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Dr Andrew McLellan (East Kent, UK)

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Bring Me the Rhinoceros: And Other Zen Koans to Bring You Joy
Bring Me the Rhinoceros: And Other Zen Koans to Bring You Joy
by John Tarrant
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.36

5.0 out of 5 stars Mu, 13 Nov 2013
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My koan teacher works with John Tarrant and recommended this book. It was a very good suggestion and excellent way into koans and koan practice. I don't know what the one star reviewer was expecting but this book is far clearer on the hows and whys of koans than any other text I have read and still doesn't miss the point, or the rhinoceros.

Like a good Zen storyteller, Mr Tarrant uses a range of koans to illustrate different points of practice and this is the raison d'etre for koan study - to open our eyes to living life in a way that is different to how we have been living thus far. If you are happy with your life, continue on, but if you have experienced what another teacher of mine calls the 'gentle tap on the shoulder' or 'that quiet inner voice' telling you that another way is possible then you will almost certainly enjoy this book and benefit from it.

Highly recommended for all students of Zen, whether Soto, Rinzai or otherwise.


Cave of Tigers: The Living ZEN Practice of Dharma Combat (Dharma Communications)
Cave of Tigers: The Living ZEN Practice of Dharma Combat (Dharma Communications)
by John Daido Loori
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.54

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wisdom in Words, 16 April 2013
I like this book a lot. Although I have only once taken part in a Zen dharma encounter, the words between teacher (Daido Loori) and various students here bring the practice of Zen to life. Intellectual thinking doesn't cut it in Zen and students are left to stand in their own experience. In meditation, we may think we have found answers, but this kind of testing by an experienced teacher really forces students to demonstrate their insight. In each recorded encounter I was left thinking about what my own answer would have been and that led to meaningful self enquiry. I imagine I will come back to this text often for both specific subject matter and for the often humorous exchanges which show what both student and teacher bring to Zen practice.
May your life go well.


Rackham's Fairy Tale Colouring Book (Dover Classic Stories Coloring Book)
Rackham's Fairy Tale Colouring Book (Dover Classic Stories Coloring Book)
by Gebrüder Grimm
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Value and Content, 4 Nov 2011
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I'm not sure what the one star reviewer was expecting for less than £5 but this is an excellent collection of well-told traditional fairy tales (Rapunzel, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Red Riding Hood, The Goose Girl etc) together with some beautiful Rackhamesque drawings to colour. Of course, the author should not be listed as Mr Rackham himself as the front cover states the illustrator to be Ed Sibbert Jr after illustrations by Rackham.
However, if you ignore the Rackham association, and take the book for what it is, it is quite wonderful. My kids continue to enjoy the stories and have between them managed to colour most of the illustrations in. In addition I have bought this for several other families who all love it too.


Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge
Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge
by Vandana Shiva
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars People Before Profit, 6 Aug 2011
'Deftly argued but fundamentally flawed' better applies to the review of that name than this excellent book. In Biopiracy, Vandana Shiva lifts the lid on the west's exploitation of both the natural world and people of less developed nations in order to prop up its own consumerist version of progress. I don't get at all that Shiva is arguing against patents or those who develop novel foods or crops being able to to reap rewards from that. What she is drawing attention to, is how those countries which don't have a well developed sense of intellectual property rights are being mined by those which do; primarily America. The genetic make up of people is being taken against their knowledge under the pretext of vaccination schemes or research into illness, to benefit pharmaceutical and health organisations. The molecular structure of crops which have been selected for generations by farmers in arid region can also be studied back in the lab and patented for sale back to the same farmers in the form of F1 seeds which cannot be saved in the traditional way for planting the next year but instead must be bought annually.
The basis of the argument here is that all the benefits of this biological research in developing countries are taken by the west and not shared back with the places which the knowledge came from as people in less developed nations do not know the value of their knowledge and natural resources, and are naive in the way that these can be exploited and even used against them for further mining of profit. If the profit and knowledge gained from natural and human wealth was used to benefit all of humanity rather than a few multinational corporations I suspect that Vandana Shiva would not have such a problem with the huge rise in patenting of genes and crops. And neither would I.


The Tassajara Bread Book
The Tassajara Bread Book
by Edward Espe Brown
Edition: Paperback

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favourite books ever, 6 July 2011
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Although I knew how to make bread before I bought this book, I can say with certainty that Edward Epse's excellent advice has taken my baking skills onto a whole new level. There are so many wonderful recipes in here including Swedish rye bread (with orange peel and caraway seeds - yum!), oat bread, rosemary foccacia, unyeasted Tibetan barley bread and muffins, cakes, pastries and many more. Bread making is something I find to be very therapeutic and to have a delicious loaf at the end of it is a great bonus. It is much easier than many people would think (seriously, you really don't need a bread maker - use your hands to feel the beautiful texture of just-risen dough) and this book is all you need to explore baking for the rest of your life. As if all the practical and down-to-earth instruction on kneading and proving wasn't enough, Epse adds little nuggets of Zen wisdom and poetry in amongst it all to keep your kitchen a calm place. There really aren't enough books in existence like this one. It's a gem.


