TheBrowser.com is one of the sites I check almost daily as it is an excellent compendium of some of the best writing and thinking being published on the Web at the moment (as well as absorbing videos). They also do a regular feature of interviewing a noted figure and asking them to recommend five books on a subject or field they know intimately. I was glad to see today an interview with Elizabeth Harris, a senior lecturer in Religious Studies at Liverpool Hope University where she specializes in Buddhism. Her entire list of five books is worth the read (click here). Here is an excerpt in which she recommends “Come and See for Yourself: The Buddhist Path to Happiness by Ayya Khema”
I met Ayya Khema in the 1980s when I was living in Sri Lanka. She was then a Buddhist nun. She had set up a community on an island in a lake in the South of Sri Lanka. She was born a Jew in Germany. She married and had children but eventually converted to Buddhism and became a nun. She spent the last 18 years of her life teaching in Sri Lanka, Australia and Germany. She published quite a number of books and this is the fullest one. In it we hear a Buddhist teacher explaining the path of meditation in a very accessible way. Ayya Khema was a meditator par excellence.
For instance, she speaks in one chapter about four fundamental principles of Buddhism: freedom from greed, freedom from hatred, right mindfulness and right concentration. Greed and hatred are the poisons which create suffering according to Buddhism. And right mindfulness and right concentration lie at the heart of Buddhist meditation.
She also speaks about such things as loving kindness. One of the things that impressed me when I met her was the way she led meditations on loving kindness and I have used some of her meditations myself when I have taught. It is a practice whereby one radiates loving kindness to those one likes to our family and friends – but also to those we don’t like, to the oppressors and the people who have hurt us. Such practices are at the heart of Buddhism and she speaks movingly about them.