Tales for Transforming Adversity

A Buddhist Lama’s Advice for Life’s Ups and Downs



One of the world’s most popular Tibetan lamas shares accessible advice for working with adversity and living a spiritual life.


Enjoy a variety of meditations on topics from flattery and jealousy to karma and compassion. In each brief chapter Khenpo Sodargye weaves in stories from ancient classics and modern headlines. Drawing on adages from the Buddha, Confucius, and even Mark Twain, he delivers simple and timeless insights about facing adversity and developing a good heart.


With this English-language edition, you can now join the tens of millions who have already benefitted from this ageless advice on money, relationships, mortality, and more.




How often do we feel satisfied with our life? Ancient sages say that if we divide our life into ten equal parts, we are only happy for one or two of them. The Buddha, too, reminds us again and again that life is riddled with suffering. Even setting aside the suffering of birth, old age, sickness, and death, it’s impossible to avoid the suffering of being separated from loved ones, encountering enemies, and generally not getting what we want.

Some people might object, saying, “There’s obviously a lot of joy in life. Why does the Buddha emphasize suffering?” While Buddhism certainly recognizes suffering, it doesn’t deny that there is happiness in life, too. The problem with this happiness is that it’s fragile and fleeting. Happiness tints our life, but it’s not the primary hue. The only certainty in life is that everything changes. The powerful can become prisoners, devoted friends can become enemies, happy families can split, and even people who live for a long time will eventually die. Indeed, even the best circumstances change, and change causes suffering. This is what we mean when we say that life is full of suffering. If you refuse to recognize this, insisting that life is a joyride, blinding yourself to reality, and mistaking suffering for happiness, then you lose your chance to be truly free from suffering. Facing the truth of suffering is the first step toward real and lasting happiness. The Buddha became awakened only after first witnessing the suffering of old age, sickness, and death. So don’t try to avoid suffering, and don’t be afraid of it.

Some people only want comfort and are unwilling to face the suffering that lies in store for them. This is simply unrealistic. Life is full of rainstorms and bumpy rides, and besides, without the wind, frost, snow, and rain, there would be no blossoms in the spring or fruit in the fall. Also, a lot of people believe that altruism-seeking the happiness of others-brings no reward, not realizing that on the contrary, it’s the most rewarding thing there is. They think that accepting the truth of impermanence will reduce their drive and ambition, not realizing that living with the truth of change makes life more fascinating. Instead, they spend their time worrying about their possessions and their reputation. Unfortunately, none of these will ensure a peaceful death, let alone happiness in future lives. We need to become masters of our own mind. No matter how complicated the situation might be, or how unbearable life feels, the best medicine for living well is practicing what the Buddha taught.

When I wrote Tales for Transforming Adversity, my target readers were people in Han Chinese areas, because I have known and understood their lives and suffering quite well. To my surprise, the book was embraced widely; many people found approaches to tame their minds through these ancient and contemporary stories from both the East and West. Moreover, since simple stories can leave a deep impression, it is easy to recollect them in challenging or difficult times, so readers found the messages in this book useful in their everyday lives.

But the anxiety and questions addressed in this book are not Chinese problems or Tibetan problems. They are human problems, gnawing at people of all different colors, speaking different languages, in every corner of the world. I am delighted that through the efforts of many, this English version has finally come into being and may be able to bring ease and happiness to many more people in this turbulent age.

Khenpo Sodargye

Larung Gar Buddhist Institute, 2017














Wisdom publications is the leading publisher of classic and contemporary Buddhist books and practical works on mindfulness from all Buddhist traditions. It was established in 1987, in Somerville, MA, the United  States.



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