Lama Surya Das (born Jeffrey Miller in 1950) is an American-born lama in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. He is a poet, chantmaster, spiritual activist and author of many popular works on Buddhism; a teacher and spokesperson for Buddhism in the West. He has long been involved in charitable relief projects in the Third World and in interfaith dialogue. Surya Das is a Dharma heir of Nyoshul Khenpo Rinpoche, a Nyingma master of the non-sectarian Rime movement. His name, which means "Servant of the Sun" in a combination of Sanskrit (sūrya) and Hindi (das, from the Sanskrit dāsa), was given to him by the Hindu guru Neem Karoli Baba.
Lama Surya Das was born Jeffrey Miller and raised in Valley Stream, Long Island, New York. He attended the State University of New York at Buffalo, graduating in 1971, with a degree in Creative Education.
After his best friend's girlfriend, Allison Krause was killed during the Kent State shootings, Surya Das began his spiritual journey.
From 1971 to 1976 he traveled in India and Nepal, and studied with spiritual teachers of various traditions: Hindu teacher, Maharaj-ji (Neem Karoli Baba), Tibetan Buddhist Lamas Thubten Yeshe, Kalu Rinpoche and His Holiness the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa. In 1973 and 1974, he lived in Kyoto, Japan, where he taught English and studied Zen Buddhism under Uchiyama Roshi. He resided at the newly established Karma Triyana Dharmachakra monastery in Woodstock, New York from 1977–80. He also studied Vipassana in the 1970s, with S. N. Goenka and Anagarika Munindra, of the Theravadin tradition.
Surya Das attended the first Nyingmapa retreat center in Dordogne, France in 1980. At the center he completed two three and a half year retreats under the guidance of Dudjom Rinpoche and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. He was ordained a lama in the Non-Sectarian Rime movement of Tibetan Buddhism.
Surya Das travels, teaches and leads meditation retreats throughout the world. He is often called upon as a Buddhist spokesman by the media and has appeared frequently on TV and radio. One episode of the popular ABC TV sitcom Dharma and Greg, called "Leonard's Return," was loosely based on his life and return to America. In 1977 he helped establish Gyalwa Karmapa's KTD Monastery on a mountaintop overlooking Woodstock, New York. In the 1990s Lama Surya Das organized several weeklong International Buddhist Teachers Conferences with the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India, and America.
He has appeared as a special guest on Bill Maher's TV program, Politically Incorrect and on the Comedy Central television show, The Colbert Report. His most recent best selling book is Buddha Is as Buddha Does: The Ten Original Practices for Enlightened Living. Das is based in Cambridge, MA.
In 1991 Lama Surya Das returned from his two decades in Tibetan monasteries and retreats to establish the Dzogchen Foundation and Centers to help further the spread of Tibetan Buddhism in the West.
Surya Das has described Dzogchen the following way:
- Dzogchen basically deals with the innate intelligence or intrinsic awareness which all beings possess. It means seeing non-dualistically rather than in the usual dualistic object-subject dichotomy. By definition, delusion is dualistic, while non-duality is ultimate wisdom. Dzogchen doesn't necessarily have anything to do with Buddhism. It is the and perfect nature of all things.
He brought many Tibetan lamas to teach and reside in the United States and continues to do so. At the request of the late Nyoshul Khenpo Rinpoche, Surya Das founded Dzogchen Osel Ling Retreat Center as a nature sanctuary, group hermitage and lineage seat outside Austin, Texas, where he conducts annually an intensive, cloistered 100-day autumn retreat for experienced students as well as other shorter retreats during the year.
- Buddha Standard Time: Awakening to the Infinite Possibilities of Now. Hardback 224 pages; Publisher: HarperOne; (May 24, 2011)
- The Mind Is Mightier Than the Sword: Enlightening the Mind, Opening the Heart. Paperback 432 pages; Publisher: Doubleday Religion; (August 25, 2009)
- Words of Wisdom. Paperback 128 pages; Publisher: Koa Books; (June 1, 2008)
- Buddha Is as Buddha Does: The Ten Original Practices for Enlightened Living. Paperback 288 pages; Publisher: HarperOne; (February 26, 2008)
- The Big Questions: How to Find Your Own Answers to Life's Essential Mysteries. Hardcover: 288 pages; Publisher: Rodale Books; (October 2, 2007)
- Natural Radiance: Awakening to Your Great Perfection. Hardcover: 110 pages; Publisher: Sounds True; Book & CD edition (August 2005)
- Letting Go of the Person You Used To Be. Hardcover: 240 pages; Publisher: Broadway; 1st edition (August 12, 2003)
- Awakening the Buddhist Heart: Integrating Love, Meaning and Connection into Every Part of Your Life. Paperback: 272 pages; Publisher: Broadway (December 11, 2001)
- Awakening to the Sacred. Paperback: 400 pages; Publisher: Broadway; Reprint edition (May, 2000)
- Awakening the Buddha Within: Tibetan Wisdom for the Western World. Paperback: 432 pages; Publisher: Broadway; Reprint edition (June 15, 1998)
- Natural Great Perfection (with Nyoshul Khenpo). Paperback: 204 pages; Publisher: Snow Lion Publications; 1st ed. USA edition (October 25, 1995)
- The Snow Lion's Turquoise Mane. Paperback: 288 pages; Publisher: HarperSanFrancisco (December 4, 1992)