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Lions Roar : September 2006
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2006 91 NAGARJUNA’S LETTER TO A FRIEND Translated by the Padmakara Translation Group Commentary by Kyabje Kangyur Rinpoche Snow Lion Publications, 2006; 208 pp.; $22.95 (cloth) Letter to a Friend, by the third-century Indian sage Nagarjuna, is a classic of Buddhist literature referred to often by Tibetan teachers. Like Shantideva’s Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, Letter to a Friend summarizes the entire Mahayana path, but it does so in a pithy 123 stan- zas. This translation by the Padmakara Translation Group, which is based in France, upholds their reputation for ex- cellent work, and the commentary by the late Kyabje Kangyur Rinpoche outlines a helpful structure for the poem and ex- plains its more difficult points. You might think that an 800-year-old poem would not have much to say to a modern reader. But the original “friend” who received Nagarjuna’s pithy spiritual advice was a king who lived a relatively comfortable life and was prone to worldly distrac- tions. Sounds familiar. SOINTULA By Bill Gaston Raincoast, 2006; 452 pp.; $15.95 (paper) In this fifth novel by Buddhist fiction writer Bill Gaston, Evelyn, the unhappy, middle-aged wife of a small-city mayor forsakes her husband and her prescrip- tion drugs to tend at the bedside of her first lover, Claude. With Claude’s death, Evelyn sets out on an unlikely journey by kayak to Sointula, a remote fishing village on the north coast of Canada’s Vancou- ver Island in search of their estranged son, Tom, whom she hasn’t seen in ten years. Along the way Evelyn finds Peter Gore, a former high school teacher and wannabe travel-writer, who becomes her companion on a quirky journey. Soin- tula is a novel about willingly giving up one’s bearings—pharmaceutical, social, environmental—and relying only on the present moment and on the kindness of others. Gaston demonstrates how quickly we become outsiders, how tenuous is our hold on reality, and how tender are our human connections. ♦ Zen Center of New York City Fire Lotus Temple A Lay-Practice Community Offering: Daily meditation schedule Saturday retreats Sunday beginner’s program and Dharma talk Meditation intensives and sesshin Resident Zen Teacher and senior staff Residential training For more information: www.mro.org/firelotus