Hundreds of American Buddhist titles sprout every year from the 2,500-year-old Eastern wisdom tradition, which a second generation of Westerners is now practicing after their parents flocked to it in the 1960s and '70s. Spring lists promise new introductory works, but mostly offer a variety of advanced topics and treatments, especially in Tibetan Buddhism. A second category includes still more applications of Eastern Buddhism to facets of American life. Finally, a boomlet in interfaith titles suggests growing recognition of Buddhism as a spiritual force to be reckoned with in predominantly Christian America.
American Buddhist publishing continues to manifest incredible elasticity. Into a market that veterans agree is flooded with titles, each season brings a few introductory texts, from publishers hoping to expand their share of the niche through promising new voices, texts especially friendly to total novices, or new material from established authorities. Buddhism: A Concise Introduction (Harper San Francisco, Mar.) by Huston Smith and Philip Novakrests on the magisterial authority of lead writer Smith, world religions expert for more than 40 years. With co-authorship by Novak, a teacher, author and practicing Buddhist, this text was developed from Smith's comparative religions bellwether, The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions (Harper SF, 1991), first published by HarperCollins in 1958 as The Religions of Man.
In contrast to venerable octogenarian Smith, Sakyong Mipham, just 40 years old, is a new voice on basic Tibetan Buddhist teachings. He is entirely rooted in the Shambhala network of meditation centers begun in the 1970s in North America by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Sakyong's father and one of the pioneers of Buddhism in the West. Turning the Mind into an Ally (Riverhead, Jan.) is the first book by the younger Sakyong, heir to his father's spiritual legacy. Sakyong combines a Tibetan spiritual heritage with familiarity with the Western culture of his upbringing in this meditation primer. "What I always thought was missing from Buddhist books is a straightforward handbook on meditation," said Riverhead executive editor Amy Hertz, who has also edited the Dalai Lama, Zen Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh and Tibetan teacher Sogyal Rinpoche.
Other Buddhism 101 books offer different entry points to a multicultural tradition that includes many schools of practice. No Beginning, No End: Becoming Intimate with Zen (Crown, Mar.) by Jakusho Kwong Roshi appropriately relates no-frills Zen to ordinary life, with a bonus of calligraphic art by the author, an American Buddhist in the lineage of influential Zen master Shunryu Suzuki Roshi. Veteran Eastern spirituality writers Annellen and C. Alexander Simpkins promise Zen in Ten (Tuttle, May), more Zen for every day. Another Zen door opens in The Book of Zen: The Path to Inner Peace (Barron's, Mar.) by Eric Chaline.
From the South Asian Buddhist tradition that yielded insight (or vipassana) meditation practice for Westerners comes Realizing Change: Vipassana Meditation in Action (Vipassana Research, Apr.) by Ian Hetherington, which chronicles first-person accounts of meditation-induced life transformations. Feng shui popularizer Lillian Too stakes out a devotional path in The Buddha Book: Buddhas, Prayers and Rituals to Grant You Love, Wisdom and Healing (Thorsons/Element, Apr.), introducing Buddhist heavenly beings and prayers.
While not necessarily evidence for the Buddhist teaching of reincarnation, even dead authors can produce new material. Zen: The Supreme Experience: The Newly Discovered Scripts (Vega [dist. by Sterling], Mar.) by Alan Watts packages radio transcripts of talks by the late spiritual interpreter who opened the doors of Eastern religion for a generation of American Buddhists. And finally, where The Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Buddhism (Alpha/Pearson, 2002) by Gary Gach has already tread, Buddhism for Dummies (Wiley, Mar.) by Jonathan Landaw follows.
The Farther Shore
The vast majority of new American Buddhist titles plumb the riches of a tradition that contains reams of canonical material, advanced practices and centuries of influential authorities. Many of these come from a well-established cadre of Western teachers and scholars as well as authoritative Asian teachers living or known in the West.
At specialty press Snow Lion, founded in 1980 to promote Tibetan Buddhism and culture, president Jeff Cox sees a critical mass of practitioners with knowledge of Tibetan traditions ready for advanced texts that will equip them to practice and preserve authentic Tibetan Buddhism in the West. Western understanding of Tibet grows more sophisticated and realistic, through the indefatigable presence of the Dalai Lama and other exiled teachers and a growing body of work by advanced practitioners and translators. Ironically, the word is also spread through a kind of spiritual market correction in such books as Prisoners of Shangri-La: Tibetan Buddhism and the West (Chicago, 1998) by American Buddhologist Donald S. Lopez Jr., which debunks Western romanticizing of Tibet.
"Our role as a publisher is to provide in-depth focus on [Tibetan] Buddhist topics so that people can study these as part of programs for those capable of teaching," Cox said. For this advanced-practitioner stage are such Snow Lion titles as Machik's Complete Explanation: Clarifying the Meaning of Chod [Demons], translated and edited by Sarah Harding (Mar.), a translation of teachings by 11th-century female authority Machik Labdron, and The Autobiography of Jamgon Kongtrul: A Gem of Many Colors (Chokyi Nyima), translated and edited by Richard Barron, the life story of a 19th-century master.
