Pema Chödrön

The work of Pema Chodron

Who is Pema Chodron?

Pema Chodron is a bhikkhuni which means she is an ordained member of a monastic order of Buddhists. As a nun, Chodron is a disciple of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, a master of meditation in the Tibetan tradition of Buddhism. These days, Chodron is among the leading teachers at Gampo Abbey, a Western Buddhist monastery that is located in Nova Scotia, Canada. Chodron has lived in the Gampo Abbey community since 1984 and became one of its directors in 1986. During the summer months, Chodrom often resides in Berkley, California where she teaches a course entitled 'Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life'. She has written numerous articles and books about her Buddhist beliefs, some of which have been made into audiobooks, too.

 What does Pema Chodron mean?

According to an interview that Pema Chodron – which is more appropriately written as Pema Chödrön – gave to the US talk show host Oprah Winfrey, she was given her new name early in her spiritual studies in the 1980s. According to that interview, the name literally translates as 'lotus torch of the dharma'. Perhaps a better way of interpreting the meaning of her name is to translate it as 'lamp of the truth', however.

Where was Pema Chodron born?

Deirdre Blomfield-Brown, who went on to become Pema Chodron, was born in New York City in 1936. She went on to attend a preparatory school for girls in Farmington, Connecticut and spent much of her formative life in New Jersey. Later, she went on to study in New York and then at the University of California in Berkeley. Her interest in Buddhism began after travelling to Europe, where she was first introduced to Lama Chime Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist teacher.

How can you meditate with Pema Chodron?

Now in her 80s, Pema Chodron still teaches meditation formally. People who want to get to know her style of meditation better can attend one-off lectures, but these are not a common as they used to be. Nevertheless, her style can be learned from her numerous written works on the subject as well as her audiobooks. 'Pure Meditation: The Tibetan Buddhist Practice Of Inner Peace' is a twin CD guide to meditation that first came out in 2004. 'Giving Our Best: A Retreat With Pema Chodron on Practicing the Way of the Bodhisattva' is a DVD that was released in 2014. It contains many insights into meditation techniques, as well.

Which books explain the teaching of Pema Chodron?

From 1994, 'Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living' is one of the earliest titles by Pema Chodron to teach her vision of western Buddhism. 'Practising Peace in Times of War' is another key tome written by her. It came out in 2006. 'Welcoming the Unwelcome: Wholehearted Living in a Brokenhearted World' is a more recent work which was published in 2019.

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In the past, any definition of spirituality would have been very tightly correlated with certain religious beliefs that focus on the godliness or spirit within people. In other words, spiritual people would have been seen as devout, pious and concentrated more on sacred or metaphysical matters than earthly ones. These days, however, a more extensive definition of spirituality is accepted, which includes broader traditions that lead to personal growth. Examples of this could be, the sort of inner journey that many people take from meditative practices and non-religious activities like transcendentalism and perennial philosophy.
To put it simply, religion is a social practice which uses multiple methods to explain humanity, the spiritual side of people, the universe and – in most cases – divinity. That said, there is no consensus as to what religion truly is. Some people take it to mean only organised religion where worship is conducted through ritual. Others see it as something that is bound up with their personal identity and which could not be shared even if they wanted it to. In the main, religions state moral positions that followers ought to stick to. Many religions also promote certain practices that are encouraged. These are often referred to as observances. Many types of religion have world views that cover all aspects of humanity, including the afterlife. Critics of organised religion usually point out how it has been used throughout history as a form of social control.
Often regarded as something that is related to empathy, compassion is the feeling that comes when you notice someone or something, that is suffering. You may not be able to put yourself into the shoes of the person you are feeling compassionate about. However, having compassion for them means that at least you understand that they in difficulty. What happens after this feeling is felt does not necessarily flow from the sense of compassion. One might, for example, feel compassionate about a child that is in anguish but do nothing about its suffering. On the other hand, if it leads you to comfort the child or to alleviate its pain in some way, then this would be rightly regarded as a compassionate act. Compassion is first and foremost an emotional response, therefore, but it can lead to compassionate actions being subsequently taken, too.
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