Books in Brief

An annotated selection of new and noteworthy guidebooks, teachings, and scholarly texts

The Practice of Mahamudra
Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche
Snow Lion Publications, $12.95
Mahamudra is the highest teaching in the Kagyupa school of Tibetan Buddhism. The Practice of Mahamudra is a thorough explanation of this teaching, condensed from talks given in the United States by Chetsong Rinpoche, the 37th Drikung Kyabgon. 

Appearance & Reality:The Two Truths in the Four Buddhist Tenet Systems
Guy Newland
Snow Lion, Publications, $14.95
The two truths, ultimate and conventional, are central concepts to Buddhism, and have been recommended by the Dalai Lama as an excellent starting point for Westerners in their understanding of the Buddha’s religion. Essentially, they deal with what and how things really are. The four tenet systems discussed by Guy Newland are the madhyamika, cittamatra, sautrantika, and vaibhasika, which are traditionally studied in Tibetan monasteries. Like most books of this nature from a Gelugpa viewpoint, Appearance & Reality is thorough, well-researched, and somewhat dry.

Ethics For the New Millennium
His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Riverhead, $24.95

Opening the Eye of New Awareness
His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Translated by Donald Lopez, Jr.
Wisdom Publications, $14.95
Although the Dalai Lama has recently declared the coming of the new millennium to be essentially meaningless, it does provide a good chance to stop and take stock of where we are and where we are going. In Ethics For the New Millennium, His Holiness tackles the thorny problems of politics, environmental degradation, war, education, human rights, and more, offering the ethics of restraint, compassion, virtue, and responsibility as antidotes to the coming ills of the next thousand years. While his view is informed by his Tibetan Buddhist insight and understanding, the book contains little in the way of Buddhist terminology and will make easy reading for Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike.

The Dalai Lama uses a different approach in Opening the Eye of New Awareness, a revised edition of one of his first books, originally written in the early years of his exile from Tibet. He relies on his training and quotes from many sutras and teaching texts to give an overview of Tibetan Buddhism for the reader, covering both theory and practice.

Going Home

Jesus and Buddha as Brothers
Thich Nhat Hanh
Riverhead, $22

Fragrant Palm Leaves

Journals 1962-1966

Thich Nhat Hanh

Parallax Press, $20

Following up on his best-selling Living Buddha, Living Christ, Vietnamese Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh continues the Buddhist-Christian dialogue with Going Home. He finds many surface differences and interior similarities between these two great traditions, and offers soothing words for those seeking to understand each other in these separate religions.

Fragrant Palm Leaves offers a more intimate peek into the mind of this modern Buddhist master at a tumultuous time in his life. From 1962-1963 he was student and teaching assistant at Princeton and Columbia Universities, struggling with the violent divisions that shook his homeland and his desire to make Buddhism more accessible to the common people. The journal chronicles his return to Vietnam and his work to establish an “engaged” Buddhism that actively participates in the social and political dimensions of the world. The final entry comes as he is leaving Vietnam once more to live in exile, a tragic separation that continues to this day.

Beyond the Sky and the Earth

A Journey in Bhutan

Jamie Zeppa

Riverhead, $25.95

Jamie Zeppa, a Canadian who left her family at 25 to teach in the remote Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan, offers a window into Bhutanese life through her narrative of travel and self-discovery.

Essays on Marriage

Seikan Hasegawa

Great Ocean Publishers

Mind to Mind

Seikan Hasegawa

Great Ocean Publishers, $40

Seikan Hasegawa may have been born in a temple, become a priest at age fourteen, and studied Buddhism in Japan and Thailand before coming to America, but he is well acquainted with the trials of everyday family life in samsara. A husband and father himself, in Essays on Marriage he offers an experienced Zen perspective on issues such as choosing a mate, divorce, sex, and child-rearing. When was the last time you heard a Zen master talk about losing one’s virginity?

Mind to Mind is also informed by Hasegawa’s personal experiences, but the book is even more ambitious. More than 1000 pages in length, this novel charts the experiences and troubles of Hasegawa’s alter ego Mokuzu as he searches for enlightenment among the ashes and shifting tides of post-WWII Japan.

