Samsara, Nirvana, and Buddha Nature

The Library of Wisdom and Compassion | Volume 3

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In this third volume of the series, discover the mind’s infinitely vast potential and buddha nature. Samsara, Nirvana, and Buddha Nature takes up centrally important premises of Buddhism: the unsatisfactoriness (duhkha) of cyclic existence (samsara), the determination to be free of cyclic existence, and the mind as the basis for both the extreme duhkha of samsara and the bliss of nirvana. This volume shows us how to purify our minds and cultivate awakened qualities.

Knowledge of buddha nature reveals and reconciles the paradox of how the mind can be the basis for both the extreme duhkha of samsara (the unpurified mind) and the bliss and fulfillment of nirvana (the purified mind). To illustrate this, Samsara, Nirvana, and Buddha Nature first takes readers through Buddhist thought on the self, the Four Noble Truths, and their sixteen attributes. Then, the Dalai Lama explains afflictions, their arising and antidotes, followed by an examination of karma and cyclic existence and, finally, a deep and thorough elucidation of buddha nature.

The Library of Wisdom and Compassion is a special multi-volume series in which His Holiness the Dalai Lama shares the Buddha’s teachings on the complete path to full awakening that he himself has practiced his entire life. The topics are arranged especially for people not born in a Buddhist culture and are peppered with the Dalai Lama’s own unique outlook. Coauthored by one of his long-standing Western disciples, the American nun Thubten Chodron, each book can be enjoyed on its own or read as the logical next step in the series.

Overview of contents

"Samsara, Nirvana and Buddha Nature" Introduction 01-25-19

Venerable Thubten Chodron reads an excerpt

"Samsara, Nirvana, and Buddha Nature" Reading 01-30-19

Venerable Chodron answers questions sparked by the book reading

01-30-19 Questions During the Reading of Samsara, Nirvana, And Buddha Nature - BBCorner

Teaching series


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Available in Spanish

Samsara, Nirvana, and Buddha Nature


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This book is a veritable tour de force in its explanation of the role of the mind in samsara and the realization of nirvana, which is the mind’s own ultimate nature. In its examination of buddha nature—spanning early discussions of the mind’s potential in the Pali canon through to the teachings of Dzogchen, the Great Perfection—it casts a bright light to dispel the darkness of materialism, which deludedly reduces the mind to a mere epiphenomenon or emergent property of the brain. Books such as this are urgently needed to trigger a true revolution in the mind sciences.
B. Alan Wallace, Founder and President, Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies

“Samsara, Nirvana, and Buddha Nature” is the third volume in the series of books co-authored by Ven. Thubten Chodron and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. This has proven to be a remarkable partnership, producing lucid, accessible articulations of Buddhadharma and demonstrating the relevance of philosophy to practice. The present volume ably advances the project begun in the first two and expands its scope enormously. His Holiness and Ven. Thubten Chodron together set out a comprehensive vision of the nature of of samsara and nirvana, of the Buddhist understanding of the nature of mind, and of the path to liberation grounded in the realization of our buddha nature. The philosophical analysis is precise and comprehensive. The application to personal practice is insightful, direct, and easy to apply. This is a wonderful example of how Buddhist philosophy and Buddhist practice can be integrated.
Jay L. Garfield, Doris Silbert Professor in the Humanities, Smith College and Harvard Divinity School

Ever since their stellar collaboration on “Buddhism: One Teacher, Many Traditions,” the team of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Venerable Thubten Chodron have been bringing us teachings aimed at a modern Western-educated audience. In “Samsara, Nirvana, and Buddha Nature,” they have done it again, wonderfully. This third volume in the Wisdom Publication series The Library of Wisdom and Compassion presents an in-depth examination of the idea of ‘Buddha nature’ and explores and illustrates how the mind itself serves as both the basis for our suffering and our liberation. Helpful reflections throughout the text guide our journey. These are truly textbooks tailored for our times.
Jan Willis, author of “Dreaming Me: Black, Baptist and Buddhist”