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Buddhadharma : Winter 2017
118 Buddhadharma: The PracTiTioner's QuarTerly 119 After years of monastic training and teaching, he was able to leave the monastery and live in a little stone house above McLeod Ganj, where he could focus on meditation. But a serious illness brought him out of isolation, and after meeting and impressing some eager Italian students, he soon found himself a resident teacher in Italy, where he gave this commentary. Edited by Fiorella Rizzi, this out- standing volume provides a Mahayana road map for self-cultivation, adhering closely to Shantideva’s chapters yet drawing deeply from Geshe Tobden’s own profound training and experiences. Zen is often praised for its apparent minimalism, but Zen temples, literature, and practices are in fact full of things, from staffs to beads to paintings to tea bowls to rags. zen and maTerIal culTure (Oxford 2017), edited by Pamela D. Winfield and Steven Heine, explores the physical stuff of Zen. In her chapter on visual culture in Rinzai Zen convents, Patricia Fister examines the legacies of Daitsu Bunchi and Tokugon Riho, two seventeenth-century nuns who spent decades creating material expressions of their devotion. Bunchi, in addition to making images of Kannon and clay portraits of past mas- ters, copied out canonical Buddhist works using her own blood and even cut a square of skin from her hand and wrote a sutra passage on it. Riho, meanwhile, produced beautiful paintings of nuns and priests, statues and paintings of Shakyamuni and Kannon, and fine works of calligraphy that were distributed all over Japan. Such mate- rial creations, Fister concludes, were at the core of these women’s religious lives. In a different vein, Paula Arai examines “the meaning and metaphysics of Zen rags,” following Dogen’s famous claim that all things are buddhanature—rags included. She considers how in a Soto Zen context, rags can be roshis, “practice enlightenment,” be healers, and accompany us in daily life and thus in all manners of Zen practice. Amy Paris Langenberg’s BIrTh In BuddhIsm (Routledge 2017) offers a brilliant analysis of suffering in early Indian Buddhist lit- erature, highlighting its basic connection with birth and the impact of this connection on the lives of Buddhist men and women. With suffering and birth equated, women were cast as sources of suffer- ing, which in turn gave way to a Buddhist literature of disgust that transformed “the beautiful sexualized and fertile female form into something ugly and repugnant.” Monks, meanwhile, faced the chal- lenges of celibacy while ironically becoming “birth experts” through the production and study of texts on the development of the fetus. While such works described the stages of human development so that monks could better understand and ultimately free themselves from birth altogether, these works also reinforced negative attitudes toward the female body.