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Buddhadharma : Winter 2008
75 winter 2 00 8 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly t Book Briefs by alexander gardner Treasures from Juniper Ridge (Ranjung Yeshe, 2008) is a marvelous new collection of terma, or revealed texts, that brings together a range of revelations—from meditation instruction and the Dzogchen view to advice for women household- ers and a description of the bardo. The “Pointing Out Instructions to the Old Lady” is especially moving. Here Padmasambhava tells a woman devotee, who introduces herself as “being of lesser intelligence,” that the nature of her mind is “truly perfected Buddha.” Erik Pema Kun- sang, one of the best translators working today, has done another excellent job of preserving the profound simplicity of the original Tibetan. The book begins with a general introduction to Nyingma teachings crafted by the editors from talks by the late Tulku Urgyen, reminding us of what the world lost when this remarkable teacher passed away. In Eminent Nuns; Women Chan Masters of Seventeenth-Century China (University of Hawaii, 2008), scholar Beata Grant points out that there is a long tradition of women earning high status in Chan Buddhism, although little is known about their contributions because few records of these women have survived. Her study makes use of a rare collection of recorded teach- ings, or yulu (a genre of highly revised and edited public talks and letters), of female Chan masters. The eminent nuns that Grant writes about were all inheritors of a dharma transmission stemming from a remarkable teacher named Qiyuan Xing- gang, a woman whose struggle to enter the order and attain realization is told here in some detail. She eventually received dharma transmission in the short-lived Linji Chan sect and served as abbess of a small but well-established nunnery. Grant translates many poems and excerpts from the other nuns’ writings, showing them to be able teachers who did not shy away from engaging in the combatative exchanges that defined their Linji method of teaching and training. At age ninety-one, Robert Aitken is one of the oldest and longest-serving Zen masters in America. In his new book, Miniatures of a Zen Master (Counterpoint, 2008), his instructions are brief and direct. He recorded many of the pithy chapters—most no more than thirty or fifty words—late at night, upon awaking from a dream or being struck with a memory or inspiration. Like some of the finest Zen litera- ture, they read like the con- tents of one’s own mind and also like a mirror held up to show the mind’s quotidian chatter to be somehow pure. In one piece, he recalls a classmate bully who left school at age eleven after it was revealed that he couldn’t read. In another, he reports on a Zen master who asked his embarrassed audience to raise their hands if they had attained enlighten- ment. And in another, he admits that in his early days of searching for books on dharma in Japan, he would get lost in the section on law (the Japa- nese character for both words is the same). Modern pilgrims to Buddhist India would be hard pressed to find a better guidebook than Ven. Shravasti Dhammika’s Middle Land Middle Way: A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Buddha’s India (BPS, 2008). The book explains that Buddhism’s holy sites have multiplied well beyond the four that the Buddha reportedly said were worthy of pilgrimage: the places of his birth, enlightenment, t chapters—most no more than thirty or fifty words—late at night, upon awaking from a dream or being struck with a memory or inspiration. Like some of the finest Zen litera- ture, they read like the con- tents of one’s own mind and also like a mirror held up to aleXanDeR gaRDneR is the associate director of the shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation in new York. He has a Ph.D. in Buddhist studies from the University of michigan.