reviews

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    Lives of the Nuns Paid Member

    Lives of the Nuns, a collection of brief stories of notable Chinese Buddhist ordained women, comes from a world long gone and far away: China in the first flowering of Buddhism fifteen hundred years ago. Before the Lives, compiled by a literary monk of that era, we have only one volume on the community of Buddhist women, the Therigatha, which reports on a time almost a thousand years earlier, in India. The Indian women of the Therigatha had mostly lived simple lives before joining the sangha of ordained women. The Chinese women of the Lives, on the other hand, are mostly upper class and well-educated. More »
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    The Ground We Share Paid Member

    In her Paleolithic romances, Jean Auel imagines angry clashes between Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon humans over the power of their respective totems. The details are off (not all Cro-Magnon women were blond and buxom), but Auel's gloss on the prehistory of religions is surely right on target: interfaith encounter has always been with us. During our century, the exchange has improved enormously; the operative word now is not power or persecution, or even proselytization, but dialogue. The most flamboyant example of this recent sea-change is last year's Parliament of World Religions, a grand carnival of cross-denominational handshakes and self-approbation. But serious dialogue usually goes on in quieter corridors, as representatives of various religions meet in small conferences or one-on-one for scholarly exchange or shared practice. More »
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    Beyond Optimism Paid Member

    Beyond Optimism is good, albeit occasionally bitter, medicine for a species caught between two conflicting realities—total dependence on wealth created by unsustainable economic growth, and the deeper reality of a planet gradually withering under the impact of it. Ken jones, a long-practicing Buddhist and Welsh social activist, presents a scorching analysis of the contemporary human predicament, and even more poignantly, the ideologies we most often turn to for solace from it. His eloquent manifesto for political, social, and spiritual transformation casts a critical eye on all the current sacred cows. More »
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    Thank You and OK! Paid Member

    One of the biggest challenges facing American Buddhism is the unease many feel toward its Asian cultural trappings. It's the rare Nebraska farmer, for instance, who's going to feel comfortable encountering Tibetan chants in a brightly colored temple festooned with thankas. This clash of cultures escalates when Americans schooled in the ideals of equality and democracy engage in the authoritarian formalities of many Buddhist sects. It seems likely that as Buddhism finds its uniquely American expression, it will be divested of its Japanese, Tibetan, Chinese, Korean, Indian, Cambodian, and other accoutrements. But how to observe this often subtle phenomenon? More »
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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 »