Pema Chodron

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Fast Facts
Other Names and Nicknames: 
Birthname: Deirdre Blomfield-Brown, Acharya Ani Pema Chödrön
Spiritual Teacher
Tibetan Buddhism
Main Countries of Activity: 
Date of Birth: 
July 14, 1936
Place of Birth: 
In His/Her Body ("alive"): 
Other Related Gurus: 
Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Lama Chime Rinpoche, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche


Pema Chödrön was born Deirdre Blomfield-Brown in 1936, in New York City. She attended Miss Porter's School in Connecticut and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley. She taught as an elementary school teacher for many years in both New Mexico and California. Pema has two children and three grandchildren.

While in her mid-thirties, she traveled to the French Alps and encountered Lama Chime Rinpoche, with whom she studied for several years. She became a novice nun in 1974 while studying with Lama Chime in London. The Sixteenth Karmapa came to England at that time, and Pema Chödrön received her ordination from him.

Pema Chödrön first met her main master, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche in 1972. Lama Chime encouraged her to work with Rinpoche and it was with him that she ultimately made her most profound connection, studying with him from 1974 until his death in 1987. At the request of the Sixteenth Karmapa, she received the full bikshuni ordination in the Chinese lineage of Buddhism in 1981 in Hong Kong.

Pema Chödrön served as the director of the Karma Dzong in Boulder until moving in 1984 to rural Cape Breton, Nova Scotia to be the director of Gampo Abbey. Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche gave her explicit instructions on establishing this monastery for western monks and nuns.

Pema Chödrön is currently teaching in the United States and Canada and plans for an increased amount of time in solitary retreat under the guidance of Venerable Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche.

She is interested in helping to establish Tibetan Buddhist monasticism in the West as well as in continuing her work with western Buddhists of all traditions, sharing ideas and teachings


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.



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Books & Media

Recommended Books: 
Cover image

When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (Shambhala Library)

by Pema Chodron


There is a fundamental opportunity for happiness right within our reach, yet we usually miss it—ironically while we are caught up in attempts to escape pain and suffering. Drawn from traditional Buddhist wisdom, Pema Chödrön\'s radical and compassionate advice for what to do when things fall apart in our lives goes against the grain of our usual habits and expectations. There is only one approach to suffering that is of lasting benefit, Pema teaches, and that approach involves moving toward painful situations with friendliness and curiosity, relaxing into the essential groundlessness of our entire situation. It is there, in the midst of chaos, that we can discover the truth and love that are indestructible.

The Shambhala Library is a series of exquisitely designed and produced cloth editions of the world\'s spiritual and literary classics, both ancient and modern. Perfect for collecting or as gifts, each volume features a sewn binding, decorative endsheets, and a ribbon marker—in a delightful-to-hold 4¼ x 6¾ trim size.

Cover image

Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears

by Pema Chödrön


In this book Pema Chödrön shows us how to break free of destructive patterns in our lives and experience a new sense of freedom and happiness. Drawing on the Buddhist concept of shenpa, she helps us to see how certain habits of mind tend to “hook” us and get us stuck in states of anger, blame, self-hatred, and addiction. The good news is that once we start to see these patterns, we can begin to change our lives for the better.

The key is learning a new way of facing the inevitable difficulties and insecurities of our daily lives: we must learn how to stay present and open our hearts. “This path entails uncovering three basic human qualities,” explains Pema. “These qualities have always been with us but perhaps have gotten buried and almost forgotten. They are natural intelligence, natural warmth, and natural openness. Everyone, everywhere, all over the globe, has these qualities and can call on them to help themselves and others.\"

This book gives us the insights and practices we can immediately put to use in our lives to awaken these essential qualities. In her friendly and encouraging style, Pema Chödrön helps us to take a bold leap toward a new way of living—one that will bring about positive transformation for ourselves and for our troubled world.

Cover image

The Pocket Pema Chodron (Shambhala Pocket Classics)

by Pema Chodron


Here is a treasury of 108 short selections from the best-selling books of Pema Chödrön, the beloved Buddhist nun. Designed for on-the-go inspiration, this collection offers teachings on:

   • becoming fearless

   • breaking free of destructive patterns

   • developing patience, kindness, and joy amid our everyday struggles

   • unlocking our natural warmth, intelligence, and goodness