Creating a Life of Integrity: In Conversation with Joseph Goldstein
by Gail Anderson Stark, Wisdom Publications, May 2020, $18.95, 256 pp., paper
Integrity often gets short shrift, despite the fact that it is a “crucial and often overlooked ingredient in the happiness mix.” This book by Gail Stark, a longtime student of Theravada teacher Joseph Goldstein, is a practical exploration of the ten paramis, or qualities of integrity: generosity, virtue, renunciation, wisdom, courage, patience, truthfulness, resoluteness, lovingkindness, and equanimity. Stark spends a month on each of the paramis and reports back to Goldstein, giving the reader the opportunity to be a fly on a wall for these debriefings and learn how an off-the-cushion practice of inquiry can release us from our habits.
The Lightness: A Novel
by Emily Temple, William Morrow, June 2020, $26.99, 288 pp., cloth
Spend your summer at the Levitation Center, aka the “Buddhist Boot Camp for Bad Girls,” learning the art of flower arranging, drinking nettle tea, and sneaking out at night to try to levitate. Emily Temple’s debut novel is 100 percent bingeable—I read carefully enough to soak it all in, but fast, because it’s so hard to put down. Temple is a Brooklyn-based editor at the literary culture website Literary Hub. She grew up in the Shambhala tradition, and The Lightness addresses power dynamics, female friendships, and bodies in a coming-of-age tale that is very relevant to real-life conversations happening in troubled sanghas today.
Buddhism: What Everyone Needs to Know®
by Dale S. Wright, Oxford University Press, February 2020, $16.95, 240 pp., paper
If you have questions about Buddhism, Dale S. Wright, who has been teaching Buddhism to students at Occidental College in Los Angeles for the past four decades, likely has an answer. This book is part of Oxford University Press’s “What Everyone Needs to Know®” series, and it covers all the basics in a question-and-answer format: who the Buddha was, what he taught, and how the tradition has developed over the last 2,500 years. The final chapters address contemporary issues such as secular mindfulness, eco-Buddhism, and the role of women.
Buddhist Magic: Divination, Healing, and Enchantment through the Ages
by Sam van Schaik, Shambhala Publications, July 2020, $18.95, 256 pp., paper
It’s not a far stretch to say that a significant number of convert Buddhists are seeking a more rational, less dogmatic approach to their spiritual life. But believing Buddhism to be free from amulets, magic circles, and mantras is overlooking (at best) a tradition that stretches back to the time of the historical Buddha. “Magic is our shared heritage,” writes Sam van Schaik, a Tibetologist and head of the British Library’s Endangered Archives Programme. This book offers a fascinating look into the important role of magic in Buddhism’s spread and how scholars have “overlooked or actively avoided” this often touchy topic.
WHAT WE’RE REREADING
Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind
by Shunryu Suzuki
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.” Even if you don’t know much about Shunryu Suzuki Roshi or Zen practice, you’ve likely been invited at some point to approach something with a beginner’s mind.
Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, which has introduced countless readers to Zen, the teachings of Dogen, and, more broadly, Buddhism, celebrates 50 years in print this year. Suzuki, a Soto Zen priest, moved to the United States in 1959, enticed by the possibility that Americans could become serious Zen students. By the time he died 12 years later, Suzuki had established Tassajara, the first Soto Zen monastery outside of Asia, and the San Francisco Zen Center.
This book is based on a series of talks Suzuki gave in 1970. His clear lessons on how to sit and breathe, nonduality, and the qualities of the mind, are teachings that a student can return to again and again—and we invite you to do so on this important anniversary.
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