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Surya Das

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Lama Surya Das
Surya Das and friend.jpg
Pictured is Lama Surya Das (left) and Nyoshul Khenpo Rinpoche (right)
Religion Buddhism
School Nyingma
Nationality American
Born 1950
New York City, United States
Senior posting
Title Lama Surya Das
Religious career
Website Dzogchen Foundation

Lama Surya Das (born Jeffrey Miller in 1950) is an American-born lama in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.[1] He is a poet, chantmaster, spiritual activist and author of many popular works on Buddhism; a meditation teacher and spokesperson for Buddhism in the West.[1] He has long been involved in charitable relief projects in the Third World and in interfaith dialogue. Lama Surya Das is a Dharma heir of Nyoshul Khenpo Rinpoche,[2][3] a Nyingma master of the non-sectarian Rime movement, with whom he founded the Dzogchen Center and Dzogchen retreats in 1991. His name, which means "Servant of the Sun" in a combination of Sanskrit (sūrya) and Hindi (das, from the Sanskrit dāsa), was given to him in 1972 by the Hindu guru Neem Karoli Baba.[4]


Early life, education

Lama Surya Das was born Jeffrey Miller and raised in Valley Stream, Long Island, New York.[5] He attended the State University of New York at Buffalo, graduating with honors in 1971, with a degree in Creative Education.[6]

Early studies

After his best friend's girlfriend, Allison Krause was killed during the Kent State shootings,[1] Lama Surya Das began pursuing spirituality.[1] From 1971 to 1976 he traveled in India and Nepal, and studied with spiritual teachers of various traditions: Hindu teacher, Maharaj-ji (Neem Karoli Baba), Tibetan Buddhist Lamas Thubten Yeshe, Kalu Rinpoche and His Holiness the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa.[7][8] He was given the name Surya in 1972.[citation needed]

In 1973 and 1974, he lived in Kyoto, Japan, where he taught English and studied Zen Buddhism[9] under Uchiyama Roshi.[10] He resided at the newly established Karma Triyana Dharmachakra monastery in Woodstock, New York from 1977–80. He also studied Vipassana in the 1970s, with S. N. Goenka and Anagarika Munindra, of the Theravadin tradition.[7][8]

Lama Surya Das attended the first Nyingmapa retreat center in Dordogne, France in 1980. At the center he completed two Dzogchen three and a half year retreats under the guidance of Dudjom Rinpoche and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. He was ordained a lama in the Non-Sectarian Rime Movement of Tibetan Buddhism.[7] He has worked with the Dalai Lama since the early 1990s on a variety of projects. That included organizing several weeklong International Buddhist Teachers Conferences with the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India, and America.[11] He also founded the Western Buddhist Teachers Network.

Writing, teaching

Lama Surya Das travels, teaches and leads meditation retreats throughout the world. He is often called upon as a Buddhist spokesman by the media and has appeared frequently on TV and radio. One episode of the popular ABC TV sitcom Dharma and Greg, called "Leonard's Return," was loosely based on his life and return to America.[1] In 1977 he helped establish Gyalwa Karmapa's KTD Monastery on a mountaintop overlooking Woodstock, New York.[11]

He has appeared as a special guest on Bill Maher's TV program, Politically Incorrect and on the Comedy Central television show, The Colbert Report. His most recent best selling book is Buddha Is as Buddha Does: The Ten Original Practices for Enlightened Living.[12] Das is based in Cambridge, MA.[13]

Dzogchen Foundation

In 1991 Lama Surya Das returned from his two decades in Tibetan monasteries and retreats to establish the Dzogchen Foundation and Centers to help further the spread of Tibetan Buddhism in the West.[14] According to the foundation, Dzogchen introduces and unveils the "innate spiritual intelligence or intrinsic awakefulness" in practitioners, with Lama Surya Das stating, "It is the and perfect nature of all things."[15]

He brought many Tibetan lamas to teach and reside in the United States and continues to do so. At the request of the late Nyoshul Khenpo Rinpoche, Lama Surya Das founded Dzogchen Osel Ling Retreat Center as a nature sanctuary, group hermitage and lineage seat outside Austin, Texas, where he conducts annually an intensive, cloistered 100-day autumn retreat for experienced students as well as other shorter retreats during the year.[13]


