reviews

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    The Jew in the Lotus Paid Member

    The Jew in the Lotus is primarily an account of the Dalai Lama's 1990 meeting in Dharamsala, India, with eight Jewish rabbis, mystics, and progressive Jewish thinkers. The conference was in part a result of the Dalai Lama's "very personal interest" in learning how to help his people preserve Tibetan religion and culture through their period of exile. The delegation, representing the panoply of Jewish schools of thought, traveled to Dharamsala to convey what they each felt to be key elements of the survival of Judaism through two millennia of diaspora. The topics explored included, among other things, the connections between Tibetan tantra and little-known teachings of Kabbalistic mysticism, as well as the similarities between Jewish and Vajrayana meditation practices. More »
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    Start Where You Are Paid Member

    From its first sentence—"We already have everything we need"—to its last, Start Where You Are stops us in our tracks. An American nun in the Tibetan tradition, Pema Chodron, in a down-to-earth, uncompromising style, takes subtle Tibetan teachings and translates them into clear, straight talk. Throughout the book Chodron uses arresting statements such as "There is no need for self-improvement" to confront and erode the habitual self-help impulses—get thin, get rich, get enlightened—that dominate Western society. The title of the book itself is a mandate, a clarion call to wake up and get to work. But Chodron's directives are never strident or judgmental; instead they are reminders uttered with encouragement, patience, and lighthearted humor. More »
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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 »