Buddhadharma Book Reviews January 2013: From the Editor’s Desk

In this installment of From the Editor’s Desk, Review Editor Michael Sheehy looks at new books on not why, but where Bodhidharma went.

Michael Sheehy
7 January 2013

In this instalment of From the Editor’s Desk, Review Editor Michael Sheehy looks at new books on not why, but where Bodhidharma went; the new Buddhist hybrid of “Zen lojong”; and the pure lands in Tibet.

Tracking Bodhidharma: A Journey to the Heart of Chinese Culture
Andy Ferguson
Counterpoint Press 2012

Bodhidharma, the first patriarch of Zen, was a great Buddhist pilgrim. Legend tells us that he traveled from his homeland in south India to the Pearl River delta in China, the departure point from where he spent the rest of his life wandering, transmitting Zen. This book traces his journey and reconstructs its myths. The author’s firsthand account provides a helpful travelogue of Bodhidharma’s trail and allows readers to come along for a pilgrimage to some of the most sacred sites of Chinese Buddhism.

Training in Compassion: Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong
Norman Fischer
Shambhala Publications 2012

This book is a Buddhist hybrid: Zen lojong. The term, lojong is a Tibetan word that means mind (lo) training (jong). It’s the subject of the Zen priest Zoketsu Norman Fischer’s new book, a commentary on the classic twelfth century Tibetan text by Geshe Chekawa, The Seven Points of Mind Training, arranged around  fifty-nine slogans. Fischer claims that this kind of cross-traditional study sheds new light on lojong because the Zen approach offers  “commonsense simplicity.”

Luminous Bliss: A Religious History of Pure Land Literature in Tibet
Georgios Halkios
University of Hawai’i Press 2013

So often in modern presentations the Pure Land Buddhist traditions are associated with China and Japan. This book brings new light to how influential this tradition is in Tibet. It includes a translation of the short Sukhavati Sutra, the Buddha’s discourse describing Amitabha’s Pure Land along with a survey of influential Tibetan commentators. The highlight is the author’s discussion of rituals specific to transferring one’s consciousness at death to be reborn in a Pure Land. It’s a book that we must thank for enriching our understanding of the Pure Land traditions as a whole.

Michael Sheehy

Michael Sheehy

Michael Sheehy, PhD is a scholar of Tibetan Buddhism and contemplative studies. He is the director of scholarship at the Contemplative Sciences Center and faculty in religious studies at the University of Virginia.