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Buddhadharma : Summer 2011
winter 2005| 80 |buddhadharma Buddhism of East Asia out of the shad- ows, this publication will raise fruitful questions about the way tantra has been defined and classified in its travels across cultures and times. Zen Classics: Formative Texts in the History of Zen Buddhism (Oxford Uni- versity Press, 2005) is not an anthology of Zen classics but rather a collection of essays on the very notion and function of “classics” in the history and literature of Zen. This sequel to The Zen Canon, which shared the same editors, Steven Heine and Dale S. Wright, and several of the same contributors, contains separate studies of eight distinct genres, or works, of Zen literature. These studies share the view that despite Zen’s antagonistic rheto- ric toward the written word, literature has always occupied a central role in the his- tory and practice of the tradition. While Victor Sogen Hori’s essay on koan cap- ping phrases will shed new light on mate- rials familiar to all students of Rinzai Zen, chapters such as Charles Muller’s study of the Diamond Sutra in Korean Son (Zen) and Michel Mohr’s account of eighteenth- century Japanese interest in the roots of Zen draw our attention to fascinating but forgotten classics of Zen. At first glance, The Dalai Lamas: A Visual History (Serindia Publications, 2005) might appear to be a coffee-table book filled with beautiful images related to the lives of the fourteen Dalai Lamas. (It does include nearly 300 plates of some of the most exquisite paintings, sculp- tures, and photographs in Tibetan visual history, which formed part of an exhibi- tion in Zurich.) However, closer inspec- tion reveals that editor Martin Brauen has invited top scholars in the field to contribute historical essays on the life of each Dalai Lama and other topics related to Tibet’s most famous incarnation. Amy Heller offers an account of the protector deities associated with the Dalai Lamas, and Georges Dreyfus examines the four- teenth Dalai Lama’s balancing act between traditional Buddhism and modernity. The quality of the scholarship in this visually stunning volume will immediately make this the standard reference for the 600- year history of the incarnation line. Buddhist Churches of America, the U.S. branch of Jodo Shinshu, is facing a period of change (see Buddhadharma, Fall 2005). A new generation of leaders has articulated the twin goals of expand- ing membership beyond the Japanese- American community and returning the teachings to the insights of Jodo Shinshu’s thirteenth-century founder, Shinran. A Life of Awakening: The Heart of the Shin Buddhist Path (Hozokan Publica- tions, 2005) by Takamaro Shigaraki could go a long way toward helping with both of these aims. Dr. Shigaraki, one of the most eminent Shin Buddhist priests and scholars in Japan, is acutely aware of the misunderstandings his tradition has encountered. His book combines a straightforward overview of the history and doctrines of Shin Buddhism with per- sonal anecdotes exploring the subtleties of Shin thought. Shigaraki is particularly concerned with the common translation of “shin” as “faith” and discusses the nuances of meaning associated with the Japanese term. David Matsumoto has translated the book in a style that makes Dr. Shigaraki’s Life of Awakening as read- able as it is timely. The hallmark of Tibetan Buddhist master Tsongkhapa (1357–1419) was his ability to condense a wide variety of scattered practices into a coherent and complete system. His presentation of the Vajrayana path, consisting of the four classes of Action Tantra, Performance Tantra, Yoga Tantra, and Highest Yoga Tantra, is still recognized as one of the most elegant and authoritative composi- tions in Tibetan Buddhist literature. Yoga Tantra: Paths to Magical Feats (Snow Lion Publications, 2005) provides the first English-language overview of the third of these classes, the practices known as Yoga Tantra. The book opens with a detailed overview of Yoga Tantra by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Then, Jeffrey Hopkins translates and annotates the rel- evant section of Tsongkhapa’s composi- tion with the same precision and clarity that he used to render his explanations of Action Tantra and Performance Tantra in Tantra in Tibet (1977) and The Yoga of Tibet/Deity Yoga (1981). Another masterpiece by Tsongkhapa has also just appeared in print: Tantric Ethics: An Explanation of the Precepts for Buddhist Vajrayana Practice (Wisdom Publications, 2005). In this work, Tsong- khapa carefully lays out the precepts for tantric practitioners and addresses dilem- mas such as those faced by Tibetan monks who vow to uphold the fundamental monastic precepts against violence and simultaneously take the tantric vow not to refrain from violence when it’s called for. Questions like this were of vital impor- tance throughout Tibetan Buddhist his- tory and generated an enormous body of specialized literature. Translator Gareth Sparham labored for twenty-five years in his attempt to unravel and explain the complexity of Tsongkhapa’s account. His introduction orients the reader with a thorough grounding in the issues at stake and the terms in which they were debated. Tantric Ethics offers a glimpse into one of the most important debates in Tibetan Buddhist thought, and provides fertile ground for reflection on ways to define a Buddhist morality.