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Buddhadharma : Spring 2014
76 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY SPRING 2 0 1 4 Breathing sustains us and shapes our experi- ences, yet as Allison Choying Zangmo and Anyen Rinpoche note in The Tibetan Yoga of Breath (Shambhala 2013), it is not always something we are terribly good at. This book teaches us not only to become more aware of how we breathe but also how to use breath to tackle physical and emotional suffering. Zangmo and her husband, Anyen Rinpoche, start by cit- ing myriad reasons for working with the breath, drawing on Tibetan tradition as well as contem- porary medical research. They detail how breath- ing directly affects the health of individual cells in the body and how the neurotic mind can be calmed through breath yoga. They then outline specific practices, including basic wind-energy techniques, breath meditations on imperma- nence, meditations for overcoming destructive emotional patterns, and techniques for breath- ing through pain. Alfred Bloom’s The Shin Buddhist Classical Tradition: A Reader in Pure Land Teaching, Vol- ume 1 (World Wisdom 2013) unites a broad sam- pling of classic Buddhist writings on Pure Land teachings. As Bloom explains in his introduction, for decades Pure Land traditions received little attention from Western writers who regarded them as degenerate and unworthy of careful engagement. But with a surge in reliable transla- tions and engagement with Pure Land scholars and practitioners, the complexity and richness of Pure Land traditions has become better known. From discussions on the psychology of dying, to reflections on the necessity of faith, to the Pure Land pioneer Shinran’s profound articulations of the ways in which ordinary life and the ultimate interrelate, Bloom shows that there is much to be admired in this important strand of Buddhist literature. Hearing the word “intimacy,” our minds might jump right to sex or a conversation between con- fidantes. But as Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara explains in Most Intimate: A Zen Approach to Life’s Chal- lenges (Shambhala 2014), this word can mean a lot more in Buddhist contexts, denoting “the underlying liberation of Zen,” which involves becoming radically intimate with everyone (including our- selves) and with every situa- tion that arises. The founder and abbot of the Village Zendo in Manhattan and a core figure in the Zen Peacemaker Order, O’Hara takes intimacy as her starting point for social engagement, framing it as something indivisibly linked with personal transformation. She recalls the moment years ago when she came across a fellow Zen student who had just learned that he was HIV positive: she had reached out to others before, but her experi- ences by his side transformed her attitude toward outreach, and she would go on to make it central to her practice. In Stillness, Insight & Emptiness (Snow Lion 2013), Lama Dudjom Dorjee describes his youth as a Tibetan refugee in India. Competitive in all arenas— from debate to fist fighting— he recalls how his intensity propelled him through the rigors of Tibetan Buddhist monastic education, earning him a prestigious acharya degree from Varanasi’s San- skrit University. Yet despite his accomplishments and a new job editing an edition of the Kangyur, he felt distracted and lost, so he turned to medi- tation, embarking on his first three-year retreat. His experiences during those years became a catalyst for his book, in which he details with clarity the building blocks of meditation before focusing on the stages of shamatha, vipashyana, and Mahamudra. Appended is his beautiful doha or “poem of realization” composed at Yolmo Kangra in Nepal, a site where Milarepa is said to have practiced. Nagarjuna’s second-century masterwork on the philosophy of the Middle Way, the Mulama- dhyamakakarika, is among the most influential texts in the history of Buddhist literature. Its pithy and puzzling verses reject basic assump- tions about our world—the reality of causality, motion, and time, among them—and point to the RORY LINDSAY is a Ph.D. candidate in Tibetan Studies at Harvard University. by Rory Lindsay BOOK BRIEFS