News and Views on Tibet

Buddhist lama with ties to Boulder writes meditation book

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By Ashley Frank,
For the Camera

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche has been studying Buddhism and practicing meditation for most of his life. The highly respected Buddhist lama, whose name or title means “earth protector,” “incarnate lama,” and “precious teacher,” is the head of the Shambala lineage and has been around the world teaching and studying the ancient Tibetan religion.

On Jan. 11, he will be in Boulder, which he once called home, to launch his first published work “Turning the Mind Into an Ally” with a talk and a book signing.

“I wanted to do the opening in Boulder because of the connection I have to the place,” Rinpoche says. Rinpoche, 40, came to Boulder from India when he was 8 years old to join his father and teacher, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the founder of Naropa who is known throughout the world for being pivotal in bringing Buddhism to the West in the 1970s.

The younger Rinpoche lived in Boulder off and on for 14 years. He attended September School and Boulder High School, but didn’t go full-time, since he also had tutors. He went to Oxford before beginning his travels and dedicating himself to Buddhism as his life’s work.

Inspired to write after numerous requests from friends and students, Rinpoche decided to focus on the fundamentals of meditation.

“I really wanted to do something that’s basic that can help a lot of people,” he says.

In writing, Rinpoche kept in mind that many books that attempt to make Buddhist principles and philosophies accessible to Americans can be intimidating and difficult to read, often laden with jargon and foreign terms. So his goal, he says, was to keep the text manageable. To that end, he used everyday analogies and examples to make the book easy for people to relate to.

He intends his book to be a guide because people can be easily confused about meditation. “I wanted to make it as simple and straightforward and demystifying as possible.”

David Bolduc, owner of the Boulder Book Store and a student of Rinpoche’s, appreciates the simplicity.

“I’ve read a lot of meditation books, and I’m struck by how easy this one is to read. It’s the only book I can actually give to anyone. It’s profound and at the same time very accessible,” he says.

Rinpoche’s intended audience is purposefully broad. “It is for anybody who is interested in working on the mind at all.” The basic idea of meditation — to cultivate a clear, strong mind by working with breath to overcome distractions and emotions that can be harmful to the body and mind — can be useful to anyone, Rinpoche believes.

He considers meditation a life tool and not strictly a religious rite.

“The purpose of this book is that meditation is not just for spiritual practice, it is for everyone. The mind is naturally strong, and we can train it to be our friend. It can accompany us to school, to work, anywhere.”

Even those who are learned in the art of meditation can learn from Rinpoche’s book Bolduc says. “The whole practice is always fresh. You’re always working on the basics.”

Rinpoche says he hopes to help people learn how meditation can be applied to their everyday lives. He gives an example of being in a business meeting and needing to focus. “That’s meditation,” he says. “Starting with meditation, you can develop wisdom, compassion, happiness, a sense of truth.”

According to Rinpoche, people often seek spiritual guidance to ease their mind or find comfort. What is really needed, he says, is to find balance and clarity within one’s own mind. In this way, meditation is actually a necessary preliminary step to a spiritual journey. “Meditation is just becoming human. It’s possessing your own mind.”

Rinpoche will be speaking and signing books at the Unity Church at 7 p.m. on Jan. 11. Tickets can be purchased in advance at the Boulder Book Store for $10 or at the door.

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