Q: My teacher died twenty-two years ago. Since then I have maintained my connection to the sangha and still practice in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. But that’s only two of the three jewels. Am I doing myself and the tradition a disservice by trying to practice Buddhism without a guru? Would I be better off opting for another practice—perhaps secular mindfulness—that I can do without a teacher?
Reviewed by Annabella Pitkin
Imagine opening a book about what we would today call Buddhism and reading that it is an Egyptian religion and that the Buddha was a former Egyptian priest exiled from his country during a Persian invasion twenty-three hundred years ago. Or think of reading, in a different treatise on the Buddha, that “We are compelled therefore to believe... that Buddha and [the Norse god] Woden are the same deity, and consequently that the theology of the Gothic and Saxon tribes was a modification of Buddhism...”
Reviewed by Koun Franz
Oxford University Press, 2013 240 pages; $27.95
When I was a novice at Shogoji monastery, every day I passed by some framed calligraphy by the main doors of the dharma hall, excerpts from the Ten Examples of Suchness (junyoze). For weeks, I gave it no attention at all; the schedule was strict, and there was always somewhere else to be. Then one day I looked at it and almost jumped—every Chinese character was also a picture in itself. Instead of the two-stroke character for “person,” there was an intricate painting of an actual man; the character for body, intended in the text to mean “substance,” was crafted out of a butterfly in flight. I don’t know how many times I came back to this bit of writing on the wall, but every time I did, every time I looked closer, I found some small detail that had always been there, some subtle new way in which the text had always been revealing itself.
by Michael Sheehy
The Heart is Noble
by The Karmapa, Orgyen Trinley Dorje (Shambhala)
Heart of the Shin Buddhist Path
by Takamaro Shigaraki (Wisdom)
The Tibetan Book of the Dead: Awakening Upon Dying
Translated by Elio Guarisco and Nancy Simmons (Shambhala)
By Andrew Merz
Since its founding in 2000, the Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society (ATS) has been a hard-to-miss feature of the American Buddhist landscape, frequently noted for its tattoo-covered teachers. In its brief history, however, ATS has quickly distinguished itself for reasons far more substantial than a gritty aesthetic. The community, started as the Dharma Punx in San Francisco by teacher and author Noah Levine, has quickly grown into one of the most well-attended and diverse sang-has in the country.
By Lin Jensen
Bodhidharma, the Indian monk who is credited with having brought Zen to China, is said to have spent nine years facing a wall in a cave near northern China’s Shaolin Temple. If the story is true, the Zen he introduced was a Zen of wall sitting.
In this installment of From the Editor's Desk, Review Editor Michael Sheehy looks at new books on understandings of tantric Buddhism, a new look at the Linjilu, and the confessions of a wayward Zen monk.