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Thursday
Mar012007

Explorer of the Wild Mind


Back on the Fire: Essays
By Gary Snyder

Reviewed by Ben Howard


Not long ago, the poet and essayist Gary Snyder was asked whether his poems were determined by inspiration or by a more deliberate method of composition. “Not exactly either,” he replied. “Every day I just vow to be open.”

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Thursday
Mar012007

Portraits of Wisdom and Compassion


Buddhist Goddesses of India
By Miranda Shaw

Reviewed by Judith Simmer-Brown

 


In the Indian tradition of Buddhism, the splendid pantheon of deities included a diverse array of goddesses who served as saviors, protectors, wisdom beings, and mothers of liberation. Miranda Shaw has just published a fascinating new taxonomy of these female deities, to be followed by a companion volume on Buddhists goddesses of Tibet and Nepal.

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Thursday
Mar012007

The Great Shooting Way

Zen Bow, Zen Arrow: The Life and Teachings of Awa Kenzo, the Archery Master from Zen in the Art of Archery
By John Stevens

Reviewed by Christopher Triplett


I first heard about Zen archery in 1984. Someone told me about a German man who had met an archery master in Japan and discovered a “Way” to self-realization through kyudo, a form of moving, meditative archery. Immediately attracted, I enrolled in a kyudo workshop, and before I knew it I was sitting in a field in New York, watching a small Japanese man dressed in a kimono, mirrored sunglasses, and cowboy hat carrying one of the longest bows I had ever seen. Having had only a vague idea of Japanese archery, I had imagined Zen archers using some kind of metaphorical bow and arrow, counting shots instead of the breath. Seeing a demonstration of actual feet-on-the-ground kyudo shattered my illusions. I have been walking the kyudo path ever since.

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Thursday
Mar012007

Book Briefs

Most of the scholars and translators of Tibetan Madhyamaka philosophy who have published on the topic studied with masters of the Geluk tradition. Recently, some of these same scholars have turned their attention to the historic opponents of this view, whose positions are vociferously refuted in the debate manuals studied at Geluk monastic colleges. For example, Jeffrey Hopkins has produced a number of important translations of works by the Jonangpa teacher Dolpopa. Now, José Ignacio Cabezón and Geshe Lobsang Dargyay have made a major contribution to the library of alternative Tibetan views of Madhyamaka with the publication of Freedom from Extremes: Gorampa’s “Distinguishing the Views” and the Polemics of Emptiness(Wisdom Publications, 2007). The text translated here is a classic of Tibetan polemical literature in which the great Sakya master Gorampa Sonam Senge (1429–89) presented refutations of the Madhyamaka explanations of both Dolpopa and Tsongkhapa. A wide-ranging introduction, spanning from religious polemics in general to the precise context of Gorampa’s composition, sets the stage for the text’s meticulously annotated translation.

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Thursday
Mar012007

Profile: Inquiring Mind

They call it “The Mind.” It’s fifty-one pages of teachings, commentary, criticism, storytelling, poetry, art, and miscellany that has been distributed at no charge to readers and practice centers twice yearly since 1984. Inquiring Mind, whose estimated readership now approaches thirty thousand, was the first Buddhist journal in the West to commit to finding material from a broad spectrum of Buddhist teachers. As a result, the list of significant teachers who have appeared in its pages—and who have offered original thinking on the themes that each issue is devoted to—would fill this page. And the whole time it has been produced by the same small band of people operating out of their homes in Berkeley. The Mind boggles.

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Friday
Dec012006

Shodo Harada Roshi: Nuclear Reactor of Zen

Although not widely known, Harada Roshi is one of the few Japanese Zen masters specializing in teaching Western students. Hozan Alan Senauke talks with this potent and surprising teacher about everything from kensho and the role of the body in zazen to the information society and the insecurity of our times.

Introduction by Hozan Alan Senauke

A friend said that meeting Shodo Harada Roshi for the first time in sanzen, a private interview between student and Zen teacher, was like “sitting in front of a nuclear reactor.” That was my experience too, and it is not much different the next time either…or the time after that.

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Friday
Dec012006

The Eight Flashing Lances

The Eight Flashing Lances is a song of realization sung by Gyalwa Gotsangpa (1189-1258), who was renowned as an emanation of the lord of yogis, Milarepa. Born in southern Tibet, Gotsangpa went to central Tibet where he met his two teachers, Drogon Tsangpa Gyare and Sangye On. He wandered then from one mountain retreat to the next, practicing meditation and bringing his realization to perfection.

Gotsangpa made a commitment never to meditate in the same place twice. If he went somewhere and stayed for a few years, he never returned. He wandered continually to help himself abandon attachment to any particular place.

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Friday
Dec012006

The Integrity of Emptiness

For all the subtlety of his teachings, the Buddha had a simple test for measuring wisdom. You’re wise, he said, to the extent that you can get yourself to do things you don’t like doing but know will result in happiness, and to the extent that you refrain from things you like doing but know will result in pain and harm. He derived this standard for wisdom from his insight into the radical importance of intentional action in shaping our experience of happiness and sorrow, pleasure and pain. Given that our actions are so important and yet so frequently misguided, our wisdom has to be tactical — and strategic — in fostering actions that are truly beneficial. It has to outwit our shortsighted preferences in order to yield a happiness that lasts.

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Friday
Dec012006

Forum: Diversity and Divisions in America Buddhism

Introduction by Charles S. Prebish

Although the counterculture of the 1960s inspired much interest in Zen and the various Tibetan Buddhist traditions, by 1975 there were no more than several hundred thousand Buddhists in North America. Most of them belonged to either Buddhist Churches of America, a series of predominantly ethnic communities in the Japanese Pure Land tradition, or the then-titled Nichiren Shoshu of America, popular with so-called American converts and composed largely of women and minorities.

If we fast-forward to the turn of the century, most reasonable estimates cited between four and six million Buddhists in North America. Fueled by the 1965 change in American immigration law, there was a huge influx of Buddhist immigrants from war-torn Southeast Asia. In all likelihood, the number of Buddhists in North America with Asian ancestry represents about 75 to 80 percent of the total number of Buddhists on the continent.

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Friday
Dec012006

Searching for Bodhidharma

I don’t know what I am expecting. As we exit the van we are welcomed only by a chilly winter wind blowing down Bear Ear Mountain. The lonely mountain, just a few hundred feet high, conveys a sad sense that something important has been forgotten here. Naked land stretches for miles in all directions.

We’re about an hour’s drive west of Luoyang, China’s most ancient capital, and a few miles off the new Luoyang—Xian expressway. We left the highway at an exit called Kwan Yin Hall, although no hall — and no Kwan Yin — were to be seen. A short drive south brought Bear Ear Mountain and the site of Kong Xiang (“Empty Form”) Temple, Bodhidharma’s final resting place, into view.

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