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Buddhadharma : Summer 2012
SUMMER 2 0 1 2 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 71 WWhat’s striking about Tsoknyi Rinpoche’s new book, Open Heart, Open Mind (Harmony Books 2012), is that it’s so personal. It’s unusual for a lama to open up about his own vulnerabilities and fears, particularly in print, and Tsoknyi Rinpoche does so in a way that is both touching and reassuring for practitioners. He writes about being a father, husband, and Dzogchen teacher, and growing up among some of the legendary Tibetan meditation masters of the previous gen- eration. At one poignant moment in the book, he recounts visiting his father, the Dzogchen mas- ter Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, at his hermitage in Nepal, where in a quiet sunlit room his father gently signaled him in a manner that opened him to the inner space of awareness. After describing how that initial lesson with his father deepened through his own experimentation and further learning, he guides the reader through a helpful meditation on the mindfulness of space. He also explores such themes as boundless love, habits of the self, and the subtle body in the same personal narrative style of teaching. Dogen: Textual and Historical Studies (Oxford 2012) explores the burgeoning field of Dogen studies by bringing together a band of scholars who highlight variegated angles of the enigmatic founder of the Soto Zen tradition. Dogen’s legacy lives on in both his dharma transmission and his poetic and philosophical writings. How this legacy continues to be received is the subject of the present volume. One essay addresses Dogen (1200– 1253) as a typecast figure in the world of Japanese Zen, taking issue with how his zazen edict of “just sitting” was overemphasized, leading to the com- mon misconception that Dogen did not prescribe prostrations, burning incense, reading sutras, and other ritualistic practices. Other essays are more historical, including one that compares Dogen with Eisai, another Zen giant of his era. Dogen and Eisai both took issue with Chan masters who believed that meditative superpowers, such as the ability to fly, were integral to the Buddhist path. This well-conceived volume includes numerous essays that will serve the study of Dogen far into the future. The American avant garde’s encounter with Buddhism is the subject of Ellen Pearlman’s epi- sodic narrative, Nothing and Everything (North Atlantic Books 2012). Though Pearlman aims to discuss the influence of various Buddhist tradi- tions on the post-World War II art scene in New York City during the years 1942–1962, her focus is pri- marily on Zen. Much of the book profiles the career of the Japanese scholar D. T. Suzuki, recounting his early life in Japan, his experience teach- ing at Columbia University, and his influence on artists, including the experimental composer John Cage. One memorable scene in Pearlman’s recounting of East–West encounters took place on a summer day in 1957, when the writer Jack Kerouac and his friends Peter Orlovsky and Allen Ginsberg vis- ited D. T. Suzuki in his Upper West Side apart- ment. Suzuki served green tea while they talked nonsensically and composed haiku. As the Beat poets departed, the Zen scholar yelled to them, “Remember the tea!” to which Kerouac replied, “Key?” In pith verses, To Dispel the Misery of the World (Wisdom 2012) guides the reader gradu- ally through training in the cultivation of bodhi- citta, or sensitivity to the anguish in the world. A translation of the classic Seven Points of Mind Training by the Tibetan author Chekawa Yeshe Dorje (1101–1175), with a full commentary by the fifteenth-century master Ga Rabjampa, much of the text inspires the meditator to imagine herself differently. One such contemplation con- jures the image of the sum total of one’s own bones accu- mulated through successive lives in a pile higher than the mountain at the apex of the cosmos. The contemplation helps us consider our own MICHAEL SHEEHY Ph.D. is the head of research at the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center (TBRC) and the director of Jonang Foundation. Book Briefs by Michael Sheehy