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Buddhadharma : Spring 2006
spring 2006| 82 |buddhadharma lineages to translator-heroes of this period (such as the Sakya and Kagyü schools) will recognize such familiar names as Drokmi Lotsawa and Marpa, but may be surprised by the wealth of previously unknown details regarding the world in which they lived. Although several books have been written on the place of women in Tibetan Buddhist thought and practice, Women in Tibet: Past and Present (Columbia Univer- sity Press, 2005) is the first volume devoted to the lives of Tibetan women. The book contains eight original studies, ranging chronologically from the ancient Tibetan empire to the present, and geographically representing all corners of the Tibetan cultural world. As editors Janet Gyatso and Hanna Havnevik make clear in their introduction, the book is not intended to be a comprehensive survey of women in Tibet, but rather a significant first step. The stories of queens, meditators, oracles, physicians, performing artists, nuns, and politicians t h at we encounter in its pages illustrate the challenges faced by women in Tibetan society, as well as sh o w these women’s accomplishments and contribu- tions to that society. Readers interested in gender roles in Tibetan Buddhism can learn much from these insights into the lives of Tibetan women. Many of the images most frequently associated with the art of Zen are those housed in Kyoto’s Daitokuji monastery. Gregory Levine’s impressive monograph Daitokuji: The Visual Cultures of a Zen Monastery (University of Washington Press, 2006) brings to life the place that these images occupied in the religious life of the monastery. Beyond this, the author tells the story of how these images have become known to the world outside the monastery through the work of art his- torians, collectors, and government offi- cials. Levine’s elegantly written studies about the portraits of several Daitokuji abbots take the images out of their static frames and bring them into the vibrant contexts of production, display, recep- tion, dislocation, reclamation, and repro- duction. Chapters on connoisseurs of calligraphy at Daitokuji, the monastery’s annual “airings” of sacred images, and the travels of its famous set of paintings of the five hundred arhats round out the book, which explores not only the visual images of a Zen monastery but also the very idea of Zen art as a distinct genre. The entire volume is interspersed with stunning reproductions of the paintings, statues, and calligraphies under consid- eration. Among the various types of Buddhist practice, few have captivated the popu- lar imagination as thoroughly as the Zen koan. In Sitting with Koans: Essential Writings on Zen Koan Introspection (Wisdom Publications, 2006), editor John Daido Loori has produced a handy compendium of some of the most impor- tant writings on the topic by scholars and Zen masters. It’s divided into three sections: the roots of koan tradition in C hin a , the evolution of koan practice in Japan, and modern koan commentaries by an all-star cast of twentieth-century Zen teachers. The book is designed for readers who have at least a basic under- standing of the Zen tradition, and it brings together a wealth of illuminating material for that audience. Readers with no previous knowledge of Zen may find the absence of a framework connecting the various selections frustrating. Khenpo Palden Sherab Rinpoche and Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche are brothers who have been teaching in North America for over twenty years. At centers in upstate New York, Florida, and now across the country, they have quietly built a reputation for their vast knowledge of the Nyingma tradition and their pragmatic and lucid style of teach- ing. Opening to Our Primordial Nature (Dharma Samudra/Snow Lion, 2006) is based on talks they delivered in Tennes- see in the late 1980’s and provides an excellent introduction to their style and teachings. Free of footnotes and unnec- essary elaboration, the book c o v e r s the foundations of Buddhism, through t o the conduct of the bodhisattva, and on to Vajrayana meditation – all in the short space of a hundred pages. The clar- ity and efficiency of the book’s structure and the detailed meditation instructions in the latter sections make Opening to Our Primordial Nature a very practical guide to the Dzogchen path. Buddhist Studies from India to Amer- ica: Essays in Honor of Charles S. Prebish (Routledge, 2006) pays homage to the career of Pennsylvania State University professor Charles Prebish. The seven- teen essays by students and colleagues are divided into four sections that rep- resent the principle research interests of the honoree: vinaya and ethics, histories of Buddhist schools, Western Buddhism, and interreligious dialogue. In his intro- duction, editor Damien Keown describes the impact that Prebish has had in each of these fields of Buddhist studies. The contributors offer further evidence of this fact, with references to Prebish’s influence on their work. A sampling of the offerings includes Judith Simmer-Brown writing on the prospects for the establishment of a community of fully-ordained nuns (bhik shunis) in Tibetan Buddhism, Reginald Ray’s analysis of the Lankavatara Sutra, and Donald Swearer on the ecumenical vision of the twentieth-century Thai Bud- dhist, Buddhadasa Bhikkhu.