issue 16 summer 01
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Wheel of Great Compassion

The practice of the prayer wheel in Tibetan Buddhism

Compiled and introduced by Lorne Ladner

Wisdom, 2000; $19.95/£15.95 p/b

Lama Zopa once told Lorne Ladner the story of how, as a child, he had wondered why so many older people spun prayer wheels and how this had set him off on a search for texts on the practice. There being so few texts available, he was delighted eventually to be lent a text by another lama, and to discover the benefits of this practice. Ladner found he caught Zopa's enthusiasm and agreed to help him spread the word. The resulting book is a delightful introduction to the mani wheel including a non-scholarly introductory essay, translated commentarial texts, colour and black-and-white photographs, practical construction instructions and the main method of practice.

The introduction covers some interesting background material concerning solar wheel symbolism, in particular the Sun God Surya who rode a one-wheeled chariot across the sky and whose imagery is related to the idea of the 'wheel-turning king'. Also of interest is the legend of the discovery of the mani wheel, which is traced back to Nagarjuna who is said to have received the wheel from the nagas or sea-serpent Dharma protectors. The careful production of the book is commendable, especially the thoughtful inclusion of photocopiable mantras and Tibetan-style practice sheets at the end.