’s Reason Sixty with Candrakirti’s Commentary, was one of the inaugural volumes in the American Institute of Buddhist Studies Translation Series distributed by the Columbia University Press.
Loizzo’s Sustainable Happiness: The Mind Science of Well-Being, Altruism, and Inspiration was published by Routledge. The meditation manuals and CD’s used in his programs on stress, healing and life-change are available through the Nalanda Institute. Loizzo lives in Manhattan with his wife Gerardine and sons, Maitreya Dante and Ananda Rowan.
Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo
Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo was raised in London and while in her teens she became a Buddhist. In 1964, at the age of twenty, she decided to go to India to pursue her spiritual path.
There she met her Guru, His Eminence the 8th Khamtrul Rinpoche, a great Drukpa Kagyu lama, and became one of the first Westerners to be ordained as a Tibetan Buddhist nun. She remained with Khamtrul Rinpoche and his community in Himachal Pradesh, northern India, for six years and then he directed her to the Himalayan valley of Lahaul in order to undertake more intensive practice. Tenzin Palmo stayed in a small monastery there for several years, remaining in retreat during the long winter months. Then, seeking more seclusion and better conditions for practice, she found a nearby cave where she remained for another 12 years, the last three years in strict retreat. She left India in 1988 and went to stay in Italy where she taught at various Dharma centers.
Before H.E. Khamtrul Rinpoche passed away in 1980, he had on several occasions requested Tenzin Palmo to start a nunnery. She understood the importance of this and remembers when in 1993, the Lamas of the Khampagar monastery in Himachal Pradesh India again made the request. This time Tenzin Palmo was ready to take on the formidable task and she began slowly raising interest worldwide.
In January 2000, the first nuns arrived and in 2001 the construction of Dongyu Gatsal Ling Nunnery began and is now, with the ongoing construction of the traditional Temple, nearing completion.
In February 2008, Tenzin Palmo was given the rare title of Jetsunma, which means Venerable Master, by His Holiness the 12th Gyalwang Drukpa, Head of the Drukpa Kagyu lineage in recognition of her spiritual achievements as a nun and her efforts in promoting the status of female practitioners in Tibetan Buddhism.
Tenzin Palmo spends most of the year at Dongyu Gatsal Ling Nunnery and occasionally tours to give teachings and raise funds for the ongoing needs of the DGL nuns and Nunnery.
To find out more about Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo’s life, read Vicki Mackenzie’s biography Cave in the Snow published by Bloomsbury, and see the Cave in the Snow DVD directed by Liz Thompson.
Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche
Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche was born in the Dhoshul region of Kham in eastern Tibet on June 10, 1950. On that summer day in the family tent, Rinpoche’s birth caused his mother no pain. The next day, his mother, Pema Lhadze, moved the bed where she had given birth. Beneath it she found growing a beautiful and fragrant flower which she plucked and offered to Chenrezig on the family altar.
Soon after his birth, three head lamas from Jadchag monastery came to his home and recognized him as the reincarnation of Khenpo Sherab Khyentse. Khenpo Sherab Khyentse, who had been the former head abbot lama at Gochen Monastery, was a renowned scholar and practitioner who lived much of his life in retreat.
Rinpoche’s first dharma teacher was his father, Lama Chimed Namgyal Rinpoche. Beginning his schooling at the age of five, he entered Gochen Monastery. His studies were interrupted by the Chinese invasion and his family’s escape to India. In India, his father and brother continued his education until he entered the Nyingmapa Monastic School of Northern India, where he studied until 1967.
He then entered the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, which was then a part of Sanskrit University in Varanasi, where he received his B.A. degree in 1975. He also attended Nyingmapa University in West Bengal, where he received another B.A. and an M.A. in 1977.
In 1978, Rinpoche was enthroned as the abbot of the Wish-fulfilling Nyingmapa Institute in Boudanath, Nepal, by H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche, and later became the abbot of the Department of Dharma Studies, where he taught poetry, grammar, philosophy and psychology. In 1981, H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche appointed Rinpoche as the abbot of the Dorje Nyingpo Center in Paris, France. In 1982, he was asked to work with H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche at the Yeshe Nyingpo Center in New York. During the 1980s, until H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche’s mahaparinirvana in 1987, Rinpoche continued working closely with him, often traveling as his translator and attendant.
In 1988, Rinpoche and his brother founded the Padmasambhava Buddhist Center. Since that time, he has served as a spiritual director at the various Padmasambhava centers throughout the world.
