Reflections on Silver River by Ken McLeod is a translation of and commentary on Tokme Zongpo’s Thirty-Seven Practices of a Bodhissattva, which has been a key text in Tibetan Buddhism since the fourteenth century. Presented in the form of a poem comprising thirty-seven stanzas of four lines each, and with a handful of additional stanzas serving as front and end matter, this text is just as relevant and useful today as it was when it was written originally. The problem for many modern readers is being able to fully appreciate that fact.
This book solves the problem of relating this centuries old text to the situations we face in the modern world by giving us a new translation and taking us through it, verse by verse. Reflections on Silver River is divided into three main sections, the first of which is a generous Introduction to the text, to the author’s relationship with it, and to the book itself, about which the author says:
In this book you find a way of practice, a way that enables you to understand the wisdom and experience of this path, a way in which you are not sidetracked or confused by differences in culture or language and a way that you can take into your life. It is a good place to start a study and practice of the Buddhist traditions of Tibet because it is a simple and elegant summary of Mahayana Buddhism in this tradition.
The second section of the book, The Verses, presents the author’s translation of the Thirty-Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva by Tokme Zongpo. The poem is presented as a whole, and runs to just nine pages in length. Although you may not fully appreciate the teachings of this poem on your initial reading, having all of the verses together in one place means that you can see exactly the sort of ground that the rest of the book covers. It also makes the poem more accessible for future study and contemplation.
Commentary is the title of the third section of this book, and this is the biggest section of all. Here the author goes through the Thirty-Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva one stanza at a time, presenting the crux of the message in a way that all of us can relate to and apply in our daily lives. Whether you are interested in learning about spiritual development, the practice of taking and sending, living more skilfully with your emotions or cultivating the six perfections, there is plenty of teaching here to keep you growing.
In short, Reflections on Silver River is the kind of book that you will want to keep at your side for the long term as a trusty companion. Ready it slowly, digest its content carefully, apply the truths presented and you will discover a path like no other.
Reflections on Silver River will be published in January 2014.