reviews

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    Master Yunmen Paid Member

    You must neither fall for the tricks of others nor simply accept their directives. The instant you see an old monk open his mouth, you tend to stuff those big rocks right into yours, and when you cluster in little groups to discuss [his words], you're exactly like those green flies on shit that struggle back to back to gobble it up! What a shame! More »
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    Tibetan Buddhism from the Ground Up Paid Member

    Tibetan Buddhism from the Ground Up is a clear, accessible, and useful book. It compresses an enormous amount of information about Tibetan Buddhism into a scant two hundred pages and provides a sophisticated overview that introduces readers to the complexity and profundity of Buddhist philosophy. Allan Wallace was a monk for fourteen years and is now a scholar, practitioner, teacher, and translator. As his choice of subtitle indicates, he has written the book expressly for beginners, for people who have heard of the Tibetan way of dharma and want to know more. Yet in spite of its virtues, the book tends to be pedantic and left me feeling lectured at, exhorted. Wallace begins with "Life's Oldest Illusion"—the irrational conviction that we will not die—and even a short passage shows both the strengths and drawbacks of his approach: More »
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    Books in Brief Fall 2011 Paid Member

    When Dogen wrote, “engage yourself in zazen as though saving your head from fire,” he was encouraging us to practice meditation with a sense of urgency, to douse the flames of desire during this lifetime. However, after reading Zazen (Red Lemonade, 2011, $15.95, paper, 256 pp.), Vanessa Veselka’s intense debut novel, one wonders whether Zen Master Dogen had it right. Not about impermanence—our “dewlike existence”—but about the fire. Della, Zazen’s heroine, is a cynical 27-year-old paleontologist and waitress obsessed with pictures of self-immolation. She is especially impressed by: More »
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    A Match to the Heart Paid Member

             In August 1991, the writer Gretel Ehrlich was struck by lightning, flung across a remote mountain road on her ranch in Wyoming, and left for dead. She had been struck before—had even written about being struck before—but this time it was a fatal blow, and even when she was nominally brought back to life, she felt as if she were a posthumous soul of sorts, passing in and out of consciousness like a refugee from the afterworld. Writing from that penumbral state—the bardo state of Tibetan Buddhism—she has produced a wry and haunting, dreamlike book about what it means to have one's heart stop, and what exactly is this self that's here today and gone tomorrow. More »
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    Rugs and Ritual in Tibetan Buddhism Paid Member

    In the visual language of Tibetan Buddhism, fearsome images are often metaphors for transformation. A lucid reading of a few such images was provided in “Rugs and Ritual in Tibetan Buddhism,” a small but revelatory exhibition of Tibetan ritual art organized by John Guy, curator of south and southeast asian art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. At the center of the show, which ran through June of this year, was a group of unusual 19th-century Tibetan carpets portraying flayed animals and people, severed heads, and demonic figures. Accompanying them was a modest grouping of sculptures, ritual implements, and paintings. All of the objects were once used by Vajrayana Buddhist practitioners in rituals associated with the worship of wrathful protective deities. More »
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    Crazy Wisdom Paid Member

    In 1983, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the controversial lama who introduced Tibetan Buddhism to North America in the tumultuous early 1970s, asked one of his students, the director Johanna Demetrakas, to make a “Shambhala film.” Demetrakas, who had studied with Trungpa Rinpoche since 1971 and was familiar with his vision of an enlightened society based on the secular spiritual teachings later outlined in his book Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior, agreed to make the movie, although she had no idea what Rinpoche meant by a “Shambhala film.” In a recent interview, she said, “It was a command. And then he died.” That is, Demetrakas failed to fulfill her duty. Until now. More »