Tharpa Publications

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Tharpa Publications (Sanskrit for "liberation" and pronounced "Tar-pa") is "a major international and multilingual publisher of Buddhist books"[1] by the Buddhist author and scholar Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. They are based in New York.[2] These include basic Buddhist meditation books such as The New Meditation Handbook, books on the Buddhist way of life such as Universal Compassion, books on Buddhist philosophy and psychology such as Heart of Wisdom, and books on Buddhist Tantra. Tharpa Publications is a non-profit corporation that has operated for 25 years and claims to have sold over a million books.[3] Waterhouse adds that the books "are distributed widely and may be seen on the shelves of popular booksellers as well as in university libraries."[4]

Kelsang Gyatso[edit]

To date, Tharpa has published 22 of his books, covering the entire range of Buddha Shakyamuni's Sutra and Tantra teachings. These are in the process of being translated into German, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, Dutch and Croatian. According to its website, "Tharpa publishes the works of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, a contemporary Buddhist master who presents the essential practices of Buddhism in a way that is easy to understand and practise in modern everyday life."[5] Biography Research Guide describes Kelsang Gyatso's books:

A Tibetan Buddhist monk and scholar; Geshe Kelsang has written twenty books that aim to provide Western Dharma practitioners with essential Buddhist texts; some are books for beginners such as Transform Your Life and How to Solve Our Human Problems, books about the Mahayana path like Universal Compassion (Lojong), and books on Vajrayana (Tantra) like Mahamudra Tantra; (born 1931, in Tibet).[6]

A number of Kelsang Gyatso's textbooks have received favourable reviews.[7] Bluck writes that "The three most popular works—Introduction to Buddhism, The New Meditation Handbook and Transform Your Life—have sold 165,000 copies between them, showing their appeal far beyond the movement itself."[8] Batchelor says that Kelsang Gyatso's books are written with "considerable clarity."[9] Braizer echoes this sentiment, saying that Kelsang writes "excellent" books that are "an important contribution to Western understanding of Buddhism and its traditions. They can stand on their own merit."[10] Guide to Dakini Land and Essence of Vajrayana have been described as "the most detailed and revealing commentary on specific tantric practices yet to be published in a Western language."[11] In his book review of Guide to Dakini Land, Richard Guard said:

It is remarkable that the author has managed to give us so much information in only a few hundred pages. The editors are to be commended for their skilful efforts in conveying Geshe Kelsang’s instructions in such simple and precise language... By making this book available for Vajrayogini practitioners, Geshe Kelsang has truly brought a blessing into our lives.[12]

The books are also highly thought of within the Tibetan establishment. Three of his published works contained forewords by previous Ganden Tripas and the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama contributed a foreword to Buddhism in the Tibetan Tradition, while Trijang Rinpoche and Ling Rinpoche (who each held the position of Ganden Tripa) also provided forewords for his books Meaningful to Behold (which was dedicated to the long life of the Dalai Lama) and Clear Light of Bliss (which was dedicated to the late Trijang Rinpoche), respectively. Kyabje Ling Rinpoche refers to Kelsang Gyatso as "this most precious Spiritual Guide," while Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche refers to him as "The excellent expounder, the great Spiritual Master Kelsang Gyatso." Tsem Tulku praised Kelsang Gyatso and his publications: "The great master, the Kadampa Geshe, Kelsang Gyatso, you can see very clearly his works, his centers, his books, his pure vows, and how many thousands of people he affects."[13]

New Kadampa Tradition[edit]

Tharpa Publications is part of the New Kadampa Tradition - International Kadampa Buddhist Union, which is an international Buddhist charity set up for building Buddhist temples for world peace in every major city of the world. It was established in 1985[14] in Ulverston, UK and now has affiliates in countries throughout the world.[15]

Je Tsongkhapa[edit]

Tharpa Publications is devoted to the preservation of the tradition of Je Tsongkhapa:

We are studying and practicing Lama Tsongkhapa's teachings and taking as our example what the ancient Kadampa Lamas and Geshes did. All the books that I have written are commentaries to Lama Tsongkhapa's teachings. We try our best to follow the example of the ancient Kadampa tradition and use the name Kadampa to remind people to practice purely.[16]

