…Biologists and earth scientists agree that in the 20th century a sixth mass extinction began, and the only one to be caused by a particular species: us. Coral reefs are likely to be the first entire ecosystem to be eliminated from the Earth by human activity. A quarter of plant and animal species may vanish by 2050, an evolutionary crisis that is related to global climate breakdown but usually overshadowed by it. In essence, our present economic model is pushing all life on Earth towards tipping points for both biodiversity and the climate system.
This is quite possibly the biggest news for 65 million years, but it barely makes the mainstream news at all, because it raises taboo questions for the industrial growth society that we have come to take for granted…
When I opened Living Fully I was expecting another Buddhism for the masses sort of thing. I’ve known of Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche for some time, but had read only a couple of excerpts from his writings. Having become accustomed to the seemingly compulsive efforts of a variety of commentators to, in the words of Mark Twain, “Shed darkness upon this subject,” I expected another instance of what I’ve sometimes referred to as Buddhism lite.
Let me hasten to add that I find nothing wrong with popular writing about Buddhism and dharma. We all had to start someplace on the path, and these steppingstones are only slippery when the reader decides she knows enough to go out and practice without finding a teacher. While it is true that anyone can find enlightenment in an instant, it is also true that the more one practices mindfully, the more likely it is that the instant will come to pass. Unhappily, I have read the work of many teachers who fail to emphasize the essential nature of a teacher-student relationship, and I don’t think those worthies are imparting all that a seeker needs to know.
In any case, Living Fully is not that kind of book. I was slightly put off by the imperative style, until I realized that this is essentially a book of short dharma talks. If I were fortunate enough to embark on a prolonged retreat, I would certainly take this collection with me. The individual chapters, comprising a couple of pages each, would make perfect reading before meditation sessions.
Nor is it a book for beginners. Rinpoche’s writings, while not at all inaccessible, lend themselves more to contemplation by those with some understanding of basics, such as the Four Noble Truths, Eightfold Path, and Precepts, than to folks just approaching the subject. Had I run across this book fifteen years ago, I would have thought it pretty impenetrable. As it is, I look forward to again mining it for such gems as these.
When we finally achieve the things we desire, we fear losing them, and this triggers constant anxiety. There is a feeling of sadness and frustration born of out inability to make the world conform to our hopes and expectations.
That is as clear an explanation of a major aspect of dukkha as I ever expect to read, and worth of twenty minutes contemplation all by itself. And again…
It is senseless to continue chasing after the things that have failed us in the past….
The best approach is to focus on your own faults. When you condemn others for their shortcomings, think, “This must be my fault. I am causing suffering for myself by being judgemental. I am rejecting what I don’t like, and accepting what I like. I will become bound in an endless cycle of accepting and rejecting.”
I highly recommend this book for anyone who has a basic understanding of Buddhist thought. For beginners, however, the writings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, The Venerable Thich Nhat Hahn, or some of the popular teachers such as Joko Beck and Chuck Hagen might be a better place to start. Finally, however, I have to say that Living Fully is a must for those serious about expanding their practice.
Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche, Living Fully – Finding Joy In Every Breath, New World Library, Novato, California, 2012.
I just received an advance reader’s copy of “This Truth Never Fails,” by David Rynick, from Wisdom Publications. I’ve only gotten a few pages into it, and I’ll be posting a full review later. However, I wanted to give you a heads-up on this one, since it may be the most important book about Zen thought to hit the shelves this year. It’s due for publication in early June. Put it on your list.
Mouse over the image to control the slide show.
It was a strong reaffirmation of Bhutan’s ancient traditions, of continuity in a time of a change, but also in some ways a symbol of this country’s gradual emergence into the modern world. More >>>
Sofan Chan paints lovely images of the Buddha in bright primary colors. For some reason I find them very much in the spirit of the Buddhism that I practice — focused on obtaining peace, often happiness, and occasional joy by looking at the world as clearly as I am able at a given time. (I’m not saying I’m good at it, I’m saying that my efforts bring me peace and joy — what’s not to like?) Anyway, if you’d like to see more of Chan’s work, even purchase some, click the image.
Disclaimer: I have no connection with the artist whatever; I just like the work.
As bizarre as it sounds, there really are some folks building a Buddhist-themed amusement park in Thailand. And, even more bizarre, when you read about what’s being done it makes perfect sense. I put it on my list of things I’ll regret not having done when I’m facing the bardo.
But I can do the next best thing, and so can you. A couple of young filmmakers are attempting to raise enough money to fly to Thailand and make a documentary about the park. (No, I don’t know if they have deer in the park, so don’t ask.) Folks have underwritten their travel and living expenses, and they’re trying to raise $4K by August 26th for equipment and other expenses.
Subscribing with a reasonable donation (minimum is $1.00) will get you various bennies like a DVD of the finished film, etc. This is a great chance to be a part of a worthwhile effort to spread Dharma awareness. Give the website a look, and if you think it’s worth a few bucks, cough some up. It may be the closest you’ll ever get to a trip to Thailand.