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Buddhadharma : Summer 2016
summer 2016 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 79 by rory lindsay book brieFs boons to devotees. As objects of devotion, these figures were used by Chinese Buddhists to “Indianize” (and therefore legitimize) certain beliefs and practices and to bridge perceived gaps between Chinese Buddhism and its Indian antecedents. Richard Bryan McDaniel’s cypress trees in the garden: the second generation of Zen teaching in america (Sumeru 2015) presents engaging interviews with numerous contemporary North American Zen teachers. When a young monk at Zen Mountain Mon- astery near Woodstock, NY asked McDaniel what he wanted his book to “do,” McDaniel, somewhat surprised by the question, said that he wanted it to show that Zen is still a viable spiritual path. While this may seem like a given to some, McDaniel notes that Zen “has not had a smooth take off” in North America, which is reflected in these interviews—many of the teachers discuss the difficulties they and their communities have faced, though they also G uy Newland’s a buddhist grief observed (Wisdom 2016) is a pow- erful reflection on his experience of losing his wife to cancer. The author of numerous excellent books on Tibetan Buddhist philosophy, Newland’s gifts as a writer, thinker, and teacher here shine through in a personal and candid voice. He describes the difficulties he faced after his wife’s passing, including a complete loss of focus, full-body pains, spells of violent shaking, and a morbid sense that the people around him were effectively “corpses-to-be.” He turned to the Buddhist ideas he had spent years study- ing, but initially they did little to alleviate his pain—someone asked him, for example, if his deep familiarity with the doctrine of emptiness was consoling in some way, and his immedi- ate answer was no: “All I could think was that Valerie, empty or not, was definitely around here before and now she is definitely not. And that hurts.” But Newland continued to work through his grief, gradually freeing himself from, as he frames it, the two extremes of iden- tifying with his suffering and denying it, pro- ducing an extraordinary book in the process. Nagarjuna is famous for his enormously influential philosophy of the middle way, but did you know that in medieval China he became known as a master of spells, an alche- mist, and a beneficent deity? In conceiving the indian buddhist patriarchs in china (Hawai’i 2015), Stuart H. Young explains how three Indian Buddhist writers—Nagarjuna, Asvaghosa, and Aryadeva—came to be seen as gods in China who could deliver magical PHOTO (TOP) | cpcmollet / FLICKR Valerie and Guy Newland two years before Valerie’s death from cancer