buddhist books summer 2021Skillful Pleasure: The Buddha’s Path for Developing Skillful Pleasure
by Peter Doobinin
Independently published, October 2020, $10.95, 198 pp., paper

Even though subsisting on a grain of rice a day didn’t lead the Buddha to enlightenment, there is something tenuous—icky, even—about pleasure in Buddhism. Insight meditation teacher Peter Doobinin was also initially taught not to seek pleasure in meditation. But as he dug deeper into the Pali canon, he learned that the Buddha nearly always talked about pleasure when he taught breath meditation. This book considers what pleasure is, our often twisted relationship to sense pleasure, and Doobinin’s instructions for developing the skillful pleasure that will help us lead happier and more compassionate lives.

buddhist books summer 2021The Art of Listening: A Guide to the Early Teachings of Buddhism
by Sarah Shaw
Shambhala Publications, June 2021, $18.95, 304 pp., paper

Reading the suttas can feel a bit daunting if you don’t know where or how to start. For hundreds of years, the teachings were chanted, not read from a book—and that is where Sarah Shaw, a faculty member and lecturer at the University of Oxford, invites you to begin. Shaw’s book is an exploration of literary elements in twelve suttas from the Digha Nikaya, or Long Discourses of the Buddha, and the understanding and insight that can arise from experiencing the teachings in their ancient form. (Read a short passage from the book here.)

Pure Land: History, Tradition, and Practice
by Charles B. Jones
Shambhala Publications, May 2021, $16.95, 264 pp., paper.

The Pure Land, writes Charles B. Jones, “is a paradise . . . filled with jewels, ornate bathing pools, free food and clothing, birds whose very songs teach the dharma, and—best of all—you.” Pure Land is a comprehensive introduction to Pure Land Buddhism, the dominant tradition in East Asia, whose practitioners chant the name of Amitabha Buddha (the Buddha of Infinite Light) in hope of being reborn in his land of bliss and attaining enlightenment. Jones, the director of the Religion and Culture graduate program at the Catholic University of America, divides the book into two parts: the tradition’s history and its beliefs and practices.


Illustration by Ben Wiseman

Scholar’s Corner

About Padmasambhava: Historical Narratives and Later Transformations of Guru Rinpoche
edited by Geoffrey Samuel and Jamyang Oliphant of Rossie Garuda Verlag
September 2020, $44.80, 304 pp., paper

The 8th-century Indian master Padmasambhava is credited with bringing Buddhism to Tibet and concealing treasures (terma) to be rediscovered by later generations. In sacred texts buried by Padmasambhava are accounts of the tantric master’s miracle-working exploits, treatises on guru yoga and medicinal practices, and blueprints for the life of a buddha. These topics are among the histories and mysteries of Guru Rinpoche’s legacy that are revisited in this anthology, with contributions by ten leading Buddhist studies scholars.

–Julia Hirsch

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