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Buddhadharma : Spring 2016
spring 2016 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 79 by rory lindsay book brieFs ◗ Boudhanath (aka Boudha), Nepal, has been a Buddhist pilgrimage site for centuries, and old photos show a once quiet hub that would soon be home to thousands of Tibetan refu- gees. With the Tibetans came new monasteries and a growing community of Western Bud- dhists looking to study under Tibetan teach- ers. echoes: the boudhanath teachings (Shambhala 2016) documents Thinley Norbu Rinpoche’s conversations with a group of Westerners, Tibetans, and Bhutanese during his visit to Boudha in 1977. Their exchanges are fascinating, addressing topics ranging from the state of Buddhism in the West to the Buddhist prerequisite for killing insects to the potential uselessness of meditation retreats. Having lived in Boudha myself, reading this made me feel nostalgic (though the Boudha I know is very different from that of the late 1970s), perhaps because it so perfectly captures the enthusi- asm and curiosity still found among Boudha’s diverse Buddhist communities today. d avid M. Divalerio’s the holy mad- men of tibet (Oxford 2015) exam- ines some of Tibetan history’s most fascinating figures. Diving straight into the grotesque for which these fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Kagyu “mad- men” became known, Divalerio begins by describing Tsangnyon Heruka’s use of human remains as clothing and Drukpa Kunle’s verse about paying homage “not to the Buddha, but to an old man’s impotent member.” While the stories about these teachers are shocking (and highly entertaining), Divalerio frames their actions as a kind of “tantric fundamentalism” that involved taking Buddhist tantric texts liter- ally and emulating the transgressive behaviors they detail. Far from being unhinged, Divalerio suggests they were upholding a vision of tantric Buddhist orthodoxy in order to forge a new identity for the Kagyu order—one that would provide a clear alternative to the conservative monasticism of the surging Gelug school. ◗ awake at the bedside (Wisdom 2016), edited by Koshin Paley Ellison and Matt Wein- gast, is the most helpful book on palliative and end-of-life care I’ve read. Ellison, a Zen Buddhist priest and cofounder of the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care, and Weingast, the director of communications at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, care- fully combine some of the best writing avail- able about death and care for the dying. This includes medical doctors discussing the prob- lematic ways in which the dying are treated in modern hospitals and strategies for getting around these shortcomings. It also includes advice from dharma teachers, beautiful poetry, and personal stories that can help us face expe- riences of illness and loss. Boudhanath Stupa, Nepal photo (top) | cpcmollet / flickr