Alexander Berzin (scholar)

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Alexander Berzin
Alexander Berzin.jpg
Recent photo of Alexander Berzin, April 2015
Religion Tibetan Buddhism
Education Ph.D., Harvard University (1972)
MA, Harvard University (1967)
BA, Rutgers University (1965)
Born 1944
Paterson, New Jersey
Religious career
Works Relating to a Spiritual Teacher: Building a Healthy Relationship (2000), Developing Balanced Sensitivity (1998), Gelug/Kagyu Tradition of Mahamudra (1997), Taking the Kalachakra Initiation (1997)

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.


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.

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 Study Buddhism website. This website is the "next generation of The Berzin Archives,[2] founded in 2001 by Dr. Alexander Berzin".[3] 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 and free of advertisements. It is also possible to listen to recorded weekly teachings in the form of podcasts.[4] 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.[5] He currently lives in Berlin, Germany.


External links[edit]