Books in Brief Winter 2002

© John LooriThe Art of Just Sitting:
Essential Writings on the Zen Practice of Shikantaza
John Daido Loori, ed.
Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2002
256 pp.; $16.95 (cloth)

“Just sit” is one of the most commonly heard—and least understood—phrases associated with Zen Buddhism. And yet “just sitting,” or shikantaza—along with koan practice—is one of the two primary methods of Zen meditation. Zen master John Daido Loori brings together teachings of some of the most prominent ancient and modern teachers, including Dogen Zenji, Shunryu Suzuki, Sheng-yen, and Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi. The book also includes an appendix of foundational texts relating to the practice of shikantaza.

Naturalness:© Kenryo Kanamatsu
A Classic of Shin Buddhism

Kenryo Kanamatsu
Bloomington: World Wisdom 2002
152 pp.; $12.95 (paper)

Written in 1949, Kanamatsu’s Naturalness has become a classic introduction to Shin Buddhism as well as a meditation on the relationship between man and Amida Buddha. In the Shinshu faith, holy freedom—or naturalness—arises when man unites with Buddha-nature in everyday life, and through this union experiences the saving will of the Great Compassionate One. From this experience a freedom arises that transcends the ego and is the source of true compassion. Kanamatsu explains these essential beliefs through the stories of Amida Buddha’s mythic vows, with references to classic Shin texts.

© YifaSafeguarding the Heart:
A Buddhist Response to Suffering and September 11

Yifa
New York: Lantern Books 2002
144 pp.; $12.00 (paper)

Many people wonder how religion can respond to horrific events such as those of September 11. Here, Buddhist nun Venerable Yifa explains what the tenets of suffering, impermanence, and interconnectedness can teach us about the occurrences of that day. In the first part of the book, Yifa outlines the Buddhist perspective on suffering, justice, good and evil, and why some people die while others live. In the second part, Yifa broadens her discussion to offer advice on safeguarding the heart—both our own and others’—in the face of suffering.

I Opened the Gate, Laughing An Inner Journey© Mayumi Oda
Mayumi Oda
San Francisco: Chronicle, 2001
96 pp.; $16.95 (cloth)

Here is a book for anyone who has ever sought spiritual growth through gardening, Buddhism, or artistic expression. Escaping a crumbling marriage and the constraints of her traditional Japanese upbringing, artist Mayumi Oda decides to return to her Zen Buddhist heritage at Green Gulch Farm in Northern California. Through the practices of gardening and meditation, she discovers a newfound peace and creative spirit. Part coffee-table book and part bedside companion, the full-color volume is lushly illustrated with Oda’s signature renderings of vegetables and goddesses.

© Khenchen Thrangu RinpocheEssential Practice:
Lectures on Kamalashila’s Stages of Meditation in the Middle Way School

Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche
Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2002
155 pp.; $14.95 (paper)

This book presents a compilation of the Ven. Thrangu Rinpoche’s 1998 lectures on the Indian master Kamalashila’s treatises, delivered at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. He chooses to focus upon the themes of the treatises rather than commenting more specifically on the language. Included in the lectures are discussions of compassion, altruism, calm abiding, and insight. The result is an accessible delineation of a bodhisattva’s view, meditation, and conduct.

The Buddha© Glen Allison
Tom Morgan, ed.
Photographs by Glen Allison
Novato, CA: New World Library, 2002
144 pp.; $29.95 (cloth)

This “visual biography” gathers writings and photographs of the Buddha and Buddhism from around the world. Included are excerpts from the Dhammapada and Jataka tales, modern literature, biography, and an account of a death-row prisoner who found salvation in Buddhism. Among the contributors are such luminaries as Walpola Rahula, Herman Hesse, Karen Armstrong, Jack Kerouac, and Robert Thurman. Glen Allison’s full-color photographs document thangkas, sculptures, temples, and tourist sites.

© Tom Morgan

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