Dhammamegha here. Every few years we receive a manuscript that has been growing for decades within the author; a book that breaks new ground and offers a fresh and considered engagement with one of the Buddhist classics.
Bhikkhu Anālayo did this with Satipaṭṭhāna, through his translations and commentaries on the four foundations of mindfulness. Ratnaguna and Śraddhāpa did this with practice and awakening in the Pure Land Sutras in Great Faith, Great Wisdom. In 2019 we published David Brazier’s The Dark Side of the Mirror, with a vivid new translation and commentary on Dōgen’s Zen classic, Genjō Kōan. The book we’d like to introduce today will sit comfortably among them on your bookshelves.
The Promise of a Sacred World by Nagapriya introduces and helps us to engage with the thought of the Japanese Pure Land teacher, Shinran. Like these other books, The Promise of a Sacred World combines rigorous scholarship with a close engagement with original source writings. It is also a deep contemplation by an experienced contemporary Buddhist practitioner on the place of receptivity in spiritual practice and liberation.
Recently there has been some discussion about the relationship between the very disparate approaches to awakening that can be found across Buddhist traditions, in concept and in practice. In 2004, Subhuti wrote about three models or myths of Buddhahood and the path towards it in terms of what he called self-development, self-discovery and self-surrender. These models point to the gap between the awakened state and our current existential condition, and chart how that gap can be narrowed and overcome. No doubt, some of all three approaches is necessary.
Pure Land Buddhism sits firmly within the myth of self-surrender, and Shinran’s vision is a particularly uncompromising version of surrender. Above all, Shinran places reliance on ‘Other Power’ for awakening, recognizing the pitfalls of the calculating human will on the path. Nagapriya is an excellent guide to this territory, bringing intelligence and sensitivity to this exploration. He writes of an ‘existential encounter’ with a sacred power through Amida or Amitabha, and an invitation into a non-theistic religious life. In this encounter he invites us to take on board human frailty, the limits of our will, and our boundedness in the conditions of our life. He beautifully invokes a ‘consoling and transformative’ reverence that opens to joy and wonder and a profound acceptance and love.
I’ve been working with Nagapriya on his book over the last few months, and I’ve noticed for myself a softening and the blossoming of a much greater compassion for all of us, deeply situated as we are in the human condition and deeply responding to the possibilities of love and freedom.
We will be publishing The Promise of a Sacred World at the end of August this year. Coming out with a book like this requires that we invest a great deal of time and resources in publication, even before a single volume reaches a bookshop shelf. By sponsoring this book, you can support us to publish it. You will also get immediate access to it in print and eBook versions as soon as it comes out.Find out more about sponsoring ‘The Promise of a Sacred World’
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We’ve had some technical issues with Instagram, which mean we no longer have access to our old Instagram account. If you want to stay in touch with us on Instagram, you’ll need to follow our new account, @windhorse.publications. It would be lovely to see you as we keep bringing new books to life and sharing them with you. Please feel free to unfollow our old account, which will no longer be updated.