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Buddhadharma : Fall 2014
FALL 2 0 1 4 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 73 ◗ “Don’t say that a stomach cramp is less than pleasant. Say that it hurts.” This is how Ben Howard, emeritus professor of English at Alfred University and longtime Zen practitioner, explains Ernest Heming- way’s fourth rule for writing: “Be positive, not negative.” Rather than urging us to smile and be happy, Howard says that Hemingway was “telling us to render the present reality in the most direct way.” In The Backward Step (Whitlock 2014), Howard incorporates fiction, poetry, social media, snow shoveling, and U.S. politics into his reflections on Zen practice, offer- ing short and perceptive essays that are a pleasure to read. I an Harris’s Buddhism in a Dark Age: Cambodian Monks Under Pol Pot (Hawaii 2013) investigates the fate of Cambodian Buddhism under the brutal Khmer Rouge regime. During its reign from April 1975 to January 1979, the Khmer Rouge devastated Cambodia’s monas- tic communities, dismantling its Buddhist institutions and carrying out the defrocking and murder of vast numbers of monks. Despite the Khmer Rouge’s persecution of Buddhists, Harris shows how, paradoxically, certain dimensions of their regime took after Buddhist tradition: leader Pol Pot (who claimed to have spent six years in a Buddhist monastery) consistently extolled familiar Buddhist ideals such as discipline and self-transformation; he commanded his information minister to ensure that radio announcers delivered propa- ganda as though chanting “like monks who lead the prayers at a wat”; and he used the Khmer term for dependent origination to translate Marx’s dialectical materialism. Such tactics, Harris reasons, were intended to make the mes- sages of the Khmer Rouge more comprehensible to a traditionally Buddhist population. In addition to discussing the period in which the Khmer Rouge were in power, Harris also describes the events that led up to their ascendancy and Cambodian efforts to rebuild Buddhism in the years that followed. ◗ Intellectual dharma does not see what transcends intellect. Fabricated dharma does not realize what “nonactivity” means. If you wish to attain “transcendence of intellect” and “nonactivity” Cut the root of your mind and leave awareness naked. For commentary on these and other verses from the Indian adept Tilopa (988–1069), check out Sangyes Nyenpa’s Tilopa’s Mahamudra Upadesha (Snow Lion 2014), trans- lated and introduced by David Molk. ◗ The Senjusho (Kanji Press 2014) is a collection of Buddhist stories from early medieval Japan dealing with questions of impermanence, karma, and renunciation of secular life. Elegantly translated by Yoshiko Dykstra, these short and engaging narratives also include critical comments and reflec- tions appended by the original compiler(s), which provide insight into how the stories were interpreted during their time. Ink illus- trations by the popular Japanese artist/poet Ihara Saikaku (1642–1693) accompany the narratives. COVERDETAIL