With the holiday season nearly upon us, we present some editors' picks, from pop-up books to colorful calendars, for the Buddhists on your list.
High pop-up book design meets the classical Tibetan art of thangka painting in Tibetan Buddhist Altars: A Pop-Up Gallery of Traditional Art & Wisdom, with text and illustration by Robert Beer, paper engineering by David A. Carter, concept by Tad Wise (New World Library, 2004, $2l.95). The "gates" of the book open to a series of ornate three-dimensional thangkas showcasing five of Tibetan Buddhism's most popular figures-Shakyamuni Buddha, Avalokiteshvara, Green Tara, Manjushri, and Medicine Buddhaalong with a short biography of each and their accompanying mantras. For those willing to embrace the innovative format, the stunning pop-up altars provide a portable forum for traditional Tibetan visualization practices. No need to construct elaborate altars or go to a temple. Simply flip to your preferred deity and get down to assimilating divine qualities: a perfect gift for the Tibetan Buddhist on the go.
Another crafty pop-up book, Fishing for the Moon by Lulu Hansen (Universe Publishing, 2004, $22.50), charms and delights in the retelling of nine classic Zen stories. Hansen's elegant Sumi ink paintings, the book's clever pop-up design, and the engaging parables will appeal to readers of all ages who are interested in finding the meaningful in the everyday. Exploring the pages of Fishing for the Moon, you will not only discover surprises but also, perhaps, the answer to the oft-pondered question: What should we do when the moon falls into the well?
For your meticulous friends, Eileen M. Rose and Abby Rose Dalto have put together a kit called Create your own Sand Mandala (Godsfield Press, 2003, $45.00), which provides the materials to do just that: five bags of colored sand, a funnel, a brush, paper templates, and an instruction manual (artistic talent not included). The accompanying book describes the background history and spiritual basis of the practice. Once your friend somehow figures out how to get the sand to flow steadily through the funnel, she can get to work on her masterpiece, honing her concentration, relaxation, and meditation techniques all the while. According to tradition, she must then practice nonattachment by sweeping away the fruits of her labor, like a child destroying a sandcastle.
For those new Buddhists in need of a starter kit, Godsfield Press also offers Gil Farrer-Halls' The Buddha Pack (Godsfield Press, 2003, $45.00), a virtual bento box of Buddhist paraphernalia. After our novice practitioner gets a crash course in all things Buddhist from he can get down to business with mala beads, meditation cards, incense, and of course, a small Buddha statue. Nirvana cannot be far behind.
For the somewhat more seasoned practitioner, consider Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior Book and Card Set (compiled and edited by Carolyn Rose Gimian, Shambhala Publications, 2004, $24.95), a compact package containing an unabridged edition of Tibetan master Chögyam Trungpa's classic work, to go along with a set of fifty-three insightful medi tat ion cards culled from the book's teachings.
Finally, when all else fails, a calendar is always a timely holiday gift staple. For the Year of the Rooster, Snow Lion Publications and Wisdom Publications offer full-color calendars featuring Tibetan art and holidays. Snow Lion's Complete Tibetan Calendar 2005 ($14.95, 12x24inches) displays Tibetan thangka art to go along with a portrait of H.H. the Seventeenth Karmapa, Orgyen Trinley Dorje. Included among the North American holidays are daily Tibetan astrological forecasts, special practice and lunar days, and Buddhist holidays and anniversaries. Wisdom's Tibetan Art Calendar 2005 ($26.00,16.5 x 23.5 inches) is more of an elegant decoration than a place to note doctor's appointments; each month reveals a beautiful reproduction of a fine and often rare Indo—Tibetan thangka above a compressed monthly grid.
If all this strikes you as an unnatural invasion by an insatiable consumer culture into an otherwise pure pursuit, you can always practice metta meditation and simply wish your friends well. Happy Holidays!