Many Petals of the Lotus

Five Asian Buddhist Communities in Toronto

Janet McLellan

University of Toronto Press

More than 250,000 Buddhists from many various ethnic backgrounds are estimated to live in Toronto. This meticulously researched book examines the lives and beliefs of members of the Japanese, Cambodian, Chinese, Tibetan, and Vietnamese communities. The ways in which these groups interact (and fail to interact) with each other and the dominant Western culture reveal much of what it universal and particular to different traditions of Buddhism.

American Buddhism

Methods and Findings in Recent Scholarship

Edited by Duncan Ryuken Williams and Christopher Queen

Curzon Press, $24.95

Some of the most prominent figures in current American Buddhist Studies lend their statistics and their opinions to this eclectic book. Chapters explore the influence of the Internet on Dharma, profile the silent nation of “night-stand Buddhists,” and fully explain the complex ethnic and religious issues involved in the infamous Buddhist campaign donations to Al Gore. The scholars also pause to examine their own positions as disseminators and creators of Buddhist identity in the West.


The Concentration of Heroic Progress

An Early Mahayana Buddhist Scripture

Trans. and annotated by Etienne Lamotte

English trans. by Sara Boin-Webb

Curzon Press

The Suramgamasamadhi Sutra was composed thousands of years ago in India, and came to have widespread influence on the Mahayana schools in China and elsewhere. One of the core early Mahayana texts, it elucidates many of the basic Mahayana ideas and includes the surprising conversion of Mara, the Buddhist Satan, to the Buddha’s Dharma. Etienne Lamotte was a towering figure in 20th Century Buddhist Studies; with this translation, Boin-Webb continues the process of disseminating his insights and knowledge to the English-speaking world.

Karma and Chaos

New and Collected Essays of Vipassana Meditation

Paul R. Fleischman

Vipassana Research Publications, $12.95

Paul Fleischman is a noted psychiatrist and a teacher in S.N. Goenka’s lineage of Vipassana meditation. These collected essays range over many subjects, including a detailed account of who shouldn’t go on a meditation retreat and the author’s own reconciliation of Buddhist teachings with his skeptical scientific training. While much of Dr. Flieschman’s approach seems to represent Buddhist meditation as a therapy for the mind, he also carefully explains why Vipassana is not a form of psychotherapy and should not be treated as such.

The Three Principal Aspects of the Path

An Oral Teaching by Geshe Sonam Rinchen

Trans. by Ruth Sonam

Snow Lion, $14.95

Nagarjuna’s “Seventy Stanzas”

A Buddhist Psychology of Emptiness

Commentary by Geshe Sonam Rinchen

Snow Lion, $16.95

A graduate of Sera Je Monastery’s traditional curriculum, Geshe Sonam Rinchen brings a learned view to these teachings. The first book contains a short work by Tsongkhapa and the Geshe’s own teachings on the desire for freedom from suffering, the wish to benefit all beings, and the realization of true emptiness. Nagarjuna’s “Seventy Stanzas” are a basic part of the Gelugpa monastic curriculum, which the Geshe uses to illuminate the critical Buddhist concept of shunyata.

Tricycle Gift Books for the 1999 Holidays (or Buddhist Calendar Year 2543)

reviews 89 winter 1999 (1)

Tabletop Books


The Living Way

deForest Trimingham

Random House, 1998, $35 (hardcover)

deForest Trimingham aims his camera at classic Buddhist sites from Nepal to Japan to Vermont and places in between, but his unusual eye imbues traditional images with a fresh new look.

Buddha in the Landscape

A Sacred Expression of Thailand

Mark Standen

Pomegranate, 1999, $12.95, (softcover)

Awash in golds, greens, and stark white, Buddha in the Landscape takes the reader on a lavish tour through the colorful world of modern Thai Buddhism.

Tibet Through the Red Box

Peter Sis

Farrar Straus Giroux, 1998, $25 (hardcover)

Sis’s impressionistic exploration of his father’s journeys in Tibet will fascinate readers of all ages. A unique and beautiful book.

The Tibetan Art of Healing

Ian Baker and Romio Shrestha

Chronicle Books, 1997, $29.95 (softcover)

This book vividly depicts the world of traditional Tibetan medicine, a science based on the inherent connection between mind and bodily health. Unique remedies include yak meat, sexual intercourse, and the dried blood of a murder victim.

Kathmandu Valley Paintings

The Jucker Collection

Hugo Kreijger

Shambhala, $65

For a classy tabletop gift, this collection of previously unpublished Nepalese art is perfect.

The Encyclopedia of Tibetan Symbols and Myths

Robert Beer

Shambhala, 1999, $60 (hardcover)

Robert Beer’s thirty years of work and study in the Tibetan artistic tradition are summarized in the thousands of intricate drawings and paintings of this collection. For anyone with more than a passing interest in thangkas, this is the OED of Tibetan iconography.

Ruthless Compassion

Wrathful Deities in Early Indo-Tibetan Esoteric Buddhist Art

Rob Linrothe

Shambhala, 1999, $55 (hardcover)

Another great tabletop gift, Linrothe uses color and black-and-white images to trace the evolution of the wrathful deity motif in India and Tibet.

reviews 90 (3) winter 1999


Kingdom of the Dragon

Robert Dompnier

Shambhala, $59.95

The next best thing to being there. A visit without the altitude sickness.

Worlds of Transformation

Tibetan Art of Wisdom and Compassion

Marilyn Rhie and Robert Thurman

Harry Abrams, 1999, $95 (hardcover)

One of the priciest and grandest tomes on the Buddhist book market – Rhie and Thurman flesh out the universe of the Tibetan religious imagination with more than 200 full-color plates.


The Spirit of Tibet

Portrait of a Culture in Exile

Alison Wright

Snow Lion, 1998, $34.95 (softcover)

Immensely appealing images that document the strength and beauty of Tibetan exiles in India. With its tragic political subtext, this will interest Free Tibet enthusiasts as well as photo-philes.

reviews 90 (2) winter 1999

The Buddha Scroll

Thomas Cleary

Shambhala, 1999, $25 (hardcover)

Here’s your chance to have that 36-foot-long twelfth-century Chinese scroll you’ve always wanted. A perfect present at a wallet-friendly price.

Buddhist Treasures From Nara

Michael Cunningham

Hudson Hills Press, 1999, $65 (hardcover)

More Japanese statues, scrolls, paintings, jars, and ornaments than you can shake a Zen-stick at. For aficionados of Japanese art, this is a treasure trove.

reviews 91 (1) winter 1999

The Art of Twentieth-Century Zen

Paintings and Calligraphy by Japanese Masters

Audrey Yoshiko Seo and Stephen Addiss

Shambhala, 1998, $65 (hardcover)

Playful black-and-white expressions of the enlightened mind from contemporary Zen masters.


The Zen of Ink and Paper

D.T. Suzuki

Shambhala, $17.95

Unorthodox and witty, Sengai (1751�1837) is regarded as one of the greatest Zen artists of all time. This was the final text written by the monumentally important scholar, D. T. Suzuki and he considered it a summation of his work.

reviews 92 (1) winter 1999

Gifts For Kids

The Monkey Bridge

Rafe Martin and Fahimeh Amiri

Alfred Knopf, 1997, $17 (softcover)

A traditional Buddhist story, wherein a king learns the true meaning of power from a compassionate monkey.

reviews 92 (2) winter 1999

The Hungry Tigress

Buddhist Myths, Legends, and Jataka Tales

Rafe Martin

Yellow Moon Press, 1999, $16.95 (softcover)

Jataka tales, the traditional fables of Buddhist Asia, derive from stories about the past lives of the historical Buddha when he embodied animal forms. Martin’s re-tellings of these teaching stories will entertain, and inspire further reflection.

reviews 92 (3) winter 1999

Buddha and His Friendsreviews 92 (4) winter 1999

S. Dhammika and Susan Harmer

Times Books International, 1997, $9.95 (softcover)

Fully illustrated teaching tales of the Buddha’s life.

Anathapindika and Other Stories

S. Dhammika and Susan Harmer

Times Books International, 1998, $9.95 (softcover)

More illustrated stories from the time of the Buddha, including an assasination attempt on Shakyamuni’s life via a rampaging elephant.

reviews 93 (1) winter 1999

The Cat That Lived a Million Times

Sano Yoko

Translated by Judith Huffman

University of Hawai’i Press, 1998, $16.95 (hardcover)

A poignant Japanese Buddhist story of love and loss.

The Wisdom of the Crows and Other Buddhist Tales

Sherab Chodzin, Alexandra Kohn, and Marie Cameron

Tricycle Press, 1998, $16.95 (softcover)

Enchanting stories from India, Tibet, China, and Japan depict a world of talking animals, wise sages, and dangerous monsters.

Poetry suggestions

The Gary Snyder Reader

Gary Snyder and Jim Dodge

Counterpoint, 1999, $35 (hardcover)

The most complete collection of poems from the American Buddha of the Pacific Northwest.

Japanese Death Poems

Written by Zen Monks and Haiku Poets on the Verge of Death

Yoel Hoffman

Charles Tuttle, 1998, $16.95 (softcover)

“Empty-handed I entered the world.

Barefoot I leave it.

My coming, my going –

Two simple happenings

That got entangled.”

reviews 94 (1) winter 1999

The Essential Basho

translated by Sam Hamill

Shambhala, 1999, $25 (hardcover)

Four of Basho’s works, including his famous Narrow Road to the Interior, further enhanced by poet Sam Hamill’s sensitive translations.

reviews 94 (3) winter 1999


Woman Haiku Master

Patricia Donegan and Yoshie Ishibashi

Charles Tuttle, 1998, $14.95 (softcover)

The first book in English on Chiyo-ni (1703-1775), Japan’s most celebrated female haiku poet.

The Zen Works of Stonehouse

Poems and Talks of a Fourteenth-Century Chinese Hermit

translated by Red Pine

Mercury House, 1999, $14.95 (softcover)

“You run around waving scissors and tape

busy all day with needle and thread

when you’re done measuring others

do you ever measure yourself?”

reviews 94 (2) winter 1999

The Selected Poetry of Po Chu-I

translated by David Hinton

New Directions, 1999, $14.95 (softcover)

Twelve centuries later, Po Chu-I is still one of the great Chinese poets and David Hinton is emerging as one of the best translators.

The Buddhist Third Class Junkmail Oracle

The Art and Poetry of d. a. levy

Mike Golden

Seven Stories Press, $21.95 (softcover)

Step into a slightly fractured Buddhist world as you explore the strange phenomenon of d. a. levy, a suicidal visionary who published a dharma rag out of Cleveland, Ohio in the late sixties.

reviews 95 (2) winter 1999

reviews 95 (1) winter 1999

For Mom

When Things Fall Apart:

Heart Advice for Difficult Times

Pema Chodron

Shambhala, 1997, $20, (hardcover)

There are few Dharma voices as clear as Pema Chodron’s, and few people who know more about things falling apart than mothers.

Going Both Ways: For nostalgic baby boomers to buy for themselves, for each other, or for quality bonding with their kids, or for twenty-somethings to buy for themsleves, each other, or their parents

The Dharma Bums

Jack Kerouac

Penguin, 1991, $12.95 (softcover)

The book that Kerouac thought would start a “rucksack revolution” on the nation’s highways and byways. A must for armchair adventurers.

reviews 96 (1) winter 1999

On The Road

Jack Kerouac

Viking, 1997, $24.95 (hardcover)

The undisputed, heavyweight champ of the American counterculture, sounding its barbaric yawp over the rooftops of America. Bursting with visions, music, madness, and the relentless scream of rubber on asphalt.

reviews 96 (3) winter 1999

Big Sky Mind

Buddhism and the Beat Generation

edited by Carole Tonkinson

Riverhead, 1995, $15 (softcover)

Another cross-generational book, this anthology reconfigures the best of the beats in terms of their radical contribution to the history of religion in America, and specifically, their influence on the unfolding of Dharma in the West.

Wisdom of the Zen Masters

The Quest for Enlightenment

Tsai Chih Chung

translated by Brian Bruya

Anchor Books, 1998, $11.95 (softcover)

The latest in a series of delightful comic books of Eastern wisdom. Huineng has never looked so cute.

reviews 96 (2) winter1999

Introducing Buddha

Jane Hope and Borin Van Loon

Totem Books, 1995, $10.95 (softcover)

Guaranteed to convince the kids that Buddha is “the bomb.”

