His Holiness the Dalai Lama with Ven. Thubten Chodron and students at Maitripa College, May 2013. Photo by Marc Sakamoto.

In August 2017, Wisdom Publications published Approaching the Buddhist Path, the first volume of a new collaborative series—The Library of Wisdom and Compassion—between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and American Buddhist teacher, scholar, and author Ven. Thubten Chodron. Former Mandala associate editor Donna Lynn Brown spoke with Ven. Chodron in June 2017 about His Holiness’s intentions to present the lamrim to a modern audience. Ven. Chodron explains one of the challenges the projects addresses:

“… [A] challenge non-Tibetans have with the lamrim is that—as His Holiness explains—it was written for people who are already Buddhists. Lamrim texts don’t talk about why rebirth makes sense; they assume you already believe this. And the guru is Buddha? People say, ‘I just came to learn to meditate! What’s that all about?’ So in this new series we are re-ordering some topics and approaching some of them in a different way. Regarding, for example, how to relate to a spiritual mentor, His Holiness explains that in depth for a modern audience. If people start out reading Pabongka Rinpoche’s Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand, they don’t know that he was teaching Tibetans who were about to take highest yoga tantra initiations. That’s not who walks into Dharma centers! People need preparatory material. In the West, what does His Holiness usually teach? Love, compassion, and secular ethics for everyone. For Westerners who are interested in the Buddha’s teachings, he starts out with the Buddhist worldview: the nature of the mind, the two truths—conventional and ultimate—the four noble truths, and the possibility of being free from the afflictions.

“Understanding these topics, people will then understand something about the basis, path, and result and will see how the lamrim meditations fit in. This project takes on the task of explaining the whole path, in some depth, to people who have a modern education. This series is not limited to Westerners. His Holiness says it’s also for young Tibetans as well as Chinese, Vietnamese, and other Asian students. …”

Read “Presenting the Path to Modern Students: An Interview with Ven. Thubten Chodron,” Mandala‘s newest online feature: