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Lions Roar : July 2006
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2006 87 THE TIBETAN BOOK OF THE DEAD First Complete Translation Translated by Gyurme Dorje; edited by Graham Coleman with Thupten Jinpa Viking Penguin, 2006; 535 pp.; $29.95 (cloth) The 1927 Evans-Wentz translation of the so-called Tibetan Book of the Dead was a cult favorite in the 1960’s. (The Ti- betan text is called the bardo thosgrol chenmo, which means “liberation on hearing in the intermediate state.” But Evans- Wentz’s play on the title of the famous Egyptian Book of the Dead stuck.) Several heavy-hitters have translated this “high- est” of the vajrayana tantras, including Francesca Fremantle and Chögyam Trungpa, Edward Conze, and Robert Thurman. But this edition, translated by Nyingma scholar Gyurme Dorje and edited by Graham Coleman and Thupten Jinpa, is certain to become the definitive translation for its careful accuracy. It is also rightly called the complete translation of this cycle of teachings: six of the fourteen chapters have never before ap- peared in English. The Dalai Lama’s introduction explains the profound concepts of the bardo thosgrol chenmo and the medi- tation practices related to it; each chapter is preceded by a brief but helpful introduction explaining its significance and func- tion. In thinking about preparing for death, this book teaches us to be transformed by life. VEGETABLE ROOTS DISCOURSE Wisdom from Ming China on Life and Living By Hong Zicheng; translated and introduced by Robert Aitken with Daniel W.Y. Kwok Shoemaker and Hoard, 2006; 240 pp.; $24 (cloth) American Zen elder Robert Aitken first read verses from the Caitengan, or “Vegetable Roots Discourse,” while he was interned in Japan during the Second World War. Now, in his 89th year, he’s retranslated, with his friend, the historian Daniel Kwok, this one of his “favorite ‘little books.’” A collection of 360 epigrams about life and the proper way to conduct it, the Vegetable Roots Discourse was compiled about 400 years ago in Ming Dynasty China. As with many ancient texts, its authorship is a little hazy, and it’s hard to tease apart the threads of Taoism, Confucian- ism, and Buddhism. But it can be enjoyed merely for its sage advice, and for the charm of the Chinese idiom that Aitken and Kwok have preserved (“Be prudent, and don’t let your bowels be stirred by trifles”). PORTRAITS OF TIBETAN BUDDHIST MASTERS By Don Farber; text by Rebecca McClen Novick University of California Press, 2006; 191 pp.; $29.95 (cloth) For the last twenty years, Don Farber has been taking photo- graphs of Buddhist teachers whenever he can create an oppor- tunity. While Portraits of Tibetan Masters is not an exhaustive catalogue of teachers who’ve been in contact with Western stu- dents, there is good representation from all schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Some, like Chagdud Rinpoche and Chögyam Trungpa are dead and gone, and others are in their advanced years, like Geshe Sopa. But Farber has also sought out those who are com- ing into their own as the next generation of teachers, like the 17th Karmapa, and those who are just at the beginning of their training, like the new incarnation of Kalu Rinpoche. These pho- tographs, each accompanied by a short teaching and a biogra- phy, are luminous and penetrating—these teachers are actively conveying something of their realization. Portraits is heartening, because, as Sogyal Rinpoche says in the introduction, it dem- onstrates “this living transmission of wisdom continues onward, undiminished.” THE WISDOM OF YOGA A Seeker’s Guide to Extraordinary Living By Stephen Cope Bantam Books, 2006; 352 pp.; $25 (cloth) In recent years it’s been the mission of serious yoga practitioners to correct a common misunderstanding—that yoga is merely something you do with your body, not your mind. Stephen Cop e’s The Wisdom of Yoga goes a long way toward illuminating the profound meditative roots of classical yoga. It’s a modern commentary on the more accessible sections of the yogasutra, the second-century ce exposition on raja yoga by the sage Pa- tanjali. Cope structures The Wisdom of Yoga around the stories of six contemporary practitioners who have given the principles of the yogasutra “a serious try.” Cope, who teaches at Kripalu Center, the largest residential yoga center in America, is a psy- chotherapist by training and an active participant in the ongoing dialogue between yoga and Buddhism. He carefully threads his way through the history, overlaps, and differences between the two and declares them “sister traditions.” The Wisdom of Yoga, which includes an English translation of the yogasutra and a San- skrit glossary, will breathe new life into an ancient text. MIXED MEDIA BY ANDREA MCQUILLIN