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Summary

How does an English, Christian girl grow up to be an acclaimed Tibetan Buddhist Lama? It was a search for truth and a deep wish to understand the mind that led a young, determined Susan Rowan (b.1946) from suburban Essex, England, to the foothills of the Himalayas in the early 1970s. On the instruction of famed Tibetan Buddhist master Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, she headed East to "absorb the vibes", as he put it. There she met and was taught by some of the most eminent Tibetan Lamas and yogins of our time, including Kalu Rinpoche, Bokar Rinpoche and The 16th Karmapa, who ordained her as a nun and subsequently sent her back to the west to teach. 

At the request of her students, Lama Shenpen Hookham tells her fascinating and unconventional life story in the Keeping the Dalai Lama Waiting & Other Stories. The lively, anecdotal autobiography documents her extraordinary spiritual journey and her encounters with her teachers that are deeply profound, moving and often humorous. Lama Shenpen shares first-hand experience of how differing cultures and ways of thinking overlap and collide with unexpected consequences. At the heart of this book is a quest for truth – an ongoing discovery of the true nature of mind, yet as we discover, this is more about the heart in its deepest sense. 

After living and practicing as a nun in India for several years she was asked to return to the west. Working as a translator to the first wave of Tibetan Buddhist masters to Europe, gave Lama Shenpen a unique insight into how to adapt the most profound teachings of the Buddha for a western audience. Since gaining a PHD at Oxford in Buddhist doctrine in the 1980s (doing so on the advice of her main teacher Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche), she has worked tirelessly to make the profound truth at the heart of Buddhist teachings on meditation, reflection and insight (Dzogchen and Mahamudra) accessible to others, through a unique training called Living the Awakened Heart. On the advice of H.H. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Lama Shenpen made her base in north-west Wales where she lives today in semi-retreat, working on her writing and teaching her students, members of the Awakened Heart Sangha - www.ahs.org.uk.

©2020 Susan Hookham (P)2020 Susan Hookham

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brilliant and inspiring

Lama Shenpen is a western woman that western people can relate too, the Dharma and her faith in it are alive in every word. It's well read by the narrator and inspiring.

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An inspiring life story for all

This is a highly inspiring life story that takes us on the author's journey to discover her mind, from early days meditating in her room at University to meeting, being taught by and then translating for, some of the most amazing Tibetan Buddhist teachers of the 20th Century. It's a journey from East to West and back again. I especially enjoyed the descriptions of living simply in retreat in India in the '70s, and coming back to the England during one of the bleakest periods of recent history. The author's curiosity, resilience and determination shines throughout. The author is a highly respected Buddhist teacher and scholar, so there's so much to learn in the story and the personal anecdotes of life with the Buddhist masters are so fascinating, at turns highly amusing, profound and moving. A must-read for anyone interested in Tibetan Buddhism especially, but is engaging and brilliantly written and narrated, so is for anyone interested in unique and inspiring life stories.