For example, Joyful Path of Good Fortune is based on Je Tsongkhapa's Lamrim Chenmo (Great Exposition of the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment). Other examples include:

  • Universal Compassion is based on Je Tsongkhapa's Sunrays of Training the Mind
  • Understanding the Mind is based on Je Tsongkhapa’s teachings on Commentary to Valid Cognition by Dharmakirti
  • Guide to Dakini Land and Essence of Vajrayana are based on Be dön kun säl (Illuminating All Hidden Meanings) and Je Tsongkhapa's commentary to the Heruka sadhana, Dö jo (Wishfulfilling)
  • Clear Light of Bliss is based on Lamp Thoroughly Illuminating the Five Stages
  • Tantric Grounds and Paths is based on Great Exposition of the Stages of Secret Mantra
  • Ocean of Nectar is based on Clear Illumination of the Intention: An Extensive Explanation of the Great Treatise ‘Guide to the Middle Way’.[16]
  • The New Meditation Handbook and Joyful Path of Good Fortune are based on Je Tsongkhapa's commentaries to Atisha's Lamrim teachings.

Preserving the Gelugpa tradition[edit]

The teachings in Tharpa's books are also in the Gelugpa lineage of Pabongka Rinpoche and Trijang Rinpoche's teachings. For example, Joyful Path of Good Fortune is a modern equivalent of Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand, written by Je Phabongkhapa and edited by Trijang Rinpoche; and The New Meditation Handbook is a concise rendition of these teachings. In the preface of Joyful Path the author writes:

I have received these teachings from my Spiritual Guide, Trijang Dorjechang, who was an emanation of Atisha; thus the explanations given in this book, Joyful Path of Good Fortune, actually come from him and not from myself.[17]

Waterhouse notes that "All pictorial material produced by the NKT is carefully controlled to maintain the accuracy in the smallest detail":

A Bath printer responsible for the production of some of the NKT's most recent publications, told me that the movement's representatives had been so particular about the reproduction of some of the illustrations in Geshe Kelsang Gyatso's Guide to Dakini Land, that the whole print run had to be repeated because a moon symbol had been omitted from one of the diagrams.[18]

Use of Tharpa's books on Buddhist study programs worldwide[edit]

Fourteen of Tharpa Publications classic textbooks are used as the basis of the New Kadampa Tradition's Foundation Program and Teacher Training Program, which have tens of thousands of Buddhist students worldwide. The Foundation Program is described by Steven Heine in Buddhism in the Modern World: Adaptations of an Ancient Tradition:

The Foundation Program is meant for serious students who want a guided study at a deeper level than they can get through the series of Lamrim talks, usually all pitched to a beginner's capacity, that normally constitute the fare of Western Dharma centers.[19]

The New Kadampa Tradition's Teacher Training Program is a rigorous "multilayered educational" study program of Buddha's teachings of Sutra and Tantra presented in accordance with the tradition of the Tibetan master Je Tsongkhapa (AD 1357-1419), designed for those training as Buddhist teachers.[19]


Losing money each year from 1985 onwards, Tharpa Publications "broke even" for the first time in 1996.[20] Tharpa Publications claims that, since that time, the author has donated all royalties from Tharpa's books to non-profit organizations that promote Buddhism. Firstly he gave these to Manjushri Institute:

Tharpa Publications publishes my books. They are financially independent from me and from all my Dharma Centers around the world. From the very beginning I have given Manjushri Buddhist Centre the royalties to which I am entitled as author. I have never used even one penny from this money.[21]

Now Tharpa says that the author donates all royalties to the International Temples' Fund.[22] Each book also contains the information: "Profits received by Tharpa Publications from the sale of this book will be donated to the NKT-International Temples Project" which is "a Buddhist Charity, Building for World Peace."