Khenpo Tsewang Rinpoche has authored two books of poetry on the life of Guru Rinpoche, including Praise to the Lotus Born: A Verse Garland of Waves of Devotion, and a unique two-volume cultural and religious history of Tibet entitled The Six Sublime Pillars of the Nyingma School, which details the historical bases of the dharma in Tibet from the sixth through ninth centuries. At present, this is one of the only books written that conveys the dharma activities of this historical period in such depth. Khenpo Rinpoche has also co-authored a number of books in English on dharma subjects with his brother Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche, including Ceaseless Echoes of the Great Silence: A Commentary on the Heart Sutra Prajnaparamita; The Six Perfections; Door to Inconceivable Wisdom and Compassion; Lion’s Gaze: A Commentary on the Tsig Sum Nedek; and Opening Our Primordial Nature.
Gyetrul Jigme Rinpoche
Gyetrul Jigme Rinpoche was born in India at sunrise on October 15, 1968, the tenth day of the sixth month of the year of the Earth Monkey, on the anniversary of Guru Rinpoche’s birth. He is the son of the renowned Tertön, or treasure revealer, His Eminence Namkha Drimed Rabjam Rinpoche, holder of the Ripa lineage. His mother Khandro Chime Dolkar, also descends from a noble family of Bhutanese descent. Kyabje Chatrel Rinpoche has said to Jigme Rinpoche that he is “the son of a father who resembles a tiger and of a mother who resembles a leopard.” The Ripa family also includes Dungsey Tenzin Nyima Rinpoche, Semo Sonam Peldzom, Semo Pema Dechen, Semo Sonam Palmo, Dungsey Lhuntrul Dechen Gyurme and Khandro Tseyang Pelmo.
Gyetrul Jigme Rinpoche is the holder of two spiritual lineages, including both the Ripa Lineage, a dungjud or hereditary line, into which he was born, and which he will hold in future as heir, as well as head of the Pema Lingpa lineage of Gyeling Orgyan Mindrolling monastery in the hidden land of Pemako, which he carries forward from his previous life, as tulku.
Gyetrul Jigme Rinpoche was recognized at the age of three by His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche, then the supreme head of the Nyingma lineage, as the reincarnation of Gyeling Yonten Lhundrub Gyatso Rinpoche, a manifestation of the Bhutanese Tertön Pema Lingpa, one of the five principle or emperor Tertöns of the Vajrayana, and the head of Gyeling Orgyan Mindrolling monastery in the hidden land of Pemako. He was enthroned at the age of five, at Rigon Thubten Mindrolling monastery in Orissa, India. Upon enthronement, H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche, gave him the name: Gyetrul Jigme Lodoe Thaye Norbu Rinpoche. Other previous lives include: Manjushrimitra (Jampel Shenyen), one of the great eight Vidhyadharas from India, and master of the Dzogchen lineage. During the time of Guru Rinpoche in Tibet, he was the daughter of the King Trisong Detsen, the Princess Pema Sal.
At the age of eight, understanding that times had changed, Jigme Rinpoche went to study for six years at a modern school in Darjeeling, outside the monastery, so that he could both learn English and have contact with the outside world. During these six years, he led a normal boy’s life. Jigme Rinpoche considers this to have been a very precious period in his life, since he was able to enjoy a normal life, play with others, have normal relations, and be with life in an ordinary human way, which he considers to have brought him great riches. Nevertheless, just as he was enjoying this ordinary life, he received a letter to return to the monastery, and return to the traditional course of studies. At seventeen, Jigme Rinpoche attended the Nyingma Institute of Superior Studies and Research, Ngagyur Dojo Ling in Bouddanath, Nepal, founded by H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche, and in 1993 he received his doctoral degree in Buddhist Sutric and Tantric Studies, where he studied with the erudite Khetsun Sangpo Rinpoche.
Jigme Rinpoche’s primary spiritual teachers have been: H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche, and in this life, his father and root teacher, His Eminence Namkha Drimed Rabjam Rinpoche. H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche was also Jigme Rinpoche’s root teacher in his previous life. From these teachers he has received all of the principal Nyingma transmissions, the Taksham cycle of transmissions, including especially the practice of Tamdrin and Lama Norbu, and the unbroken Vidhyadhara transmissions of the Ripa lineage, including the mahasadhannas of the Tukdrub Lama Norbu or The Heart Practice of Lama Norbu, the Yidam Gongdu Drubchen or Gathering of Intentions of all Yidams, the Dorsem Nyingthing or The Heart Essence of Vajrasattva, and the Guru Kilaya or Lama Phurpa, as well as the entire cycle of Gesar mind treasures. Other teachers also include: H.H. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Kalu Rinpoche, and His Eminence Khatog Moksa Rinpoche.
