Judith Lief, Acharya Emeritus


Judy Lief was in graduate school at Columbia University in New York City when she first met Ven. Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. At a program entitled, “Work, Sex, and Money,”  given at Tail of the Tiger in 1971, she received initial meditation instruction directly from Trungpa Rinpoche and began her practice and study of the dharma.  Inspired by the profundity, playfulness, and straightforwardness of his teachings,  Judy changed course, dropping out of graduate school and moving to Boulder, Colorado to study further and in greater depth.

In Boulder, Ms. Lief worked closely with the Trungpa Rinpoche in a variety of capacities.   She attended the 1973 Vajradhatu Seminary, and in 1974 joined the staff of the Maitri Therapeutic community. In 1975 she was appointed the executive editor of Vajradhatu Publications. During this period Trungpa Rinpoche trained her as a meditation instructor and teacher, and encouraged her to begin teaching, both in Boulder and on the road. In particular, he asked her to take on the Naropa class on The Tibetan Book of the Dead, formerly taught by Francesca Fremantle. Judy also began to teach at seminaries, and served as head of practice and study at the 1978,1979, and 1980 seminaries. In 1980, the Vidyadhara appointed Judy as the dean of Naropa Institute, a position she held through 1985. Judy and her family moved to Halifax in early 1986, where she continued to teach and again took on the position of executive editor of Vajradhatu Publications. She received the title of acharya, or “senior teacher” from Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche.

Judy has authored numerous articles on Buddhist psychology and practice, as well as the book, Making Friends with Death: A Buddhist Guide to Encountering Mortality.  She is on the board of the Madison-Deane Initiative, a Vermont-based organization dedicated to educating people about end-of-life issues and improving the care of the dying. In addition to offering Buddhist teachings, Judy teaches on the topic of a contemplative approach to death and dying in a variety of settings, including hospitals, hospices, conferences, and retreats for people facing life-threatening illnesses.

Currently, Judy lives in Colchester, Vermont with her husband, Chuck, who is active in the field of affordable housing, nonprofit consulting, and social entrepreneurship, and her dog, Jasper.  She is both a parent and a grandparent, with two daughters, Jessica and Deborah, and two grandchildren.   For further information regarding Judy or her book, see judylief.com.

Teaching Schedule

Aug 19 - 24 Shambhala Mountain Center 8th Annual Courageous Women Fearless Living Cancer Retreat


Past Topics
The Truth of Suffering
The Jewel Ornament of Liberation
Refuge and Bodhisattva Vows
Making Friends with Death
One-Day Retreat for Women Touched by Cancer


Click here for a video of Acharya Lief on googlevideo a meditation-reduce stress or transformation.


Making Friends with Death (Shambhala Publications)