Where did you grow up? I was born in Siberia and spent the first eleven years of my life in the Ural mountain region. My family eventually moved to Moscow, which is where I went to high school.
When did you become a Buddhist and why? I started reading books on the Dzogchen tradition at about 14, but my primary interest then was Hinduism. After my first trip to India at 18, I was so impressed with Sarnath, where the Buddha gave his first sermon, and with His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s book Healing Anger, that I soon went to a Buddhist teaching event and took refuge.
Is your family Buddhist? No, though their interest in matters of philosophy and natural healing has certainly affected my own hippie disposition.
What’s your favorite breakfast on retreat? Cereal with plant-based milk and black coffee.
What’s your daily practice? In the Tibetan tradition, one accumulates a number of daily commitments, which include daily recitations and some analytical meditations to do. An important part of my personal commitment package is Tara practice, combined with the four immeasurables (equanimity, love, compassion, and joy).
Favorite aphorism? A quote from Sherwood Smith: “Kindness never makes anything worse, and it can often make things better.”
Favorite musician? Vienna Teng. In addition to her wonderful albums, she has a musical on the life of a female Buddha (check out The Fourth Messenger)!
What’s the longest you’ve gone without meditating? How do you get back on track? Because of the daily commitment system that exists in the Tibetan tradition, I haven’t skipped my practice since I was 21, even though it is done quite hastily on some days.
Book on your nightstand? Blazing Splendor, by Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, and A Posse of Princesses, by Sherwood Smith.
What do you like to do in your free time? I like long walks while listening to either music or podcasts.
Who is your teacher? I have six heart teachers: the late Lama Zopa Rinpoche, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Khandro Tseringma, Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche, Garchen Rinpoche, and Lama Alan Wallace. Many others have provided invaluable guidance as well.
What non-Buddhist do you look to for guidance? Jane Goodall, Karen Armstrong, Thomas Merton, and occasionally stories about Neem Karoli Baba.
Favorite subject in school? Classic literature. I was very passionate about Dickens!
What was your first job? Social media promotion for big brands. I somehow ended up teaching meditation to fellow agency workers.
Most used emoji? 🙏
What would you do if you weren’t a Buddhist teacher? Teaching yoga nidra (yogic sleep) to help people find some rest. That’s still something I do on occasion.
What Buddhist book has most affected your practice? There are a number of books that I’ve read again and again, but Blazing Splendor: The Memoirs of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, as told to Erik Pema Kunsang and Marcia Binder Schmidt, stands out as the most important. The book is a collection of memories from one of the most prominent teachers of the 20th century—and the father to the influential lamas Mingyur Rinpoche, Tsoknyi Rinpoche, and Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche. By describing encounters with great yoginis and yogis, Blazing Splendor shows what advanced and sustained practice can bring, explains how to derive inspiration from the history of one’s lineage, and provides bits of advice that can enrich our practice of the nature of the mind.
Why did you want to teach a dharma talk on the four immeasurables for Tricycle? The four immeasurables have completely transformed my life, and they are so universal that anyone can benefit from them. I also believe it’s very important to revisit the ways of teaching them that exist in the original traditions as a way to reach profound, liberating levels.
This September, watch Michael Lobsang Tenpa’s Dharma Talk on the four immeasurables at tricycle.org/dharmatalks.
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