Books by Surya Das
Yr Title Format Release info ISBN
1992 The Snow Lion's Turquoise Mane Paperback 288 pages HarperSanFrancisco (December 4, 1992) ISBN 0-06-250849-0
1995 Natural Great Perfection (with Nyoshul Khenpo) Paperback 204 pages Snow Lion Publications; 1st ed. USA edition (October 25, 1995) ISBN 1-55939-049-2
1998 Awakening the Buddha Within: Tibetan Wisdom for the Western World Paperback 432 pages Broadway; Reprint edition (June 15, 1998) ISBN 0-7679-0157-6
2000 Awakening to the Sacred Paperback 400 pgs Broadway; Reprint edition (May, 2000) ISBN 0-7679-0275-0
2001 Awakening the Buddhist Heart: Integrating Love, Meaning and Connection into Every Part of Your Life Paperback 272 pages Broadway (December 11, 2001) ISBN 0-7679-0277-7
2003 Letting Go of the Person You Used To Be Hardcover 240 pages Broadway; 1st edition (August 12, 2003) ISBN 0-7679-0873-2
2005 Natural Radiance: Awakening to Your Great Perfection Hardcover 110 pages Sounds True; Book & CD edition (August 2005) ISBN 1-59179-283-5
2007 The Big Questions: How to Find Your Own Answers to Life's Essential Mysteries Hardcover 288 pages Rodale Books; (October 2, 2007) ISBN 1-59486-208-7
2008 Buddha Is as Buddha Does: The Ten Original Practices for Enlightened Living Paperback 288 pages HarperOne; (February 26, 2008) ISBN 0-06-085953-9
2008 Words of Wisdom Paperback 128 pages Koa Books; (June 1, 2008) ISBN 0-9773338-7-6
2009 The Mind Is Mightier Than the Sword: Enlightening the Mind, Opening the Heart Paperback 432 pages Doubleday Religion; (August 25, 2009) ISBN 0-7679-1864-9
2011 Buddha Standard Time: Awakening to the Infinite Possibilities of Now Hardcover 224 pages HarperOne; (May 24, 2011) ISBN 978-0-06-177456-0

Gallery and documents

Main gallery: Surya Das at WikiCommons

Further reading


  1. ^ a b c d e His Jewish mother calls him the Deli Lama
  2. ^ Nyoshul Khenpo Rinpoche
  3. ^ Certificate of Dharma Transmission and Authorization to Lama Surya Das
  4. ^ The Natural Great Perfection: An Interview with Lama Surya in Integral Yoga Magazine, Spring 2006.
  5. ^ Lama Surya Das Biographical Details. Retrieved on 2009-11-01.
  6. ^ UB Today (Winter 2007). "Lama Surya Das: Buddhist spiritual teacher conveys a message of enlightenment." Alumni profiles. University at Buffalo's online alumni magazine. Retrieved on 2009-01-02.
  7. ^ a b c Tibetan Buddhism. Dzogchen Foundation. Retrieved on 2009-11-01.
  8. ^ a b Dzogchen Center Library. Teachers Biographies and Portraits. Retrieved on 2009-11-01.
  9. ^ Richards, L. January Interview: Lama Surya Das. January Magazine. Retrieved on 2009-11-01.
  10. ^ Das, Surya (1998). Awakening the Buddha Within: Tibetan Wisdom for the Western World. Broadway. p. 253. ISBN 0-7679-0157-6. 
  11. ^ a b Marcus Borg. "Lama Surya Das: American Buddhist teacher and author." preachers and teachers. beliefnet. Retrieved on 2009-11-01.
  12. ^ "Buddha Is As Buddha Does (review)". Retrieved 2011-11-07. 
  13. ^ a b Surya Das Biography. "A Spiritual Life." Retrieved on 2009-11-01.
  14. ^ American Buddhism on the rise
  15. ^ Interview with Lama Surya Das

External links