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Buddhadharma : Summer 2017
78 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly summer 2017 by rory lindsay book brieFs V icki Mackenzie’s The Revolutionary Life of Freda Bedi (Shambhala 2017) tells the story of the first Western woman to become a Tibetan Buddhist nun. An Oxford-educated author (her publica- tions included an account of her time spent as a political prisoner in Lahore and a children’s book with Indian political themes), Bedi was a close disciple of the Sixteenth Karmapa and a mentor to Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Gelek Rimpoche, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, and Akong Rinpoche, among other young lamas who fled Tibet. Before her engagement with the Tibetan cause, she had been a free- dom fighter in Gandhi’s strug gle for Indian independence, having married Baba Pyare Lal Bedi, a direct descendent of Guru Nanak (1469–1539), the founder of Sikhism. They had three children, one of whom became a Bol- lywood legend. She first took novice ordination at age fifty-five under the Karmapa and later became fully ordained through Chinese Bud- dhist lines. With the Karmapa’s permission, she even gave initiations—an astonishing thing for a Western woman to do at that time. These and other remarkable achievements fill Mackenzie’s book, foregrounding an unsung pioneer in the spread of Tibetan Buddhism to the West. What might a secular brand of Buddhism look like? Stephen Batchelor has spent years attempting to answer this question, and his controversial and compelling works have challenged traditional perspectives on what it means to be Buddhist. In his new book, Secu- lar Buddhism (Yale 2017), we find selections from his writings in journals, anthologies, mag- azines, and newspapers along with new pieces that, taken together, reflect the evolution of his thinking. For Batchelor, it has become clear that certain Buddhist practices are transforma- tive whether one is religious or not—so why, he wonders, should we commit to Buddhism as a religion at all? Discussing the Buddhist path, the Chi- nese Chan master Mazu Daoyi (709–88) remarks: “We become stained by being over- indulgent in life, fearing death, striving, and chasing after goals. If you want to grasp the Way directly, it is none other than your ordi- nary mind.” What does Mazu mean by “ordi- nary mind”? What’s the problem with striving? While these are million-dollar questions in Chan with no straightforward answers, con- temporary Japanese scholar Fumio Yamada presents his own perspectives (hint: it has more to do with accepting yourself than with restrict- ing negative emotions) in Master Ma’s Ordi- nary Mind (Wisdom 2017), translated by Nick Bellando. It is tempting to take Chan Buddhist texts and their stories of miraculously enlightened figures at face value, as reflecting actual histori- cal events. But in his new book, Patriarchs on Paper (California 2016), scholar Alan Cole examines writings from the Tang and Song dynasties and challenges us to take them as creative works of literature rather than docu- mentary windows into the past. He argues that the authors of these texts reframed past masters Freda Bedi in Delhi with Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (left) and Akong Rinpoche (right), 1961 (TOP)bediFamilyarchives