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Ornament of Stainless Light: An Exposition of the Kalachakra Tantra

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  • Posted September 9, 2011

    For the Initiated

    Ornament of Stainless Light is one of the thousands of books painstakingly handprinted by monks in Tibetan lamaseries for centuries, so with that in mind it's exciting to see it in print in English for the first time, no matter what your opinion is of Tibetan Buddhism.

    Although it's the inaugural volume of Wisdom Publications' Library of Tibetan Classics, this book is definitely not for beginners. If you don't already know what the Kalachakra Tantra is, then it will probably be overwhelming. Khedrup Norsang Gyatso's work is a commentary on the Kalachakra, which thanks to the current Dalai Lama (who also gives an introduction) is one of the most prominent and important tantras in the West today. If one is starting to learn about Tibetan Buddhism, I wouldn't start here. But of course, if you've stumbled upon this review then you're probably versed enough not to be too intimidated by its contents. It's heavy reading, but it has wider appeal to anyone interested in Buddhist cosmology, the history of the mythical city of Shambhala, or the relationship of Buddhism to other religions, like Islam and Hinduism. Most of this is material that's simply not found anyplace else in Buddhist literature.

    Don't let the plain cover fool you, Wisdom is publishing a top-shelf library with their Tibetan Classics series. It includes helpful appendices and generous--although not always as helpful--notes, which reference the sources of the text's numerous quotations, but not much else. The ribbon marker is the finishing touch of quality (something I wish would have been incorporated into their Teachings of the Buddha series) on an edition with heavy paper and ample margins, for those who can stand to deface a lovely book with their own annotations Although this is the only edition of this work in print, it would be difficult to imagine a better one. Wisdom should be commended for producing an admirable print translation of an obscure book, which despite its limited appeal, will be invaluable to scholars and readers drawn to its subject matter.

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