In addition Jigme Rinpoche is the great, great grandson of the renowned sage Shakya Shri, who was considered to be the greatest Siddha of his time. He has studied with and received transmissions from the Drukpa Kagyu tradition teachers, especially those of the Shakya Shri lineage: the 12th Gyalwang Drukpa Rinpoche and Kyabje Thuksay Rinpoche.
In addition to fulfilling his role as a spiritual teacher, Jigme Rinpoche began in September 1993, in Orissa, to fulfill his humanitarian role as a socially engaged Buddhist, a term he is happy to be known by, and which has become a central part of his life’s work. Born in India, Jigme Rinpoche has firsthand experience of the plight of Tibetan refugees and local villagers, alike, in finding and retrieving potable water. This inspired him to found the Pure Water Project, for which he received great admiration and a citation from His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in Exile. Having already worked to implement five water projects within his own local refugee community, as well as a sixth local Indian village, and having seen the enormous benefits that this has brought, he became inspired to aid others, in order to reduce their suffering, knowing that all it takes is a little planning, generosity, work, and education. Having seen the communities come together, and how easy it is to make a difference, has been very rewarding and has become a key part of his work in this life. Other projects he also directs include the setting up of a malaria prevention and treatment program, as well as directing programs to support orphans, schoolchildren, monks and the elderly.
Jigme Rinpoche has spent time in retreats ranging from three months to one year. His principle teaching includes practices for the deities Yeshe Tsogyal, Guru Rinpoche, Medicine Buddha, and Chenrezig, as well as the deities of the Taksham cycle of teachings of the Ripa tradition, including especially the New Treasures cycle of Gesar teachings, a treasury of His Eminence Namkha Drimed Rabjam Rinpoche. In addition, he also has close affinities with the deities Manjushri and Gesar. Jigme Rinpoche first came to the West in 1996, giving his first teachings in Europe. Jigme Rinpoche has since established Padma Ling centers, a network of dharma organizations, in Switzerland, France, Belgium (and Luxembourg), Spain, Germany, the UK, as well as a center in Japan.
Jigme Rinpoche is known for his fluency in English and his lively, direct, fluid, humorous and down to earth teaching style. His clear and fresh outlook very quickly cuts through cultural and personal misperceptions about the Buddhadharma, East and West, ancient ways and modern life, and individual confusion. Jigme Rinpoche’s teachings focus on the themes of openness, and a clear perception of life in its immediacy, unadorned by interpretation and judgment.
Jigme Rinpoche travels between the East and the West. In the East he oversees the continuation and work of the sacred tradition in exile, including leading and caring for the Ripa monasteries in both Nepal and India, along with their growing monastic communities, as well as looking after the Tibetan community in exile. In the West he continues his teachings through Padma Ling and the Ripa Ladrang Foundation, and is actively building the community and its foundation.
Matthieu Ricard, born in France in 1946 and the son of French philosopher Jean-François Revel and painter Yahne The Toumelin is a Buddhist monk, author, translator and photographer. After a first trip to India in 1967 where he met the great Tibetan spiritual masters, he completed his PhD in cell genetics in 1972 and then left to settle permanently in the region of the Himalayas, where he has now lived for over 40 years.
Donald and Shelley Rubin
Donald Rubin began a life-long love affair with Buddhism three decades ago after spotting a painting of White Tara (a female Buddha) in an art gallery on Madison Avenue.
A successful entrepreneur who also holds a passion for Cuban art, Donald, along with his wife Shelley, accumulated a substantial collection of Himalayan art and in 2004, started the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan. The Museum offers a wide range of cultural and educational programs aimed at contextualizing the museum’s collections for an audience of both adults and students. It is at the same time an international center for the study and presentation of Himalayan art—a resource for scholars worldwide. From the outset, Shelley was committed to creating a uniquely welcoming and peaceful physical environment, with richly colored spaces that are by turns both intimate and dramatic. Her determination has helped to make the Rubin Museum of Art both a meditative oasis in the city and a vibrant community institution.
Shelley Rubin is also a philanthropist and cultural leader who believes that art and cultural enrichment have the power to change lives in straightforward, practical ways.
