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Pema Chödrön
The Wisdom of No Escape; and the Path of Lovingkindness
Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1991.

    This is one of two women who teach me Zen (see also Joko Beck). I know Zen is supposed to be about basics, but no man I have ever read has brought it home to me as these two can. For example, look at Chödrön's interpretation of Buddha's First Noble Truth, which is usually given something like "Life is suffering" :

    "The first noble truth says that if you are alive, if you can love, if you can be compassionate, if you can realize the life energy that makes everything change and move and grow and die, than you won't have any resentment or resistance. The first noble truth says simply that it's part of being human to feel discomfort. We don't even have to call it suffering anymore, we don't even have to call it discomfort. It's simply coming to know the fieriness of fire, the wildness of wind, the turbulence of water, the upheaval or earth, as well as the warmth of fire, the coolness and smoothness of water, the gentleness of the breezes, and the goodness, solidness, and dependability of the earth. Nothing in its essence is one way or the other. The four elements take on different qualities; they're like magicians. Sometimes they manifest in one form and sometimes in another. If we feel that that's a problem, we resist it. The first noble truth recognizes that we also change like the weather, we ebb and flow like the tides, we wax and wane like the moon. We do that, and there's no reason to resist it. If we resist it, the reality and vitality of life become misery, a hell." (pp. 39-40.)

    (For another interpretation which is easy to understand, see the Dharma Talk on Enlightenment and the First Noble Truth , by Lama Surya Das of the Dzogchen Foundation.)

Start From Where You Are; A Guide to Compassionate Living
Boston, Shambhala Publications, 1994.
When Things Fall Apart:Heart Advice for Difficult Times
Boston, Shambhala Publications, 1997.
Chodron teaches me to be gentle with myself. That doesn't mean indulging unskillful habits. It does mean "ceasing to struggle and relaxing as it is." Because "That is what we are doing when we sit down to meditate." And "That attitude spreads into the rest of our lives." (p.122.)

© copyright Catherine Holmes Clark, 1998 & 2001; last updated 27 November 2000