Suggested summer reading from the faculty

Hoping to spend time reading in the sunshine this summer?
Here are some recent book recommendations from our faculty (scroll down for German suggestions):

Ajahn Pasanno and Ajahn Amaro: The Island: An Anthology of the Buddha’s Teachings of Nibbana, available for free distribution through Abhayagiri Monastary: www.abhayagiri.org, 2009

This is an anthology of the Buddha’s teachings on Nibbana and is a wonderful compilation of the ways that the Buddha described awakening. They explore in depth through their own reflections the heart of the teaching on liberation. /Christina Feldman

 

Richard Salomon: The Buddhist Literature of Ancient Gandhāra: An Introduction with Selected Translations, Somerville: Wisdom Publications, 2018

This is a wonderful book that provides tantalizing glimpses of a forgotten Buddhist civilization, which flourished at the geographical crossroads of Indian, Persian, Hellenistic and Central Asian cultures around the time of Christ. A world rich in religious devotion, human conflict and philosophical reflection emerges as though by magic from the meticulous reading by a dedicated group of scholars of fragile textual fragments written on birch bark. The book not only introduces us to ancient Gandhāra but enriches our understanding of the complex currents of ideas that formed the diverse Buddhist traditions of India, Central Asia and China. /Stephen Batchelor

 

Keren Arbel: Early Buddhist Meditation: The Four Jhānas as the Actualization of Insight, London/New York: Routledge, 2016

This careful study of the four jhānas is the result of Israeli scholar-practitioner Keren Arbel’s analysis of the relatively few passages in the Pali suttas that speak of them in any detail. In contrast to the widespread view in Buddhism that sees the jhānas as progressive states of meditative absorption, she maintains that they can be more helpfully understood as an integral dimension of a single contemplative and ethical process that leads to awakening. She thus challenges the notion that the jhānas are an optional and inessential dimension of the practice of the Dharma. “One attains the jhānas,” she argues, “not by fixating the mind or being absorbed into a meditation object but by releasing and letting go of the foothold of unwholesome mind.” Whether or not one agrees with her conclusions, this study reveals how the texts of Early Buddhism are sufficiently rich to continue generating fresh and compelling interpretations, which, to my mind, deserve as much attention as those which have become enshrined as hallowed orthodoxy. /Stephen Batchelor

Judson Brewer: The Craving Mind: From Cigarettes to Smartphones to Love – Why We Get Hooked and How We Can Break Bad Habits, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017

A close look at your mind on fire. Brewer, a neuroscientist and pioneer in the study of mindfulness, explains the reasons why addictions are so tenacious and why we’re all vulnerable to them: social media, eating, smoking, drinking, sex, work, or any other behaviours that we find ourselves uncontrollably repeating – including the meditator’s pet addiction of thinking. Charting the neural and psychological terrain from pleasurable reward via repetition and habit formation to addiction, he reveals his insights from 20 years of work and research in the field. He shows how we can tap into the very processes that encourage addictive behaviours in order to step out of them. Spoiler: mindfulness practice plays a central role in this. /Akincano Weber

Stephen Batchelor: What is This? Reflections from a Sŏn Retreat, West Ogwell: Gaia House, 2018

This book consists of edited transcripts of six talks given during a Sŏn (Korean Zen) retreat at Gaia House in 2016. The lectures include reflections on traditional Zen koans, the natural sciences, the sublime, and ethical commitment. Three of the talks focus on practical instructions in meditation. All proceeds from the sale of this book go towards the Gaia House Building Fund. /Stephen Batchelor

 

 

Andrew Olendzki: Unlimiting Mind. The Radically Experiential Psychology of Buddhism, Wisdom Publications, 2010

This book presents an accessible overview of Buddhist psychology and the radical nature of the Buddha’s perspective of the mind. /Christina Feldman

 

 

 

 

George Steiner: Ten (Possible) Reasons for the Sadness of Thought, PN Review, 32(3), 41, 2006

A brilliant essay, a variation of 10 movements on the glamour and gloom of thought  that explore a mesmerizingly beautiful and opaque sentence of 19th century philosopher Schelling. What happens to the mind when we begin to ponder? An elegiac meditation on thought by one of the world’s accomplished literary critics, and comparatists. /Akincano Weber

 

 

