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Reflections on Silver River: Tokme Zongpo's Thirty-Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva Kindle Edition
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Many have been drawn to the `esoteric' teachings of Tibetan Buddhism. Doctrines and practices are handed down by secret initiation among an exclusive class. There are dire warnings. It's exciting, but intimidating. What happens if you don't get it right?
At the other end of the Buddhist scale lie the teachings of a man who walked the roads of North India at about the same time literature was being invented in Greece. He questioned life itself, not as a concept but as a painful experience. His way diverged from the philosophers, soothsayers and religious teachers of his time. Rather than perfecting practices and following rules, the Buddha exemplified the way of self-knowledge.
In this book by a lifelong Buddhist practitioner we are not instructed on what is correct. No secret knowledge is revealed. Instead, the author exposes his fears, doubts and qualms. He uses his own disappointments and pain to explore the cryptic, ambiguous verses of the fourteenth century Tibetan monk Tokmé Zongpo.
This book offers glimpses of a very human Togmé Zongpo, not the holy Tibetan lama who never made a misstep. I relate to it personally, a little differently each time I pick it up. Once you're familiar with the contents, you'll go back to select each chapter like an old friend, just the one you need to consult on a particular life problem, who will not tell you what to do, but what is possible.
This lovely, heartfelt testament is not just a book; it's a companion.
Togme Zangpo's '37 Practices of a Bodhisattva' is a less well known text than 'Seven Points for Training the Mind' or 'Eight Verses on Mind Training' but is very much part of the same lojong (mind training) tradition. Beginning with traditional warnings against wasting our precious human life and the dangers of attachment, Togme Zangpo continues by setting out how a bodhisattva ('awakened being') should behave and his advice is no less relevant to today's world than it was in 14th century Tibet.
Being a lojong text, '37 Practices' goes on to explain how to deal with anger and criticism from others and transform these into loving kindness and a wish to free all beings from suffering. The final verse summarises this aim:
To dispel the suffering of beings without limit,
With wisdom freed from the three spheres
Direct all the goodness generated by these efforts
To awakening — this is the practice of a bodhisattva.
Ken McLeod's commentary goes straight to the heart of the matter with examples that speak to our own lives as they are today, while diluting none of the message from the original text. He offers practice advice on how to use the difficult areas of life as part of the path and the same straightforward and no-nonsense approach to the teachings evident in his earlier work 'Wake Up to Your Life'.
There are many commentaries on Tibetan texts by Tibetan teachers but books such as 'Reflections on Silver River' in which an experienced western teacher acts as a guide through traditional teachings are much rarer. Ken McLeod understands both the western mind and Tibetan teachings and that makes this book a gem for modern Buddhist practitioners.
This is the golden part of the book, as one might typically not find much resonance as a contemporary Westerner. McLeod demonstrates a deep insight to a seemingly shallow verse, and deftly unfolds the intricate meaning otherwise lost. Rather than simply providing a translation with notes, he brings the verse to life with situations that resonate with his modern audience, ties them to the underlying meaning, and makes it a pragmatic teaching moment while honoring the original author's tone and history.
Thought provoking, this book is great to have on hand to savor in pieces over time, preserving the richness of these age old messages from the past that are every bit as valid today.
Reiterate other reviews--Ken McLeod's writing style is well suited for today's practitioners. No need to translate the translation. Leaves you ready to start down the path and if you've already started the path to take the next step.
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