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Endless Path: Awakening Within the Buddhist Imagination: Jataka Tales, Zen Practice, and Daily Life

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  • Posted December 25, 2010

    Insightful Stories about Buddha from Which We Can All Learn

    Jataka tales are the stories that reveal the Buddha's previous births as a bodhisattva (one who has attained enlightenment, but who chooses not to pass into Nirvana [the state of supreme bliss, tranquility, and purity, when the fires of desire are extinguished], opting to remain in the world to help lesser beings attain enlightenment) working towards the goals of Buddhahood. Martin naturally relates to stories, having children of his own. Interest in stories is with us from an early age, with tales being used in most religions to exemplify the principles propagated by the different belief systems concerned (just think of the Parables in the Bible, for example, in terms of Christianity). In Endless Path, Martin shares with the reader original telling of the jataka stories, "versions created to speak in a lively colloquial, vernacular voice to contemporary readers." He himself has "gained strength from an ongoing connection with the jatakas and the life of the Buddha, enough to begin to trust his own way and then to find it." The commentaries for each story offer a Zen "take" on the jatakas and on their relevance to our daily lives and practice. Extolling qualities of generosity, morality, patient forbearance, limitless vigor, meditation, wisdom, skillful means, resolve, strength, and knowledge, the jatakas, together with their commentaries, are intended to "help us rediscover the endless path unfolding even now beneath our feet." Clearly told in fluent and flowing English that is clearly that of an English First Language speaker, the tales are powerfully written and conveyed in such a way that we can gain the most from them. As a skilled Zen practitioner and teacher, Martin is in an ideal position to help bring the truths of Buddhism alive, which he does with admirable ease. He also acknowledges the role played by many different communities of listeners in refining how he tells the tales and reveals the insights that he and others have gained from each one. Accompanying each jataka is a full-page illustration by renowned artist Richard Wehrman, who is also a firm believer in the Buddhist faith, moving, in 1973, to Rochester, New York, to study and practice Zen Buddhism at the Rochester Zen Center. Endless Path is a truly insightful work, which has already received numerous accolades from other leading Buddhist practitioners. Accessible, inspired, and clearly marked by a generosity and foresight of spirit, it is a work well worth obtaining and keeping in one's own private collection.

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