The books by Kelsang Gyatso in the order they were published:

  • Meaningful to Behold: The Bodhisattva's Way of Life, Tharpa Publications (5th. ed., 2008) ISBN 978-1-906665-11-1
  • Clear Light of Bliss: Tantric Meditation Manual, Tharpa Publications (2nd. ed., 1992) ISBN 978-0-948006-21-0
  • Heart of Wisdom: An Explanation of the Heart Sutra, Tharpa Publications (4th. ed., 2001) ISBN 978-0-948006-77-7
  • Universal Compassion: Inspiring Solutions for Difficult Times, Tharpa Publications (4th. ed., 2002) ISBN 978-0-948006-72-2
  • The New Meditation Handbook: Meditations to Make Our Life Happy and Meaningful, Tharpa Publications (2003) ISBN 978-0-9817277-1-4
  • Joyful Path of Good Fortune: The Complete Buddhist Path to Enlightenment, Tharpa Publications (2nd. ed., 1995) ISBN 978-0-948006-46-3
  • Guide to Dakini Land: The Highest Yoga Tantra Practice of Buddha Vajrayogini, Tharpa Publications (2nd. ed., 1996) ISBN 978-0-948006-39-5
  • The Bodhisattva Vow: A Practical Guide to Helping Others, Tharpa Publications (2nd. ed., 1995) ISBN 978-0-948006-50-0
  • Heart Jewel: The Essential Practices of Kadampa Buddhism, Tharpa Publications (2nd. ed., 1997) ISBN 978-0-948006-56-2
  • Great Treasury of Merit: How to Rely Upon a Spiritual Guide, Tharpa Publications (1992) ISBN 978-0-948006-22-7
  • Introduction to Buddhism: An Explanation of the Buddhist Way of Life, Tharpa Publications (2nd. ed., 2001, US ed. 2008) ISBN 978-0-9789067-7-1
  • Understanding the Mind: The Nature and Power of the Mind, Tharpa Publications (2nd. ed., 1997) ISBN 978-0-948006-78-4
  • Tantric Grounds and Paths: How to Enter, Progress on, and Complete the Vajrayana Path, Tharpa Publications (1994) ISBN 978-0-948006-33-3
  • Ocean of Nectar: The True Nature of All Things, Tharpa Publications (1995) ISBN 978-0-948006-23-4
  • Essence of Vajrayana: The Highest Yoga Tantra Practice of Heruka Body Mandala, Tharpa Publications (1997) ISBN 978-0-948006-48-7
  • Living Meaningfully, Dying Joyfully: The Profound Practice of Transference of Consciousness, Tharpa Publications (1999) ISBN 978-0-948006-63-0
  • Eight Steps to Happiness: The Buddhist Way of Loving Kindness, Tharpa Publications (2000) ISBN 978-0-9817277-8-3
  • Transform Your Life: A Blissful Journey, Tharpa Publications (2001, US ed. 2007) ISBN 978-0-9789067-4-0
  • How to Solve Our Human Problems: The Four Noble Truths, Tharpa Publications (2005, US ed., 2007) ISBN 978-0-9789067-1-9
  • Mahamudra Tantra: The Supreme Heart Jewel Nectar, Tharpa Publications (2005) ISBN 978-0-948006-93-7
  • Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life: How to Enjoy a Life of Great Meaning and Altruism, a translation of Shantideva's Bodhisattvacharyavatara with Neil Elliott, Tharpa Publications (2002) ISBN 978-0-948006-88-3

Tharpa Publications was originally a general Buddhist publishing house,[23] also releasing the following works by other authors:

In addition to publishing books, Tharpa also supplies audio books,[27] Buddhist art,[28] and sadhanas for prayer and meditation.[29]

The 'half-drop' repeat patterns used in some NKT-IKBU artwork as well as sadhana covers, such as the peony-style flower and emblem of Manjushri (a sword and book upon a lotus) were designed by Robert Beer.[30]

Tharpa affiliates[edit]

Tharpa Publications also has affiliates (which are independent companies) in Brazil,[31] the USA,[32] Spain,[33] Mexico,[34] France,[35] Canada,[36] Australia, Hong Kong and South Africa.


Tharpa books have been translated into a number of European and Asian languages.


