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Lions Roar : November 2006
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2006 108 MINDFULNESS, BLISS, AND BEYOND: A Meditator’s Handbook By Ajahn Brahm Wisdom Publications, 2006; 320 pp.; $16.95 (paper) Ajahn Brahm’s first American book, Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung?, introduced us to a British-born Theravada monk who teaches by telling entertaining life stories with a moral punchline. If that was the appetizer, this is the main course. Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond demonstrates that Ajahn Brahm is that rare medi- tator who has actually had—and can describe—the profound meditation experiences outlined in the early Buddhist teachings. The good humor is still present, but this outing is more serious, taking us systematically through the classic stages of meditation training, from the most mundane (meditation for happiness) to the most exalted (meditation for enlightenment). Along the way, he gives a thorough description of the jhana states, a place that many Western Buddhist teachers have feared to tread. Ajahn Brahm then brings the whole thing back to the kitchen-sink level with some practical suggestions for everyday life. EASTERN WISDOM, MODERN LIFE: Collected Talks 1960-1969 By Alan Watts New World Library, 2006; 272 pp.; $15.95 (paper) Absent a time machine to transport you back to the 1960s, there would be no better way to appreciate the decade in which Ameri- cans were starting to dig Eastern ideas than this new collection of talks by Alan Watts. At the time, there were few religious organiza- tions to support serious students and the roster of Asian teachers was lean. Many, at least initially, learned their Buddhism and Taoism from books and celebrity speakers like Alan Watts. Watts, a one-time Episcopalian priest, was a self-taught scholar with an ardent, lifelong interest in Asian philosophy. He was also an engaging speaker (listen for yourself on the website alanwatts.com) who lectured confidently on subjects from Buddhism (Part 1 of this book), to divinity (Part 2), to Taoism (Part 3), to contemplations on the nature of existence (Part 4). Thanks to his son Mark, who stewards the archive, “new” Watts material continues to see the light of day. SHE STILL LIVES: A Novel of Tibet By Bill Magee Snow Lion Publications, 2006; 208 pp.; $14.95 (paper) She Still Lives is a welcome supplement—a sweetmeat, perhaps—to the regular diet of serious Buddhist books from Snow Lion. Ti- betan Studies scholar Bill Magee’s short, readable work of specula- tive fiction imagines 22nd-century Tibet. While the cultural and physical landscape are familiar (the story follows the protagonist Mila Lakpa, a rebel who supports his religious leader in the struggle against Chinese Communist rule), Magee throws in a few twists that make the imaginative exercise worthwhile, including a female Dalai Lama. She Still Lives has a little bit for every reader: adventure, sex, body-swapping—even genetically enhanced dogs. And those who like a little bit of Buddhism with their fiction will appreciate the characters’ discussions of karma and nonviolence. ♦ meditation hall column early 19th c. tibet wood, mineral pigments 66”w x 61”h on 1 broadway at e.19 st manhattan 212 473 3000 x 218, x711 village: 197 bleecker st (bet macdougal and 6th ave) 212 260 5880 soho: 146 sullivan st (bet prince and houston) 212 529 4344