8 SEASONS
8 SEASONS
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £10.89

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just beautiful, 6 July 2011
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This review is from: 8 SEASONS (Audio CD)
It has been almost 15 years since I purchased my first Mari Boine cd 'Gula Gula' and in the meantime I had forgotten how wonderful her music is. This album is an utterly beautiful combination of her majestic singing, accompanied by sympathetic accompaniment from both live instruments and electronic programming (which is fortunately of a much higher standard than on many world music recordings). It was a surprise at first to hear some of the songs in English but her voice sounds lovely whether rendered in Sami or something more familiar. Lying on my bed listening to this makes me want to go out and herd some reindeer. Okay, maybe not quite, but Mari captures the spirit of her culture and breathes new life into it here, and that is a very fine thing.


New Meditation Handbook, The: Meditations to Make Our Life Happy and Meaningful
New Meditation Handbook, The: Meditations to Make Our Life Happy and Meaningful
by Kelsang Gyatso
Edition: Paperback

12 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Essential for NKT Buddhists, others look elsewhere, 2 Dec 2010
Geshe Kelsang Gyatso is a Tibetan Buddhist from the Gelug school (one of the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism) who founded the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT). The NKT, which is a rather conservative and self-referential version of the school he came from, seems to serve many well, but others may find that relying on the teachings of one person to be rather limiting. All of GKG's texts only include his own books in their bibliography and no mention is made of other fine Buddhist writers, scholars and practitioners from the same background, such as Geshe Rabten, HH Dalai Lama, Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa, whose work has inspired many.

If you are a member of the NKT then this book is going to be essential reading for your meditation practice but for others in the Gelug tradition, or those looking for meditations of the Lam Rim (stages of the path) type, I would recommend getting either 'Guided Meditations on the Stages of the Path' by Thubten Chodron or 'Path to Bliss' by His Holiness Dalai Lama which both cover the same material in a broader context.


Just Dance (Wii)
Just Dance (Wii)
Offered by Game Trade Online
Price: £10.48

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More fun than you can shake a stick at, 22 Mar 2010
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
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This review is from: Just Dance (Wii) (Video Game)
My nine year old daughter bought this game with some birthday money and utterly loves it. The routines are pretty much easy to follow but not lacking in dance content, and there is a good choice of songs too (kudos to the designers for including Iggy Pop for all of us dads out there!). My other two kids (aged four and six) also love it.

Fantastic fun and replayable time after time. I am just hoping they make a Just Dance 2 very soon so she will have some new tunes to dance to.


The Divine Matrix: Bridging Time, Space, Miracles, and Belief
The Divine Matrix: Bridging Time, Space, Miracles, and Belief
by Gregg Braden
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.09

33 of 42 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Less than the sum of its parts, 31 Dec 2008
I was greatly disappointed with this book. Greg Braden writes with great enthusiasm but sadly that enthusiasm cannot mask the fact that, while the scientific discoveries he talks abot are very interesting, they do not provide the evidence for a divine, all-encompassing field. That is not to say that such a field does not exist, and many reading this will probably need no converting to the idea, but sufficient evidence is not contained in this work.

The book comes across as a bit of this and a bit of that and fails to convince that Braden really knows what the field is, if such does exist, and how it affects our lives, except in a vague woolly kind of a way. Don't let his impressive credentials fool you. If more evidence for a universal field is forthcoming, I will be excited to look at it. For now, if this book contains the best evidence on offer, the jury is still out.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 29, 2012 8:08 PM GMT


Clarifying the Natural State: A Principal Guidance Manual for Mahamudra
Clarifying the Natural State: A Principal Guidance Manual for Mahamudra
by Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.55

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Precise instruction for achieving the natural state of mind, 5 Oct 2008
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I bought this book as a prelude to reading Dakpo Tashi's masterpiece 'Mahamudra: the quintessence of mind and meditation'. I was not disappointed. It is short but in no way lacking in precise instruction. Dakpo Tashi authoratively leads the student through the foundation stage of shamatha (calming) meditation on the breath that most will be familiar with, and then on to vipashyana (insight) techniques and pointing out instructions for settling the mind in its natural state.

As Dakpo Tashi says elsewhere "In the teaching of vipashyana or insight meditation there are two approaches. One is analytical meditation, which teaches the student to analyze his or her experience in such a way as to realize the lack of inherent existence of a self, of phenomena, and of consciousness. This experience of emptiness leads to supreme awakening. The other approach to vipashyana is called placement meditation. Here a qualified teacher places the student's mind in a state of meditation, which, if pursued with sufficient diligence, will automatically lead to the same state of insight and the same experience. In this form of meditation no analysis is needed; in fact it is scrupulously avoided."
This book focuses on the second approach using vipashyana to prepare the student for later pointing out instructions.

This kind of Mahamudra meditation comes directly from Naropa and Tilopa in the Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. However, you do not need to be a follower of this particular school to benefit greatly from the book. It demonstrates how to combine shamatha and vipashyana meditation to achieve a clear state of mind and then maintain this clarity in everyday life in a way that can be used by anyone with a reasonable experience of Buddhist meditation.

I am grateful to the translator for making this work available to the English speaking world. If you have any interest in Mahamudra or Dzogchen mediation I would highly recommend obtaining this book. If you are a Buddhist of the Kagyu school I would say that it is essential reading.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 16, 2011 11:45 AM BST


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