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Buddhadharma : Summer 2013
76 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY SUMMER 2 0 1 3 IIf asked where the Pure Land Buddhism was historically practiced, most people would likely say China and Japan. In Luminous Bliss (Hawaii 2013), author Georgios Halkias offers a new per- spective on the influence of Buddha Amitabha and his Pure Land through a detailed study of the tradition in Tibet. The book begins with a history of the practice and literature of the Pure Lands in India and Tibet, with emphasis on how Tibetans supported and received these teachings. It goes on to present a translation of the Sukha- vati Sutra, the Buddha’s discourse describing Amitabha’s Pure Land, interviews with several of the most influential Tibetan commentators on the Pure Land literature in Tibet, and discussion of the rituals for transferring one’s consciousness at death to be reborn in the Pure Land. Thanks to Halkias, we now have a fuller vision of the pervasive historical influence of what is the most widely practiced tradition of Buddhism today. Women’s leadership and teaching is an extraor- dinary force currently shaping Buddhism in North America and Europe. Dakini Power (Snow Lion 2013) profiles twelve female Buddhist teach- ers (nine from the West and three from Tibet), exploring their impact on the transmission of Tibetan Buddhism in the West. Author Michaela Haas devotes a chapter to the life and teachings of each woman, including Pema Chödrön, Tsultrim Allione, Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche, and Thubten Chödrön. The final chapter is dedicated to the extraordinary story of the late Khandro Tsering Chödrön, wife of the twentieth-century master Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro. Regarded as a supremely realized Buddhist practitioner her- self (Dilgo Khentse Rinpoche called her “Queen of the Dakinis”), her powerful influence offers a fitting segue into a new era of female Buddhist practitioners. Magnolia and Lotus (White Pine 2013) is a collec- tion of poems by Chin’gak Kuksa Hyesim (1178–1234), the earliest Korean Zen (or Son) master dedicated to writing poetry. Translated by Ian Haight and T’ae-yong Ho, these selected poems touch upon the poet’s life, practice, philosophy, and the natu- ral world. Steeped in imagery, Hyesim’s verses contain all that a poet needs: a mirror, clouds, boiling tea, peach blossoms, and a still mind. As with all good Buddhist poetry, each line brings a surprise. While not overtly mystical, the verses capture projections of the meditative mind: “Have you seen within the endless void / how mind blows traces of clouds, how they come and go? / The clouds laugh easily at your long seques- tered life— / in the far east in the Earth’s recesses, like a tree, you’ve sat, taken root.” Very often when we read books about Bud- dhism, we’re unaware of the filter of the inter- preters who write them. In Making Sense of Tantric Buddhism (Columbia 2013), Chris- tian Wedemeyer takes issue with problem- atic language that has come to shape modern understandings of Buddhist tantra. Employing semiology, the study of symbols and words, Wedemeyer examines how Western authors have crafted a vision of tantra since the nineteenth century. He searches this sec- ondary literature for patterns of speech and traces them to their Buddhist sources. In so doing, he reveals how authors have misconstrued Buddhist tantra as well as how Bud- dhist logic has hidden or sub- verted tantric practice. Some MICHAEL SHEEHY Ph.D. is the head of research at the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center (TBRC) and the director of the Jonang Foundation. by Michael Sheehy BOOK BRIEFS