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

In this instalment of From the Editor’s Desk, Review Editor Michael Sheehy looks at two pilgrimage travelogues, and a Nyingma master’s work.

Michael Sheehy
3 May 2013

In this instalment of From the Editor’s Desk, Review Editor Michael Sheehy looks at two pilgrimage travelogues — one modern and one ancient — and a new study of a Nyingma master’s work.

Running the Shikoku Pilgrimage: 900 Miles to Enlightenment
Amy Chavez
Volcano Press 2013

The Shikoku pilgrimage, associated with the Buddhist master Kukai, consists of eighty-eight temples on a 900-mile route that meanders across the small Japanese island of Shikoku. Traditionally, pilgrims have walked the route, and though most pilgrims nowadays traverse the path in a car or bus, Amy Chavez ran this arduous trail. With the “marathon monks” who have run the kaihogyo on Mount Hiei for hundreds of years, there is some precedence in Japan of running a pilgrimage, but nothing like this story. The author narrates her day-by-day account, her observations of the cultural landscape, the fellow pilgrims she encounters, and her experience of running as form of spiritual practice.

Song of the Road: The Poetic Travel Journal of Tsarchen Losal Gyatso
Cyrus Stearns
Wisdom Publications 2013

Travelogues of pilgrimages is one of the most enduring genres of Buddhist writing, across times and cultures. What we have here is the travel journal of the Tibetan master Tsarchen Losal Gyatso (1502-1566), eloquently translated by Cyrus Stearns. The book weaves together verses by Tsarchen exclaiming his on-the-spot realizations along with his narrative of traveling in central Tibet. As Tsarchen and his entourage travel, the landscape becomes an utterly magical ground for spiritual transformation, shaping Tsarchen’s poetic imagination.

The Buddha’s Doctrine and the Nine Vehicles: Rog Bande Sherab’s Lamp of the Teachings
José Ignacio Cabezón
Oxford University Press 2013

During the early diffusion of Buddhism in Tibet, influential thinkers were creatively organizing the Buddha’s teachings, and formulating new philosophical thinking. Among these thinkers was the Nyingma master Rog Bande Sherab (1166–1244), also known as Rogben. In this book, Cabezón offers a study of Rogben’s arrangement of the nine vehicles of the Buddha’s teachings. Of particular interest is Rogben’s discussion and defense of Dzogchen.

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.