As co-chair of the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation and board member of Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center, THIRTEEN/WNET and Human Rights Watch, Shelley has supported numerous cultural and humanitarian projects that use art and culture to make lives concretely better all over the world. The Foundation funds specific arts initiatives, such as themed residencies that bring artists working in the Himalayan region and in Cuba to the Vermont Studio Center. It also invests in a number of web-based educational resources such as Arts of the Islamic World, Himalayan Art Resources, and Treasury of Lives. These projects bring cultures together by archiving and presenting vast amounts of biographical, historical and iconographic data so that it is available for any curious person to access worldwide. The Foundation’s commitment to the practical application of art is probably best represented by Music and Memory, an initiative that promotes access to personalized music to improve the health and quality of life for the elderly and infirm.
Shelley’s drive to actively engage the arts community in New York, understand the practical problems that artists in the city face as they live and work, and expand the relationship between art and life and create new audiences led to the founding in 2011 of A Blade of Grass, an organization which provides resources to artists who demonstrate artistic excellence and serve as innovative conduits for social change.
Martin Scorsese was born on November 17, 1942, in New York City, and was raised in the neighborhood of Little Italy, which later provided the inspiration for several of his films. Scorsese earned a B.S. degree in film communications in 1964, followed by an M.A. in the same field in 1966 at New York University’s School of Film. During this time, he made numerous prize-winning short films including The Big Shave (1968), and directed his first feature film, Who’s That Knocking at My Door (1967).
He served as assistant director and an editor of the documentary Woodstock (1970) and won critical and popular acclaim for Mean Streets (1973), which first paired him with actor and frequent collaborator Robert De Niro. In 1976, Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, also starring De Niro, was awarded the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and he followed that film with New York, New York (1977) and The Last Waltz (1978). Scorsese directed De Niro to an Oscar-winning performance as boxer Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull (1980), which received eight Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director, and is hailed as one of the masterpieces of modern cinema. Scorsese went on to direct The Color of Money (1986), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), Goodfellas (1990), Cape Fear (1991), The Age of Innocence (1993), Casino (1995), and Kundun (1997), among other films. Commissioned by the British Film Institute to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of cinema, Scorsese completed the four-hour documentary, A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies (1995) (TV), co-directed by Michael Henry Wilson.
His long-cherished project, Gangs of New York (2002), earned numerous critical honors, including a Golden Globe Award for Best Director; the Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator (2004) won five Academy Awards, in addition to the Golden Globe and BAFTA awards for Best Picture. Scorsese won his first Academy Award for Best Director for The Departed (2006), which was also honored with the Directors Guild of America, Golden Globe, New York Film Critics, National Board of Review and Critic’s Choice awards for Best Director, in addition to four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Scorsese’s documentary of the Rolling Stones in concert, Shine a Light (2008), followed, with the successful thriller Shutter Island (2010) two years later. Scorsese received his seventh Academy Award nomination for Best Director, as well as a Golden Globe win, for Hugo (2011), which went on to win five Academy Awards.
Scorsese also serves as executive producer on HBO’s series Boardwalk Empire (2010) for which he directed the pilot episode. Scorsese’s additional awards and honors include the Golden Lion from the Venice Film Festival (1995), the AFI Life Achievement Award (1997), the Honoree at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s 25th Gala Tribute (1998), the DGA Lifetime Achievement Award (2003), The Kennedy Center Honors (2007) and the HFPA Cecil B. DeMille Award (2010).
After serious deliberations about entering the priesthood—he entered a seminary in 1956—Martin Scorsese opted to channel his passions into film. He graduated from NYU as a film major in 1964. Catching the eye of producer Roger Corman with his 1960’s student films (including co-editing Woodstock (1970)), Scorsese directed the gritty exploiter Boxcar Bertha (1972). Mean Streets followed in 1973 and provided the benchmarks for the Scorsese style: New York settings, loners struggling with inner demons, pointed-shoes rock-meets-opera soundtracks and unrelenting cathartic violence. Mean Streets also featured Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel, two actors who would help shape that style. After Scorsese directed Ellen Burstyn to a Best Actress Oscar in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974), the trio was reunited for the dark journey of Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver (1976). The film achieved additional notoriety five years after its release when Bickle’s (De Niro) concern for a teenaged hooker played by Jodie Foster inspired John Hinckley’s assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan in 1981. After New York, New York (1977) (which one critic described as a wife-abuse musical) and The Last Waltz (1978), Scorsese released Raging Bull (1980) dedicated to his mentor Haig Manoogian. The biography of middleweight fighter Jake LaMotta earned two Oscars (Actor – DeNiro, Editing – Thelma Schoonmaker) and was later selected as the best film of the decade by U.S. critic gods Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. Scorsese then explored fans as pariah (The King of Comedy (1982)), dark-comic dreams (After Hours (1985)), and revisited pool shark Eddie Felson from The Hustler (1961) in The Color of Money (1986) with Paul Newman. Scorsese outraged some religious groups by attempting to portray a human son of God in The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) before returning to more familiar territory with the Mafia in Goodfellas (1990). He followed with two films which were remakes, Cape Fear (1991) and The Age of Innocence (1993). Besides directing and co-writing, Scorsese has also acted. He played the gunman in the finale of Mean Streets (1973) and the cab passenger planning to kill his wife in Taxi Driver (1976). He also had a role in Dreams (1990).
