P'arang (the Buddhist name of author Geri Larkin) does what very few other writers are able to do these days: Write a compelling, sometimes humorous, always fiercely insightful book that's hard to put down.
In fact, I finished The Still Point Dhammapada: Living the Buddha's Essential Teachings in just two evenings -- and I'm sure I'll refer to it repeatedly in days to come.
The purpose of the book is two-fold: (1) It includes a very smooth-flowing, inclusive-language rendering of the Dhammapada, and (2) Interwoven with the Dhammapada is Ms. Larkin's observations about everything from what it's like to provide a haven for the folks in downtown Detroit, to daily struggles to abide by the Buddha's teachings to meetings with everyday (albeit fascinating) people.
P'arang's tone is always self-effacing, earthy and compassionate. Real. Sincere. She comes across as someone you'd like to chat with over a cup of tea.
For the record, I'm a Christian. Yet, I have recently become fascinated by Zen and have read many books on this ancient worldview. Why? Because I appreciate its philosophy of "mindfulness," which means to be fully awake and aware of life and to relish every minute, every thing, and every person along the way.
Zen is a simple worldview, yet it can be as deep and vast as you'd like it to be.
So it's no wonder I enjoyed Ms. Larkin's book so much. Her writing exemplifies what Zen has to offer.
If you're wondering how Zen Buddhists live their lives, you ought to consider reading The Still Point Dhammapada. It's one of the best books I've read on the subject -- although I don't think Ms. Larkin's goal was to write an apologetic for Buddhism. I think she just wanted to share her observations and comments about life as a Zen Buddhist teacher. Take 'em or leave 'em.
I took 'em. And really enjoyed The Still Point Dhammapada. I found it to be a wonderful peek into the world of Zen Buddhism from someone who knows it well. I highly recommend it -- along with The Still Point Zen Buddhist Temple web site.
Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike: read this book!! The Still Point Dhammapada is moving and wise - the translations of the Buddha's words are simple (in the best sense) yet, of course, profound. Equally compelling are the stories from the streets around the Still Point abbey and temple. There are lots of stereotypes about Detroit - and Larkin & co. add voice and vision so that readers can really get a feel for the life of the neighborhood and the practice of "guerilla kindness." But don't mistake this for some pollyanna-ish text; the stories are alternately heartbreaking, funny and gritty. Coupled with the verses from the dhammapada, they teach by showing.
This is a lovely book.