Books in Brief – July 2009

Brief summaries of Buddhist books from the July 2009 issue of Lion’s Roar magazine.

Lion’s Roar
1 July 2009

Bargainin’ for Salvation: Bob Dylan, a Zen Master?
By Steven Heine
Continuum, 2009; 256 pp., $19.95 (paper)

Professor Steven Heine specializes in the life and thought of Zen master Dogen, but here Heine offers us his labor of love, Bargainin’ for Salvation. He opens by sharing his Dyl an-based satori moments—times when he was able to fully appreciate the impact of Dylan’s music, such as when he first heard “Like a Rolling Stone.” Following this preface, Heine unpacks Dylan’s music from a Buddhist perspective, and makes the intriguing argument that Dylan’s work reveals an affinity with Zen. Since much has been said about Christian and Judaic influences on Dylan’s work, this is a refreshing spin.

The Sayings of Layman P’ang: A Zen Classic of China
Translated by James Green
Shambhala Publications, 2009; 131 pp., $14.95 (paper)

We’ve all heard Zennies talk about chopping wood and carrying water, but not everyone knows that the phrase can be traced back to Laymen P’ang (740–808). He was a merchant who one day put all his money and possessions in a boat, which he sank in order to devote himself to the dharma. He didn’t, however, become a monk; rather, his family joined him on his path. For more than twelve centuries, The Sayings of Layman P’ang has been venerated in Asia, yet modern Westerners may appreciate the wise and quirky sayings even more. Western Zen, after all, is largely “lay Zen.”

The 12-Step Buddhist: Enhance Recovery from Any Addiction
By Darren Littlejohn
Atria Books, 2009; 292 pp., $16.00 (paper)

Recovering from addiction is perhaps the ultimate in working with attachment, and the path of recovery requires a great deal of compassion. That may be why Darren Littlejohn is able to so effectively synthesize the well-known Judeo-Christian recovery program with Buddhism. No matter where you are in recovery, this is a meaty book, with meditations, exercises, and the illuminating story of Littlejohn’s own struggles. Don’t think you have an addiction? You still might want to pick up The 12-Step Buddhist. We’re all addicted to something, Littlejohn says. Some of us just manage to have less obvious vices.

Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants: 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness
By Arnie Kozak
Wisdom Publications, 2009; 224 pp., $14.95 (paper)

Arnie Kozak offers metaphors for mindfulness that he compiled during his twenty-five years as a mental health professional and practitioner of meditation and yoga. Metaphors, he suggests, are more than a colorful linguistic device. They’re an inherent element in how we experience the world and, therefore, they can help bring mindfulness into our lives. Metaphors are also, I think, a lot of fun. Kozak has insightful explanations regarding traditional Buddhist metaphors, but he also has original, modern metaphors, such as, “The Pause Button” and “March of the Penguins.” I’ll leave it to Kozak—with his fresh and straightforward voice—to explain what the metaphors refer to.

The Spirit of Buddha
Photographs by Robin Kyte-Coles
teNeues Publishing Company, 2009; 127 pp., $45.00 (cloth)

Robin Kyte-Coles, with his gorgeous photographs of Buddhist art, takes us on a journey across Asia. I love seeing how artists in different countries have interpreted the same subject, and how Kyte-Coles shot using as little flash as possible, resulting in compelling images that glow with warmth. In the forward, the Dalai Lama writes, “The image of the Buddha represents not only the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, but also the ultimate state of enlightenment we all can achieve.” That means this book—beyond looking great on a coffee table—might serve as a source of inspiration.

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