Gifts From Everyone to Anyone

Buddhism Plain & Simple

reviews 96 (4) winter 1999

The Practice of Being Aware, Right Now, Every Day

Steve Hairn

Broadway, 1998, $10 (softcover)

It doesn’t get any plainer or simpler than this.

Awakening the Buddha Within

Tibetan Wisdom for the Western World

Lama Surya Das

Broadway, 1998, $15 (softcover)

A complete package of Buddhist practices and insight for Westerners.

Entering the Stream

An Introduction to the Buddha and His Teachings

edited by Samuel Bercholz and Sherab Chodzin Kohn

Shambhala, 1994, $18, (softcover)

reviews 97 (1) winter 1999

An excellent selection of teachings from the shoreline to the deep end of the Buddhist spectrum.

The Roaring Stream

A New Zen Reader

edited by Nelson Foster and Jack Shoemaker

Ecco Press, 1997, $18, (softcover)

A gold mine of Zen.

reviews 97 (2) winter 1999

Taking the Path of Zen

Robert Aitken

North Point Press, 1985, $11, (softcover)

One of America’s foremost Zen teachers gently leads the reader down the path.

reviews 97 (3) winter 1999

Ethics for the New Millennium

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Riverhead, 1999 $24.95 (hardcover)

Kindness and compassion are on every page of this gentle read. Good sound bytes for Buddha wannabes. For example: “Well, as the Dalai Lama writes, ‘Our every act has a universal dimension.’”

reviews 98 (3) winter 1999

Tried But True

The Three Pillars of Zen

Twenty-fifth Anniversary Edition

Philip Kapleau

Anchor, 1989, $13.95, (softcover)

reviews 98 (2) winter 1999

The book that launched a thousand Zen careers.

Introduction to Zen Buddhism

D.T. Suzuki

Grove Press, 1991, $10 (softcover)

No shelf is complete without at least one Suzuki volume.

Being Peace

Thich Nhat Hanh

Parallax Press, 1988, $10 (softcover)

“If we are peaceful, if we are happy, we can smile, and everyone in our family, our entire society, will benefit from our peace.”

reviews 99 (2) winter 1999

Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism

Chogyam Trungpa

Shambhala, 1987, $14 (softcover)

A true classic, Trungpa Rinpoche’s message to America is perhaps even truer today than ever.

reviews 99 (3) winter 1999

What the Buddha Taught

Walpola Rahula

Grove Press, 1986, $12, (softcover)

This little gem continues to be one of the clearest and straightforward Buddhist books on the market.

A Path With Heart

reviews 99 (1) winter 1999

A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life

Jack Kornfield

Bantam, 1993, $$14.95 (softcover)

With humor and insight, Jack Kornfield patiently explains the Buddhist way to bring deep spirituality into your everyday life.

reviews 100 (1) winter 1999

How the Swans Came to the Lake

A Narrative History of Buddhism in America

Rick Fields

Shambhala, 1992, $28 (softcover)

The arrival and blossoming of the Dharma in America, compellingly told by a writer who did much to cultivate it. Fields’s classic will be the definitive book on the subject for many years to come.

reviews 100 (3) winter 1999

Buddha for President

Inner Revolution

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Real Happiness

Robert Thurman

Riverhead, 1999, $14 (softcover)

The Road Less Traveled

Beyond the Sky and the Earth

Jamie Zeppa

A Journey into Bhutan

Riverhead, 1999, $25.95, (hardcover)

Admit it: you wish you could travel to the remote Himalayas, meet Buddhist teachers, and be romanced by a handsome young Bhutanese man. Well, Zeppa beat you to it.

Circling the Sacred Mountain

A Spiritual Adventure Through the Himalayas

Robert Thurman and Tad Wise

Bantam, 1999, $25.95 (hardcover)

Noted Buddhologist Robert Thurman and writer-adventurer Tad Wise lead a group of spiritual seekers to Mount Kailash, the most magical place in Tibet.

reviews 100 (2) winter 1999

Meeting the Buddha

On Pilgrimage in Buddhist India

edited by Molly Emma Aitkin

Riverhead, 1995, $12 (softcover)

All the joys of pilgrimage, without the callouses.

