When Dan Dennett’s Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon was published, it received something of a drubbing in the press, the review in the New York Times being a good example. In several of these critiques Dennett is presented as yet another rabid Darwinian speaking out of turn in the hallowed halls of … Continue reading Dennett’s Modest Proposal
Not long ago I attended a poetry reading, held at a local Buddhist centre. It was a small gathering, as poetry readings often are, and took place in the meditation hall under the watchful eye of an enormous gold Buddha figure. Presiding over events was a certain poet who was diligent in her efforts to … Continue reading Can Yogis Fly?
The Life of Shabkar: The autobiography of a Tibetan Yogin Trans. Matthieu Ricard Suny 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 … Continue reading The Life of Shabkar: The autobiography of a Tibetan Yogin
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 … Continue reading Blue Poppies: Book Review
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 … Continue reading The Ronin
Music in the Sky: The Life, Art and Teachings of the 1 7th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje. Michele 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 … Continue reading Music in the Sky: Book Review
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 … Continue reading Hurrah for Materialism! (Part 1)
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. … Continue reading Hurrah for Materialism! (Part II)
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 … Continue reading Unwholesome Imaginings.
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 … Continue reading Eating, Sleeping and Shitting.