Sogyal Rinpoche was born in Eastern Tibet, and recognized at an early age as the incarnation of a great master and visionary saint of the nineteenth century, Tertön Sogyal Lerab Lingpa (1856-1926), a teacher to the thirteenth Dalai Lama. He received the traditional training of a Tibetan lama under the close supervision of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö, one of the most outstanding spiritual masters of the twentieth century. He went on to study with many other great masters, of all schools of Tibetan Buddhism, especially Kyabjé Dudjom Rinpoche and Kyabjé Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. In 1971, Rinpoche went to England, where he also studied Comparative Religion at Cambridge University.
Sogyal Rinpoche has a remarkable gift for presenting the heart essence, spirit and flavor of Tibetan Buddhism in a way that is both authentic and profoundly relevant to the modern mind, as demonstrated so vividly in his ground-breaking book The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. More than two million copies have been printed in fifty-six countries and in thirty-one languages.
Rinpoche is also the founder and spiritual director of Rigpa, an international network of Buddhist centers. He has been teaching for over thirty years and continues to travel widely in Europe, America, Australia and Asia.
Khenpo Namdrol was born in 1953 in Derge. At the age of seven, in 1959, he fled Tibet and reached Bylakuppe, South India. He began his studies with Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche, Khenpo Khedrub, and Khenpo Tsöndrü. At 25, along with Khenpo Tsöndrü, he returned to Namdroling Monastery and together they established the Ngagyur Nyingma Institute. In 1988 and 1992, he traveled to Serta, in Kham Province Tibet, to receive teachings from Khenpo Jikmé Phuntsok. In 1998, under the guidance of Penor Rinpoche, he established the Pelyul Retreat Center, Samten Osel Ling in Pharping, Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. Khenchen Namdrol spends much of his time at his center [www.knamdrol.org], as well as teaching abroad and at the Ngagyur Nyingma Institute.
Venerable Thupten Ngodrup is the Medium of the State Oracle of Tibet. He was born in Tibet in 1958 and fled into exile with his family in 1966. In Dharamsala, he took ordination as a monk at Nechung Dorje Drayang Ling Monastery in 1970. Nechung monastery is an institution that has been closely affiliated with the Tibetan Government and the succession of Dalai Lamas for centuries. It was just beginning to get reestablished, and Thupten Ngodrup was one of the first wave of new monks. Three years after the passing of the Medium for the Nechung Oracle in 1984, Venerable Thupten Ngodrup was recognized by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to be the Medium of Nechung the Tibetan Oracle. The Nechung Kuten is an important figure for the Tibetan people and Tibetan Buddhism, and holds a position of great responsibility in the Tibetan government.
Matthieu Ricard is a Buddhist monk who left a scientific career to study Buddhism in the Himalayas nearly 40 years ago. He is the French interpreter for the Dalai Lama. His books include, Happiness, The Monk and the Philosopher, The Art of Meditation and, as a photographer: Buddhist Himalayas, Tibet: An Inner Journey, Motionless Journey, and Bhutan: The Land of Serenity. Within the Mind and Life Institute, he is an active participant in the current scientific research on the effects of meditation on the brain. He lives in Nepal and devotes much of his time to thirty humanitarian projects in Asia [www.karuna-shechen.org] to which he donates all the proceeds of his books.
Carroll Dunham is a Princeton University educated anthropologist, writer, documentary filmmaker, yoga instructor and director of Wild Earth, a cooperative producing luxury Himalayan herbal products in Kathmandu. She has authored the books: Sacred Landscape and Pilgrimage in Tibet, In Search of the Lost Kingdom of Bon, Tibet: Reflections from the Wheel of Life, The Hidden Himalayas, She has led cross-cultural trips throughout South Asia, Tibet and Mongolia.
Richard Gere is an internationally renowned film actor, dedicated social activist, and committed philanthropist. For more than twenty-five years, he and The Gere Foundation has worked to bring attention and effective solutions to humanitarian issues rooted in intolerance, injustice, and inequality.
Since the early eighties, Gere has been at the forefront of the fight against HIV/AIDS where he began a personal campaign against stigma and discrimination associated with the disease. Mr. Gere has also worked vigorously to protect the human rights and cultural survival of the Tibetan people.
Mr. Gere has been awarded honors by amfAR, Amnesty International, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, OnexOne and the Harvard AIDS Institute. He is also the recipient of the Eleanor Roosevelt Humanitarian Award, the Marian Anderson Award and the prestigious Humanitarian Award from CARE.
Krisadawan Hongladarom obtained her doctoral degree in linguistics at Indiana University where she also studied Tibetan language, history and culture. She taught linguistics at Chulalongkorn University in 1993-2007, during which time she conducted numerous research projects on Tibetan dialects, particularly Kham Tibetan and became an associate professor. In 2004 she established the Thousand Stars Foundation to promote understanding of Tibetan religion and culture, to foster dialogues among various lineages and practices of Buddhism, and to support the education and Dharma practice of children, nuns and retreatants in Tibet. In 2006 she established the Tara Khadiravana retreat center near Hua Hin, Prachuakhirikhan, her hometown 200 kilometers south of Bangkok.
Pico Iyer is the author of two novels and seven works of non-fiction, including The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Video Night in Kathmandu, The Lady and the Monk and The Global Soul. A writer for Time magazine since 1982, he has written extensively about cultures in transit everywhere from Easter Island to Ethiopia and from North Korea to Yemen. He has been traveling around the Himalayas, from Bhutan to Lhasa to Ladakh to Nepal, for more than thirty years.
Françoise Pommaret is the Director of Research at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), Paris. She is an ethno-historian who has traveled extensively through the Himalayan world and has been associated with Bhutan in different capacities since 1981. Dr. Pommaret is presently advisor at the Institute of Language and Culture (ILCS), Royal University of Bhutan. Her Bhutan: Himalayan Mountain Kingdom is the first cultural guidebook on the country and is in its ninth edition (2009). She is co-editor and co-author of Bhutan: Mountain Fortress of the Gods as well as of Bhutan: Tradition and Change. Dr. Pommaret’s most recent book to be published in the U.S. is Tibet, an Enduring Civilization.
Gray Tuttle is Leila Hadley Luce Assistant Professor of Modern Tibetan Studies (EALAC), received his Ph.D. in Inner Asian Studies at Harvard University (2002). He studies the history of twentieth-century Sino-Tibetan relations as well as Tibet’s relations with the China-based Manchu Qing Empire. The role of Tibetan Buddhism in these historical relations is central to all his research. His publications include Tibetan Buddhists in the Making of Modern China (2005). His current research project focuses on the support that Tibetan Buddhist institutions have received from the governments of China from the 17th to 20th century and how this support, along with economic growth in the Sino-Tibetan borderlands, has fueled expansion and renewal of these institutions into the contemporary period. Forthcoming projects include Sources of Tibetan Tradition, co-edited for the series Introduction to Asian Civilizations, and the jointly authored volume Tibet: History, Society, and Culture.