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lourinha (Portugal)

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No Greater Love
No Greater Love
by Mother Teresa
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Drop by drop you can change the world, 26 Oct. 2011
This review is from: No Greater Love (Paperback)
Mother Teresa believes that we can do a lot by doing a little at a time. She wants people to help other people, by giving themselves up instead of giving only material possessions up. She believes the best gift is the one offered freely. She believes that we should serve a higher principle, God, through every little action in our daily routine.

Reading this I felt a bit sad because there is still so much poverty in this world.


The Bodhicaryavatara (Oxford World's Classics)
The Bodhicaryavatara (Oxford World's Classics)
by Santideva
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.99

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Didn't like it, 19 Oct. 2011
I didn't like reading this book, even though I have a craving for anything buddhist. I don't know if it was shantideva's or the translator's fault, but I suspect it was both.

To me, apart from some good inspirational phrases, I only liked chapter 9 on prajnaparamita.

If you want a good manual on boddhicitta, look instead to The Flower Ornament Scripture: Translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra.


The Conference of the Birds (Classics)
The Conference of the Birds (Classics)
by Farid Attar
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.68

5.0 out of 5 stars Prajnaparamita, 12 Oct. 2011
Albeit written in the context of a radically different tradition, this classic book should be read by buddhist students interested in prajnaparamita. Its story of birds going out to find their divine king and then finding only themselves has a clear resonance with the buddhist mahayana concept of Sunyata.

I loved reading this book.


Patanjali's Yoga Sutra (Penguin Classics)
Patanjali's Yoga Sutra (Penguin Classics)
by Patanjali
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Great but could have been better, 9 Oct. 2011
This is a good book. The translator denies that Yoga is the same thing as Sankhya. In Sankhya, persons (purushas) are inactive spectators. In Patanjali's Yoga, purushas are very much active. Patanjali takes from the Vedas the notion that all of Nature is moral (rta) and geared towards the liberation of purushas, and it is the job of the purusha, through yoga, to know itself as it is, by using its mind to apprehend the moral character of Nature and create positive and moral samskaras (latent tendency-impressions) that will annul the negative samskaras gathered over the past. As such he takes a view similar to Buddhism, i.e., that beings are responsible for leading a wise and moral life, and that they may use their karma (actions) to refashion their minds according to these goals, by emitting positive samskaras or not emitting them at all. The translator criticizes thus the view that yoga is about disengagement from the world, or the practice of physical feats without an underlying work in one's morality.

This book includes the sanskrit text and word for word translations. Sometimes the sutra will not be very clear and sometimes Patanjali will describe paranormal feats of the yogis, admonishing however that these may be detrimental to the true practice of yoga because of fostering a sense of pride in vain accomplishments.

Still, the book could have been better. There could have been an index, and the translator could have come up, on occasions, with better examples.


The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way: Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika
The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way: Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika
by Nagarjuna Nagarjuna
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most important Buddhist book ever made, 22 Sept. 2011
This book is all about proving that things are just what they are, with no hidden or inherent existence behind them. They are parts in relation to other parts of the universe (dependent origination or paticca-samuppada) and posess no soul or inherent existence (anatta). Bikkhu Boddhi affirms that paticca-samuppada and anatta are precisely the two most important, mutually reinforcing tenets of Buddhism. They are linked in this text through the concept of sunyata or "emptiness" (of inherent existence).

The text is also concerned with the relation between the two levels of truth, "absolute reality", of which nothing can be said definitely, and "conventional reality", where objects exist merely as referents to words. Nagarjuna posits the emptiness of both conventional and ultimate reality. In the famous verse XXIV:18, the climax of the text, he asserts a close relationship of identity between dependent origination, emptiness, verbal convention, and the Middle Way itself. He asserts that the way to realize emptiness and nirvana is to see phenomena just as they are, and conventional reality as just merely conventional.

The main argument of Nagarjuna is that, if phenomena had inherent existence (eternal essences), they would not be able to function in our impermanent world of cause and effect and hence there would be no change in the world, and that a hyperreality would be necessary to accomodate these inherent phenomena.

Another way, in my mind, to prove the absurdity of things possessing souls or inherent essence is to look at the parts of compounded objects (that is, all objects). If people had souls, would their organs or cells have individual souls too ? Would animals, plants, fungi, bacteria and viruses have souls too ? Would machines and their individual parts have souls ? Would works of art have souls ? Would earth and water and air and rock and fire have souls? Would molecules, atoms, quarks, or what may lie behind quarks have individual souls ? Would abstract ideas in all forms of human intellectual ideas have souls ? How about arbitrary sets of individual constituents, would they too have soul ? If human beings had souls, absolutely everything else that is worth individuating and describing would have souls too. And of course, ascribing to them a verbal description is a way of ascribing to them a "soul", but not the kind of impossible concept of soul that would exist as their metaphysical essence. It stands to reason that you can not distinguish all the minute constituents of compounded objects, nor all the possible combinations of them, therefore it would be impossible to account for all possible "souls" in the universe.

Nagarjuna uses mainly the technique of prasangika, which corresponds to the western notion of reductio ad absurdum, to destroy the views of two opponents, apparently situated in two opposed extremes of opinion, from within their own logic. The two opponents are a reificationist, who believes that phenomena have inherent essences, and a nihilist, who believes that nothing is ultimately real. He proves that these two opinions are one and the same thing.

Upon first reading, Nagarjuna's text will seem nihilistic, but it shouldn't be read in this way. A frequent problem I've encountered is in determining if he is quoting his opponents to make a reductio ad absurdum or if he is making positive assertions himself. Typically he will first do the reductio ad absurdum, detroying the opposing views from within, and then go on to make some positive assertions of his own. You'll have to rely on Garfield's commentary to know which is which.

