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Buddhadharma : Fall 2014
FALL 2 0 1 4 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 71 ◗ Himalayan Passages (Wis- dom 2014), edited by Ben- jamin Bogin and Andrew Quintman, presents papers written in honor of Hubert Decleer, who for a quarter century has directed and advised the School for Inter- national Training’s Tibetan studies program in Kath- mandu, welcoming nearly a thousand students to Nepal ◗ Peter Jaeger’s John Cage and Buddhist Ecopoet- ics (Bloomsbury 2013) explores the ecological and Eastern dimensions of the work of the late American composer, writer, and artist John Cage (1912–1992). Cage famously took cues from his readings in Zen Buddhism and attempted to remove his intentions from his compositions by relying on the chance operations of the I Ching. Using similar techniques to determine the layout of his book (which features mul- tiline gaps within sentences that were generated by an I Ching-inspired online random-integer generator), Jaeger collapses distinc- tions between his analysis and its subject matter. The result is a surprisingly liberating reading experi- ence that mixes talk with silence, reminding us of the Zen teachings that inspired Cage’s creations. Z en Master Sengai (Scheidegger & Spiess 2014) showcases the paintings of Sengai Gibon (1750–1837), the famous abbot of Shofukuji, Japan’s first Zen temple. A man of many talents, Sengai became especially well known for his ink paintings. But as contributor Hirokazu Yatsunami tells us, at age eighty Sengai decided to give up painting altogether, saying he was deeply ashamed of his works. The hiatus didn’t last, however, and he soon revisited his talent, continuing to paint until his death. Sengai’s pieces are often described as didactic, and they include inscriptions that mix play and insight. Yet as Michel Mohr explains in his contribution to the volume, past audiences have read these inscriptions in radically different ways. D. T. Suzuki’s English translations illustrate this point well: Sengai’s famous painting of three geometric figures—a square, a triangle, and a circle—includes an inscription that reads “Japan’s first Zen monastery,” followed by a signature. Suzuki renders this “the Universe,” a far cry from the literal meaning and indicative of the vast range of reactions Sengai’s art has inspired. by Rory Lindsay BOOK BRIEFS FALL 2 0 1 4 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 71 JOHNCAGE,1985©PEGGYJARRELLKAPLAN and inspiring many to take up the study of Tibetan and South Asian literature. Jacob Dalton, a former student of Decleer and now a professor of Tibetan studies at UC Berkeley, has remarked on Decleer’s talent for turning seemingly dry historical investigation into “a case worthy of Sherlock Holmes.”