Books In Brief Winter 2001

© Martine BatchelorMeditation for Life:
Martine Batchelor
Photography by Stephen Batchelor
Wisdom Publications: Boston, 2001;
168 pp.; $22.95 (paper)

In this evocatively illustrated book, Martine Batchelor demonstrates that it’s not necessary to be a Buddhist to benefit from meditation practice. Each chapter is divided into three parts: a discussion of the basic concepts behind Buddhist meditation, practical advice on formal and informal techniques, and a guided meditation on such themes as death, compassion, conversation, and cooking. Drawing on a variety of Buddhist traditions, it is an approachable, attractive introduction to integrating meditation into daily life.

Portraits of Buddhist Women:
Stories from the Saddharmaratnavaliya
Ranjini Obeyesekere
SUNY Press: Albany, NY, 2001
208 pp.; $54.50 (cloth), $17.95 (paper)

Translated from a thirteenth-century Sinhala Buddhist text, these stories reveal the role and status of women in medieval India and Sri Lanka and within the Buddhist doctrinal ideal. Through a combination of translation, contextualization, interpretation, and commentary, Obeyesekere reveals how the Theravada Buddhist position on gender and sexuality adapted to accommodate the social climate of its time. In addition, the collection offers unusual insight on the crucial differences in perspective between the celibate monks who composed this text and their audience.

© Vasant MoonGrowing up Untouchable in India:
A Dalit Autobiography
Vasant Moon; Translated from the Marathi by Gail Omvedt
Rowman & Littlefield: Lanham, MD, 2001
224 pp.; $65.00 (cloth), $19.95 (paper)

The first Dalit (“untouchable”) autobiography to be published in English, Vasant Moon takes readers into the heart of his childhood ghetto neighborhood, where crime and deprivation are pitted against an unexpectedly generous community spirit. At the center of Moon’s Dalit world is the hierarchical caste system, and towering above this is famed Dalit and social activist Dr. B. R. Ambedkar (1891-1956), who led many Dalits to convert to Buddhism. At once a social historiography and a tale of seemingly inexplicable cruelty and joy, here is a testimony to a uniquely Indian life and to a profound humanity.

© Urgyen RinpocheVajra Speech
Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche
Translated by Erik Pema Kunsang
Rangjung Yeshe Publications; Hong Kong, Boudhanath & Esby, 2001
192 pp.; $15.00 (paper)

Advice from the renowned Tibetan dzogchen master, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. Inspiring, wide-ranging, these pith instructions are gathered around such topics as Bodhichitta, Devotion, Nonmeditation, Perseverance, View, and Yogi. “The word 'recognize' literally means meeting your nature head-on, to recognize your own essence face-to-face,” Tulku Urgyen says. “It means acknowledging what you already have, not something newly produced from elsewhere.”

© Thierry DodinImagining Tibet:
Perceptions, Projections, and Fantasies
Edited by Thierry Dodin and Heinz
Rather Wisdom Publications: Boston, 2001
512 pp.; $28.95 (paper)

This collection of essays is one of the first attempts to trace the changing Western conception of Tibet from an aesthetic, intellectual, and political perspective. Contributors Donald S. Lopez, Jr., Jeffrey Hopkins, Jamyang Norbu, and other noted scholars explore topics ranging from the Christian missionary view of Tibet and the “Shangri-La” created by Western literature, to the psychologization of Buddhism, Tibetan identity in exile, and the use made of Tibet by the New Age movement. Here is an examination of how mythology and reality have merged to capture the popular imagination.

Buddhist Stupas of Asia:
The Shape of Perfection
Photography by Bill Wassman; text by Joe Cummings; foreword by Robert A. F. Thurman
Lonely Planet Publications: Oakland, CA, 2001
176 pp.; $34.99 (cloth)

Harmonizing the physical and spiritual realms, the stupa’s divine form embodies the Buddha’s teachings and is said to draw the observer closer to enlightenment. This comprehensive photographic study provides an immersion in the history, myth, and ritual of these devotional forms. The book is lavishly illustrated with more than 250 full-color photographs, and includes ten transparent architectural overlays that depict plans and elevations of major stupas and reveal the religious symbolism woven into their design.

© Donald Lopez Jr.The Story of Buddhism
Donald S. Lopez, Jr.
HarperSanFrancisco, 2001
288 pp.; $25.00 (cloth)

Leading Buddhist scholar Donald S. Lopez, Jr.’s historical introduction to Buddhism aims to make the tradition both accessible and compelling, as well as to demystify its practices, teachings, and schools. Beginning with the creation of the Buddhist universe and the Buddha’s life story, Lopez explains key concepts such as the dharma and the sangha, describes the development of monastic life and lay practice, and explores the meaning of enlightenment.

© Patrick HenryBenedict's Dharma:
Buddhists Reflect on the Rule of Saint Benedict
Norman Fischer, Joseph Goldstein, Judith Simmer-Brown, and others Edited by Patrick Henry
Riverhead Books: New York, 2001
200 pp.; $23.95 (cloth)

For years, Christians and Buddhists have remarked on the similarity between their monastic traditions. Here, four prominent Buddhist scholars discuss the guidelines that have regulated daily Christian monastic life for centuries. In addition to reflecting on how the wisdom of both traditions can revitalize each other, the authors offer personal anecdotes of how their own spiritual practices have been enriched by Saint Benedict’s Rule, and what it may offer contemporary culture.

© Anne RockwellThe Prince Who Ran Away:
The Story of Gautama Buddha
Anne Rockwell, illustrated by Fahimeh Amiri
Alfred A. Knopf: New York, 2001
40 pp.; $16.95 (cloth)

For children interested in Buddhism (or those inclined to run away!) here is a beautiful and approachable introduction to the story of the Buddha. Painted in vibrant colors by a student of Persian miniatures, the illustrations feature jeweled crowns, snarling demons with glinting tongues, and a beatific Siddhartha. The text is engaging, if dense. Young readers, teachers, and parents will find an appealing narrative here in addition to a lesson.

© Lama Zopa RinpocheUltimate Healing:
The Power of Compassion
Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Wisdom Publications: Boston, 2001
288 pp.; $16.95 (paper)

Despite our physical experience of illness, we must understand its roots in our hearts and minds. Internationally recognized meditation master Lama Zopa Rinpoche shows how we can heal ourselves by developing compassion and insight through meditation, ultimately eliminating the cause of all disease. Presenting real-life stories in addition to practical healing meditations, Rinpoche addresses the central roles of karma, impermanence, suffering, and interdependence in causing illness and shows how opening to these truths can lead to our future happiness. ▼

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