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December 6, 2008

Top 10 Buddhist Teachers in America. [elephant journal editor Waylon Lewis for Huffington Post]

Want to help the teachers below (and in the full writeup) get featured on the main page of Huffington Post? If we get enough comments, the good folks at HuffPost might just promote this little roundup—which is full of links to the below worthy teachers—to their main page. Since they get more traffic than any other news blog in America, that would be a big thing for Buddhism in America, potentially. Click here to COMMENT on the Huffington Post.

Above, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche with Pema Chodron on the cover of mostly-Buddhist magazine The Shambhala Sun.

Wanna get you some meditation, some peace, some wisdom? Wanna do a weekend program where you learn how to calm and open your mind to…reality? Buddhism–tested over 2,500 years in dozens of diverse cultures–is worth a go. This “non-theistic” (read: it’s up to you) religion comes in dozens of styles–Zen, Theravada, Tibetan–but it’s always, at its root, about learning to be a good, sane, peaceful, compassionate person. Still, finding the right teacher for you is an age-old task–made somewhat easier by online teaching schedules, hundreds of wonderful Buddhist books (why, only a generation ago there were only a few tomes to choose from).

Thanks to murderous Mao (he killed more than Hitler and Stalin) & his loyal Red comrades, Tibetan Buddhism came to the West following the 1959 “liberation.” Given that 50 years have passed, the last generation of born-and-raised-and-trained in Tibet teachers is getting long in the tooth. So get thee to a nunnery or monastery–or an urban meditation center, or a luxurious rural retreat–and dip your toes in enlightenment. The Buddhists won’t mind if you’re just window-to-the-soul shopping…a pioneer (along with Alan Watts and Suzuki Roshi) in transmitting Buddhism to the West, Chogyam Trungpa (author; founder of Naropa University) wanted his best-selling Shambhala book to be sold in every grocery in America, right by the tabloids. Though he warned against “spiritual materialism“–using religion to perfect the Self, and brace up the ego–he wanted the wisdom of Buddhism to be available, and made practical, to Rabbis, Reverends and Heathens alike.

[below, an ad via Genpo Roshi appears on my Facebook profile. Smart marketing meets Dharma—now that’s Crazy Wisdom]

So here’s my Top 10 Buddhist Teachers You Can Study With list. I’ve disqualified charlatans, egomaniacs, promising youngsters who have yet to prove themself…and those who you can’t really study with because they’re too famous to actually study with (Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh), in private meditation retreat all the time (Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche), or rarely in the West (The Karmapa, Khandro Rinpoche). If I’ve forgotten or overlooked anyone, I’ll be happy to add them to the must-check-out list if I get a groundswell of vicious comments.

1. Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche ~ he’s young but not too young, experienced, thoroughly Westernized (though exotically Tibetan, heritage-wise), a great teacher and frequently accessible at programs around the US, Europe, Canada, even South America. But because he’s a rising star, you’ve got to make an effort if you want personal training.

2. Pema Chodron ~ though Pema is a best selling, accessible, wise, safe teacher, and Oprah loves her…I nearly disqualified her because she’s no longer frequently accessible. But she’s just too good to overlook. So check out her teaching schedule, and connect with her before she retires or goes into retreat.

3. Sharon Salzberg ~ like Pema, she’s a best-selling author and accessible teacher. While less magnetizing than Pema, she‘s deeply experienced and warm-hearted. With her partners-in-crime Joseph Goldstein and Jack Kornfield, she teaches mostly out of the Insight Meditation Centre in Barre, Mass.

4. Ponlop Rinpoche ~ like Mipham Rinpoche and Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche (below), a young, well-trained…

…for the rest, click here. Support my column for the Huffington Post by commenting here (they’ll feature my blog if it gets enough comments)! Be as mean as you like.

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