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Buddhadharma : Fall 2011
81 fall 2 01 1 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly WWisdom Wide and Deep (Wisdom 2011) by Shaila Catherine is a contemporary manual on Theravadan methods for cultivating vipassana meditation and jhana states of meditative absorp- tion. Thought to predate the Buddha, concentra- tion practices of jhana are central to meditation in the Pali Tipitika. Catherine pulls extensively from the fifth-century commentator Buddhaghosa’s magnum corpus, the Visuddhimagga, or Path of Purification, and bases her instructions on those she received from the Burmese meditation master Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw. Theravadan meditation instructions repeated here include focusing atten- tion on specific colored circles, reflecting on the benefits of joy, and contemplating the repulsive- ness of a rotting human corpse. While referencing classical sources, Catherine seeks to make jhana- induced states accessible, “even when immersed in a busy lay life.” It’s an ambitious goal, given that these meditations were traditionally taught to adepts and forest-dwellers in monastic settings. The River of Heaven (Counterpoint 2011) is a collection of haiku writings by the Japanese poet Zen masters Basho, Buson, Issa, and Shiki, with commentary and a short introduction to each poet by the late American Buddhist elder and teacher Robert Aitken Roshi. Aitken passed away on August 5, 2010, soon after submitting the final draft, so this book was edited and pub- lished without him, which his longtime editor and friend Jack Shoemaker notes was a “lonely task.” Each haiku transliterated in Japanese is presented along with its English translation and a paragraph comment by Aitken. Restricted by three phrases that total seventeen syllables, the Japanese poetic form of the haiku juxtaposes image and idea to give a simple breakthrough expression. As Basho writes, “An old pond; a frog leaps in —the water sound.” Tibet: A History (Yale Univer- sity 2011) by Sam van Schaik accomplishes the remarkable task of narrating Tibet’s 1,400-year history from its appearance on the world stage through its empire building and golden age renaissance up to its present-day struggle for identity. An ambitious undertaking that could span numerous volumes, van Schaik keeps it at a mere 300-plus pages, and he writes like a storyteller, keeping his reader intrigued. The story begins with the tsenpo, or divinely descended kings of Tibet, whose empire expanded as far west as Kashmir and Turkestan, north into the deserts of Central Asia, and across the Silk Route to the borderlands of China. Key historical events are profiled, including Sakya Pandita’s arrival at the Mongol court after the fall of the Tibetan empire, the Dzogchen master Longchenpa’s political exile in Bhutan, and the death of the Fifth Dalai Lama that was kept a national secret for fifteen years. Purifying Zen (University of Hawaii 2011) is Steve Bein’s translation of the Jap- anese scholar Watsuji Tet- suro’s (1889–1960) writing on the Zen master Dogen (1200–1253). Titled Shamon Dogen, this work is a Japa- nese interpretation of Dogen as a philosopher. Convinced that Japanese Bud- dhism was becoming corrupt at the turn of the twentieth century, Watsuji sought to purify the Buddhist philosophy of his time by turning to the writings of Dogen. He brought this Zen master’s thinking into conversation with social problems, discussed his criticisms of art, and compared Dogen to Shinran, the founder of Shin Buddhism. His work struck a chord within Japanese intellectual circles, bringing Dogen out of Japan’s suppressed Buddhist history, where he was hidden, and into the light of modern East Asian philosophy. W and friend Jack Shoemaker notes was a “lonely task.” Each haiku transliterated in Japanese is presented along with its English translation and a paragraph comment by Aitken. Restricted by three phrases that total seventeen syllables, the Japanese poetic Tibet: A History sity 2011) by Sam van Schaik accomplishes the remarkable task of narrating Tibet’s 1,400-year history from MICHAEL SHEEHY is the senior editor of Tibetan literary research at the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center (TBRC). He has a Ph.D. in Buddhist studies from the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS), and is the director of Jonang Foundation. Book Briefs by Michael Sheehy Purifying Zen of Hawaii 2011) is Steve Bein’s translation of the Jap- anese scholar Watsuji Tet- suro’s (1889–1960) writing on the Zen master Dogen Dogen nese interpretation of Dogen