While scholarly, such translations are part of the house's mission to advance the practice of Tibetan Buddhism in the West, rather than the careers of professors who focus on the tradition as an intellectual subject for study rather than a living religion for practice. "We're not going to help somebody with their tenure," Cox said. In June, the publisher will issue the first two volumes of a 10-volume encyclopedia by the 19th-century master Kongtrul, The Treasury of Knowledge. But Snow Lion also offers some easier approaches to Tibetan Buddhism. Music in the Sky: The Life, Art and Teachings of the 17th-Karmapa, Ogyen Trinle Dorje (Apr.) is what Cox calls "a very readable book" about the fascinating life of a 17-year-old lama who escaped from Tibet in 1999.
Also addressing the demand for advanced Tibetan teaching, Boston-area Buddhist specialty publisher Wisdom offers Becoming the Compassion Buddha: Tantric Mahamudra in Everyday Life (May) by Lama Yeshe, edited by Robina Courtin, which explains a body of esoteric teachings and their associated meditation and visualization practices. Buddhist and Eastern wisdom specialist Shambhala plumbs the canon with The Sun of Wisdom: Teachings on the Noble Nagarjuna's Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way (Mar.) by Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso, a commentary on a classic text by a second century Indian Buddhist and the first widely distributed book by this exiled Tibetan scholar.
Finding More Applications
Apart from more titles on advanced texts and teachings, specialists as well as general trade houses continue to articulate new Western applications for Buddhism. Creating Consciousness: A Study of Consciousness, Creativity, Evolution and Violence (White Cloud, Oct. 2002) by Montreal Zen teacher Albert Low is what publisher Steven Scholl calls "a big book," indicative of a mature Western Buddhism taking on comprehensive philosophical questions. "It speaks to the question of American Buddhism feeling that it's arrived," Scholl said.
Wisdom publisher Tim McNeill flags interest in exploring Buddhism's relevance to social change. The New Social Face of Buddhism: A Call to Action (May) by Zen practitioner Ken Jones and The Great Awakening: A Buddhist Social Theory (June) by international studies professor David Loy, both from Wisdom, explore contemporary sociological applications for Buddhism. McNeill also points to more interest in relating Buddhist understandings of the mind and emotions to the Western science of mind, a field of research and dialog in which the Dalai Lama has regularly participated. Psychoanalysis and Buddhism: An Unfolding Dialogue (Wisdom, Apr.), edited by Jeremy D. Safran, explores the relationship between Buddhism and contemporary psychoanalytic thinking. In the same vein, Destructive Emotions: A Scientific Dialog with the Dalai Lama (Bantam, Jan.) by Daniel Goleman pairs the names of Tibet's popular spiritual leader and the bestselling behavioral science writer.
Name Recognition Sells
Publishers and booksellers alike know that anything bearing the esteemed name of the Dalai Lama will sell. The ubiquitous symbol of a threatened nation and of compassionate Eastern thought is featured in several new spring titles, among them the once-a-day format 365 Dalai Lama: Daily Advice from the Heart (Thorsons/Element, Apr.), aimed at beginners. At a less eminent but still prominent level, established teachers within American Buddhism continue to churn out new work, with an assurance of sales to an established following. In this vein are The Path of the Human Being: Zen Teachings on the Bodhisattva Way (Shambhala, Aug.) by Dennis Genpo Merzel; The Still Point Dhammapada: Living the Buddha's Essential Teachings (HSF, Apr.) by Geri Larkin.
While an established following may help a teacher-writer, there remains room for previously unpublished voices. Buddhist specialty presses say they're seeing better manuscripts from more seasoned or otherwise compelling teachers, both American and Eastern. Boston-based Shambhala offers two new voices. This Precious Life: Tibetan Buddhist Teachings on the Path to Enlightenment (Aug.) is a first book by Khandro Rinpoche, a Tibetan teacher whose youth and female gender stand out in a field of old male lamas. At Home in the Muddy Water: A Guide to Finding Peace Within Everyday Chaos (June) by Ezra Bayda follows the Zen teacher-author's 2002 debut Being Zen: Bringing Meditation to Life. "He was unknown," said Shambhala managing editor Dave O'Neal. "It's a case where the book is just very good."
Other applied-Buddhism new titles address a range of life issues. The Office Sutras: Exercises for Your Soul at Work (Red Wheel, Aug.) by Marcia Menteruses humor—a rare quality in American Buddhist books—to show how to take the Buddha's teachings to work. Buddhist teacher and psychotherapist Tara Brach counsels Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha (Bantam, June). For teens, a group for whom not many Buddhist resources exist, comes Wide Awake: A Buddhist Handbook for Teens (Perigee, Aug.) by Buddhist teacher Diana Winston. Buddha Mom (Putnam/Tarcher, Apr.) by Jacqueline Kramer looks at motherhood and spiritual life, two subjects not readily associated with one another. Buddhist Astrology (Llewellyn, Feb.) by Jhampa Shaneman relates Tibetan Buddhism and Western astrology, with a foreword from His Holiness the Dalai Lama himself. Buddhist environmentalism, a largely unexplored topic, is covered in Touching the Earth: A Buddhist Guide to Saving the Planet (Weatherhill, Mar.) by Akuppa, which offers ideas and exercises to promote planetary awareness and preservation.