  1. ^ About Ulverston - South Lakeland Cumbria UK, retrieved 2009-05-30.
  2. ^ "Contact Us". Retrieved 2021-01-22.
  3. ^ "The London Book Fair 2008 - Tharpa Publications". 2008-01-25. Archived from the original on 2008-01-25. Retrieved 2021-01-22.
  4. ^ Waterhouse, Helen (1997). Buddhism in Bath: Adaptation and Authority. University of Leeds, Department of Theology and Religious Studies. pp. 142-143.
  5. ^ "Publishers of Books on Buddhism & Meditation - Tharpa Publications UK". Retrieved 2021-01-22.
  6. ^ Kelsang Gyatso by Biography Research Guide, retrieved 2009-03-22.
  7. ^ How to Solve Our Human Problems: The Four Noble Truths, reviewed by Publisher's Weekly, retrieved 2009-08-27.
  8. ^ Bluck, Robert (2006). British Buddhism: Teachings, Practice and Development. Routledge critical studies in Buddhism. London: Routledge. p. 138.
  9. ^ Batchelor, Stephen (1994). The Awakening of the West: The Encounter of Buddhism and Western Culture. Berkeley, Calif: Parallax Press. p. 203.
  10. ^ Brazier, David (2002). The New Buddhism. New York: Palgrave. p. 77.
  11. ^ Cozort, D.. quoted in Heine, S., & Prebish, C. S. (2003). Buddhism in the modern world: Adaptations of an ancient tradition. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 235.
  12. ^ Book review Guide to Dakini Land: A Commentary to the Highest Yoga Tantra Practice of Vajrayogini, reviewed by Richard Guard. Tibetan Journal (Autumn 1991), pp. 81, 83
  13. ^ Karma & its Relation to Vows (Part 2 of 2, 10:54-11:09), 2006-01-16, retrieved 2010-08-16.
  14. ^ Kay, D. N. (2004). Tibetan and Zen Buddhism in Britain: Transplantation, development and adaptation. RoutledgeCurzon critical studies in Buddhism. London: RoutledgeCurzon. p. 75.
  15. ^ "Tharpa International home page". Retrieved 2021-01-22.
  16. ^ a b Smear: NKT practitioners are not real Gelugpas by New Kadampa Truth, retrieved 2009-03-22.
  17. ^ Joyful Path of Good Fortune: The Complete Buddhist Path to Enlightenment, page xi, Tharpa Publications (2nd. ed., 1995) ISBN 978-0-948006-46-3
  18. ^ Waterhouse, Helen (1997). Buddhism in Bath: Adaptation and Authority. University of Leeds, Department of Theology and Religious Studies. p. 149, n. 20.
  19. ^ a b Buddhism in the Modern World: Adaptations of an Ancient Tradition by Steven Heine page 232, Oxford University Press, USA (January 1, 2003)ISBN 0195146980
  20. ^ Waterhouse, Helen (1997). Buddhism in Bath: Adaptation and Authority. University of Leeds, Department of Theology and Religious Studies. p. 143, n. 16.
  21. ^ Smear: Geshe Kelsang has millions of pounds that have come from his disciples by New Kadampa Truth, retrieved 2009-03-22.
  22. ^ Smear: NKT students worship Geshe Kelsang by New Kadampa Truth, retrieved 2009-03-22.
  23. ^ Waterhouse, Helen (1997). Buddhism in Bath: Adaptation and Authority. University of Leeds, Department of Theology and Religious Studies. p. 143.
  24. ^ The Eternal Legacy at, retrieved 2009-03-31.
  25. ^ A Survey of Buddhism at, retrieved 2009-03-31.
  26. ^ Treasury of Dharma at, retrieved 2009-03-31.
  27. ^ Buddhist audio books at Tharpa Publications, retrieved 2009-03-22.
  28. ^ Buddhist art at Tharpa Publications, retrieved 2009-03-22.
  29. ^ Prayer Booklets at Tharpa Publications, retrieved 2009-03-22.
  30. ^ Beer, Robert. The Encyclopedia of Tibetan Symbols and Motifs. Boston: Shambala, 1999. p. 368.
  31. ^ "Livros de Budismo e Meditação - Editora Tharpa Brasil". Retrieved 2021-01-22.
  32. ^ "Tharpa US - Home Page". Retrieved 2021-01-22.
  33. ^ Tharpa Espana
  34. ^ Tharpa Mexico
  35. ^ Tharpa France
  36. ^ "Éditeurs de livres sur le bouddhisme et la méditation - Éditions Tharpa".

External links[edit]


Book Reviews[edit]