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Buddhadharma : Spring 2019
122 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY A fundamental tension exists between modern scientific views, which generally root consciousness in the brain and regard physical death as the end of one’s life, and the many Buddhist traditions that assert that consciousness can exist apart from the physical body, continuing across lifetimes. In David E. Presti’s Mind Beyond Brain: Buddhism, Science, and the Paranormal (Columbia 2018), we find essays, based on empirical research, that challenge prevailing scientific ideas about personal identity and life after death. Bruce Greyson’s essay, as one example, looks to the out-of- body experiences of people on the verge of death; Jim B. Tucker, meanwhile, looks to children who claim to remember previous lives in vivid detail and the efforts of researchers to match these details with those of the recently deceased. Presti’s concluding essay argues that Buddhist contemplative traditions challenge what he believes to be overly materialistic scientific worldviews, and he advocates for an expanded conception of mind, one that acknowledges that consciousness itself shapes everything we know. In Early Buddhist Teachings (Wisdom 2018), Y. Karunadasa explores foundational doctrines of early Buddhist traditions, from nonself and dependent arising to dukkha and its end. While these may be familiar topics to many, Karunadasa’s gifts as a philosophical writer set his book apart. He frames early Buddhist thought as a kind of “dynamic-process philosophy,” explaining that as contemporaries of the Buddha “took for granted the reality of the subject as a self-entity,” the Buddha challenged the reality of this subject, framing perceiver and perceived as processes rather than self-existent things. He also examines the Buddha’s acknowledgement of the limits and power of language—while the Buddha argued the dharma “is not actuality as such but a description of the nature of actuality,” he recognized also that certain articulations are better than others. We find an example of this when Karunadasa argues that the usual translation of dukkha as “suffering” in English does little justice to the term’s full implications: the Buddha understood dukkha to encapsulate experiences both unpleasant and fully pleasant, meaning that “suffering” excludes much of what he actually meant. When asked what instructions would be most helpful to modern practitioners, the Sixteenth Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje (1924–1981) recommended translating Dakpo Tashi Namgyal’s (1513–1587) guidebook to Mahamudra practice. In Moonbeams of Mahamudra (Snow Lion 2019), veteran translator Elizabeth