Friday, January 04, 2013

Book of the year

I've read a lot of books this year that were not published in 2012.

I just read Breath by Breath by Goldstein, which came out in 1998. I really enjoyed discovering Thomas Merton, who's been dead since 1968. Money, Sex, War, Karma by David Loy came out in 2008. That book was challenging in trying to connect current world issues to the Dharma, though I'm liberal too. I wonder what a book that transcends the dualities of American politics would look like. I don't like to pigeonhole things into the American political dualities, but I'm afraid I know my conservative friends well, and if they were Buddhist, they would dismiss the book based on politics, not Buddhism. There's a way to dialogue above the partisan fray. I also enjoyed Buddha Is As Buddha Does, because I was following up on the 7 paramitas. Lama Surya Das wrote a book I read just before I began to meditate, go on retreat, and whatnot, so he has a special place in my heart. For what ever reason I'm not interested in his latest book.

Some books are free. I just read Mastering The Core Teachings of the Buddha by Ingram, which came out in 2008. I thought it was awesome. When I got a present of Tricycle magazine from my most glorious lover, I downloaded their collection on addiction, which is pretty good, though I'm stumbling on the last essay, and put it down. I had to take them off my blogroll because they were infected with malware, but I love Tricycle. I've finally gotten a subscription, so I don't have to read it on retreats, when the ads are just too tantalizing for me. My beloved gave me a subscription. She is my amazing dakini, who helps me on the path.

I've found free version of books I've wanted to read, but haven't yet. The Visuddhimagga and Vimuttimagga are two of those books. These ancient classics on high on my to read list (which is not real). Giving the dharma away is a noble tradition, and you'd think more people would do that.

I'm partial to Windhorse books, but to be honest I haven't read many Windhorse books this year. Noble Friendship came out in 2004, as well as Living With Kindness, and Through Buddhist Eyes. Certainly last year was a banner year with Vishvapani's book on the Buddha, and On Reflection, which is the first Buddhist book I've read on reflection as a spiritual practice, instead of just reading someone's spiritual reflections.

Sailing The Worldly Winds  by Vajragupta did come out in 2012, and was the first ebook I got from Windhorse. I didn't really connect with that book so much, though that is, as always, possibly more of a comment on me. I think Vajragupta, like Lama Surya Das, focuses on writing beginner books, and to be honest, I think I've outgrown them. A really good one can simplify me back onto the basics, but that's a rare talent; People go twisting off onto so many different things. And they all come back to the same places, but I don't like beginners books that assume people are retarded. Or else they go slowly, as if you are retarded. 

I could be prickly and sensitive to people calling me stupid, so don't really see my feelings about beginners books anything more than just the blatherings of my subjective mind. Of course you could say that about anyone saying anything, but I'm honest enough to point that out about what I'm saying. Just because I know something basic, doesn't mean they're calling me stupid. I guess I just don't like the way they're trying to make it easier.

(I'd just like to note that I can use the word "retarded" because I used to work in special education. In general I don't like the way people use that word, and I can laugh and laugh at the Matt Damon character in There's Something About Charlie, when he says, "I love those goofy bastards." because it's so politically incorrect  Retardation ain't no joke, but sometimes these juicy words really do convey what you want to convey, so I'm going to allow my use of it this once. For the juice.)

Among the books that came out in 2012, I did enjoy Living Fully by Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche, and Patience by Allan Lokos. Both solid first books from different traditions. I give Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche best first buddhist book award for 2012. I looked at Lokos' pervious book and it's a daily meditations kind of thing, which is a buddhist book. In The Shadow of the Buddha by Matteo Pistono was a an important contribution to Tibetan culture and politics.

I probably read the least amount of Buddhist books in years, and that trend is growing. It's hard to concoct the intellectual frenzy that makes me feel a book is challenging me to practice. I have a lot to learn, though, so I'll try to be humble. There is the question whether you need to do much Dharma study, to progress as a Buddhist; It's quite possible you need none. Of course scholarship wasn't so much of a thing in the Buddha's times; he couldn't major in religious studies over at the local community college.

I'd like to also point out The Prisoner, transcendental science fiction, which is a kind of dharma book written in a different way. It was an interesting read.

There are bigger themes that I like in Buddhism:

1. How does Buddhism changes and adapt in American culture, in good and bad ways?
2. How does one apply the wisdom of the Dharma to modern problems?
3. What is Buddhist fiction?
4. What happens when we combine psychoanalysis with dharma?

I could go on and on, but onto the award.

This year, I will choose my first non-Windhorse book: The Best Buddhist Writing 2012 has the kind of title that makes you feel it's cheating. The 28 essays are diverse and deep. They provoke and challenge me to develop a deeper spiritual practice. So I'm going to say that's the best buddhist book, and lets just say every other one gets honorable mention into the past and into the future. 

Also my beloved gave me this book. She's be a fount of generosity. You could call it spiritual materialism, but she really gives from the heart, and I really appreciated the gifts. I thank the publishers that think my blog will somehow promote their products, because I'm surprised anyone reads this.

There were years when I read the The Best Stories of year 19XX, and the poetry ones. They are great ways to get great gobs of a thing you might like. My friend reads the science writing ones, and for a while read the erotic ones.

The essays in The Best Buddhist Writing 2012 were chosen by the editors of Shambhala Sun, which is another worthy buddhist magazine. They include essays from Tricycle, so they're fair in judging the essays. They don't just choose essays from their magazines. I wish they had put something by Sangharakshita.

So congratulations Shambhala Sun editors and Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche, this years winners. 

As I write this, I think I'm going to give out an award for female buddhist writing next year. I want to get more into the intersection of feminism and buddhism. I've read a lot of female writers, but it has to be said that it's a fairly masculine world, and I want to bring out more of the female writers next year.


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