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By-the-Book Bliss

September 12, 2002|SORINA DIACONESCU

In the late 1960s, three aerospace engineers quit their jobs to open a store dedicated to spiritual literature in a small house in West Hollywood. Thirty-two years later, the store--named after the Bodhi tree under which, the legend goes, the Buddha attained enlightenment--is a destination of choice for Angelenos in search of rare tomes on meditation, Buddhism, yoga and magic.

Customers come in pilgrimage to the Bodhi Tree to stroll through 50,000 volumes in an environment smelling of incense and blissfully quiet, save for the tinkle of wind chimes. They sip the Bengal spice tea always brewing on a hotplate and peruse books ranging from "The Tao of Pooh" to "The Bhagavad Gita" and the "The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake." They can take a Zen meditation class, then bag some Nag Champa incense, lilac-scented massage oil, a string of prayer beads or a 27-inch-tall brass statue of Buddha.

"In the past, people used to devour the classics, authors like Helena Blavatsky, the Vedas, the Upanishads," says co-owner Phil Thompson. "Nowadays, many prefer contemporary writers, people who live in the real world and write in a more accessible idiom."

But the Bodhi Tree still stocks all the Hindu scriptures and other arcana. Says Thompson: "We keep books that we might sell once a year, because that's what we set out to do."

At right are several titles on meditation that Thompson says are "quite good how-to books for the lay reader."

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Bodhi Tree Bookstore, 8585 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood; (310) 659-1733; www.bodhitree.com.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

"Finding the Quiet Mind" by Robert Ellwood (Theosophical Publishing House)

"Learn to Meditate"

by David Fortana (Chronicle Books)

"Meditation"

by Eknath Easwaran (Nilgiri Press)

"Miracle of Mindfulness" by Thich Nhat Hanh (Beacon Press)

"Practicing the Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle (New World Library)

"The Silent Miracle"

by Ron Rathbun

(Berkley Books)

"Wherever You Go, There You Are"

by Jon Kabat-Zinn (Hyperion Books)

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