Buddhist Centre Features

#EthicalChristmas: Priyananda On The People Behind Windhorse Books

On Sun, 23 November, 2014 - 15:31
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Centre Team
Windhorse Publications originated as the main publisher of Sangharakshita, the founder of the Triratna Order. Do you still publish books by Sangharakshita or is your focus now on publishing books by other authors?

We do still publish books by Sangharakshita, but because he is in his old age now, he is writing far less. The most recent of his books that we have put out are previously unpublished material from his early life, Early Writings and Anagarika Dharmapala, which we’re selling under the Ibis imprint. But we’re still very keen to keep in print Sangharakshita’s existing works. We have 38 of his books in print at the moment, and they range from classic texts like A Survey of Buddhism and The Three Jewels to books that have been put together from his lectures and seminars such as Who is the Buddha?, What is the Dharma? and What is the Sangha?. In the longer term, the idea is to put all of Sangharakshita’s work into 30 volumes to form his Collected Works, but this is just at the planning stage at the moment.

What are your bestselling books and your latest releases?

Our bestsellers are books like Vajragupta’s Buddhism: Tools for Living Your Life, Maitreyabandhu’s Life With Full Attention and Subhadramati’s Not About Being Good, which all communicate Sangharakshita’s teachings to a modern audience. In Triratna, we often talk about a new generation of Order Members who are ‘standing on the shoulders of Sangharakshita’. Apart from the metaphor suggesting that this may be a little uncomfortable for their teacher Sangharakshita, I think the reality is more that these authors are standing on their own ground and teaching in their own right. While they are looking back to Sangharakshita as their teacher, inspirer and guide, at the same time they are communicating their own experience, and in a sense ‘recommunicating’ his teaching, in the same way that he does, from the original insights of the Buddha.

I remember Sangharakshita saying that if you’re going to give a talk on Buddhism, it’s a good idea to first think about what the Buddha said on the subject, then to think of what he – Sangharakshita – has said, and then lastly to draw from your own experience. This model respects both tradition and authenticity, and this is what our bestselling authors offer. There’s that quote from Gustav Mahler (on the Adhisthana Centre site): ‘Tradition is not the worship of ashes but the handing on of a flame.’ I think that says it all – our authors are not just looking back and quoting the words of their teacher, they’re really trying to embody it in their lives and communicate it to others. I think that’s why books such as Vajragupta’s, Maitreyabandhu’s, and Subhadramati’s succeed, both inside and outside Triratna.

Our other bestsellers are books which communicate the Buddhist teachings successfully to both Buddhist and non-Buddhist audiences. Paramananda’s Change Your Mind and Vimalasara and Paramabandhu’s Eight Step Recovery have been very popular with both committed Buddhists and people who are never going to commit to the Buddhist path but who benefit from the Buddha’s teachings.

Do you have any new books in the pipeline?

In the last two months, we’ve been working quite intensively on putting the finishing touches to two new books: Subhuti’s Mind in Harmony, which will be published next February, and Vaḍḍhaka’s The Buddha on Wall Street, coming out in April. Subhuti’s book has been a long time in the pipeline; in the acknowledgements to the book, he talks about me being a midwife in the process. If that’s the case then he’s been pregnant for 10 years! The book is distilled from lectures that he originally gave 10 years ago on the mind and mental events, but he’s also written two new chapters. I’m really excited to be putting Mind in Harmony out because it’s such great writing!

We’re also very excited to be publishing Vaḍḍhaka’s book, The Buddha on Wall Street: What’s Wrong with Capitalism and What We Can Do about It. As a result of the economic crash, we’re seeing a growing interest in economics, and what’s great about Vaḍḍhaka’s book is that he is communicating his deep understanding of contemporary economics in a really pragmatic and inspirational way. Vaḍḍhaka is consciously standing within the Buddhist tradition but also asking, ‘What do the Buddhist teachings mean for us in the contemporary world?’

Both Subhuti and Vaḍḍhaka are extremely busy teachers, so we’re very grateful to them for setting aside time to write their books. And we’re keen to encourage other Buddhist teachers to think about publishing their books with us too, whether they’re teaching within or outside the Triratna community.

Where can readers go to find out more about the authors behind your books?

We’ve got a great selection of author interviews on our website – some in the form of articles and others in video and audio format. You can read Subhadramati’s take on how Buddhist ethics can change the world, for example, or watch a video of Vaḍḍhaka encouraging us to challenge the individualised myth behind modern capitalism. There’s also Anālayo talking about the exciting insights behind his new book, and some inspiring meditation tips from Vessantara. Our authors are all great teachers, and our website is a resource where you can really explore their thought and practice as it develops.

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