buddhist books spring 2023The Trauma of Caste: A Dalit Feminist Meditation on Survivorship, Healing, and Abolition

by Thenmozhi Soundararajan.
North Atlantic Books, November 2022, $18.95, 296 pp., paper

While Buddhists in the West may be aware of the mid-20th-century mass conversion of so-called “untouchables” to Buddhism, fewer are likely aware of the traumatic implications and violence that caste continues to inflict on individuals and communities. Dalit American activist Thenmozhi Soundararajan’s thorough exploration of the sources and results of caste—and the possibility of ending caste—includes embodiment exercises, reflections, and meditations. As Soundararajan writes, caste when left “untreated” will “ultimately destroy us.

Turning Words: Transformative Encounters with Buddhist Teachers 

by Hozan Alan Senauke.
Shambhala Publications, March 2023, $18.95, 152 pp., paper

buddhist books spring 2023

Turning Words is a collection of vignettes describing transformative moments with Buddhist teachers, leaders, and spiritual inspirations that Hozan Alan Senauke, a Soto Zen priest and abbot of Berkeley Zen Center, has experienced in his decades on the path. Some of these encounters are unexpected; others are with people he has known for years; in some cases, the encounter has been with a book. “Turning words,” Senauke writes, refers to a Zen koan and are “words that cause you to pivot so that you see the universe from a different angle.” The book includes turning words from over thirty teachers that can be revisited when you’re in need of a breakthrough.

buddhist books spring 2023Living Kindness: Metta Practice for the Whole of Our Lives

by Kevin Griffin.
Shambhala Publications, December 2022, $21.95, 176 pp., paper

For Kevin Griffin, a Buddhist teacher and one of the founders of the Buddhist Recovery Network, the idea of metta, often translated as “lovingkindness,” has not been fully grasped by Western Buddhists in terms of definition and practice. Griffin prefers “living kindness” to the traditional definition, and this book, which combines stories from the Pali canon and anecdotes from his own experience, aims to movemetta from the feel-good realm to a lived experience off the cushion that he argues is more in line with what the Buddha taught. Read an excerpt from Living Kindness on practicing fearless metta here.

Illustration by Ben Wiseman

Scholar’s Corner

Buddhism under Capitalism

edited by Richard K. Payne and Fabio Rambelli.
Bloomsbury Academic, October 2022, $29.95, 280 pp., paper

Building on the work of scholars such as Gregory Schopen, Johan Elverskog, and Tansen Sen, this edited volume confronts capitalism’s impact on Buddhism and on Buddhist scholars themselves. The editors and contributors successfully infuse this dense academic read with personal and social narratives that reveal the often-overlooked human agency in capitalism, while also challenging the popular understanding of capitalism as only an economic and not a social system. Buddhism under Capitalism offers a solid introduction to the economics of Buddhism and redirects the discourse to a more fruitful path.

Frederick M. Ranallo-Higgins, Associate Editor


The Life of Milarepabuddhist books spring 2023

by Tsangnyön Heruka, translated by Andrew Quintman, August 2010

Journey to 11th-century Tibet in this biography of the “Madman of Tsang.” Written several centuries after Milarepa’s death by fellow Kagyu madman Tsangnyön Heruka, The Life of Milarepa injects prophecy as a literary tactic to “project present importance into the past,” as Buddhist scholar Donald S. Lopez Jr. writes in the introduction. Over the 250-plus pages, we follow Milarepa’s life, from his beginnings in a wealthy family to his study of black magic in order to avenge his family’s wrongful impoverishment; from killing his enemies through sorcery to humbly embracing the dharma, surviving on nettles and dwelling in caves as a fully realized yogin While there are many ways to read this hagiography, common themes include faith, devotion, and dedication.