Alexander Berzin (scholar)

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Alexander Berzin
Berzin07.jpg
Alexander Berzin speaking at an international conference in June 2007
Religion Tibetan Buddhism
Personal
Born 1944
Paterson, New Jersey
Religious career
Works Relating to a Spiritual Teacher: Building a Healthy Relationship (2000), Developing Balanced Sensitivity (1998)
Website berzinarchives.com

Alexander Berzin (born 1944) is a scholar, translator, and teacher of Tibetan Buddhism.

Early years[edit]

Berzin was born in Paterson, New Jersey, United States.[1] He received his B.A. degree in 1965 from the Department of Oriental Studies, Rutgers University in conjunction with Princeton University; his M.A. in 1967; and, his Ph.D. in 1972 from the Departments of Far Eastern Languages (Chinese) and Sanskrit and Indian Studies, Harvard University.

Work[edit]

From 1969 to 1998, he resided primarily in Dharamsala, India, initially as a Fulbright scholar, studying and practicing with masters from all four Tibetan Buddhist traditions.

His main teacher was Tsenzhab Serkong Rinpoche, the late master debate partner and assistant tutor of the Dalai Lama. Berzin served as his interpreter and secretary for nine years, accompanying him on several world tours. He has also served as occasional Dharma interpreter for the Dalai Lama.

A founding member of the Translation Bureau of the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, Berzin has developed a new terminology for translating, into English, Tibetan technical terms that have often been misunderstood. Working with translators in many other languages, he has helped them to revise and develop their terminology according to the same principles.

Since 1983, Berzin has been traveling around the world, teaching various aspects of Buddhist practice and philosophy, as well as Tibetan-Mongolian history and astro-medical theory, at Dharma centers and universities in more than seventy countries. His travels focus primarily on the former and present communist world, Latin America, Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East. In addition to his numerous published writings and translations, many of his lectures have been published in the languages of these areas.

Berzin has served as unofficial liaison for several international projects of Tibetan-Mongolian culture, such as a Tibetan medical aid program for Chernobyl victims with the Russian Ministry of Health and a project in Mongolia for the Gere Foundation to produce books on Buddhism in the colloquial language to help revive the traditional culture. He has also been instrumental in establishing and furthering a Buddhist-Islamic dialogue.

He currently lives in Berlin, Germany.

In 1998, Berzin moved back to the West to have conditions more conducive for writing. Traveling occasionally, he teaches at several Dharma centers, but devotes most of his time to preparing his unpublished materials for the Berzin Archives website. The website contains Buddhist material otherwise unavailable in Western languages. Inspired by the open-source movement and the information revolution, his writings are available free of charge. It is also possible to listen to recorded weekly teachings in the form of podcasts. Berzin's explanations of Buddhist teaching are notable for their use of distinctive translations of many Buddhist terms; such as the use of "safe direction" for the more common term "refuge" and "forceful" instead of "wrathful". Berzin believes that much of the misunderstanding concerning Buddhism in the West comes from incorrect and misleading translations of Buddhist terminology.[1]

Publications[edit]

Books and Monographs[edit]

  • Lam-rim - Outlines. London: Wisdom Publications, 1977. Reprint, Munich: Aryatara Institut, 1986.
  • Guidelines for Receiving the Kalacakra Empowerment. Seattle: Dharma Friendship Foundation, 1989.
  • (Coauthor with Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron) Glimpse of Reality. Singapore: NUS Buddhist Society, 1989. Reprint, Hinsdale, Illinois: Buddhadharma Meditation Center, 1991; Second reprint, Singapore: Amitabha Buddhist Centre, 1999.
  • Buddhism and Its Impact on Asia. Asian Monographs, no. 8. Cairo: Cairo University, Center for Asian Studies, June 1996.
  • Coauthor with the 14th Dalai Lama, Translator, and Editor) The Gelug/Kagyü Tradition of Mahamudra. Ithaca: Snow Lion, 1997.
  • Taking the Kalachakra Initiation. Ithaca: Snow Lion, 1997.
  • Kalachakra and Other Six-Session Yoga Texts. Ithaca: Snow Lion, 1998.
  • Developing Balanced Sensitivity. Ithaca: Snow Lion, 1998.
  • Relating to a Spiritual Teacher: Building a Healthy Relationship. Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2000

