Mipam

Lama Yongden
SLG Books
ISBN 0-943389-33-X

51Y09V1J2NL._SX307_BO1,204,203,200_First published in 1938 this inspired book has been called the ‘First Tibetan Novel’. Mipam is a fictional account of a seeker’s search for love, spirituality, compassion and adventure. Our hero is beset by all kinds of temptations and difficulty before he finally finds his place in the world.

Beautifully written, and illustrated with Tibetan wood block prints, Lama Yongden shares the culture and environment of old Tibet. He draws us into his characters’ struggles between the heart and mind, the spiritual and worldly, their seeking and finding.

Puzzled by this unexpected turn of career in his life from hermit to fiction writer, Lama Yongden notes that:

“Never was the writer’s vocation more unforeseen than in my own case. My life, so it seemed, was destined to be passed, serenely and studiously, in a Tibetan monastery, and had I risen to the rank of a Tibetan writer, my works, in all probability, would have been philosophical treatises, or commentaries on one or other of the numerous doctrines which for centuries past have fed the meditations and the controversies of the learned Lamas of my native land.” 

In a prose similar to his notes, Lama Yongden takes us on a tender and enlightening inner journey that is both moving and compelling. Significant portions of the book feel biographical, which adds to its mystery.

The first chapter begins:

“Portents accompanied his birth. Before dawn, a supernatural light was diffused beneath the lofty trees of the forest on the verge of which rose the rude dwelling of his parents. There alighted upon its thatched roof a pair of birds with golden crests, although it was not the season for their migration. After a long spell of drought, which had sorely tried the thirsty vegetations and the creatures that depended upon it for their food, quite suddenly, although the sun was shining, the earth was gladdened by an abundant shower of rain. A large leopard appeared close to the house, calm, dignified and unafraid, contemplating with attentive eyes the window of the room in which the child was entering the world, and the mother of the new-born babe declared that she had heard, all about her, the songs of invisible beings.” 

This book is a rare treat for aspirants.

 

Lady of the Lotus

Lady of the Lotus
William E. Barrett
Publisher: Doubleday
ISBN: O 87477 506 X

‘Lady of the Lotus’ is a tender and compelling read. Based in historical research with a fictional twist by the author’s imagination, it tells a tale of love, tragedy, seeking, finding, and finally liberation. 

41ZTsaAaU-L._AC_US160_.jpgWilliam Barrett is the besting novelist and author of The Lilies of the Field and The Left Hand of God. In this historical romantic drama which is subtitled, The Untold Love Story of the Buddha and His Wife he brings to light, in intimate detail, the spiritual journey of Yasodhara, the wife of Siddhartha, who becomes the Buddha. Barrett’s narrative elegantly and tenderly moves through the unfolding of her engagement and marriage and her inner process as she loses her husband to his search for enlightenment.

There are hundreds and hundreds of books on and about the Buddha. There are even hundreds written about his son. This book is perhaps the only attempt at discovering who Yasodhara was and her relationship to the Buddha’s unfolding quest. Barrett’s imagination and research not only gives body to her life but also creates a very human Siddhartha, who we know became one of the greatest Gurus and holy men the world has known.  In his introduction Barrett comments:

The story of Siddhartha, ultimately the Buddha, and Yasodhara, Princess of Koli, is one of the great romances of world history, a love story unlike any other. In doing the research, I have built a personal library of Buddhism-Hinduism-India-Nepal that total 430 volumes. I have talked to many Buddhist scholars, Buddhist monks, missionaries of other faiths in Buddhist countries. I have walked where Siddharta and Yasodhara walked, in Nepal and In India. I have followed the trails that led outward from the beginnings to Burma, Thailand, Japan, Malaya, Hong Kong. It is, in the telling, a story that I know well in lands that I know. I have had to build many intuitive bridges but I believe that the bridges are sound, that this is the story as it was.

This is a book of faith and transformation, not just for the Buddha, but for his whole family and for those who in the beginning loved him personally and along the way learned to love him for his spiritual genius as well.