Books In Brief

NAGARJUNA’S

“SEVENTY STANZAS”

A Buddhist Psychology of Emptiness

David Ross Komito

Snow Lion Publications, $16.95

According to legend, Nagarjuna, an Indian scholar in the second century C.E., was taken to the underwater kingdom of the nagas to read the Buddha’s Perfection of Wisdom sutras. He wrote many verses based on his reading of those sutras, and this translates seventy of them.

CATFISH AND MANDALA

A Two-Wheeled Voyage through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam

Andrew X. Pham

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25

At the end of the Vietnam War, ten-year-old Andrew X. Pham and his family escaped from Vietnam in a leaky fishing boat. More than twenty years later, Pham returned to Vietnam with his belongings stashed on the back of a rickety bicycle. Catfish is both a travelogue of Vietnam and a tale of alienation and assimilation in California.

THE BODHIDHARMA ANTHOLOGY

The Earliest Records of Zen

Jeffrey L. Broughton

University of California Press, $17.95

In the early twentieth century, a small, walled-up cave was discovered in Tun-huang in Northwest China. Inside were Zen texts found nowhere else in the world, among them several dialogues featuring Bodhidharma, China’s first Zen patriarch. These dialogues are an important bridge between the Indian Mahayana treatises and the well-known Zen dialogues and koans. An interesting side note is that some of these seminal Zen documents were tranlsated from Tibetan, because Tibet, a rather fierce and powerful nation in T’ang Dynasty times, periodically occupied Tun-huang and other parts of China.

VOICES OF INSIGHT

Teachers of Buddhism in the West Share their Wisdom, Stories, and Experiences of Insight Meditation

Edited by Sharon Salzberg

Shambhala, 1999, $22

The contributors to this volume are teachers who have led retreats at the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, Massachusetts. Insight Meditation is a flourishing tradition that is consciously suited to lay practitioners in the modern world. Some of these pieces of Dharma are touchingly personal and intimate. All are useful and accessible. All royalties from this book are donated to Ram Dass, a guiding light to leaders of this tradition who suffered a stroke in 1997.

GOING HOME

Jesus and Buddha as Brothers

Thich Nhat Hanh

Riverhead, 1999, $22

Filled with personal stories from his childhood and his years of exile in Europe, Going Home is a sequel of sorts to Living Buddha, Living Christ, and continues Thich Nhat Hanh’s Buddhist-Christian dialogue. Bite size chapters that are transcripts of his talks cover topics ranging from the church bells of Prague to the Dharma Body of Jesus.

THE DRAGON IN THE LAND OF SNOWS

A History of Modern Tibet Since 1947

Tsering Shakya

Columbia, 1999, $29.95

Using the departure of the British from India as his starting point, Shakya recounts the power vacuum in Tibet and central Asia that the Chinese rushed to fill. He recounts both the blunders and the byzantine maneuvers of the Tibetan government of the 1940s and 50s. Treaties and negotiations are recounted in detail, as well as meetings between Mao and the Dalai Lama. An ocean of new material is presented from previously unpublished sources, making this the most significant entrant into the field of recent Tibetan history since Melvyn Goldstein’s Snow Lion and the Dragon.

ORPHANS OF THE COLD WAR

America and the Tibetan Struggle for Survival

John Kenneth Knaus

Public Affairs, 1999, $27.50

This chilling tale of the United States government’s machinations in Tibet during the Cold War is told by an insider who worked for the CIA for more than thirty years. The CIA was flying “arms-drop” missions over Tibet and training Tibetan resistance fighters in Camp Hale in the Rockies. It’s almost shocking to read how involved the CIA was in the years following the Korean War, and to see how much ink was spilled in Washington and London and Moscow about the Dalai Lama.

TEARS OF BLOOD

A Cry for Tibet

Mary Craig

Counterpoint, 1999, $26

This unsparing account of atrocities committed in Tibet is reminiscent of Iris Chang’s Rape of Nanking. Forty years of religious persecution, environmental devastation, and endless tales of human rights abuses are detailed in this book that is also a story of Tibetan endurance and faith. Much of the book is uncomfortable reading, especially passages such as, “Parents fed dying children their own blood mixed with hot water and tsampa.”

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