Stocking Stuffers

Buddha Laughing

A Tricycle Book of Cartoons

Bell Tower, 1999, $4.95 (softcover)

Proves that even emptiness can be pretty darn funny; do not read while operating heavy machinery.

reviews 101 (3) winter 1999

Breath Sweeps Mind

A First Guide to Meditation Practice

edited by Jean Smith

Riverhead, 1998, $14 (softcover)

Encouragement and advice for brand new Buddhists from seasoned voices including Jack Kornfield, Sogyal Rinpoche, the Dalai Lama, and friends.

Radiant Mind

Essential Buddhist Teachings and Texts

edited by Jean Smith

Riverhead, 1999, $14 (softcover)

Easily digestible selections from 2500 years worth of Buddhist wisdom.


A Guide to Buddhist Meditation

Diana St. Ruth

Penguin, 1998, $9.95 (softcover)

As the title implies, clear and precise instruction on how to get your butt on the cushion and keep it there.

For Birds Not Of A Feather


Janwillem van de Wetering

St. Martin’s Press, 1999, $21.95 (hardcover)

Van de Wetering’s third volume about his Zen misadventures in Japan and New England.

For Skeptics, Agnostics, And Non-Believers, Here’s Your Man

reviews 102 (2) winter 1999

Buddhism Without Beliefs

A Contemporary Guide to Awakening

Stephen Batchelor

Riverhead, 1998, $12 (softcover)

The Faith To Doubt

Glimpses of Buddhist Uncertainty

Stephen Batchelor

Parallax Press, 1990, $13.50 (softcover)

Alone With Others

reviews 103 (1) winter 1999

An Existential Approach to Buddhism

Stephen Batchelor

Grove Press, 1983, $10 (softcover)

Only in America

The Accidental Buddhist

Mindfulness, Enlightenment, and Sitting Still

Dinty Moore

Main Street Books, 1999, $12 (softcover)

From Zen Mountain Monastery to the Dalai Lama, Moore stumbles about the American Buddhist landscape getting everything wrong and having a marvelous time of it.

Crooked Cucumber

The Life and Zen Teaching of Shunryu Suzuki

David Chadwick

Broadway Books, 1999, $26 (hardcover)

reviews 103(2) winter 1999

Am honest biography of one of the most beloved and influential teachers to come to the West.

Bearing Witness

A Zen Master’s Lessons in Making Peace

Bernie Glassman

Bell Tower, 1999, $13 (softcover)

Heart advice for bringing a Buddhist view to the most painful parts of samsara, from urban homelessness to Auschwitz.

reviews 104 (1) winter 1999

The Complete Guide to Buddhist America

Don Morreale

Shambhala, 1998, $23.95 (softcover)

Everything you wanted to know and more about where to practice in America.

Great Eastern Sun

Chogyam Trungpa

Shambhala, 1999, $23 (cloth)

The writings of one of America’s most beloved Buddhist teachers are presented in this companion volume to Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior

The Buddhist Directory

The Total Buddhist Resource Guide 

Compiled by Peter Lorie and Julie Foakes

Tuttle, 1997, $24.95 (paper)

This directory has everything you need to know about Buddhism in America, from a comprehensive listing of traditions and centers to a directory of vegetarian restaurants. 

Buddhism and The Information Age

Reinventing the Wheel

A Buddhist Response to the Information Age

Peter D. Hershock

SUNY, 1999, $16.95 (paper)

Hershock assesses out rapidly growing dependence on emerging technologies and urges a new turning of the wheel of Dharma for the 21st century.

reviews 104 (2) winter 1999

Zen Computer

Mindfulness and the Machine

Philip Toshio Sudo

Simon & Schuster, 1999, $22 (cloth)

The future may be driven by technology, but cyberspace and virtual reality will still be realms of samsara.

Karma and Chaos

New and Collected Essays on Vipassana Meditation

Edited by Paul R. Fleischman, M.D.

Vipassana Research Publications, 1999, $12.95 (paper)

Is chaos the arrow of time, or is it karma? Dr. Fleischman’s collection of essays relates complex ideas in simple language that is at once sensitive and incisive.

Thank you for subscribing to Tricycle! As a nonprofit, to keep Buddhist teachings and practices widely available.

This article is only for Subscribers!

Subscribe now to read this article and get immediate access to everything else.

Subscribe Now

Already a subscriber? .