Notable Books

Notable Books 47


For readers of this section on Theosophy Forward the e-Magazine, you know that I normally start out with the review of a new book and then an old one  This time, the review is coming to you because of Synchronicity (a meaningful coincidence). I'm enough of a “Jungian” to take synchronicity very seriously. In this case, two events occurred within several weeks of each other for both books. I will explain each event as I review the two books.

Something New 

To Heal a Wounded Heart:  The Transformative Power of Buddhism and Psychotherapy in Action, Pilar Jennings, PhD, Shambhala, Boulder, 2017, pp. 214, $18.95.

Book 1

Dr. Jennings has two books: both of which merits review. I choose this one because it is the most entertaining which is always a good place to start. I have a pile of books that are candidates for reviews.   Both of Pilar's books have been on  this pile for about 2 years. What I normally look (and wait for) is a "Hook" to pick one book over the others  Frequently, this "Hook" is simply my interest at the moment, or one of my theosophical friends making a suggestion. So far, I had no "Hooks" for either of Pilar's books.  That afternoon, I had gathered up the pile and it was ready to take down stair for another three months. I clearly remember looking the Wounded Heart book thinking, "I really need to pick this one because of its story line.”  Within 30 second, I  checked my Facebook page and Synchronicity struck. There, on the TSA page was a notice that a Webcast from headquarters by Dr. Pilar Jennings would be on October 10th! This certainly was one of the stronger Synchronicity events that I've recently experienced so someone reading this review probably needs this book in a big way! Having these experiences, I realized this was just another Synchronicity event. So, I guess I could say the Universe selected these two books this time! 

The book is a memoir of  Dr. Jennings’s early clinical practice. It unfolds in the form of having Western psychology and Buddhist teachings intersect. The client is a six-year-old girl that has been traumatized and barely speaks. As Pilar works progresses, she does something very radical. She invites a Tibetan Buddhist monk to join the sessions  In the process we learn how a psychoanalyst works, a little about Tibetan Buddhism and a lot of practical items in daily life. It was this last item  that I felt was the strength of the book. The book has a closing chapter called:  “Postscript:  Fresh Wounds.”  This does help bringing some closure to the stories. This also brings me to my closure. Dr. Jennings is really telling a story here and she is a superb storyteller.  I noticed that Dr. Safran who wrote the foreword to the book calls her "a natural born storyteller.". I think you will fully agree when reading this book.  

Something Old

Thank You and Ok! An American Zen Failure in Japan, David Chadwick, Penguin Books, NY, NY, 1994, pp. 454, $13.95.

Book 2

The Synchronicity event for this book is not as dramatic as Pilar's book, but it followed the same pattern.  David Chadwick has written the definitive biographical book on Shunryu Suzuki (Crooked Cucumber).  Suzuki is known worldwide as the author of the spiritual classic, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind.  David practiced with Shunryu Suzuki from 1966 and was ordained by him in 1971  However, the book under review is 'Very Funny'.  Ken Wilber gave it the best review ever: "I love this book.”

Here is the Synchronicity event. I celebrated my birthday about two months ago. Facebook has this information and my FB friends are notified. Then a lot of happy comments roll in wishing me a great day.  I try to acknowledge everybody; sometimes adding a comment of my own. This was also the day I was about to pick Crooked Cucumber as the second book to review when out of the blue David Chadwick send a birthday greeting! I only had him on FB cause I wanted to keep up with his video's and podcasts.  He had Never(!) sent me anything like this before in at least three years. It had to be Synchronicity!

In general this book tells us about Chadwick's journey to Japan. There, he practiced more Zen, got married, studied the Japanese language, culture, and taught English. David tells us in the beginning that the book has two threads. One is his story of a day-to-day stay at a remote mountain temple. The other is the daily life with his wife and their exploration of modern Japan.

The impressive part is how he interfaces these two threads together and adds extensive detains to make them very interesting, readable, and exciting. He had a method that he mentioned very early in the book.  He carried a notebook and took extensive notes. It is from these notes that he is able to bring his stories to life. Many of them are laced with ironic humor. Here is an example.

In the beginning David opens with a very funny story. I have shortened it, but this is the type of humor I like. He was driving Shunryu Suzuki to the Zen Center when he was in California. He turned and asked Suzuki Roshi if he could ask him a question. He then proceeded to beg Suzuki to tell him what he should do to get enlightened! He went on and on about how dedicated he (David) was.  Finally, David turned again to Suzuki Roshi for his answer …. Suzuki  Roshi was sound asleep!

This is a great book!  Like Ken Wilbur, you'll love it.

Notable Books is a series compiled by Dr. Ralph Hannon

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