book reviews

Sailing the Worldly Winds: A Buddhist way through the ups and downs of life

On Sat, 11 August, 2012 - 00:35
jvalamalini's picture
‘Sailing the Worldy Winds: A Buddhist Way Through the Ups and Downs of Life’ by Vajragupta. Windhorse Publications, 2011.

This little gem of a book is well worth reading. It is tardis-like: it looks little but synthesises a lot of material. Vajragupta initially introduces the eight worldly winds quite simply, then explores them through Dharma practice, meditation and looking more deeply at the winds in the light of ‘pratitya-samutpada’ or conditioned co-production. He challenges the views and beliefs of scientism and consumerism and their stories that we can control the worldly winds through technology and material progress. He ends with suggestions of how to work with our own response to the worldly winds.

There are many things I appreciate about this book: Vajragupta’s writing style, the thread of reflection exercises and the fact that the Lokavipatti sutta is included at the end of the book. It always feels integrating to see an original sutta alongside practical exercises - a marriage of the ancient and the modern! The book has a definite sense of progression with a deepening of reflections on the worldly winds. I’ve no doubt it will be a real asset to participants on the international urban retreat for this reason. If anything, there is too much content, and I wondered whether this could detract from the invitation to reflect. I was also interested in Vajragupta’s recurring theme of distinguishing between how much control and influence we have in relating to the worldly winds. I take his point and I think that we each have our own habitual ways of responding to the worldly winds. For some this is about habitual controlling, for others bewilderment, or perhaps a sense of disempowerment and having no control.

These are, however, minor criticisms. Vajragupta has a clear, accessible style, skilfully weaving together Dharma teachings, stories from the life of the Buddha, anecdotes, and reflections from his own experience which extend beautifully from the personal to the global. It was very poignant how Vajragupta explained that the writing of this book co-incided with the unexpected news of his father’s ill health and subsequent death. I imagine this contributes to the book’s flavour of immediacy and authenticity. Knowing the circumstances in which he was writing encouraged me to read the book more closely, with a feeling reminiscent of the urgency to practise I felt after my own father’s death and the ensuing worldly winds I sailed. I loved Vajragupta’s concluding thoughts:

“they (the worldy winds) can teach us about the texture of life. They can reveal its heights and depths. They can show us ourselves at our noblest and our most petty. They can draw from us new qualities and dimensions of being”.


Sept 2011

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