Garfield's commentary is very useful to read the text. I can point out that he has a good command of the philosophical arguments involved, and he is willing to to explore, in the notes, different interpretations of the text, when they add to the discussion.

A problem in Garfield's text is using terms pertaining to the milieu of western philosophy, with which you'll have to acquaint yourself. Sometimes he also does not come up with real-world examples to illustrate the points being made, and some arguments are not very clear. I also think that he does not follow his own logic to the end. This is because in the beginning he makes a distinction of two terms used by Nagarjuna, "causes" and "conditions". He argues that causes are to be read as having an inherent essence being transmitted to their effects, while conditions are "empty". Later on in the text he does not distinguish between these two terms.

The Mulamadhyamakakarika is arguably the most important philosophical work made in the Buddhist cultural scene and Nagarjuna the most influential Buddhist philosopher after the Buddha himself. Indeed I think this book is the most important book of my little Buddhist library. This translation by Garfield is a very good exploration of Nagarjuna's original, and I feel tempted to buy other translations that he mentions, especially Kalupahana's.


The Zen Teaching of Huang Po on the Transmission of Mind
The Zen Teaching of Huang Po on the Transmission of Mind
by John Blofeld
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The One Mind, 20 Sept. 2011
This book presents to us the teachings of 9th century chinese zen monk Huang Po.

The text is sometimes disconcerting, and is quite radical in its defense of the inexpressible character of reality, an opinion I agree with, and in defending the sudden stop of all unnecessary thoughts, which does have its merits, since if you stop thinking altogether you would also stop producing unwholesome thoughts, I would however contend that this can also be achieved through a gradual process.

Throughout the text, and in typical zen fashion, Huang Po denies the efficacy of traditional buddhist goals and activities of the Three Vehicles, including practicing the paramitas and reading the sutras, and even characterizes them as detrimental to the proper buddhist way. This includes the practice of compassion, if done with the view of obtaining rewards. However this is also the view posited by the other buddhist schools as well.

The doctrine of One Mind exposed in the text should be understood carefully, always remaining well-grounded in existence as it presents itself to you. No-one will deny that external objects exist, but of course they are only important to you if you let their image enter your mind. You should think of these external objects, as no definite objects at all, but as part of an integrated flux of reality, as things possessing a wider context.


Selected Poems (Penguin Classics)
Selected Poems (Penguin Classics)
by Rabindranath Tagore
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Selected works of a great poet, 20 Sept. 2011
These short poems, covering a variety of topics, and written in a variety of poetic forms, reveal a great sensibility and imagination. They evoke images of love and separation, and the terrible beauty and power of the natural world. I only wish I could read them in their original language.

I did not care to read the introduction, however I have found the individual commentary to the poems, located at the end of the book, to be very helpful.

The type in which the book was printed was sometimes too coarse.


The Vimalakirti Sutra (Translations from the Asian Classics)
The Vimalakirti Sutra (Translations from the Asian Classics)
by Burton Watson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £17.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sunyata ?, 15 Sept. 2011
I think that I couldn't gather good arguments for sunyata from reading this book. I believe that I may not have properly understood some passages in the text. I shall have to read the text again, since the Vimalakirti is considered *the* sutra on emptiness. Especially chapter 9 may be considered a good defense of sunyata. So take the following arguments as you wish.

I believe that the text creates an ambiguity in its defence of emptiness. Sometimes it seems to consider that the world is empty of all characteristics whatsoever, which would fall into a nihilistic view not supported by either conventional reality or the buddhist teachings. At other times it takes emptiness to mean "voidness of inherent existence", or "lack of soul" or "lack of a priori existence", which is indeed the correct understanding of sunyata in buddhist teachings.

I have wondered at times if the two views are one and the same. In some cases the two might seem to overlap. But I think they are quite different. The problem is I think, of putting things in their correct conceptual "boxes". Emptiness of inherent existence is a subset of general nihilistic emptiness, and while the first is true of conventional reality, the second isn't.

I have found The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way: Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika to be a much more focused and thorough, but also more demanding, exposition of sunyata. However a different edition of the Vimalakirti Sutra is included in the bibliography of Nagarjuna's book.

As for this book, it has few notes and only an in-house bibliography, but it does contain a glossary and an interesting introduction.


The Zen Teachings of Bodhidharma
The Zen Teachings of Bodhidharma
by Bodhidharma
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.76

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good text, 10 Sept. 2011
This book presents four of Bodhidharma's sermons, focusing on observing your own nature as a means to grasp the nature of the universe, creating detachment, and observing the mind. Bodhidharma provides commentary to some of the Mahayana sutras.

To me, some of the statements are confusing while others I consider completely wrong (such as affirming that there is nothing outside the mind), but this book has melted some of the ice in my mind towards the often paradoxical zen thinking.

The book has a good amount of notes and these can be used by a beginner to gain knowledge of Buddhism in general and Mahayana and Zen in particular.


Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind (Roughcut edition)
Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind (Roughcut edition)
by Shunryu Suzuki
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simple and good for beginners, 5 Sept. 2011
This book is an excellent introduction to the spirit of Zen. It focuses on simplicity, non-intellectualizing and on not longing for the fruits of the practice. However some of the examples may be cryptic and should be clarified. This may be due to the differences between asian minds and western minds. It is to be credited with me finally taking up formal meditation. However I am combining it with the precepts in Satipatthana: The Direct Path to Realization, undertaking an analysis of the various aspects of body, sensation, mind, and dharmas. Sometimes I aim for thoughtlessness, sometimes I aim for analysis. In any case the main aspect may be not to get attached to anything.


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