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Buddhadharma : Fall 2012
FALL 2 0 1 2 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 81 NNorman Waddell translates the letters of the seventeenth-century Japanese Zen master and revitalizer of the Rinzai tradition, Hakuin Ekaku (1685–1786), in his new book, Beating the Cloth Drum (Shambhala 2012). The letters are Hakuin’s personal correspondence with monks and lay practitioners, as well as his dharma heirs. Described by one of his chief disciples as having the gaze of a tiger who moved like an ox, Hakuin was likely an intimidating character. However, what becomes evident through reading his let- ters is the extreme care and concern he expressed toward his community. For instance, in one letter addressed to a lay Zen student suffering from an eye disease, Hakuin writes at length about the proper dosages of medicine to take, then goes on to give detailed advice on how to proceed with Naikan introspective meditation, while stress- ing to the student that he not be concerned with koans until he is cured. This level of attentive- ness pervades Hakuin’s letters and gives modern readers a glimpse into the compassionate activity exhibited by this formidable Zen master. Over the course of six days in 2008 at Lehigh University, the Dalai Lama delivered his longest teaching to a Western audience on a single Bud- dhist text. The teaching—on Tsongkhapa’s Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlighten- ment—is now available in the new book, From Here to Enlightenment (Snow Lion 2012). Con- sidered within the Geluk tradition to be a mas- terpiece on the progressive levels of maturation along the path, the Dalai Lama describes this work as “something very dear to me”—it was one of the few texts that he took with him when he escaped his homeland in 1959. The Stages of the Path, previously published in a multivolume English translation, is direct in its explanation of how to follow a spiritual teacher, cultivate a loving heart, and see with a vision of emptiness. With his usual grace and wit, the Dalai Lama makes these classic Tibetan teachings relevant to the Western practitioner, emphasizing the essen- tial points and elaborating on those that are less obvious. The Four Foundations of Mindfulness in Plain English (Wisdom 2012) by Bhante Gunaratana, the author of the bestselling Mindfulness in Plain English, is based on the Bud- dha’s brief discourse from the Pali canon, the Satipatthana Sutta. In discussing the four foundations—mindfulness of the body, feelings, mind, and the dhamma—Gunaratana reveals how mindfulness is a practice that enables you to question what you’re doing while paying attention to the inevitable changes in the world. Brought into experience in this way, he suggests mindfulness empowers you to observe the very impulses that guide your actions, giving you greater ability to work with your mind. In The Scientific Buddha (Yale 2012), scholar of Buddhism Donald Lopez analyzes the dialogue between Buddhism and science, tracing this his- torical encounter from the Victorian Age through to the present-day research on the effects of meditation. The author poses the question: Why do we yearn for the teachings of the Buddha to have predicted every scientific breakthrough, from the Big Bang to Darwinian evolution to Einstein’s relativity theory to the latest discoveries in neuroscience? Lopez looks at the principle rhetoric surrounding scien- tific Buddhism, including arguments that karma is parallel to evolution and that meditation can somehow be extracted from Buddhist ethics. He contends that Buddhism is not scientific—that it never was—and strips Buddhists of any such myths. The real value that the Buddha presented, says Lopez, was his radical challenge to how we see the world. Efforts to conflate Buddhism and science, he suggests, does Buddhism a disservice. In Sustainable Happiness (Routledge 2012), psychotherapist and scholar Joe Loizzo presents the theoretical framework for his program of systematic self-healing. This program proposes methods of gradual evaluation, based on the so-called Nalanda tradition, accredited to the famous Buddhist center of learning Nalanda that thrived up until the eighth century in India. The premise is that Buddhists anticipated recent MICHAEL SHEEHY Ph.D. is the head of research at the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center (TBRC) and the director of Jonang Foundation. by Michael Sheehy BOOK BRIEFS