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Lions Roar : January 2009
VEN. BHIKKHU BODHI Editor of In the Buddha’s Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pali Canon For me the most important “books” published in the last thirty years are not printed books but two CDs: the Vipassana Research Institute’s Chattha Sangayana, containing the entire Pali Tipitaka along with its commentaries; and the CBETA Chinese Electronic Tripitaka Collection, which, produced in Taiwan, contains the entire Taisho edition of the Chinese Tripitaka. Not only do these two CDs include the entire Theravada and East Asian collections of scriptures, they also have search capacities that are an invaluable aid to scholarly research. Both CDs are distributed for free upon request. SUSAN PIVER Author of The Hard Questions In The Heart of the Buddha, Chögyam Trungpa emphasizes the solitary, personal nature of the spiritual journey. I’d never before heard the journey described this way, but it resonated. I thought, “I must be a Buddhist. I didn’t know that’s what it was called.” And so I was. This was the exact moment I was introduced to the path. JOHN TARRANT Author of Bring Me the Rhinoceros Haiku is a Zen poetic form that, for me, first opened a way to be at home. When we read haiku, or write them, we have a place in the world, the trees and animals befriend us, and we are even friendly to our own hearts. The Buddhist book published in the last thirty years that has most affected me is The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa, edited by Robert Hass. SUMI LOUNDON Editor of Blue Jean Buddha When I was twenty-three, my dad gave me a copy of Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind, Maura O’Halloran’s journal about her three years in a Japanese monastery. Here was, at last, a book that spoke directly to me about Zen train- ing and enlightenment experiences from the perspective of a young, Western woman. This deeply intimate por- trait tipped me from being Buddhist simply because I was raised as one to dedicating myself to a life of practicing the dharma. religion. His reach is broad: he draws on the wisdom of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery as well as the Kalacakra Tantra of Tibetan Buddhism. He offers wisdom householders can use: “The first step in learning how to rule is learning to rule your household, your immediate world.” Like Thich Nhat Hanh, His Ho- liness the Dalai Lama has produced a lot of books. Some are based on transcriptions of his teachings and can require seri- ous knowledge of Tibetan Buddhist teachings. But His Holiness’ The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living, co-written with American psychiatrist Howard Cutler, was remarkably acces- sible, and many did access it. The 1998 book sold 1.5 million copies in the U.S. alone, and occupied the bestseller list for almost two years. Presented as a meeting of Western psychology and Eastern philosophy, the book blended you-can-do-it practicality and the ir- reproducible charisma of the Dalai Lama, whose own life offers compelling testimony to the possibility of happiness despite adverse circumstances. The scientific framework of psychology brought by Cutler is especially congenial for the Dalai Lama, a man of science, though not in the materialistic Western sense. This work helped pave the way for numerous books written since about happiness as well as books about positive psychol- ogy and Buddhism and science. The right topic met the right authors at the right time. Hard to believe an esoteric Tibetan teach- ing about death would make an endur- ing spiritual classic, but in the hands of Buddhist teacher Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying opened to Western eyes wisdom about dying that also made living better. Sogyal Rinpoche’s chatty, storytelling tone makes all the potentially daunting Tibetan terms and techniques he dis- cusses that much more approach- able. More importantly, he acts as friend and guide to a taboo subject: death itself, waiting beyond the other side of fear at life’s end. Nobody gets out of here alive, but Sogyal Rinpoche’s calm manner of explaining the age-old wisdom of his tradition lessens the fear factor. Reframing an ancient text about dying as a book about living was a stroke of genius. ♦ 97 SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2009