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Lions Roar : November 2006
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2006 107 BY ANDREA MCQUILLIN BOOKS IN BRIEF THE BUDDHA AND THE TERRORIST By Satish Kumar Algonquin Books, 2006; 144 pp.; $14.95 (cloth) The Buddha and the Terrorist dusts off an ancient morality tale and polishes it up for a 21st-century audience. Satish Kumar, a longtime peace and environmental activist and editor of Resur- gence magazine, retells the Angulimala (“Garland of Many Fin- gers”) Sutra, which describes the conversion to Buddhism of the highwayman Angulimala (a stand-in for today’s modern terror- ist), named for the necklace he wears made from the fingers of his victims. The Buddha’s immovability in the face of Angulimala’s attack moves the murderer to renounce his violent ways and be- come an exemplary monk. The sutra has often been interpreted to mean that reform of violence is more readily accomplished by compassion than by punishment (in the Pali sutra, Angulimala says, Some tame with a blunt stick, with hooks and with whips. / But without blunt or bladed weapons / I was tamed by the one who is such), and Kumar plays up this angle. In retelling the story for the present age, Kumar encourages us to understand our en- emies, and thus transform them. A GREENER FAITH Religious Environmentalism and Our Planet’s Future By Roger S. Gottlieb Oxford University Press, 2006; 320 pp.; $29.95 (cloth) A Greener Faith considers the connection between religion and social and political change, and how people with a spiritual view can contribute to the environmental movement. Accord- ing to philosophy professor Roger Gottlieb, who is both reli- gious (though he never discloses his own faith) and politically progressive, that contribution could be considerable, because religious life has a moral weight that secular life will never have. A Greener Faith’s formula is part description (Gottlieb exam- ines how members of different faiths act on environmental is- sues) and prescription (he makes a careful argument for why religious people should work with secular activists). The final chapter is an insightful essay on how consumerism, globaliza- tion, and fundamentalism are the main obstacles to saving the Earth, and what the individual person of faith might do to help: “Ultimately, we meditate, or feed the poor, or pray, or follow our faith’s moral teaching because this seems to us the most vibrant and fulfilling way to live each day.” INTEGRAL SPIRITUALITY: A Startling New Role for Religion in the Modern and Postmodern World By Ken Wilber Shambhala Publications, 2006; 240 pp.; $22.95 (cloth) This was my first go at a Ken Wilber book, and I felt some trepida- tion in writing a brief summary of the latest from the man who penned The Theory of Everything. But even the timid first-timer can penetrate and be rewarded by Integral Spirituality. If you’re not familiar with the Integral Approach (IA), this volume in- cludes a 40-page introduction. (IA takes all knowledge—rational, material, spiritual—categorizes it and describes how individuals and societies—indeed humankind—can put it to its highest and best use along a number of vectors). Once you’re acclimated to thinking big, and familiar with the theoretical model and the ter- minology (more than once I wished I’d had a plain-English inter- preter for phrases like “Integral Methodological Pluralism”), the rest is a piece of cake. The main exercise in this book is to place spirituality within the Integral framework, and see what comes out. For Wilber, Integral Spirituality is the biggest and best model for human growth, eminently practical and unbound to tradition or creed, a “capacity to take self, culture, and nature to increas- ingly higher, wider and deeper modes of being.” A RARE AND PRECIOUS THING The Possibilities and Pitfalls of Working with a Spiritual Teacher By John Kain Harmony/Bell Tower, 2006; 288 pp.; $23 (cloth) As you’ve perused the pages of the Shambhala Sun, chances are you’ve considered whether you want or need a spiritual teacher, a question Zen practitioner and journalist John Kain takes on in A Rare and Precious Thing. The backbone of this book is a survey of eight American spiritual teachers and their students, ranging from the left-leaning Catholic nun Joan Chittister to the modernist Tibetan Buddhist Gehlek Rinpoche to American teacher Adyashanti, who claims no tradition at all. Kain refrains from editorializing in his profiles, letting the subjects speak for themselves and saving his conclusions for a separate section at the end of each chapter. These sections highlight a particular aspect of the teacher-student relationship that is illuminated by the profile. Kain leaves an analysis of the major pitfalls of the teacher-student relationship for a stand-alone chapter at the end of the book.