John Myrdhin Reynolds

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John Myrdhin Reynolds, whose initiated name is Vajranatha (or Rigdzin Dorje Gonpo), was born in 1942 and is a scholar, linguist, author, translator, mystic and initiated ngagpa of the Nyingma school.[1]

Reynolds has made a special study of Dzogchen and the tantras of Buddhism, both in their own context and in comparison with Gnosticism and other Western mystical traditions. [2] This has resulted in Reynolds translating many original Tibetan texts of the Nyingma and Kagyu into English. He has also studied the Bon traditions of Dzogchen and has translated some Bon literature as well. [3]


Reynolds studied History of Religions, Anthropology, Arabic, Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Buddhist Studies at Columbia University, at the University of California at Berkeley, and at the University of Washington at Seattle. At Columbia University Reynolds pursued Islamic Studies under Arthur Jeffrey along with Iranian Studies under J. Duchesne-Guillemin. Reynolds did his PhD research in Sanskrit, Tibetan and Buddhist Philosophy under Edward Conze, the lauded scholar of the Buddhist Prajnaparamita literature.

Field research and experience

Post PhD, Reynolds spent circa ten years in India and Nepal doing fieldwork research at a number of Hindu ashrams in South India and at Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in Darjeeling, Nepal and Kalimpong. At these monasteries, Reynolds studied and researched the rituals, literature and meditation practices of the Kagyupa and Nyingmapa. Reynolds' lama teachers included Dezhung Rinpoche, Kangyur Rinpoche, Chatral Rinpoche, Jigdral Yeshe Dorje (2nd Dudjom Rinpoche), Kalu Rinpoche, the Karmapa, C.R. Lama and Lama Gonpo Tseten, amongst others. [4] In Nepal, Reynolds researched the techniques and folklore of Himalayan shamanism, including rites of soul retrieval and exorcism, employed and practiced among ngakpa lamas belonging to the Nyingma school. The mode of this research was experiential and participatory.

Reynolds has continued his researching and has lectured widely in India, America and Europe. Reynolds has taught History of Religions and Buddhist Studies at Shanti Ashram (South India), at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, at the University of California, Santa Cruz and at the College of New Rochelle in New York City.

Initiations and lineages

Reynolds has been initiated into both the Nyingmapa and the Kagyupa Schools of Tibetan Buddhism and in 1974 in Kalimpong, Reynolds received ordination from the 2nd Dudjom Rinpoche as a ngakpa of the Nyingma order, receiving the name Vajranatha (Rigdzin Dorje Gonpo). With the direction of Dudjom Rinpoche, Reynolds commenced research into the ngakpa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism welling from Padmasambhava and Nubchen Sangye Yeshe in the 8th century CE.


Reynolds has worked closely with Namkhai Norbu on a number of translations of important Dzogchen texts. Since 1989, he has worked closely with Lopön Tenzin Namdak, widely considered as the foremost scholar of the Bon tradition outside of Tibet. He has collaborated with Tenzin Namdak on the translation of a large number of ancient and rare Bön Dzogchen texts into English, including the Zhangzhung Oral Tradition and also the Bön Mother Tantra. As his principal focus, Reynolds continues his research into the historical origins of Dzogchen in both the Nyingmapa and the Bön traditions, and especially into the connections of Dzogchen and the Bön with Iranian religious culture of ancient Central Asia and the West, including Buddhism in Iran, Mithraic mysteries and Gnosticism.


Reynolds' research into original texts in Tibetan and Sanskrit, as well as comparative studies of mysticism, magic and religion and the production of monographs thereof, is known collectively as the Vidyadhara Project.

As the Bönpo Translation Project of the Bönpo Research Foundation, Reynolds has privately published a series of monographs on Bönpo Dzogchen and Tantra.

As Simhanada Publications, he has privately published a series of monographs and practice texts (sadhanas) from the Nyingmapa and Kagyudpa relating to Dzogchen and Buddhist Tantra.

In San Diego, California, Reynolds established the Vidyadhara Institute for Comparative Studies in Mysticism and the Esoteric Traditions with the aim of publishing and republishing a series of monographs on Buddhist and Tibetan Studies and also on various topics from the History of Religions, focusing on a comparative study of Buddhism and Bön with other mystical traditions such as Gnosticism, Neo-Platonism, Early Christianity, Kabalah, and Sufism, as well as dealing with the questions of East-West Psychology and meditation practice.


There are different series of books written by John Myrdhin Reynolds. [5]

  • The Alchemy of Realization (1978, Simhanada Publications)
  • Tibetan Astrological Calendar and Almanac (1978, Kalachakra Publications)
  • The Cycle of Day and Night (1984, 1987, Station Hill Press)
  • The Golden Rosary of Tara (1985, Shang Shung Edizioni)
  • The Adamantine Essence of Life (1987, Vidyadhara Publications)
  • Self-Liberation through Seeing with Naked Awareness (1989, 2000 Snow Lion)
  • The Secret Book of Simhamukha (1990, 2001, Vidyadhara Publications)
  • Wicca, Paganism, and Tantra (1994, Vidyadhara Publications)
  • The Golden Letters (1996, Snow Lion)
  • The Oral Tradition from Zhang-Zhung (2005, Vajra Publications)
  • Bonpo Dzogchen Teachings (2006, Vajra Publications)
  • The Sadhana Practice of Wrathful Deities in Tibetan Buddhist Tantra (2009, Bodhiszattva Publisher)
  • Space, Awareness, and Energy (forthcoming, Snow Lion)
  • Path of the Clear Light (forthcoming)
  • The Way of the Garuda (forthcoming)


  1. "Vajranatha / John Myrdhin Reynolds". Retrieved 24 January 2015. 
  2. "John Myrdhin Reynolds biography". Retrieved 24 January 2015. 
  3. "Vajranatha / John Myrdhin Reynolds". Retrieved 24 January 2015. 
  4. "John Myrdhin Reynolds". Retrieved 24 January 2015. 
  5. "Precepts of the Dharmakaya; Translation of the Twenty-One Little Nails". Retrieved 24 January 2015. 


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