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Buddhadharma : Fall 2007
fall 2007| 74 |buddhadharma BooK Briefs by Benjamin Bogin John Daido Loori, the abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery in upstate New York, is also an accomplished photographer and a committed environmental activist. These interests and talents were combined in his 1999 publication, Teachings of the Earth: Zen and the Environment. It is fit- ting that this hard-to-find manifesto on the place of the natural world in the practice of Zen should be reprinted (Shambhala Publications, 2007) at a time when global warming has brought the envi- ronment to the forefront of our attention. Loori extends the Buddhist doctrine of interdependence into the ecological ethic: “What you do to the smallest thing on this great earth, you do to your- self.” Drawing upon sources ranging from Dogen to Walt Whitman to Gary Snyder, and beautifully complementing the text with his own photographs of the natural world, Loori’s timely meditation on Zen and the environment is a poetic and definitive statement of American Buddhist ecology. The American-born monk Ajahn Sumedho is one of the foremost teachers of Theravada Bud- dhism in the West. A longtime disciple of the Thai master, Ajahn Chah (1918–1992), Ajahn Sumedho established one of the first Theravada monasteries in the West and has ordained hundreds of monks and led many long retreats. The Sound of Silence: The Selected Teachings of Ajahn Sumedho (Wis- dom Publications, 2007) is a collection of talks delivered during retreats in 2001 and 2005. Orga- nized in twenty-seven short chapters with titles such as “Suffering Should Be Welcomed” and “Don’t Take It Personally,” at first glance the book might appear to belong in the self-help section. However, within this reader-friendly framework, there are detailed and often technical explanations of Theravada meditation. The teachings combine Ajahn Sumedho’s thorough grounding in the Pali sources of the Thai forest tradition with the humor and humility of a teacher who speaks frequently from his own experience. In Visions of Awakening Space and Time: Dogen and the Lotus Sutra (Oxford University Press, 2007), Taigen Dan Leighton draws our attention to the deep, complex, and oft forgotten connections between Japanese Zen and the clas- sic Mahayana scripture, the Lotus Sutra. Leighton demonstrates that Dogen’s Lotus-focused Tendai training exerted a greater influence upon his later career than Zen scholars have previously acknowl- edged. In fact, as Leighton shows, Dogen quotes the Lotus Sutra far more than any other text in his writings. Leighton focuses on Dogen’s interpretations of the sutra’s striking story of countless bodhisattvas emerging from below the earth and paying hom- age to Shakyamuni Buddha. This episode stands out as a key image in Dogen’s view of space and time as awakening itself. Leighton also examines the place of Dogen in the long history of Chinese and Japanese interpretations of the Lotus Sutra. Many Tibetan homes contain an image of a bearded, corpulent man who holds a length of chain in his fingers. The figure is Tangtong Gyalpo (1385–1464), a beloved hero of Tibetan Buddhism who is remembered as an innovator in the con- struction of iron-chain bridges and in artistic cre- ation, medicine, and meditation. Until now, other than a few scholarly articles, there has been almost nothing available on this figure in English. This latest Tsadra Foundation Series publication pres- ents the fruits of thirty years of research by Cyrus Stearns: his 700-page tome, King of the Empty Plain: The Tibetan Iron-Bridge Builder Tangtong Gyalpo (Snow Lion Publications, 2007). The core of the book is a translation of Lochen Gyurme Dechen’s biog- raphy of the saint, filled with travels, adventures, miracles, and a wealth of instructions on Buddhist prac- tice and bodhisattva conduct. It is a shame that English-speaking readers have had to wait so long for this book, but Stearns’ masterful translation and erudite introductions and annotations assure this contribution a very long life. China’s Chan Buddhist traditions have been viewed for the most part through the lens of their Japanese Zen descendants. Many of the sources for studying Chan Buddhism in its own terms were lost or destroyed, and those that remained pose tremendous challenges of interpretation. One such source, the Lidai fabao ji (Record of the Dharma- Jewel Through the Generations), was recovered from the caves of Dunhuang in far-western China at the begin- ning of the twentieth century, and its importance has been debated by scholars ever since. Wendi Adamek’s The Mystique of Transmission: On an Early Chan History and Its Contexts (Columbia University Press, his writings. Leighton focuses on Dogen’s interpretations of the sutra’s striking story of countless bodhisattvas Stearns: his 700-page tome, King of the Empty Plain: The Tibetan Iron-Bridge Builder Tangtong Gyalpo Publications, 2007). The core of the book is a translation of Lochen Gyurme Dechen’s biog- raphy of the saint, filled with travels, adventures, miracles, and a wealth of instructions on Buddhist prac- Jewel Through the Generations), was recovered from the caves of Dunhuang in far-western China at the begin- ning of the twentieth century, and its importance has been debated by scholars ever since. Wendi Adamek’s of Transmission: On an Early Chan History and Its Contexts