19 December 2007
Not the best book on the Heart Sutra, but valuable nonetheless
Profound Wisdom of the Heart Sutra: And Other Teachings
Clearpoint Press, 2002
It is difficult for me to be critical of a work by an author whose goal was not egoic, seeking to be a literary star, but rather selfless and compassionate, seeking to benefit all beings.
That said, the two sections of this book that deal with the Prajnaparamita Hridaya Sutra are neither the most informative nor the most clearly presented that I have read. Admittedly, a good part of this criticism has to do with the layout and formatting of these sections, which seem disjointed at times. For example, Tibetan transliterations---idiosyncratic transliterations at that---are interspersed inconsistently throughout the text with brief commentaries that interrupt the flow of the commentary. As another example of the strange composition of the book, glossary-style definitions of terms will often simply appear, wedged between two sections of commentary, even though the book has a complete glossary at the back. ClearPoint Press is obviously not publishing these books to win prizes in book composition, though, so they can definitely be forgiven. :)
Composition and layout issues aside, the book contains a very powerful commentary on anger by the late author, Bokar Rinpoche, and a thoughtful lesson on karma by his primary disciple Khenpo Donyo. Two specific insights from these sections that continue to resonate like a bell within me are "Anger makes us stupid" and "If it impossible for us to immediately give up some aspects of our conduct, at least we can aspire that they will disappear sometime in the future."
All in all, a very worthwhile read, but perhaps not essential in a world increasingly saturated with books on Buddhadharma.
(This review was originally written on June 9, 2006.)