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Practices of Love: Spiritual Disciplines for the Life of the World

Kyle David Bennett. Brazos, $17.99 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-58743-403-7

Bennett’s unique and satisfying work on meditation contrasts the standard view of meditation as a vertical affair (persons connecting with deity) with a horizontal perspective (contemplation as a way of connecting with and serving others). “Spiritual disciplines play a central part in our sanctification as believers and in God’s renewal of all things,” he writes. He goes on to provide a manual for reconfiguring the believer’s inner struggle toward experiencing God’s presence in the lives of ordinary people. Bennett’s message is clear and concise as he continually refers back to his basic tenets. For instance: “At the heart of service is the idea that our time, energy, hands, and goals belong to God.” A total, all-encompassing view of sanctification emerges in every page of this challenging work, which extends an invitation to all who call themselves believers. Bennett effectively implores readers to reach beyond the vertical view of worship and understand the importance of reverencing all of God’s creation. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/16/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Enlightened Vagabond: The Life and Teachings of Patrul Rinpoche

Dza Patrul Rinpoche, trans. from the Tibetan by Matthieu Ricard. Shambhala, $24.95 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-61180-330-3

Patrul Rinpoche ranks as one of Tibetan Buddhism’s most influential masters of the 19th century, but he lacks a detailed hagiography to which practitioners can refer. Ricard’s newest single-volume compendium helps fill this void, composed of stories told by teachers as well as Patrul’s teaching texts and short biographies. Through these vivid stories, Patrul is remembered as a nonsectarian vagabond renunciant who preached the benefits of meditation and the cultivation of bodhicitta (compassion for all beings). The tales trace Patrul’s life from birth to death, including his formal renunciation; the receiving of his nickname, Old Dog; and his emptiness realization. Many people he met were fooled by Patrul’s unassuming and disheveled appearance, holding back from giving him teaching, food, or clothes; when he revealed his true identity, Patrul also revealed the underlying preconceptions and habits that obstructed the cultivation of generosity in order to save all sentient beings. Ricard’s purpose is not to present an exhaustive translation of the existent biographies but to preserve a rich oral tradition and interweave its stories with the existing written record. This is a convenient and useful reference on the life of Patrul Rinpoche. (July)

Reviewed on 06/16/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Live Through This: Surviving the Intersections of Sexuality, God, and Race

Clay Cane. Cleis, $16.95 trade paper (201p) ISBN 978-1-62778-218-0

Cane leads readers through a poignant, pop music–laden exploration of his overlapping identities: the black son of a white mother, the femme son of a distant father, and a gay man in a nation fighting its antiquated views on sexuality. Cane provides a frank and emotional description of his coming-of-age. He divides the essays into five sections (on sexuality, love, race, God, and intersections) that follow him roughly chronologically as he grows up in Washington State, West Philadelphia, and eventually New York City. Throughout, Cane interrogates notions of enforced masculinity—as a child, he danced in his mother’s red dress and was then forced to box by his father—and vividly depicts the performance of gender. Mainstream society’s burgeoning awareness of gender fluidity makes this book a timely study of social constructs guiding gender expression. Cane’s observations on the intersections of class and race, which do not shy away from the quagmire of being poor in America, resonate in today’s fraught political climate. Even when he addresses painful issues such as domestic violence, sexual exploitation, food insecurity, and inadequate mental health care, he retains humor and compassion. The book is an affirming and enjoyable read for those interested in African-American or LGBTQ experiences. (June)

Reviewed on 06/16/2017 | Details & Permalink

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