Blossoms of the Dharma: Living as a Buddhist Nun
Thubten Chadron, Editor
North Atlantic Books, 2000; $16.95

A compilation of talks given by nuns at a three-week conferenee—“Life as a Western Buddhist Nun” –in Bodhgaya, India, in 1996. As Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron explains in the preface: “These talks were given in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere, generally in the evening at the end of a long, happy day of listening to Vinaya teachings, meditating, and discussing the Dharma.” The book is divided into sections on History, Life as a Nun, and Teachings; contributors are nuns from all over the world. Included is the legendary talk (given in the presence of H. H. the Dalai Lama in 1993 in Dharamsala) that inspircd this conference, “The Situation of Western Monastics,” by Bhikshuni Tenzin Palmo, which is a moving defense of monasticism.

The Barn at the End of the World: The Apprenticeship of a Quaker, Buddhist Shepherd
Mary Rose O’Reilley
Milkweed Editions, 2000; $22.95

Courtesy Milkweed Editions
Courtesy Milkweed Editions

In this offbeat spiritual autobiography, O’Reilley describes a year in which she dedi- cated herself to both Buddhist practice (a retreat at Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum village) and sheep farming. The titles listed in the table of contents—“Barn Talk,” “Why I am Plodding,” “Monkey Mind,” “Practice Everything” “Sheep May Safely Graze”—give a sense of the poetry, and humor, of O’Reilley’s account.

Transforming the Mind: Teachings on Generating Compassion
H. H. The Dalai Lama
Thorsons, 2000; $20.00

Courtesy Thorsons. The Tibetan characters for lojong, or mind-training.
Courtesy Thorsons. The Tibetan characters for lojong, or mind-training.

A commentary on the Eight Verses on Transforming the Mind, the eleventh century text which is central to the Tibetan lojong, or mind training, teachings. These commentaries were originally delivered at a public three-day teaching in London in May 1999 and the text includes selected questions from the audience with clear, generous answers from His Holiness.

Early Buddhist Narrative Art: Illustrations of the Life of the Buddha from Central Asia to China, Korea and Japan
Patricia E. Karetzhy
University Press of America, 2000; $29.50

Early Buddhist Narrative Art describes the evolution of images depicting the life of Buddha. Part archaeological field trip and part Buddhist history lesson, this book will be of value to those interested in the transmission of Buddhism along the Silk Route, and to those interested in the evolution of Buddhist art. Though some of the archaeological cataloguing makes for dry reading, there are plenty of tales of the historical Buddha and telling details about the evolution of Buddhism and its graphical representations, to make up for it.

 

Mayumi Oda, courtesy Beacon.
Mayumi Oda, courtesy Beacon.

 

Discovering Kwan Yin: Buddhist Goddess of Compassion
Sandy Boucher
Beacon Press, 2000; $12.00

An exploration of “the phenomenon of Kwan Yin’s influence on women in the United States.” Sandy Boucher talks to many women (including the California artist Mayumi Oda, known for her exuberant renditions of Kwan Yin) about their relation to the goddess, and concludes the book with a section on devotional practices, some traditional, some newly invented.

Buddhist Peacework: Creating Cultures of Peace
David W. Chappell, Ed.
Wisdom Publications, 1999; $14.95

“This is not a theoretical book,” editor David W. Chappell writes in his introduction. Buddhist Peacework is a series of essays touching on practical ways to employ wisdom and compassion in the world. With sections covering socially engaged Buddhism and the peacework of several traditions, this book includes essays by H.H the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Ven. Master Sheng-yen, Ven. Mahaghosananda, Sulak Sivaraksa, and others. Each essay ends with suggested readings and contact information for the organizations and temples involved.

 Courtesy Wisdom Publications
Courtesy Wisdom Publications

The Work of Kings: The New Buddhism in Sri Lanka
H.L. Seneviratne
University of Chicago Press, 2000; $22.00

The Work of Kings is an unsparing look at the role of the Sinhalese Sangha and its involvement in the political turmoil of twentieth-century Sri Lanka. Seneviratne discusses the “neo-Buddhism” or post-colonial Buddhism that emerged in Sri Lanka and was fused with Sinhalese national feelings. The Tamil rebels were seen by many monks as threatening not only Sri Lanka as a nation, but Buddhism itself, and prominent monks, including the Venerable Walpola Rahula, got involved in the Sinhalese war effort.

Ordinary Wisdom: Sakya Pandita’s Treasury of Good Advice
John T. Davenport, Trans.
Wisdom Publications, 2000; $21.95

This is a translation of the celebrated Sakya Legshe, a popular secular work in a field of almost entirely religious texts. Author Sakya Pandita was a twelfth-century Tibetan scholar and teacher who also served as a statesman solidifying an unstable Tibet’s ties with Mongolia and India. This book reproduces Sakya Pandita’s translated sayings along with instructive commentmies. The sayings themselves are full of wit and wisdom, making them as accessible in the West as they are in Tibet, Bhutan, and India, where they remain part of many modern school curricula.

Courtesy University of Chicago Press
Courtesy University of Chicago Press

Finding a Joyful Life in the Heart of Pain: A Meditative Approach to Living with Physical, Emotional, or Spiritual Suffering
Darlene Cohen
Shambhala, 2000; $24.95

Darlene Cohen, a longtime Zen practitioner affiliated with the San Francisco Zen Center, has suffered for twenty years with the incapacitating pain of rheumatoid arthritis. In this valuable book she fluently expresses the connections between physical and emotional distress, and offers a practical new approach to chronic pain, including exercises for cultivating attention and awareness.

Scripture, Logic, Language: Essays on Dharmakirti and his Tibetan Successors
Tom J.F. Tillemans
Wisdom Publications, 1999; $32.95

Part of Wisdom’s new academic series on Indian and Tibetan Buddhism, this collection of essays explores the thought of Dharmakirti, an important philosopher of seventh-century India. Dharmakirti’s work on logic and semantics is examined in light of Tibetan thinkers. Deeply researched and staggeringly footnoted, this book will mainly benefit students of Buddhist philosophy and logic, and is not likely to make quick reading for the uninitiated.

ourtesy Shambhala
ourtesy Shambhala

Queer Dharma, Volumes 1 and 2: Voices of Gay Buddhists
Winston Leyland, Ed.
Gay Sunshine Press, 2000; $19.95 (vol. 1) and $16.95 (vol. 2)

Volume 2 of Sunshine Press’s Queer Dharma, along with the recently re-released Volume 1, includes an astounding range of voices in fictional accounts, poems, memoirs, and scholarly articles exploring the intersection of homosexuality and Buddhism There are pieces from Jeffrey Hopkins and the late Issan Dorsey Roshi and more than forty other contributors. A particularly funny and moving piece by Soto Zen practitioner James Thornton describes Maezumi Roshi visiting him at 530 a.m in his brand-new apartment in the Castro district of San Francisco.

Courtesy Gay Sunshine Press
Courtesy Gay Sunshine Press

THE PERFECTION OF WISDOM: Extracts from the Astasahasrihaprajnaparamita
Craig Jamieson
Viking Studio, 2000; $19.95

Reproductions from the oldest-dated illustrated Sanskrit manuscript in the world. This book features color reproductions of remarkable paintings on palm leaf, accompanied by translations of the two-thousand year-old text and some useful commentary. A beautiful presentation of these sutras.

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