Who Is Alexander Berzin?

Alexander Berzin (born 1944) grew up in New Jersey, USA. He began his study of Buddhism in 1962 at Rutgers and then Princeton Universities, and received his PhD in 1972 from Harvard University jointly between the Departments of Sanskrit and Indian Studies and Far Eastern Languages (Chinese). Inspired by the process through which Buddhism was transmitted from one Asian civilization to another and how it was translated and adopted, his focus has been, ever since, on bridging traditional Buddhist and modern Western cultures.

Dr. Berzin was resident in India for 29 years, first as a Fulbright Scholar and then with the Translation Bureau, which he helped to found, at the Library of Tibetan Works & Archives in Dharamsala. While in India, he furthered his studies with masters from all four Tibetan Buddhist traditions; however, his main teachers have been His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tsenshap Serkong Rinpoche, and Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey. Practicing under their supervision, he completed the major meditation retreats of the Gelug tradition.

For nine years, he was the principal interpreter for Tsenshap Serkong Rinpoche, accompanying him on his foreign tours and training under him to be a Buddhist teacher in his own right. He has served as occasional interpreter for H.H. the Dalai Lama and has organized several international projects for him. These have included Tibetan medical aid for victims of the Chernobyl radiation disaster; preparation of basic Buddhist texts in colloquial Mongolian to help with the revival of Buddhism in Mongolia; and inauguration of a Buddhist-Muslim dialogue in universities in the Islamic world.

Since 1980, Dr. Berzin has traveled the world, lecturing on Buddhism in universities and Buddhist centers in over 70 countries. He was one of the first to teach Buddhism in most of the communist world, throughout Latin America and large parts of Africa. Throughout his travels, he has consistently tried to demystify Buddhism and show the practical application of its teachings in daily life.

A prolific author and translator, Dr. Berzin has published 17 books, including Relating to a Spiritual Teacher, Taking the Kalachakra Initiation, Developing Balanced Sensitivity, and with H.H. the Dalai Lama, The Gelug-Kagyu Tradition of Mahamudra.

At the end of 1998, Dr. Berzin returned to the West with about 30,000 pages of unpublished manuscripts of books, articles, and translations he had prepared, transcriptions of teachings of the great masters that he had translated, and notes from all the teachings he had received from these masters. Convinced of the benefit of this material for others and determined that it not be lost, he named it the “Berzin Archives” and settled in Berlin, Germany. There, with the encouragement of H. H. the Dalai Lama, he set out to make this vast material freely available to the world on the Internet, in as many languages as possible.

Thus, the Berzin Archives website went online in December 2001. It has expanded to include Dr. Berzin’s ongoing lectures and is now available (in 2015) in 21 languages. For many of them, especially the six Islamic world languages, it is the pioneering work in the field. The present version of the website (in 2021 in 32 languages) is the next step in Dr. Berzin’s lifelong commitment to building a bridge between the traditional Buddhist and modern worlds. By guiding the teachings across the bridge and showing their relevance to modern life, his vision has been that they would help to bring emotional balance to the world.