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Customer Review

VINE VOICEon July 22, 2007
This is a seemingly extemporaneous western commentary (in front of an audience) on the 1st 51 verses of Shantideva's 8th c. The Way of the Bodhisattva: A Translation of the Bodhicharyavatara (Shambhala Dragon Editions). It complements Pema's recent book No Time to Lose: A Timely Guide to the Way of the Bodhisattva & (probably, since I haven't heard it yet) her Bodhisattva Mind: Teachings to Cultivate Courage and Awareness in the Midst of Suffering 7 CD set which covers 106 verses of the text. So this is a shorter version. The 1st CD is 54:11 in 13 tracks with an avg. of 4:10 & max. of 8:24; the 2nd CD is 77:31 in 20 tracks with an avg. of 3:53 & max. of 11:04; the 3rd CD is 51:15 in 16 tracks with an avg. of 3:12 & max. of 15:52. Overall avg. is 3:53 per track. Total exceeds 3 hours, 9 minutes. The very last track is Q&A of 3 questions--practice vs. repression, medications, & crying. Robert Walker reads each verse before Pema comments on it. She believes Shantideva wrote it in response to his own anger. As usual, she compassionately teaches compassion, using humor, graphic examples (e.g. the Gregory Peck classic "To Kill a Mockingbird" & personal experiences (e.g. visiting prisons). Interestingly, she succeeds in relating lojong mind training to Bodhisattva compassion training. While much of the teaching is not new (see her other fine works) it bears repeating. It's easy to learn the theory but not to actually practice it--repetition & reinforcement can help, but mindfulness & alertness are essential.

More specifically, Pema extensively addresses "the austerity of patience" as armor against Karma, noting that humor aids patience. This helps to defuse the us/them binary mentality at the root of suffering = seeing people as "other." Rather, one can use life's difficulties to awaken your kinship with others--developing empathy. This ties in with Pema's tonglen practice--sending & receiving practice, esp. tonglen-on-the-spot (mentioned briefly here). Indeed, our anger can be our teacher (a la Vajrayana's propensity to turn poison into elixir). We can practice using small annoyances (Bourgeois suffering)--being patient rather than aggravating them by complaining--thus avoiding self-inflicted pain & negative habit-building. Rather than following addictive urges, "we are always working with our potential to be bothered" by reframing our attitude to discomfort & "finding out what intolerable feels like w/o reacting to it." As she points out, by practicing mind training, we have tools that others don't, so have patience, compassion, & tolerance for them as well as for yourself. Thus, we can develop Herbert Guenther's water logic vs. rock logic--flowing/open vs. rigid/fixed--fluidity vs. structure, resting in ambiguity. Thus, we ease our attachment (shenpa), the Hook in the title, the charge behind our likes & dislikes--even our commitment to the environment can be an obstacle (turning elixir into poison). We tend to identify with our own thoughts [my bumper sticker says: "You don't have to believe everything you think"]. Rather, per Mahamudra/Dzogchen teachings, "taming the mind is returning to the natural state of openness" & joyously appreciating the "magical apparition" (display). This is a lovely, user-friendly CD set.
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