cover image Recalling Chgyam Trungpa

Recalling Chgyam Trungpa

, . . Shambhala, $21.95 (481pp) ISBN 978-1-59030-207-1

This compilation of essays and reminiscences about one of the pioneers of Tibetan Buddhism in the West is a whole lotta Trungpa. Trungpa was a far-ranging teacher, who made contributions to art, poetry, theater, translation, education, psychology and even dressage in addition to popularizing a profound spiritual tradition. At the same time, his "crazy wisdom," as the eccentricities of his life were described, went beyond the pale for some. That Trungpa was a major figure in translating Tibetan Buddhism from a little-known cultural tradition into terms Westerners could appreciate is an achievement noted by the Dalai Lama himself in a brief introduction. The essays that concentrate on explicating Trungpa as a teacher are the strongest. The enduring significance of his contributions in other fields—theater, for example—is more open to debate. The book needs tighter editing of chatty anecdotes and greater overall clarity. A biographical sketch would increase its usability, and a few essays are annoyingly turgid ("the alchemical practice of solve et coagula at the heart of speech makes this dance between the relative and the ultimate spiritually operative"). Nearly half the contributions are by those with very close ties to Trungpa, so while this isn't hagiography, it's a pretty fond book. (Dec. 13)