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History as Natural History

Tuesday August 15, 2006 Yesterday, I visited Glasgow’s Kelvingrove museum and art gallery which has recently reopened after a multi-million pound refurbishment. My last visit to the museum was probably six or seven years ago, but they have done an excellent job and much of the collection is not only interesting itself, but is presented in a particularly thought-provoking fashion. Whilst there was much that was impressive and that would probably merit a further visit…

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Hurrah for Materialism! (Part 1)

Hurrah for Materialism! (Part 1) Friday August 5, 2005 One of the worst insults that you can hurl at a Buddhist, it seems (if hurling insults at Buddhists is your kind of thing), is to accuse them of ‘materialism’. Through my years of Buddhist practice, I have myself been accused of this supposed vice. But what is materialism, anyway? And why is it supposed to be so bad? The first thing to clear up, is that…

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The Ronin | thinkBuddha.org

| thinkBuddha.org The Ronin Tuesday August 2, 2005 The Ronin William Dale Jennings. Tuttle 2001. (This review first appeared, in a slightly different form, in Dharma Life magazine) William Dale Jennings’ book The Ronin is a novel based upon a Zen myth. The story follows the changing fortunes of a freelance samurai – the ‘Ronin’ of the title – as he wanders through Japan, charting his rise to fame, his fall from grace and the strange…

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Hurrah for Materialism! (Part II)

Hurrah for Materialism! (Part II) Saturday August 6, 2005 I suspect that many of those who decry materialism at the same time are more strongly materialist than they might dare to admit. An example comes to mind, from a Buddhist study group I was once in. We were looking at a text from the Udana, one of the oldest texts in the Pali Canon. In this text, the ascetic Bahiya is visited by a certain devata.…

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Unwholesome Imaginings.

Monday August 8, 2005 The Asokavadana tells the legend of Ashoka, the early Indian king who was responsible for the propagation of Buddhism throughout India. In the text there is the following story. Ashoka, at the beginning of his reign and before his conversion, was an evil king; but his evil was outstripped by that of his jailer, who went by the name Candagirika. The jailer had a jail built that was, ‘lovely from the…

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Music in the Sky: Book Review

Wednesday August 3, 2005 Music in the Sky: The Life, Art and Teachings of the1 7th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley DorjeMichele Martin Snow Lion 2003, $18.95/£12.95 p/b In 1999 a 14-year-old boy fled Tibet for India. The 17th Karmapa, spiritual leader of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, had chosen to leave his country clandestinely and to take up a life of exile. Now barely out of his teens, he lives and teaches in the Indian…

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The Life of Shabkar: The autobiography of a Tibetan Yogin

Tuesday August 2, 2005 The Life of Shabkar: The autobiography of a Tibetan YoginTrans. Matthieu RicardSuny Press 2001 (1994)$29.95/£18.95 h/b I may just be terminally dissatisfied and restless, but there is something in the myth of the wanderer that never fails to stir my blood. There is the dream of the road, the departure from home with no thought of return, the journeying in distant countries; the Buddha’s Going Forth when he left his homeland…

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Eating, Sleeping and Shitting.

Wednesday August 24, 2005 Call it earthy humour, call it having a primitive mentality, call it being in touch with the stuff of life: whatever you call it, there’s a lot of shit in Buddhism. An example of this is the eighth century Buddhist writer Shantideva, in his Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life. Shantideva was a fat saint, a saint who apparently loved his belly as much as he did his practice of…

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Blue Poppies: Book Review

Tuesday August 2, 2005 Blue Poppies. Jonathan Falla. 11/9 Press 2001 (This review originally appeared in a slightly different version in Dharma Life magazine.) Blue Poppies, a novel set in Tibet in 1950, tells of the love-affair between a crippled Tibetan widow, Puton, and a young Scottish radio operator, Jamie Wilsom. Set against the backdrop of the Chinese invasion of Tibet of 1950, this book smacks of authenticity from the outset. Falla is alive to…

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For All My Walking: Review

Monday August 1, 2005 For All My Walking: Free-Verse Haiku of Taneda SantokaTranslated by Burton Watson.Columbia University Press. New York.(Review priginally published in Dharma Life magazine) The travel writer Bruce Chatwin spent much of his life struggling to write a book about nomadism. It was a dream that he never realised. The closest he came to its realisation was his final book, The Songlines. In this strange hotchpotch of fiction, travel writing and literary fragments,…

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