Oliver Stone has become known as a master of controversial subjects and a legendary filmmaker. Stone is a three-time Oscar winner, and the films he has directed have been nominated for 31 Academy Awards, including eight for acting, six for screenwriting, and three for directing.
Stone served as a soldier in the Vietnam War after dropping out of Yale University. While serving, he was introduced to The Doors, drugs, Jefferson Airplane and all things that defined the raging Sixties. He was awarded a Bronze Star for Gallantry and a Purple Heart. Returning from the war, Stone did not return to Yale to graduate, but instead created a student film, Last Year in Viet Nam (1971), followed by the gritty horror film Seizure (1974) for which he also wrote the screenplay. The next seven years saw him direct two films: Mad Man of Martinique (1979) and The Hand (1981), starring Michael Caine. He also wrote many screenplays for films such as Midnight Express (1978), Conan the Barbarian (1982), and Scarface (1983). Stone won his first Oscar for Midnight Express (1978).
The year 1986 brought him further fame in the U.S. and worldwide. He directed the political film Salvador (1986) starring Oscar-nominated James Woods. The Vietnam war film Platoon (1986) starring Charlie Sheen, Willem Dafoe, Tom Berenger, and Francesco Quinn was a box office hit and earned Stone an Oscar as well as Berenger and Dafoe Oscar nominations for their roles as polar opposite sergeants who each influence the tour of duty of Chris Taylor (Sheen). After Platoon, Stone followed up with the critically acclaimed Wall Street (1987) starring Charlie Sheen and Michael Douglas, which depicted the shadowy business world of tycoons and stock brokers. The film won an Oscar for Douglas’ portrayal of the villainous Gordon Gekko. Stone returned immediately the following year with Talk Radio (1988), featuring a foul-mouthed radio host (Eric Bogosian) who never fails to talk about the serious issues. He then directed Tom Cruise into an Oscar-nominated role in Born on the Fourth of July (1989) in which Stone won an Academy Award for Directing, his third win to date. After Born on the Fourth of July, Stone took a hand in producing several movies, including the Academy Award-winning film Reversal of Fortune (1990). He returned to the director’s chair in 1991 with Val Kilmer starring as the legendary and controversial Jim Morrison in Stone’s psychedelic film The Doors.
After this film, Stone directed his third Vietnam film to date. Heaven & Earth (1993) was a film about the war from the viewpoint of a Vietnamese girl, and also co-starred Tommy Lee Jones (who had received an Oscar nomination for JFK (1991)). His next film is perhaps his most notorious film to date: adapting a screenplay by Quentin Tarantino, Stone made Natural Born Killers (1994) starring Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore and Rodney Dangerfield in his only dramatic performance. While the film was received well at the box office, because of the violence some people claimed was inspired by the film, it was compared to Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. As usual, Stone was at the center of controversy; his next film Nixon (1995) was no exception. The film focused on the life of President Richard Nixon, played by Anthony Hopkins, while featuring another well-known cast, including Joan Allen in the role of Nixon’s wife. Both went on to receive Oscar nominations, while Stone received his sixth Oscar nomination for Screenwriting.
Aside from directing, Stone has worked as a producer on several different films, including the successful Reversal of Fortune (1990), which won Jeremy Irons an Oscar and also nominated the director for an Oscar. The highly praised and successful emotional drama The Joy Luck Club (1993) followed, which centered around four Chinese immigrant women whose relationships with their daughters are affected by their own lives. Another highly praised Oscar nominated film was Milos Forman’s classic film The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996) starring Woody Harrelson, Edward Norton, and Courtney Love. Whether the crime/action film The Corruptor (1999) or the brilliant war epic Savior (1998), Stone has worked in a variety of film genres as well as TV documentaries, including Looking for Fidel and Comandante (2003), interviews of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, while Persona Non Grata was an interview of several Palestinian leaders.
