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With his first two books, Hardcore Zen and Sit Down & Shut Up, Brad Warner attracted a following—and no small amount of indignation at his irreverent take on the Buddha’s teachings. In his third effort, Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate: A Trip Through Death, Sex, Divorce, and Spiritual Celebrity in Search of the True Dharma (New World Library, 2009, $14.95 paper, 288 pp.), the punk-rocker-cum-Zen-master documents an eventful 2007, in which a number of misfortunes inspired him to pen something of a confessional. As a qualified Zen master—a title he scoffs at—Warner takes it upon himself to shatter the myth that Buddhist teachers are anything short of disastrously imperfect.

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The British teacher and author Vessantara (Tony McMahon), a senior member of the Western Buddhist Order, sets aside the exploits of the worldly for an overview of Tibetan Buddhism’s extravagant iconography, in a richly illustrated trilogy published by Windhorse in 2008. A Guide to the Buddhas (176 pp.) leads the reader through atmospheric profiles of the five Jinas, or archetypal Buddhas. A Guide to Tte Bodhisattvas (160 pp.) picks up on the same accessible format, with lively descriptions of Avalokiteshvara, Manjusri, Vajrapani, and Tara, among others. The third volume in the series, A Guide to the Deities of the Tantra (192 pp.), focuses on the mysterious figures and imagery of the Vajrayana tradition. Each book is $18.95, paperbound.

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Difficult as it may be to interpret ancient Tibetan Buddhist imagery for contemporary meditators, it is perhaps even more challenging to make historical Buddhist texts accessible. In a new translation of The Lotus Sutra (Wisdom Publications, 2008, $19.95 paper, 504 pp.), Gene Reeves aims to do just this. Reeves, a scholar and founder of the International Buddhist Congregation in Tokyo, uses everyday language wherever possible, translating into English many words that previous works have left in Sanskrit. This approach is particularly appropriate for the Lotus Sutra, which emphasizes that enlightenment is attainable for everyone

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