Many Cultures, Many Schools
Greater Western knowledge of Buddhism also includes more appreciation of Buddhism's differences in the many Asian countries to which it spread over centuries, producing varied schools of practice. The Buddhist Text Translation Society, which specializes in orthodox Chinese Buddhism, offers The Sixth Patriarch's Dharma Jewel Platform Sutra, a text from the Chinese Tang dynasty with commentary by the late Chinese Buddhist teacher Master Hsuan Hua. The Pure Land Buddhist school and its manifestation in Japanese art forms is represented in Naikan: Gratitude, Grace and the Japanese Art of Self-Reflection (Stone Bridge Press, Dec. 2002) by Gregg Krech, who has written on Japanese approaches to mental health. Underscoring Zen's Japanese character and Western appeal is Living and Dying in Zazen: Five Zen Masters of Modern Japan (Weatherhill, Apr.) by Arthur Braverman, which relates the lives of four men and one woman at the small Zen temple of Antaiji in Kyoto, a magnet for non-Japanese practitioners.
There is even enough history and practice of Buddhism in the West to warrant The Spirit of Buddhism: The Future of Dharma in the West (HSF, May) by Sogyal Rinpoche, well-known Tibetan teacher and author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying (HSF, 1992), which has sold almost 500,000 copies in English. Focused on figures in the history of Western exposure to Buddhism are The Tenth Man: The Great Joke (Which Made Lazarus Laugh) (Sentient, Mar.) by Wei Wu Wei, an early 20th-century British interpreter of Buddhism, and The Search for the Buddha: The Men Who Discovered India's Lost Religion (Carroll & Graf, Apr.) by British historian Charles Allen.
A cadre of American Buddhist scholars—some of whom are practitioners—write for academic peers and students in Buddhist studies programs that have grown over the past quarter century. Yet some of this work can break out to an educated general audience. "Part of the appeal of Buddhism is it does have a lot of crossover potential," observed University of Michigan scholar Donald Lopez Jr., who authored the attention-getting Prisoners of Shangri-La.
Forthcoming titles at the intersection of science or social science and Buddhism include Buddhism and Science (Columbia, Apr.), edited by scholar-practitioner B. Alan Wallace, and Encountering Buddhism: Western Psychology and Buddhist Teachings (SUNY, May), edited by Seth Robert Seagal. The Cult of Nothingness: The Philosophers and the Buddha (Univ. of North Carolina, May) by contemporary French philosopher Roger-Pol Droit unpacks the history of the modern Western understanding of Buddhism. Samurai Zen: The Warrior Koans (Routledge, May) by Trevor Leggett offers historical and cultural context for the logic-defying statements of Zen Buddhist training.
Sure indicators of the maturity of American Buddhism are two memoirs from the children of American Buddhist pioneers, both hailing from the San Francisco Bay Area—epicenter of American Buddhism. Silence and Noise: Growing Up Zen in America (Washington Square, July) by Ivan Richmond, son of Buddhist author Lewis Richmond, and Dharma Punx (HSF, June) by Noah Levine, son of much-published Buddhist author and teacher Stephen Levine, both explore how Buddhism fits into a contemporary youth culture that inherited its parents' rebelliousness and nonconformity but marches to a different, heavy-metal drum.
Kimberley Snow cooks up the distinctive In Buddha's Kitchen: Cooking, Being Cooked and Other Adventures in a Meditation Center (Shambhala, May), a behind-the-kitchen-door account of life as a cook in a Tibetan Buddhist retreat center in California. In the little-mined literary vein are The Moon Appears When the Water Is Still: Reflection of the Dharma (Pariyatti, June) by Ian McCrorie, with story-poems for meditators, and Longing for Certainty: Reflections on the Buddhist Life (Wisdom, Feb.) by Bhikkhu Nyanasobhano, essays from an American Buddhist monk and nature writer dubbed "American Buddhism's Thoreau" by teacher Bhikkhu Bodhi.
A few titles open the treasury of Buddhist art. Buddhist Symbols (Sterling, May) by Tatjana and Mirabai Blau concentrates on images from the ornate and colorful Tibetan tradition. Another Tibetan devotional medium is explained in Tibetan Prayer Flags (Red Wheel, Mar.) by Diane Barker and Dru-Ga Choegyal Rinpoche, which includes photos and 15 hand-painted flags. Buddha: Radiant Awakening (Yale, Mar.) by Jackie Menzies crosses traditions and epochs in compiling 150 color illustrations ranging from ancient Indian sculptures to panels created from digital media.
From advanced Tibetan Madhyamika teaching to Zen bare bones, topics in American Buddhism expand in a marketplace that is toughly competitive but also peopled with book-buying seekers as well as a dedicated core of practitioners. Veteran editor Hertz wonders if people will tire of it. But, she said, "Buddhism does have the ability to help people change their lives for the better."