John Myrdhin Reynolds, aka Vajranatha, 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 the former he pursued Islamic Studies under Prof. Arthur Jeffrey and Iranian Studies under Prof. J. Duchesne-Guillemin. He did his PhD research in Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Buddhist Philosophy under Prof. Edward Conze, the world-renowned scholar of the Buddhist Prajnaparamita literature.
He then spent more than ten years in India and Nepal doing field research at various Hindu Ashrams in South India and at Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in Darjeeling, Kalimpong, and Nepal. At these latter locales, he researched the literature, rituals, and meditation practices of the Nyingmapa and Kagyudpa schools of Tibetan Buddhism. His Lama teachers included Dezhung Rinpoche, Kangyur Rinpoche, Chatral Rinpoche, Dudjom Rinpoche, Kalu Rinpoche, Gyalwa Karmapa, and many others. His special study was Dzogchen and the Buddhist Tantras, both in their own terms, and in comparison with Gnosticism and other mystical traditions of the West. As a result, he translated into English many original Tibetan texts belonging to the Nyingmapa and Kagyudpa traditions, and more recently texts from the Bon tradition. In Nepal he researched the techniques and lore of Tibetan shamanism, including rites of exorcism and soul retrieval, employed and practiced among Ngakpa Lamas belonging to the Nyingmapa school. The thrust of this research was experiential and participatory, and not just restricted to texts. He has been initiated into both the Nyingmapa and the Kagyudpa orders of Tibetan Buddhism and in 1974 in Kalimpong he received ordination from HH Dudjom Rinpoche as a Ngakpa or Buddhist Tantric Yogin of the Nyingmapa order, receiving the name Vajranatha (Rigdzin Dorje Gonpo). With the inspiration and permission of His Holiness, he began in-depth research into the Ngakpa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism stemming from Guru Padmasambhava and Nubchen Sangye Yeshe in the 8th century of our era.
Since then he has continued his researches and lectured widely in India, Europe, and America. He 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 more recently at the College of New Rochelle in New York City. Furthermore, he has taught in various countries of Europe, lecturing and presenting seminars on Buddhism, meditation, Tibetan shamanism, and psychological development in Amsterdam, Den Haag, Groningen, Copenhagen, Malmo, Oslo, Devon, and London, as well as in Italy, Greece, Mallorca, Poland, Hungary, and Jugoslavia.
In the past two decades he has worked closely with Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche, the foremost exponent of Dzogchen practice in the West, on a number of translations of important Nyingmapa Dzogchen texts. Since 1989, he has worked closely with Lopon Tenzin Namdak, the foremost scholar of the Bonpo tradition outside of Tibet, on the translation into English of a large number of ancient and rare Bonpo Dzogchen texts, including the Zhang-zhung Nyan-gyud, and also the Ma Gyud, the Bonpo Mother Tantra. As his principal focus, he continues his research into the historical origins of Dzogchen in both the Nyingmapa and the Bon traditions, and especially into the connections of Dzogchen and the Bon tradition with the Iranian religious culture of ancient Central Asia and the West, including Iranian Buddhism, Mithraism, and Gnosticism. This research into original texts in Tibetan and Sanskrit, as well as comparative studies in terms of religion, mysticism, and magic, and the producing of monographs thereon, is known as the Vidyadhara Project.
His publications include 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 Edizione), 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),
Path of the Clear Light (forthcoming 2006- 2007),
The Golden Letters (1996, Snow Lion), and Space, Awareness, and Energy (forthcoming with Snow Lion).
As the Bonpo Translation Project of the Bonpo Research Foundation, he has privately published a series of monographs on Bonpo Dzogchen and Tantra, and as Simhanada Publications, he has privately published a series of monographs and practice texts (sadhanas) from the Nyingmapa and Kagyudpa traditions of Tibetan Buddhism relating to Dzogchen and Buddhist Tantra. In San Diego, California, he established the Vidyadhara Institute for Comparative Studies in Mysticism and the Esoteric Traditions which, in the near future, will publish or republish a series of monographs on Buddhist and Tibetan Studies and also on various topics from the History of Religions, focusing on a comparive study of Buddhism and Bon 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.