Tibetan Buddhism is formed from a cody of teachings on Buddhist religious doctrine. It is most popular within areas of Tibet, Mongolia, Tuva, Bhutan, Kalmykia and various other regions within the Himalayan mountains. This includes northern Nepal and India.
Rather than remain an obscure and largely unrecognized form of Buddhism, it has spread and is estimated to be practiced by between ten and twenty million people.
In the preface of Jewels of Enlightenment (a collection of Buddhist sayings compiled by Erik Pema Kunsang), the writer Lomgchen Rabjam describes how, from a Tibetan point of view, there are three main approaches that are taken from the doctrine in the form of Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana.
He also states that
…the primary characteristic that defines Tibetan Buddhism is its vast variety of approaches and levels of profundity.
The main body of the book is a selection of spiritual teachings and insights from a number of Buddhist teachers that have been drawn together to provide daily inspiration and guidance for those traveling the Buddhist path.
Contributions to the book include teachings from:
- Gautama Buddha: Buddhist Teacher (600–400BC)
- Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche: Head of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism. (1910–1991)
- Dudjom Rinpoche: yogi, writer, master and guru (1904-1987)
- Gampopa: physician (1079-1153)
- Jamgön Kongtrül the Great: Buddhist master (1813–1899)
- Jamgön Mipham Rinpoche: Nyingma master and writer. (1846–1912)
- Jigmey Lingpa: tertön of the Nyingma sect of Tibetan Buddhism (1729–1798)
- Machig Labdrön: Buddhist practitioner, teacher and yogini (1055–1149)
- Milarepa: Tibetan yogi and poet (1052–1135)
- Nagarjuna: Buddhist philosopher (150–250)
- Naropa: Indian Buddhist Mahasiddha (1016–1100)
- Padmasambhava: literary character of terma (N/A)
- Saraha: first sahajiya and one of the Mahasiddhas (Unknown)
- Shabkar: lama (1781–1851)
- Shantideva: master, scholar, and bodhisattva (685–763)
- Tilopa of the eighty-four mahasiddhas. (988–1069)
- Tulku Urgyen: teacher of Dzogchen and Mahamudra. (1920–1996)
- Vairotsana: Tibetan lotsawas (9–8BC)
- Yeshe Tsogyal: principal consort of Guru Padmasambhava (N/A)
The book concludes with a glossary of terms and further recommended reading.
Our Review of ‘Jewels of Enlightenment’ by Erik Pema
There is no doubt that Buddhism has a great deal to offer the world—though most of its teachings are somewhat difficult to engage with.
This is a publication that will introduce to those of us rather less well-versed in its spiritual depths a taste of its essential characteristics.
This collection of insights and commentaries does reference some of the earliest proponents of Buddhism, which means that I found my attempts to relate to the sacred insights of the early writers within a modern context very difficult.
I am not a Buddhist student and I suspect that a great deal of the material in this book is only comprehendible within terms of Buddhist philosophy. Outside of that, they do not hold a great deal of meaning.
This leads me to conclude that this is a book for the purists out there and is not a manual of insight for those of us in the west seeking some spiritual guidance and insight.
There are more popularist approaches to Buddhism but this book does not pretend to cover that sort of ground or cater to that audience.
The glossary of terms was very useful though and it does add a great deal to understanding the key features of the various sayings.
The introduction was well-considered and enjoyable.
Jewels of Enlightenment is a comprehensive collection of Buddhist commentaries and teachings drawn from a rich history of mystical revelation.