This week we’re giving away A Guide to the Buddhas by Vessantara, which is an essential addition to your virtual collection of Dharma books.

Why does Buddhism refer to so many Buddhas? Who are they, and what can they tell us about ourselves? In this inspiring book we meet the Buddhas who form part of the rich symbolism of Tibetan Buddhism. Vessantara combines the power of storytelling with practical guidance and succeeds in bringing to life six Buddhas and their visualization practices (the historical Buddha Śakyamuni and the archetypal Buddhas of the Five Buddha Mandala: Aksobhya, Ratnasambhava, Amitābha, Amogasiddhi and Vairocana). This is an informative guide for those new to Buddhism and a handy reference for more experienced practitioners.

In an interview from 2012, Vessantara said:

“If we’re going to transform ourselves by following the Buddhist path, we need to make the goal as real for ourselves as possible – the more tangible the goal, the more it will draw us towards it emotionally. We can talk about the goal of the spiritual life as ‘freedom’, ‘wisdom’, ‘compassion’ and ‘serenity’ but these are just words, they don’t really move us very much. It is when we can actually see what it’s like to be transformed, that we are moved to transform ourselves. If you have been fortunate enough to have met a realized person, for example, then you will know that what’s special about coming into contact with them isn’t just listening to the teachings they give but also witnessing how they live and act – how kind and open and free and relaxed they are.

Unfortunately, we don’t meet realized people every day, but because we have this amazing faculty called the imagination, we can conjure up for ourselves what it would be like to be free, compassionate, wise and so on. So, in a way, the practices are just doing what a top athlete will do before a race: athletes will visualize their goal, picture the way they want to run and the pace they want to run at as if they’re telling their body, ‘Right OK, what we want to do is this’. In the same way, through Buddhist visualization practices we are living out what it would be like to be enlightened.”

If you enjoy A Guide to the Buddhas you might also be interested in Vessantara’s other books about archetypal figures, A Guide to the Bodhisattvas, A Guide to the Deities of the Tantra and Female Deities in Buddhism.