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The following review appeared in the May 2015 issue of CHOICE. The review is for your internal use only. Please review our Permission and Reprints Guidelines or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This book, coauthored by the Dalai Lama and a distinguished Buddhist nun, is a substantial advance in intra-Buddhist conversation. Though written by Tibetan monastics, the book steers clear of the usual triumphalist Tibetan reading of Buddhist history that locates the Vajrayāna as the final and highest turning of the wheel of the Dharma; most notably, there is no mention of the polemical term Hinayana to characterize other forms of Buddhism. The volume is an evenhanded treatment of what the authors describe as two main traditions, Pali Buddhism and Sanskrit Buddhism, with the latter indicating the two main branches of the Mahāyāna, the East Asian traditions on the one side and the Tibetan Vajrayāna on the other. The authors emphasize commonalities rather than differences among these branches, and they offer a very careful and accessible description of shared doctrine while also outlining points of divergence and development. The book is centered on doctrine and idealized representations of practice—monastic rule, meditation, philosophy, nirvana—rather than institutional Buddhism in history or contemporary Buddhist communities. The volume will be valuable for Buddhist practitioners and undergraduate classrooms for its clear and sympathetic account of Buddhist teachings.--M. Heim, Amherst College