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Buddhadharma : Summer 2005
buddhadharma| 79 |summer 2005 in Peaceful Death, Joyful Rebirth: A Tibetan Buddhist Guidebook (Shambhala Publications, 2005), Tulku Thondup passes on the knowledge he’s gained through a lifetime of study and practical experience with the dying. He introduces the characteristics of the four periods of existence – life, death, the transitional bardo, and rebirth – and illuminates these fundamental teachings with discussions of rebirth in pure lands and of the stories told by delogs, those who return to life after experiencing death. Tulku Thondup presents these fascinating tales of journeys through the hell realms and visits to pure lands in a way that makes them accessible to any reader without diminishing the pro- found insights they hold for more expe- rienced students of Tibetan Buddhism. Moreover, the concluding sections of the book provide advice, practical instruc- tion, and liturgies to be used in helping the dying and the dead. The legacy of Taizan Maezumi Roshi’s teachings lives on in The Book of Equanim- ity: Illuminating Classic Zen Koans (Wisdom Publications, 2005) by his student, Gerry Shishin Wick. The Book of Equanimity is as central to koan practice in the Soto tradi- tion as the better-known Blue Cliff Record is in the Rinzai tradition. The one hundred koans it discusses were first collected and commented upon with short appreciatory verses by Master Wanshi Shokaku in the twelfth century. A hundred years later, Ban- sho Gyoshu added prefaces. At the begin- ning of the twenty-first century, Shishin Wick gave a series of talks on each of the hundred cases to Zen students in Colo- rado, and now with this new publication, he offers his commentary and translation to a wider audience. Shishin Wick was trained as a physicist and oceanographer, and his scientific background comes through in his rigorous examination of each case. His poetic sensibility is also evident in the book, such as in his commentary on “Joshu’s Dog,” which describes the noble futility of the bodhisattva vow using the image of someone attempting to fill a well with snow. He draws upon examples rang- ing from the scholarly (comparisons with other koan collections) to the everyday (a friend’s paralyzed dachshund) to show the importance of The Book of Equanimity in the Zen tradition and its relevance to the lives of his students and readers. Buddhism takes the spotlight in the lat- est addition to the University of Chicago’s Critical Terms series. Each of the fifteen essays that make up Critical Terms for the Study of Buddhism (University of Chicago Press, 2005) provides erudite, insightful, and often unexpected investigations of a single term. Editor Donald S. Lopez, Jr. invited an eclectic group of scholars, Bud- dhists, and others to each reflect on and write about selected terms: Buddha, art, death, economy, gift, history, institution, pedagogy, person, power, practice, ritual, sex, word, and modernity. Each contrib- utor traces an idiosyncratic path into the most puzzling questions raised by each term. For example, Reiko Ohnuma leads the reader through a footnote in a classic essay by Marcel Mauss into a fascinating discussion of gift, reciprocity, and dana. Janet Gyatso explores sex, not through the tantric literature one might expect, but through the vinaya rules for celibate monks. Other essays, such as Carl Biele- feldt’s on practice, soberly advise us to step back and reflect on the layers of meaning that converge at a specific term. This book provides both a snapshot of the current state of academic thinking on Buddhism and a starting point for future discussions. If you’re looking for a book to take along on your summer travels, you would be hard-pressed to find a better compan- ion than Basho’s Journey: The Literary Prose of Matsuo Basho (SUNY Press, 2005). David Landis Barnhill’s exquisite translations of all five of Basho’s travel journals, the Saga Diary, and selected prose poems in the haibun style provide a comprehensive collection of the prose works of this beloved Japanese trav- eler and poet. Barnhill’s introduction and annotations frame the translations elegantly, offering just enough contex- tual information without crowding the translations themselves. Read cover to cover, the volume presents the breadth of Basho’s prose. If you open it randomly, on almost every page you encounter haunting images of the landscape, village life, and literary culture of Japan. This book inspires us to stop and pay attention to the poetry of the world around us. Two new publications from the Padma- kara Translation Group offer translations of very different but equally significant classics of Buddhist literature. The first, Book BrieFS By Benjamin Bogin