Books in Brief

The Legend of Queen Cama

Bodhiramsi’s Camadevivamsa

A Translation and Commentary

Donald K. Swearer and Sommai Premchit

SUNY Press, $19.95

A Pali chronicle from early fifteenth-century Thailand, translated and contextualized by a Thai-American team of two scholars. The seventh-century Queen Cama’s founding of the Haripunjaya dynasty is set against a parallel account of the Buddha’s journey to the northern Thai kingdom over which it held sway. Political and religious narratives interwoven in the Pali text yield a densely textured portrait of a historic moment in the flowering of Buddhism in Southeast Asia.

Becoming a Child of the Buddhas

A Simple Clarification of the Root Verses of Seven Point Mind Training

Gomo Tulku, translated by Joan Nicell

Wisdom Publications, $12.95

A new translation of one of the best known and studied Buddhist texts, Seven Point Mind Training describes how the three mental poisons of attachment, hatred, and ignorance dominate our thinking. Gomo Tulku’s commentary provides many details on how to put these mind training techniques into practice to help achieve peace of mind, and instructs readers on how to look inward for the causes and cures of daily hardship and adversity.

Apparitions of the Self

The Secret Autobiographies of a Tibetan Visionary

A Translation and Study of Jigme

Lingpa’s Dancing Moon in the Water

and Dakki’s Grand Secret-Talk

Janet Gyatso

Princeton University Press: Princeton, 1998

384 pp., $39.50 (cloth)

The “secret autobiography” is a rarely studied Tibetan literary genre in which intimate religious experiences are assessed by the author in a confessional mode. Two erudite and self-reflective examples by the eighteenth-century mystic Jigme Lingpa, presented in translation, are analyzed by Professor Gyatso using modern Western theories of literary criticism. Situating Lingpa’s works in the context of Buddhist philosophical principles, Gyatso raises the question: How is autobiography possible if the self is ultimately an illusion?

Zen Pivots

Lectures on Buddhism and Zen

Sokei-an

Edited by Mary Farkas and Robert Lopez

Weatherhill: New York, 1998

192 pp., $14.95 (paper)

A collection of talks given by Sokei-an Sasaki to his American students in New York City in the 1930s and early 1940s. Sokei-an was this country’s first resident Zen master. During his thirty-nine years in the United States, he introduced Americans to a remarkable breadth of Buddhist thought, as this compilation attests. Companion volume to The Zen Eye, from the same publisher.

The Six Perfections

Commentary by Geshe Sonam Rinchen

Translated and edited by Ruth Sonam

Snow Lion: Ithaca, 1998

160 pp., $14.95 (paper)

The Six Perfections, practiced by bodhisattvas with the aim of attaining enlightenment for the sake of all living beings, are the qualities of generosity, ethical discipline, patience, enthusiastic effort, concentration, and wisdom. A translation of Geshe Sonam Rinchen’s oral teachings on their practice forms the body of this book, which also presents his commentary on a relevant passage in Nagarjuna’s Treatise on the Middle Way, along with the Tibetan text, as appendices.

The Jewel Ornament of Liberation

The Wish-fulfilling Gem of the Noble Teachings

Gampopa, translated by

Khenpo Konchog Gyaltsen Rinpoche

Edited by Ani K. Trinlay Chodron

Snow Lion, $19.95

This classic text has provided a foundation for Buddhist study and practice for more than eight centuries. Considered the most significant of all of Gampopa’s texts, it covers the initial entry into the path and continues through to the achievement of Buddhahood, including teachings on Buddhanature, finding a spiritual master, impermanence, karma, the cultivation of bodhicitta, and the development of the six perfections. In the translator’s introduction, Khenpo Konchog Gyaltsen states, “Anyone who knows the Jewel Ornament can say that they really understand Buddhism.”

Complete Enlightenment

Translated and commentary by Ch’an Master Sheng-yen

Dharma Drum, $23.00

The Sutra of Complete Enlightenment, a central text of Ch’an (Zen) Buddhism, is believed to have been translated into Chinese from Sanskrit at the end of the seventh century. This volume contains the first authoritative English translation from the Chinese. Composed in the form of dialogues conducted with the Buddha by twelve bodhisattvas who question him on various aspects of spiritual practice, the Sutra is illuminated by an authoritative voice from our own time: Master Sheng-yen, whose commentary on the text was originally delivered in a four-year series of lectures at the Ch’an Center in New York City.

The Precious Treasury of the Way of Abiding

The Exposition of the Quintessential

Meaning of the Three Categories:

A Commentary on the Precious Treasury of the Way of Abiding

Longchen Rabjam

Translated by Richard Barron

Edited by Susanne Fairclough, Jeff Miller, and Robert Racine

Padma Publishing, $29.00

Longchen Rabjam, a fourteenth-century master of the Nyingma school, was one of the most revered expositors of Dzogchen, or the Great Perfection transmission of the Vajrayana path. His legacy includes a scholarly exegesis of the Dzogchen Tantras collectively known as The Seven Treasuries. This volume is the first fruit of the Padma Translation Committee’s project to make Longchen’s commentaries on all seven teachings available to English-speaking students of Dzogchen. A discourse on the “four great samayas” of ineffability, openness, spontaneous presence, and oneness, the text is extolled by Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche: “Simply having this book is more valuable than having statues or stupas, for it is truly a relic of the dharmakaya.”