In later years, he directed the colossal epic Alexander (2004) starring Colin Farrell as the Macedonian leader and focused on Alexander’s relationships with his parents and his relationships with his wife and childhood friend/gay lover (played by Rosario Dawson and Jared Leto respectively).
World Trade Center followed in 2006 along with a biography on President George W. Bush titled W. (2008). Stone then made the documentary South of the Border (2009), which focused on bringing to light the positive aspects of the left-wing governments in South America, particularly Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Stone also began work on Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010). Starring Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Josh Brolin, Carey Mulligan, and Eli Wallach, the film focuses on the 2008 economic crisis, and the return of Gordon Gekko from prison. The film was screened at Cannes to positive reception, and hailed as Stone’s triumphant return. After this, Stone made a film adaptation of Savages, a novel by Don Winslow. The movie follows two highly successful marijuana growers (Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Taylor-Johnson), whose shared girlfriend (Blake Lively) is kidnapped by a Mexican cartel and held for ransom. The movie also starred Salma Hayek, Benicio Del Toro, John Travolta, and Emile Hirsch. The film marked a return to the tense action and violence of Stone’s earlier films.
Robert A. F. Thurman, PhD
The NY Times Magazine refers to Robert A. F. Thurman as “The Dalai Lama’s man in America.” A scholar, author, former Tibetan Buddhist monk, co-founder with Richard Gere of Tibet House in New York City, a close personal friend of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, and father of five children including the actress Uma Thurman, he is the Jey Tsong Khapa Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies at Columbia University. Time magazine named him one of the “25 Most Influential Americans.” He has lectured all over the world; his charisma and enthusiasm draw packed audiences.
Robert Thurman’s flair for the dramatic may be attributed to the weekly Shakespeare readings hosted by his parents, in which Robert participated alongside such guests as Laurence Olivier. He managed to get himself kicked out of Exeter just prior to graduation for playing hooky in a failed attempt to join Fidel Castro’s Cuban guerrilla army in 1958. Harvard University admitted him anyway, but a deep dissatisfaction and questioning led him to drop out and he traveled on a “vision quest” as a pilgrim to India. Returning home to attend his father’s funeral, he met a Mongolian monk, Geshe Wangyal, and thus began Thurman’s life-long passion for Tibetan Buddhism.
In 1964, Geshe Wangyal introduced Thurman to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and described Robert as, “…a crazy American boy, very intelligent and with a good heart (though a little proud), who spoke Tibetan well and had learned something about Buddhism [and] wanted to become a monk….” Geshe Wangyal was leaving it up to His Holiness to decide. Thurman became the first Westerner to be ordained as a Tibetan Buddhist monk. He was 24 and the Dalai Lama 29. They eventually met weekly and His Holiness would quickly refer Thurman’s questions concerning Buddhism to another teacher and turn the conversation to Freud, physics, and other “Western” topics of interest to him. Thurman describes this phase of his life: “All I wanted was to stay in the 2,500-year-old Buddhist community of seekers of enlightenment, to be embraced as a monk. My inner world was rich, full of insights and delightful visions, with a sense of luck and privilege at having access to such great teachers and teachings and the time to study and try to realize them.” But when he returned to the United States, Thurman found that his career as a monk was not viable, so “I decided that I wanted to learn more Buddhist languages, read more Buddhist texts.… The only lay institution in America comparable to monasticism is the university, so in the end I turned to academia.”
Robert Thurman currently holds the first endowed chair in this field of study in the United States, at Columbia University, where he serves as president of the board of the American Institute Buddhist Studies.
Thurman is not only a scholar, but a champion of the preservation of Tibetan culture. In 1987, he and actor Richard Gere founded New York City’s Tibet House, a nonprofit institution devoted to preserving the living culture of Tibet, where he currently serves as president of the board of trustees. Thurman writes, “What I have learned from these people [Tibetans] has forever changed my life, and I believe their culture contains an inner science particularly relevant to the difficult time in which we live. My desire is to share some of the profound hope for our future that they have shared with me.”
Thurman’s books include: Anger: The Seven Deadly Sins; Circling the Sacred Mountain: A Spiritual Adventure Through the Himalayas; Essential Tibetan Buddhism; Infinite Life: Awakening to Bliss Within; Inner Revolution: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Real Happiness.