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Lions Roar : March 2010
SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2010 87 BY ANDREA MILLER Books in Brief THE WAY OF MOUNTAINS AND RIVERS Teachings on Zen and the Environment By John Daido Loori Dharma Communications, 2009; 133 pp., $24.95 (cloth) The ancient Zen Master Dogen’s writing is known for being both gorgeously creative and notoriously difficult to under- stand. In this commentary on the Mountains and River Sutra, John Daido Loori, Roshi, unpacks what many consider to be Dogen’s most eloquent sutra, and he does so using clear and engaging prose. He also illuminates each of the twenty parts of the text with original poetry and serene yet powerful photographs of nature. The Way of Mountains and Rivers is John Daido Loori’s final volume in his photography trilogy on the environment, and his last book before his death in Octo- ber 2009. Daido Loori, born in 1931, was the founder of the Mountains and Rivers Order of Zen Buddhism and abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery. AWAKENING JOY 10 Steps That Will Put You on the Road to Real Happiness By James Baraz and Shoshana Alexander Bantam, 2010; 336 pp., $26 (cloth) According to Awakening Joy, our state of mind isn’t solely deter- mined by what is happening to us, but rather our relationship to what is happening. This book is based on the curriculum of James Baraz’s “Awakening Joy” course, which has been attended by thousands. He has been teaching Buddhist meditation for thirty years, and, as a result, the book is grounded in Buddhist thought. Yet readers of any (or no) faith will find the advice, exercises, and anecdotes accessible. We learn that one key to being happy is being fully present, and that means facing the truth about life: life includes anger, sadness, and fear, but these negative emotions are temporary states. “Cultivating our good- ness, aliveness, and joy not only feels good,” say the authors, “it also helps us express our love more and awaken it in others. Our own joy becomes a gift to everyone we meet.” WHOLESOME FEAR Transforming Your Anxiety About Impermanence & Death By Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Kathleen McDonald Wisdom Publications, 2010; 168 pp., $14.95 (paper) If the topic of death has ever made you squirm, this book is for you. If you have ever lost a loved one and then been dismayed when your closest friends avoided talking about it, this book is for you, too. Indeed, if you’re the sort of person who will die someday, this is a good book to read. As it says, many people feel that talk- ing about death will take the joy out of living. “Yet in truth, when we actively think about death and prepare for our own deaths, the opposite actually happens: we connect more to the peace, fulfill- ment, and happiness available in our lives. What’s more, our fear of death starts to disappear.” Wholesome Fear explains Buddhist— particularly Tibetan Buddhist—ideas about life and death, and it offers meditations to help us transform our lives. SKY TRAIN Tibetan Women on the Edge of History By Canyon Sam University of Washington Press, 2009; 278 pp., $24.95 (paper) Sky Train is a travel memoir, woven together with interviews with various Tibetan women, including a freedom fighter, a child bride, and a Chinese Communist gulag survivor. The women’s accounts are of struggle and tragedy, but also of courage and hope. And the narrative is colorful, filled with sights, sounds, smells. The author, Canyon Sam, a third-generation Chinese American, left the U.S. in 1986 with plans to live in her ancestral home for a year. Instead, however, she spent the bulk of that time in Tibet and Dharamsala, India, where she fell in love with Tibetan culture. There was just one thing about it that made her uncomfortable: the sexism. In Tibetan, one of the words for “woman” means “lower birth.” Yet, according to Sam, Tibetan women are anything but spiritually low. They are, she tells us, role models of strength who have shouldered the responsibility to preserve their culture.