Pema Chödrön
Pema Chodron 1
Pema Chödrön at a talk on "No Time to Lose"
Religion Vajrayana Buddhism
Born Deirdre Blomfield-Brown
July 14, 1936
New York City, New York, United States
Senior posting
Title Bhikkhuni

Pema Chödrön (formerly known as Deirdre Blomfield-Brown) is an ordained Buddhist nun in the Tibetan Vajrayana tradition, and a teacher in the lineage of Chögyam Trungpa. The goal of her work is the ability to apply Buddhist teachings in everyday life.

A prolific author, she has conducted workshops, seminars, and meditation retreats in Europe, Australia, and throughout North America. She is resident teacher of Gampo Abbey, a monastery in rural Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada.[1]


Pema Chödrön was born in or around 1936 in New York City. She attended Miss Porters School in Farmington, Connecticut and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley. She worked as an elementary school teacher in California and New Mexico before her conversion to Buddhism.

Following a second divorce, Chödrön began to study with Lama Chime Rinpoche in the French Alps. She became a Buddhist nun in 1974 while studying with him in London.[2] She is a fully-ordained bhikṣuṇī in a combination of the Mulasarvastivadin and Dharmaguptaka lineages of vinaya, having received full ordination in Hong Kong in 1981 at the behest of the sixteenth Karmapa. She has been instrumental in trying to reestablish full ordination for nuns in the Mulasarvastivadin order, to which all Tibetan Buddhist monastics have traditionally belonged; various conferences have been convened to study the matter.

Ani Pema first met Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche in 1972, and at the urging of Chime Rinpoche, she took him as her root guru ("Ani" is a Tibetan honorific for a nun). She studied with him from 1974 until his death in 1987.[3][4] Trungpa Rinpoche's son, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, appointed Chödrön an acharya (senior teacher) shortly after assuming leadership of his father's Shambhala lineage in 1992.

Trungpa Rinpoche appointed Ani Pema director of the Boulder Shambhala Center (then Boulder Dharmadhatu) in Colorado in the early 1980s.[5] It was during this period that she became ill with chronic fatigue syndrome. In 1984, Ani Pema moved to Gampo Abbey and became its director in 1986.[1] There, she published her first two books to widespread critical acclaim. Her health gradually improved, she claims, with the help of a homeopath and careful attention to diet.

In late 2005, Pema Chödrön published No Time to Lose, a commentary on Shantideva's Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life. Her most recent publication is Practicing Peace in Times of War. She is currently studying with Lama Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, and spends seven months of each year in solitary retreat under his direction in Crestone, Colorado.

She continues to teach the traditional Yarne (Tib. rainy season; Sanskrit: Vassāvāsa[6]) retreat for monastics at Gampo Abbey each winter. In recent years, she has spent the summers teaching on the Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life in Berkeley. Pema was appointed by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche as "acharya" (senior teacher) in California.


Pema Chödrön is a member of the The Committee of Western Bhikshunis which was formed in the autumn of 2005 [7].

After all her years of practice, teaching, and writing bestsellers, she has found the need to become primarily a student again, choosing Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche as her teacher [8].


Pema Chödrön's teachings are all about not running away from ourselves. She teaches how to embrace life fully, including pleasant and painful situations. Her teachings are of great value in crisis situations like the death of close persons, addictions, sickness or separation from loved ones. We may come to a meditation center with the hope of finding a peaceful place, but what we are supposed to do is stay with our pain and develop maitri, which she defines as an unconditional friendship to ourselves, which naturally radiates out to others.

A central theme of her teachings is the Tibetan word shenpa, or how we get hooked. According to the Buddha, there is a certain amount of pain that is inevitable in life, such as growing old, sickness and being separated from someone we love very intensely. These we cannot avoid in this life. But on top of that is the suffering, which the Buddha explains how to get rid of. We will still die, get sick and be separated from others, but we can work with the suffering by stopping the momentum of shenpa. "Somebody says a mean word to you and then something in you tightens— that's the shenpa. Then it starts to spiral into low self-esteem, or blaming them, or anger at them, denigrating yourself. And maybe if you have strong addictions, you just go right for your addiction to cover over the bad feeling that arose when that person said that mean word to you. This is a mean word that gets you, hooks you. Another mean word may not affect you but we're talking about where it touches that sore place— that's a shenpa. Someone criticizes you—they criticize your work, they criticize your appearance, they criticize your child— and, shenpa: almost co-arising." [9].


Pema has two children and three grandchildren, all of whom live in the San Francisco Bay Area.[10]


Pema chodron 2007

At the Omega Institute, May 2007.

Her books include:

  • The Wisdom of No Escape (1991) (ISBN 1-57062-872-6)
  • Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living (1994) (ISBN 0-87773-880-7)
  • Practicing Peace in Times of War: A Buddhist Perspective (September 2006) (ISBN 1-590-30401-2)
  • Awakening Loving-Kindness (abridged version of The Wisdom of No Escape) (1996) (ISBN 1-570-62259-0)
  • When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (1996) (ISBN 1-570-62969-2)
  • Tonglen: The Path of Transformation (2001) (ISBN 1-570-62409-7)
  • The Places that Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times (2002) (ISBN 1570624097)
  • The Compassion Box - includes Start Where You Are, a set of 59 slogan cards with brief commentaries, and a CD of tonglen meditation instruction (2003)
  • Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion (ISBN 1-59030-078-5)
  • No Time to Lose: A Timely Guide to the Way of the Bodhisattva (2005) (ISBN 1-590-30135-8)

Her audio recordings include:

  • Awakening Compassion
  • Noble Heart
  • Good Medicine
  • Alice Walker and Pema Chōdrōn in Conversation
  • Pure Meditation
  • Getting Unstuck
  • Seven Points of Mind Training: Shenpa Teachings
  • Don't Bite the Hook
  • How to Meditate


  1. 1.0 1.1 Cahill (1996) p. 377
  2. Midal (2005) p.476
  3. Boucher (1993) pp. 93-97
  4. Coleman (2001) p. 150
  5. Boucher (1993) pp. 96-97
  6. Buddhist Monks And Monasteries Of India: Their History And Contribution To Indian Culture. George Allen and Unwin Ltd, London 1962. pg 54
  7. see information on her Homepage
  8. Website of Kongtrul Rinpoche
  9. The Shenpa syndom: Learning to stay
  10. "Biography of Acharya Ani Pema Chödrön". Gampo Abbey. Retrieved 2006-12-29. 

Further reading

  • Boucher, Sandy (1993) Turning the Wheel: American Women Creating the New Buddhism ISBN 0807073059
  • Cahill, Susan Neunzig (1996) Wise Women: Over Two Thousand Years of Spiritual Writing by Women ISBN 0393039463
  • Coleman, James William (2001) The New Buddhism: The Western Transformation of an Ancient Tradition ISBN 0195152417
  • Midal, Fabrice ed. (2005) Recalling Chögyam Trungpa ISBN 1-59030-207-9
  • Pema Chödrön and Dzigar Kongtrül: Let’s Be Honest A discussion led by Elizabeth Namgyel (Quote Pema Chödrön: "One of the things I’ve learned from both you and Trungpa Rinpoche is that when we feel pain, it is a moment of truth. Instead of saying something’s wrong, that something bad has happened, we can say, “Oh! I am seeing and feeling very old karmic seeds ripening. Right now is the moment when I could do something different.” At that moment of truth, we could choose to do the habitual thing or we could choose not to sow those same old seeds again. At that very point, we can notice our opportunity to practice, rather than being preoccupied with feeling that we just messed up again.")

External links

pt:Pema Chödrön

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