Buddhist Ethics

Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye

Snow Lion, $22.95

The fifth part of Jamgon Kongtrul’s Encyclopedia of Buddhism presents the three major systems of ethics found in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, known as the “three vows”: personal liberation (pratimoksa), universal liberation (bodhisattva), and secret mantra (tantra). Jamgon Kongtrul provides the complete code of personal liberation as it applies to both monastic and lay persons, the precepts for those aspiring to the life of the bodhisattva, and the exceptional pledges for practitioners on the tantric path of pure perception.

Buddhist Masters of Enchantment

The Lives and Legends of the Mahasiddhas

Translated by Keith Dowman

Illustrated by Robert Beer

Inner Traditions, $24.95 (cloth)

Exemplars of the Vajrayana path in practice, the Mahasiddhas, or founding masters of tantric Buddhism, are at once didactic principles given flesh and engaging characters of myth. In Keith Dowman’s colloquial translations from the Tibetan oral tradition, the lives of the tantric saints are related with due consideration for both the human drama and the instructional and devotional import of the tales. Robert Beer’s illustrations are executed in a colorful, exuberant style inspired by thangka painting.

The Way to Buddhahood

Instructions from a Modern Chinese Master

Venerable Yin-shun

Translated by Dr. Wing H. YeungWisdom Publications, $19.95

Something of a contemporary classic, this comprehensive exposition of two thousand years of Chinese Buddhist tradition by a prominent monk has become part of the curriculum in many Chinese academies. Currently resident in a Taiwanese monastery, Master Yin-shun here emphasizes the Madhyamaka or “Middle Way” espoused by such thinkers as Nagarjuna, Chandrakirti, and Tsongkhapa as a path to a rational, humanistic Buddhism that can meet the challenges of modernity.

The Bliss of Inner Fire

Heart Practice of the Six Yogas of Naropa

Lama Thubten Yeshe

Wisdom Publications, $16.95

Renownwed Tibetan Buddhist master Lama Yeshe follows his classic Introduction to Tantra with a new book on the sophisticated practices of Tibetan Buddhist tantra. In The Bliss of Inner Fire, his last work of major teachings, Lama Yeshe introduces the renowned Six Yogas of Naropa, and focuses mainly on the first of the six, the practice of inner fire, or tummo. It was Lama Yeshe’s hope that students experience inner fire directly rather merely gain an intellectual understanding of the yogic practice.

Zen in Medieval Vietnam

A Study and Translation of the Thien Uyen Tap Anh

Cuong Tu Nguyen

The Kuroda Institute, University of Hawaii Press, $55.00

Vietnamese Buddhism has long been considered a faithful continuation of Chinese Zen, not least by Vietnamese practitioners themselves. Professor Nguyen’s reevaluation of these putative Zen origins focuses on the Thien Uyen Tap Anh, or “Outstanding Figures in the Zen Community.” A close reading of this fourteenth-century text - a Vietnamese example of the “transmission of the lamp” genre of Chinese Zen literature - provides the basis for his argument that there has never been a “Zen tradition” in Vietnam in the institutional sense, but rather a scattering of Zen philosophy and art throughout the culture. Includes the first ever English translation of the Thien Uyen.

The Complete Book of Zen

Wong Kiew Kit

Element Books, $21.95

Following his works on Ch’i Kung, T’ai Chi and Kung Fu, Shaolin grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit’s latest book outlines a history of Zen thought as it developed in China, Japan, and Vietnam, exploring its implications for contemporary Western culture and its applicability to physical training. Drawing inspiration from the Platform Sutra of Hui Neng, Wong goes on to prescribe a program of therapeutic exercises, well illustrated with diagrams.

Tibetan Nation

A History of Tibetan Nationalism and Sino-Tibetan Relations

Warren W. Smith, Jr.

Westview Press, $32.00

A detailed history of Tibetan nationalism, focusing especially on post-1950 Tibet as it developed under Chinese Communist rule. This book explores Tibet’s ethnic and national origins, the birth of the Tibetan state, the Buddhist state and its relations with China, Tibet’s quest for independence, and the Chinese takeover. The author argues that self-determination is the essence of the Tibetan issue and offers a comprehensive analysis of Tibetan and Chinese histories comparing their close interrelationship.

Buddhist Advice for Living & Liberation

Nagarjuna’s Precious Garland

Analyzed, translated, and edited by Jeffrey Hopkins

Snow Lion, $19.95

A translation and exegesis, incorporating the full Tibetan text of this work of intimate counsel by the second-century philosopher Nagarjuna, founder of the Madhyamaka teaching. His manual for personal conduct with a social conscience addresses the attainment of happiness over the course of many lifetimes on the levels of both individual action and social policy. Nagarjuna offers numerous descriptive schemes, including lists of the attributes of Buddhahood, counterproductive attitudes, and virtuous practices. The sage describes his own advice as occasionally unpleasant, comparing it to “distasteful but effective medicine.”

The Wooden Bowl

Simple Meditation for Everyday Life

Clark Strand

Hyperion, $19.95

A clear, simple guide for finding your own meditation practice in daily life. The author offers a way of being present to ourselves without having to master complicated methods or to adopt any special beliefs. It includes information on how to organize your own informal “present moment group” and other helpful meditations that don’t require gurus or retreats.

Queer Dharma

Voices of Gay Buddhists

Edited by Winston Leyland

Gay Sunshine Press, $19.95

Over thirty-five gay men have contributed to this anthology of fiction, poetry, art, scholarship, and personal testimony about what it means to be a gay Buddhist practitioner. The wide-ranging selection includes scholarly inquiries into the practice of same-sex love in various Buddhist contexts, historical selections from Asian literatures, and work by such well-known modern writers as Allen Ginsberg and John Giorno. Doctrinal positions on gay identity are discussed from a variety of traditional and personal perspectives.

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