Articles[edit]

  • "Structure of the Gelug Hierarchy." Tibet Journal (Dharamsala, India), vol. 2, no. 3 (autumn 1977).
  • "An Introduction to Tibetan Astronomy and Astrology." Tibet Journal (Dharamsala, India), vol. 12, no. 1 (spring 1987).
  • "Working with Emotions: How to Deal with Anger." In Three Drops of Nectar to Cool the Mind. Speech Series, no. 1. Petaling Jaya, Malaysia: Crazy Wisdom Publications, 1987.
  • "Kuan Yin - A Meditation on Compassion." In Three Drops of Nectar to Invigorate the Heart. Speech Series, no. 2. Petaling Jaya, Malaysia: Crazy Wisdom Publications, 1988.
  • "Tibetan Astrology and Astronomy." Maitreya Magazine (Emst, Holland), vol. 11, no. 4 (1989).
  • "Tibetan Astro Studies." Chö-Yang, Year of Tibet Edition (Dharamsala, India), (1991).
  • "Bön Monasteries," "Nyingma Monasteries," "Kagyü Monasteries," "Sakya Monasteries," and "Gelug Monasteries." Chö-Yang, Year of Tibet Edition (Dharamsala, India), (1991).
  • "Practical Advice Regarding Spiritual Teachers.” Tricycle: The Buddhist Review (New York), vol. 9, no. 3 (spring 2000).
  • "A Comparison of the Five Tibetan Traditions.” Snow Lion Newsletter (Ithaca, New York), vol. 17, no. 1 (winter 2002).
  • "Holy Wars in Buddhism and Islam: The Myth of Shambhala.” Mandala: Buddhism in Our Time (Taos, New Mexico), March – May 2002.
  • "A Healthy Relationship.” Mandala: Buddhism in Our Time (Taos, New Mexico), June – August 2002.
  • "Renunciation – Determination to Be Free.” Snow Lion Newsletter (Ithaca, New York), vol. 17, no. 3 (summer 2002).
  • "The Dharma of Islam: A Conversation with Snjezana Akpinar and Alex Berzin.” Inquiring Mind (Berkeley, California), vol. 20, no. 1 (fall 2003).

Books Translated from Tibetan[edit]

  • Panchen Lama I. The Guru Puja. Dharamsala, India: Library of Tibetan Works & Archives, 1976.

(Co-translator with Sharpa Tulku, and Editor) Akya Yongdzin. A Compendium of Ways of Knowing, with Commentary by Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey. Dharamsala, India: Library of Tibetan Works & Archives, 1977.

  • (Translator and Editor) Karmapa IX. Mahamudra Eliminating the Darkness of Ignorance, with commentary by Beru Khyentze Rinpoche, Supplemented with Ashvaghosha, "Fifty Stanzas on Guru-Devotion," with Commentary by Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey. Dharamsala, India: Library of Tibetan Works & Archives, 1978.
  • (Co-translator with Matthew Kapstein, and Editor) Longchenpa. Dzog-chen: The Four-Themed Precious Garland, with Commentary by His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche and Beru Khyentze Rinpoche. Dharamsala, India: Library of Tibetan Works & Archives, 1979. Also published in The Jewel in the Lotus: A Guidebook to the Buddhist Traditions of Tibet, ed. Stephen Batchelor. London: Wisdom Publications, 1987.
  • (Co-translator with Sharpa Tulku) Dharmarakshita. The Wheel of Sharp Weapons. Dharamsala, India: Library of Tibetan Works & Archives, 1980.
  • (Co-translator with Sharpa Tulku, and Compiler and Editor) Dhargyey, Geshe Ngawang. An Anthology of Well-Spoken Advice, vol. 1. Dharamsala, India: Library of Tibetan Works & Archives, 1984. Also published as Princeton: Recordings for the Blind, 1988.
  • Maitreya. Gyu Lama (The Furthest Everlasting Stream). Soest, Holland: Netherlands Stichting Ontmoeting met Tibetaanse Cultuur, 1986.

