The Heart Essence of the Great Perfection
Teachings given in the West by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Foreword by Sogyal Rinpoche
Translated by Geshe Thupten Jinpa and Richard Barron (Chokyi Nyima)
Edited by Patrick Gaffney
Snow Lion Publications: Ithaca, N.Y., 2001
271 pp.; $24.95 (cloth)
As Sogyal Rinpoche points out in his foreword, one of the characteristics of His Holiness the Dalai Lama is “his all embracing attitude towards all Buddhist traditions, indeed towards all faiths.” The Dalai Lama brings this vast knowledge and erudition to his explanation of Dzogchen, which he calls “the pinnacle of all vehicles.” These extraordinary teachings on Dzogchen, also translated as the “Innate Great Perfection,” were given by His Holiness to Western students between 1982 and 1989. He offers here not only luminous insight into the heart of spiritual practice, but so too practical advice on how to bring such teachings into daily life. His humor adds a warm grace note throughout. The book also includes an afterword by the late Nyoshul Khenpo Rinpoche entitled “A Gift to the World.” In his introduction to this teaching, Sogyal Rinpoche says of Nyoshul Khenpo, “No one who met him can ever forget his extraordinary presence or the spirit in which he taught, which embodied so perfectly the fathomless ease and vastness of Dzogpachenpo.” Clear, easy to understand—Dzogchen: The Heart Essence of the Great Perfection is a perfect book for our times.
Secrets of the Blue Cliff Record:
Zen Comments by Hakuin and Tenkei
Translated by Thomas Cleary
Shambhala Publications: Boston, 2000
354 pp.; $29.95 (cloth)
The Blue Cliff Record, a classic work of Zen Buddhism, is a collection of one hundred traditional citations and stories known as gongan in Chinese and koan in Japanese and English. These koans were originally selected by the Chinese Zen master Hsueh-tou (980-1052); the work was later taken up by another Zen master, Yuan-wu (1063-1135), who added his own introductions and commentaries to both the original koans and Hsueh-tou’s verses. The complete English text, translated from the Chinese, has been available for nearly a quarter century, but authentic traditions of commentary have been hard to find—until this fluidly translated work, which includes commentaries by two of the greatest Zen masters of early modern Japan, Hakuin Ekaku and Tenkei Denson. Their words shine light on this deep and extraordinary work.
Encompassing heaven and earth, transcending holy and ordinary, pointing out the subtle mind of nirvana on the hundred weeds, determining the pulse of Zen practitioners in the jungle of shields and spears—tell me, due to whose power can one be this way?
The Great Tratise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment:
Lam Rim Chen Mo
by Tsong-Kha-Pa; Joshua W. C. Cutler, Guy Newland, Eds.
Snow Lion Publications: Ithaca, N.Y., 2001
434 pp.; $29.95 (cloth)
This recent English translation of the first volume of Jey Tsong-kha-pa’s Lam Rim Chen Mo, one of the greatest of all masterworks of sacred literature, makes the work as timely and radiant as ever. One of Tibet’s most renowned philosophers, and founder of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, Tsong-kha-pa completed The Great Treatise in 1402 C.E. Treasured for its clarity and breadth, it is one of the principal works of Mahayana Buddhism. Focusing on the development of bodhicitta, the spirit of enlightenment, the work condenses the exoteric sutra scriptures into a form that is easy to follow, and scholars and practitioners alike have relied on its authoritative presentation for centuries. All the practices necessary for cultivating bodhicitta are underscored within it. Such chapters as “The Greatness of the Teaching,” “Relying on the Teacher,” “The Precepts of Refuge,” “The Varieties of Karma,” and “The Origin of Suffering” are discussed with immense wisdom and detail. An indispensable work for Buddhists of all stripes.
Cultivating the Empty Field:
The Silent Illumination of Zen Master Hongzhi
by Taigen Dan Leighton
Tuttle Publishing: Boston, 2001
119 pp.; $16.95 (paper)
Hongzhi was a twelfth-century Chinese Zen master, credited with being the first to describe the practice of silent illumination—or as Zen students know it: “just sitting.” This revised translation of the renowned teacher’s practice instruction and religious verses is accompanied by a substantial introduction. Here Leighton traces Hongzhi’s life, explores his use of nature as metaphor, and outlines the Master’s teaching of ultimate nondualistic illumination, later elaborated in Japan by Zen Master Dogen. As for the verses themselves, and the practice instructions, Leighton says they “evoke the actual experience of enlightened, illuminating awareness.”
Swallowing the River Ganges:
A Practice Guide to the Path of Purification
by Matthew Flickstein
Wisdom Publications: Boston, 2001
180 pp.; $16.95 (paper)
Swallowing the River Ganges is intended as a contemporary version of the Visuddhimagga, or Path of Purification, the ancient commentary on the Buddha’s core teachings. The book’s title refers to an episode, some years ago, when the author queried Korean Zen Master Seung Sahn about what was on the venerable teacher’s mind. “You’ll understand what I am thinking when you can swallow the River Ganges,” he replied.
A Treasury of Buddhist Wisdom for Children and Parents
by Sarah Conover
Eastern Washington University Press: Spokane, 2001
162 pp.; $19.95 (paper)
Too many Buddhist books for children are solemn, moralizing, and use archaic language. Kids are a tough audience, not likely to sit still through a lesson in story’s clothing—they like color, details, dialogue. Kindness is a read-aloud book peopled with monks, samurai, talking lions, and the Buddha in several incarnations. Sarah Conover has a fine ear for what kids find funny—a demon named Monster Sticky Hair, a beetle trapped under a pile of elephant dung—and she tells a good tale. For adults she provides a key at the back of the book, citing the derivation of canonical stories and Jataka tales, as well as the scriptural sources for the quotes she has interspersed among the stories. Illustrations by Valerie Wahl find a perfect home here. ▼
Images, from top to bottom: This thangka painting represents Mahasiddha Naropa, a patriarch of the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. "In the hands of Naropa, the ram's horn symbolizes chasing away ignorance, egotism, and materialism. . . . Along with this, Naropa is trumpeting the praises of the guru."; Ven. Thubten Chodron; H. H. the Dalai Lama; "The monkey king sat upon his rock throne, surveying his kingdom."