Books in Brief Summer 2002

Essence of the Heart Sutra:
The Dalai Lama's Heart of Wisdom Teachings
By Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama
Wisdom Publications; Boston, 2002
192 pp.: $22.95 (cloth)

In the spring of 2001, the Dalai Lama gave teachings on the Heart Sutra, the seminal Buddhist text on the nature of emptiness, to an audience of eight thousand in California. This book presents the complete text of those teachings, in which His Holiness emphasizes that emptiness and selflessness lead to compassion rather than to nihilism. The book also includes background information on Buddhism anddiscussions of bodhicitta, or "awakened mind," and the place of religion in today's world.

 

Being Zen:
Bringing Meditation to Life
By Ezra Bayda
Shambhala Publications Boston. 2002
144 pp.; $21.95 (cloth)

Ezra Bayda steers clear of Buddhist terminology and grounds his advice in life as it's actually lived. In his practice-oriented book, Bayda provides advice for cultivating this active awakening, from beginning a meditation practice, to integrating practice into our emotional lives, to developing compassion. The willingness to be present, he argues, is not a passive resignation but rather a readiness to examine our beliefs as we embrace each moment of our lives. "For isn't this what we all want" Bayda asks, "to develop equanimity that arises when we can willingly be with our life as it is?"

 

Into Tibet:
The CIA's Secret Expedition to Lhasa
By Thomas Laird
Grove Press: New York 2002
400 pp.; $26.00 (cloth)

Based on previously undisclosed materials, foreign correspondent Thomas Laird unravels the true story of a covert CIA mission to Tibet in 1949 and 1950. Led by Douglas Mackeirnan, the aim of the operation was to arm the Tibetans and to recognize their independence in the face of the imminent Chinese invasion. In a suspenseful account of the American agents' two-thousand mile trek across inner Asia, Laird reveals the details of their survival, courage, and political intrigue, including the intricate spy network established by Mackeirnan to monitor the Chinese.

Sacred Passage:
How to Provide Fearless. Compassionate Care for the Dying
By Margaret Coberly, Ph.D., R.N.
Shambhala Publications: Boston. 2002
160 pp.; $21.95 (cloth)

Although Margaret Coberly £aced death routinely as an emergency-room nurse, she didn't realize how ill-prepared she was for its emotional and spiritual repercussions until her brother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Turning, rather unexpectedly, to Tibetan Buddhism for perspective, Coberly discovered a view of death not as a loss, but as a transition and opportunity. In this book, she offers practical advice on meeting the needs of the dying, gleaned both from her career in nursing and from Tibetan Buddhist teachings.

 

A Buddhist History of the West:
Studies in Lack
By David R. Loy
SUNY Press: Albany. 2002
256 pp.; $19.95 (paper)

According to David Loy, Westerners place a high value on individuality and self-consciousness. But in Buddhism and Western psychology, the self is recognized as a construct, ungrounded. As Westerners we experience this groundlessness as a sense of lack. Greed, ill-will, and delusion-the three sources of suffering, according to Buddhism-result from our efforts to resolve this lack. Loy's esoteric but provocative study examines how lack has been experienced in different historical periods and how its consequences have critically affected the development of Western history.

One Bird, One Stone:
108 American Zen Stories
By Sean Murphy
Renaissance Books: New York, 2002
272 pp. $17.95 (paper)

Anyone looking for insightful quotes, humor, Zen wisdom, or even just a good story, will find something in these bite-sized anecdotes. Zen student Sean Murphy has collected stories from present-day teachers and practitioners of the various Zen lineages to document the first 108 years of Zen's transmigration to America. Interviews and "mind-to-mind" encounters between modern Zen masters and students, reveal a fresh perspective on the dharma in its adaptation to Western culture.  ▼

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