Terry Clifford

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Terrence Joan Clifford, Ph. D (born USA, 3rd May 1945 - died USA, 10th August 1987).

Terry Clifford



Terry was born in May 1945 to Stephen F Clifford & Helen Clifford and was raised in Forest Hills Gardens in Queens, New York. She was educated at Kew Forest Private School in Queens.

Later she attended Skidmore College, a private liberal arts college in Saratoga Springs, New York; Terry was at Skidmore for two years before transferring to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. While at Wisconsin University she met Jay Winogrond who told her about the Sanskrit University.

Terry graduated with a BA in Political Science in 1967. The following year she worked as a psychiatric nurse in a New York City hospital.

She arrived in India in 1968 and visited the Sanskrit University, Banaras, that year. She lived in India and Nepal for the next five years, meeting all of the great gurus of the time and making innumerable friends.

Returning to NYC in 1973 she wrote articles for New York Magazine, taught yoga at the New School,and worked tirelessly to help establish Tibetan Buddhism in the West. Her weekly feature Lists for New York Magazine became very popular in 1978 and 1979.

She received a Ph. D from Union Graduate School in 1977. Her thesis on Tibetan Medicine formed the basis of her most important work. She returned to Nepal in 1977 and in January 1978 her interview with Ganesh Baba was published in High Times Magazine.

In 1978 and 1979 her small compilations, Give Till It Hurts and Cures were published by the Cycling Frog Press, Pound Ridge,NY. Cures in an expanded form was published by Macmillan in 1980.

From 1981 through 1884 Terry completed the traditional Tibetan Buddhist three years, three months, three days, closed retreat in Dordogne, in the south of France, at Chanteloupe, under the direction of Dudjom Rinpoche, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and Tulku Pemma Wangyal.

Her revised doctoral thesis, Tibetan Buddhist Medicine and Psychiatry: The Diamond Healing was published by Samuel Weiser in 1984. The book became a standard text and was translated into four languages. In 1987 she was working on a compilation of prayers dedicated to Dudjom Rinpoche and doing research on compiling a Tibetan Pharmacopoeia with the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, London. She delivered an excellent paper that year.

Terry passed away of sudden and rapidly metastasising cancer on August 10th 1987 at the age of forty-two. She died peacefully at home in the company of close friends. Within the hour Khenpos Palden Sherab and Tsewang Dongyal came to  give the final sendoff.

Yeshe Melong, New York, published the collection of prayers and aspirations called The Lamp of Liberation in 1988.


  • Parents - Stephen F Clifford & Helen Clifford.



  • Terry Clifford interviews Ganesh Baba - Part I:
  • Terry Clifford interviews Ganesh Baba - Part II:

(See Ganesh Baba talks with Terry Clifford Article)

Blog Posts


  • Anon:
"If anyone ever misplaced something and couldn't find it Terry would transmit the 'Saint Theresa mantra' "Little flower in this hour show your power".  It usually worked!"
  • Arthur Mandelbaum wrote:
"It would be impossible to describe how wonderful and incredible Terry Clifford was. She came through the Sanskrit University in '69/70 and I showed her around Banaras. Later she hooked up with Keith Dowman for a few years."
"She became my girlfriend after I broke up with Turina in '72 We were together for more than 5 years and she was perfect (I wasn't)."
"She was a student of Dudjom Rinpoche, Khyentse Rinpoche, and Tulku Pemma Wangyal. She did the traditional 3 year retreat under their instructions in the south of France from '81-84."
"When she returned to the States she wrote The Diamond Healing : Tibetan Buddhist Medicine and Psychiatry which was translated into 4 languages. We did a book of translations of prayers called The Lamp of Liberation."
"Terry died of sudden cancer in 1987 at the age of 42."
  • Ziska wrote:
"It might be good to add to her bio notes that she was on the first three year retreat in the Dordogne. That was such a major decision and achievement. (And I have the sweetest memories of holding her hand as her hair was cut in the elegant 57th Street salon I used to go to, just before retreat ... how she didn't want it all shaved off quite yet, but wanted to kind of get close to very short hair before embarking on that journey ... as well as shopping for various 'red' clothes with her ... EVERYTHING had to be red! ...)."
"It's an especially poignant memory for me because Terry had such gorgeous, straight, lustrous, long dark hair."
"Terry's Tibetan Buddhist retreat was in the Nyingma tradition (there are several different traditions in Tibetan Buddhism, this being the oldest). She was one of five Americans who joined and completed that first retreat in the Dordogne."
"To clarify the shopping for red clothes part... they all wore traditional monks robes during the retreat... but Terry searched for and found red or burgundy sheets, pillow cases, down coat, any extra warm or cold weather things from inside out, all in deep red colors."
"Web site of The Association du Centre d’Études de Chanteloube, where Terry did her long retreat."

Books by Terry Clifford

  • Cures by Terry Clifford.
Amazon Review by Joseph Chinnock: "True story of psychiatric nurse, Terry Clifford,who left her job working in a NYC psychiatric hospital to travel to Tibet, Nepal and Northern India to research traditional Tibetan medical methods of working with mental illness."
"The traditional Tibetan doctors really opened up due to Ms. Clifford's sincerity, knowledge of physchiatric illness, and amiable personality. They translated esoteric Tibetan medical concepts, related expereinces from their medical practices and even gave her traditional Tibetan herbal formulas for pyschiatric illnesses."
"The author's description and explanation of "demons" in Tibetan Medicine, including one that causes the patient to believe that their religion is the one and only true religion, shows a great deal of the insight,humour and intelligence that permeates the entire book."
"Tragically, Ms. Clifford died shortly after this book was published and her work was cut short. Everyone working with traditional Tibetan medicine owes a debt to Ms. Clifford's groundbreaking work."

Papers by Terry Clifford

  • Tibetan Psychiatry & Mental Health Corrected/Updated Paper by Terry Clifford, read at the Wellcome Symposium on Tibetan Medicine, London, 18th April 1986. Corrected/Updated Full paper (2009 - thanks to Arthur Mandelbaum for much work on this).
  • Tibetan Psychiatry & Mental Health Original scanned paper by Terry Clifford, read at the Wellcome Symposium on Tibetan Medicine, London, 18th April 1986. Original Uncorrected Full paper.


Reviewed by Erberto Lo Bue (Centro Piemontese di Studi sul Medio ed Estremo Oriente (Cesmeo), Turin, Ialy).

"In this special issue of the Bulletin of Tibetology Marianne Winder has edited the proceedings of a symposium held at the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, London, on 18 April 1986."
"As pointed out by Rechung Rinpoche in the preface, the volume is dedicated in honour of the late Terry Clifford. The first article, an appreciation of Dr Clifford's life work by Arthur Mandelbaum, has been unintentionally omitted and will appear in the February 1995 issue of the Bulletin of Tibetology."
"Winder's 'General Introduction' (pp. i-ii) is followed by Clifford's own contribution, 'Tibetan psychiatry and mental health' (pp. 3-14). This is a study of three chapters (pp. 77-9) devoted to demonic possession, madness and epilepsy, from the third of the rGyud bzhi, the "Four Treatises" which are the foundation of Tibetan medicine."
"The author argues that Tibetan psychiatry is a complete tradition of aetiology, diagnosis and treatment, as well as a holistic system related to the Buddhist doctrine."

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