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Buddhadharma : Winter 2015
winter 2 0 1 5 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 83 Ra Yeshe Senge in the late twelfth century and expertly translated and introduced by Bryan J. Cuevas, the text paints Ra Lotsawa as a kind of “Buddhist antihero” wandering around Tibet and South Asia mastering tantric prac- tices and doing magic in service of the dharma. In one episode, we find him ritually killing Khon Shakya Lodro, the father of the founder of Sakya Monastery, which is framed as a supremely kind act since Shakya Lodro had become riddled with jealousy and malice; by killing him, his consciousness was dispatched to Manjushri. Prior to this, Avalokitesvara, the bodhisattva of compassion, visits Ra Lotsawa in order to encourage him to do it, which pro- vides additional justification for the act but leaves questions about the nature of compas- sion in Ra Lotsawa’s world. ◗ Buddhist studies scholar John S. Strong is known for his outstanding work on the life story of the Buddha and the importance of the Buddha’s relics in the development of Buddhist tradition. In his buddhisms: an introduction (Oneworld 2015), Strong offers a nuanced examination of the history of Bud- dhism more broadly, from its early phases to modern developments. He explains that his goal is to do justice to both the multiplicity and unity of Buddhist tradition, starting with a tour of a remarkable site: modern-day Lumbini, Nepal, famed as the birthplace of the Buddha. Strong leads us around Lumbini’s temples and centers, from the Mayadevi Temple marking “the spot” where the Buddha is said to have been born, to the Gautami Center for Nuns founded by the Nepalese Theravadin nun Dhammavati, to a Chinese monastery that emulates ancient Chinese architecture. This “bewildering variety” of sites reflects the com- plex story of Buddhism around the world, yet Strong notes the unity in their shared focus on the Buddha Shakyamuni. ◗ Jeffrey L. Broughton’s the chan Whip anthology (Oxford 2015) presents in transla- tion a 400-year-old guide to Chan Buddhist practice, which focuses on cross-legged sitting and the work of “keeping an eye on the cue.” The latter is the famous gong’an (Jpn., koan) practice that involves focusing on a single term or phrase until progress is made toward “smashing the birth-and-death mind.” This text is credited with reviving gong’an practice from the seventeenth century onward, and its engaging tone makes it a great resource for modern meditators. ◗ Khetsun Sangpo Rinpoche (1921–2009) was the first major Tibetan Buddhist master I met, and I was immediately struck by his gentle- ness and brilliance as a teacher. The talks he gave in Toronto late in his life were lucid and inspiring, and his willingness to discuss some of the Nyingma tradition’s most profound teach- ings surprised even his own Tibetan disciples. In strand of Jewels (Snow Lion 2015), com- piled, translated, and introduced by Anne C. Klein, we gain access to his pith instructions on Dzogchen together with detailed oral com- mentary. As Klein writes in her introduction, this work is not meant just for reading but is designed to encourage and sustain “life- long practice, fully informed by Dzogchen per- spectives.” rory linDsay (left) is a PhD student in Tibetan and south asian religions at harvard university, where he teaches courses on religion and classical Tibetan. roryLInDsAyBymanGostudios Khetsun Sangpo Rinpoche