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Lions Roar : September 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2007 91 teachers scorn utopian vision and none is terribly concerned with big-E enlighten- ment, except as a way of doing things, rather than a way of understanding things. Freedom is hot; nirvana is not. All this pop-cultural engagement and brand-name detail makes the focus of these teachers nonconceptual and day-to-day. They each have a lot to say about common ac- tivities: stress management, money, entertainment, and work. Sex is also an important topic, and Levine and Warner discuss at length the Buddhist precept barring sexual misconduct. Levine recommends that serious students of Buddhism observe prolonged periods of celibacy, uncommon advice these days. Celibacy, he says, is a credible choice for a lay practitioner. All life, these three say, is practice at the nitty-gritty level. Life involves seeing through—“defy the lies,” Levine advises—and choosing wisely. “Moment by moment, we are each voting with our minds,” writes Nichtern. “The actual practice of interde- pendence involves making specific choices throughout the day.” He lists three post- meditation practices intended to heighten awareness during the course of the day, including picking up somebody else’s garbage. The youngest of this group at age 29, Nichtern is keenly aware of the consumer wallpaper of our everyday lives. For him, the myriad “stuff ” that surrounds us presents so many occasions to realize what he calls “the real Internet”—the coffee from Central America poured in the French-press cof- feepot that makes coffee out of water from Upstate New York reservoirs that is poured into the mug from China that sits on the table built in the Philippines. That is seeing things as they are, with ties to everywhere in the world through a long chain of cause and effect. We may be awash in the materialism that feeds desire, says Nichtern, but interdependence makes the planet one city. None of these books is principally about meditation practice, although each author views it as essential. “Meditation is a requirement and a necessity for spiritual revolu- tionaries,” writes Levine, “but we are not meditating merely to become good at medita- tion.” Meditation is disciplined training, he says, so do it often and do it right. As a Zen practitioner, Warner is especially picky about the details of form. Meditation chairs are crap, he says bluntly. “When it comes to zazen, I’m pretty conservative,” he writes. “Proper posture is an absolute requirement of zazen practice.” Nichtern offers simple meditation instructions in an appendix to his book, and Levine compiles guidelines for practitioners who become progressively more committed to the Buddhist path. Even if these young authors are blunt and irreverent, they’re in the company of other Buddhist teachers who have been crazy-wise or wacky-Zen. This is still serious Bud- dhism that calls for lots of right effort. Put in the time on the cushion, they say. Medita- tion requires the frank acknowledgement that thinking can be maddeningly persistent, and that many sentient beings in need of compassion can be “annoying, unskillful, violent, confused, and unkind,” as Levine puts it. So, practice some more. The transformed and transforming life these teachers talk about puts a premium on nonviolence that flows from right seeing. Each presents a realistic discussion of anger, a topic made all the more interesting by Levine’s and Warner’s punk roots. The righteous anger many claim motivates an intention to bring about positive change is a trick of the Develop equanimity, intelli- gence, and compassion amid the turbulence of daily life with the transformative lojong prac- tice. In this new presentation, each slogan is followed by Pema Chödrön’s fresh, succinct, and inspiring commentary on how to understand and apply the maxim in everyday living. Also included is a 45-minute au- dio program entitled “Opening the Heart,” in which Pema offers in-depth instruction on tonglen, a powerful meditation practice that anyone can under- take to awaken compassion for oneself and others. $14.00 hardcover with CD $1400h d hCD Always Maintain a Joyful Mind And Other Lojong Teachings on Awak ening Compassion and Fearlessness Pema Chödrön Shambhala Publications Receive a 20% discount online at www.shambhala.com SEPT 72-99.indd 91 SEPT 72-99.indd 91 6/25/07 5:31:00 PM 6/25/07 5:31:00 PM