Jaron Lanier: Ten Arguments for Deleting your Social Media Accounts Right Now, The Bodley Head, London, 2018

Lanier, from the inside perspective of an internet pioneer turned digital critic, delivers ten disturbingly plausible points why we should follow his advice. This book speaks about digital addiction from the point of view of its makers, called, in their language, “deepening user engagement”. Lanier describes random reinforcement, a well known type of addiction fed not by reward but by never knowing whether or when the reward will come. He puts it like this: “The algorithm is trying to capture the perfect parameters for manipulating a brain, while the brain, in order to seek out deeper meaning, is changing in response to the algorithm’s experiments … Because the stimuli from the algorithm don’t mean anything, because they genuinely are random, the brain isn’t responding to anything real, but to a fiction. That process – of becoming hooked on an elusive mirage – is addiction.” He has a number of dispiriting things to say about the effect of that addiction on politics, on empathy, on attention, on happiness and on clarity of values. I particularly like this footnote: “Please take what you can use from me. I know I don’t know everything”. I concluded his advice to be sound and worthy. /Akincano Weber

Empfehlungen für Bodhi Colleges Deutschsprachige Leseliste:

George Steiner: Warum Denken traurig macht, Berlin: Suhrkamp Verlag, 2016

Ein brillanter Essay und eine knappe Variation in zehn Sätzen über Glanz und Elend des Denkens. Was geschieht in unserem Geist, wenn wir tiefer nachzudenken, zu grübeln beginnen? Die 10 Sätze kreisen alle, in homiletischer Art, über einen tiefen und zugleich dunklen Satz des Philosophen Schelling aus dessen Untersuchungen über das Wesen der menschlichen Freiheit. Eine betörend schöne  und elegische Meditation über das Denken aus der Feder eines der versiertesten literarischen Komparatisten. /Akincano Weber

 

Jaron Lanier: Zehn Gründe, warum du deine Social Media Accounts sofort löschen musst, The Bodley Head, London, 2018

Aus der Perspektive des Insiders legt Lanier, Informatiker, Internet-Pionier und großer Warner vor Online-Verrohung („digitale Barbarei“) und der Überbewertung von Schwarmintelligenz („digitaler Maoismus“) zehn verstörend plausible Gründe vor, genau das zu tun wozu der Titel seines Buches auffordert: die eigenen sozialen Netzwerk-Konten zu löschen. Wenig literarisch im Ton, aber umso eleganter in der Sache, legt der Autor die teils naiven, teils infamen Motive der Macher sozialer Netzwerke und die offenkundigen Wirkungen des Gebrauches dieser Netzwerke auf ihre Nutzer offen. Eine differenzierte Einschätzung von Nutzen und Gefahren der Digitalisierung unserer Welt. /Akincano Weber

Ferdinand von Schirach & Alexander Kluge: (2017). Die Herzlichkeit der Vernunft. Fünf Gespräche, Luchterhand, München, 2017

Fünf kluge, weitreichende und persönliche Gespräche der beiden großen Geister über Grundfragen von Recht, Gesellschaft, Theater und Literatur, Gefahren der direkten Demokratie und der sozialen Medien. Alle diese Gespräche gehen der Frage nach, was den Menschen menschlich macht, ob sie nun über Sokrates oder Voltaire nachdenken, über Kleist, den Terror oder das Lob der Langsamkeit. Die beiden selber nennen es konsistente Geistesgegenwart. Das Buch ist in Form einer knappen Wechselrede gehalten und sehr einladend in seiner Leichtigkeit im Umgang mit den gewichtigen Themen. /Akincano Weber

Luise Reddeman: Schlussstücke: Gedanken über Vergänglichkeit und Tod, Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 2018

Betrachtungen einer grande dame der Psychotherapie über das Abschiednehmen. Luise Reddemann versammelt Texte, Ideen, Anregungen aus Philosophie, Spiritualität und Literatur, verwirkt sie mit persönlichen Erfahrungen und reflektiert sie im Licht von Erkenntnissen aus Psychologie und Psychotherapie. Wie geht Abschiednehmen? Wie findet die Aussöhnung mit Vergänglichkeit statt? Besonders beeindrucken die musikalischen Reflexionen, die sich durch das ganze Buch ziehen. Ein kleines, inniges Werk zu einem großen Thema. /Akincano Weber