Articles Translated from Tibetan[edit]

  • (Co-translator with Sharpa Tulku) Kamtrul, Garjang. "The History and Geography of Shambhala." Tibet Journal (Dharamsala, India), vol. 1, no. 1 (July–September 1975).
  • (Co-translator with Sharpa Tulku) Dhargyey, Geshe Ngawang. "Introduction to the Kalacakra Initiation." Tibet Journal (Dharamsala, India), vol. 1, no. 1 (July–September 1975).
  • (Co-translator with Sharpa Tulku) Yong-dzin Ling Rinpoche. "The dGe-lugs Tradition of Buddhism in Tibet." Tibet Journal (Dharamsala, India), vol. 4, no. 1 (spring 1979).
  • Tsenshab Serkong Rinpoche. "Renunciation." In Teachings at Tushita, ed. Glenn Mullin and Nicholas Ribush. New Delhi: Mahayana Publications, 1981.
  • (Co-translator with Sharpa Tulku) The Second Dalai Lama. "The Steps of Visualization for the Three Essential Moments." In Meditations on the Lower Tantras, ed. Glenn Mullin. Dharamsala, India: Library of Tibetan Works & Archives, 1981.
  • (Co-translator with Sharpa Tulku, and Editor) The First Panchen Lama. "‘The Great Seal of Voidness: The Root Text of the Gelug/Kagyu Tradition of Mahamudra,’ with Commentary by Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey." In H. H. the XIVth Dalai Lama et al. Four Essential Buddhist Texts. Dharamsala, India: Library of Tibetan Works & Archives, 1982.
  • (Co-translator with Sharpa Tulku) Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche Cho-kyi Lodro. "The Opening of the Dharma: A Brief Explanation of the Buddha’s Many Vehicles" In H. H. the XIVth Dalai Lama et al. Four Essential Buddhist Texts. Dharamsala, India: Library of Tibetan Works & Archives, 1982.
  • (Co-translator with Sharpa Tulku) Thogmey Zangpo. "The Thirty-Seven Bodhisattva Practices." In His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. Four Essential Buddhist Commentaries. Dharamsala, India: Library of Tibetan Works & Archives, 1983.
  • (Translator and Editor) His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama, "Commentary on [Thogmey Zangpo’s] ‘The Thirty-Seven Bodhisattva Practices’ and [Tsongkhapa’s] ‘Three Principles of the Path.’" In His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. Four Essential Buddhist Commentaries. Dharamsala, India: Library of Tibetan Works & Archives, 1983.
  • (Co-translator with Sharpa Tulku) Tsongkhapa. "Three Principles of the Path," "Lines of Experience," and "The Prayer of the Virtuous Beginning, Middle and End." In The Life and Teachings of Tsong Khapa, ed. Robert Thurman. Dharamsala, India: Library of Tibetan Works & Archives, 1983.
  • (Co-translator with Sharpa Tulku) Tsongkhapa. "A Letter of Practical Advice on Sutra and Tantra: A Brief Indication of the Graded Stages of the Path." In The Life and Teachings of Tsong Khapa, ed. Robert Thurman. Dharamsala, India: Library of Tibetan Works & Archives, 1983. Also published as Tsongkhapa. "A Brief Exposition of the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment." In The Jewel in the Lotus: A Guidebook to the Buddhist Traditions of Tibet, ed. Stephen Batchelor. London: Wisdom Publications, 1987.
  • (Translator and Editor) Namkapel. "The Mind-Training Like the Rays of the Sun: A Commentary by Tenzin Gyatso, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama." Chö-Yang (Dharamsala, India), vol. 1, no. 1 (spring 1986).

References[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Berzin Archives A collection of 30,000 pages of material about Tibetan Buddhism for practice and scholarly research.