Thursday, June 24, 2010

Buddhism Plain And Simple

Buddhism Plain And Simple Cover

Book: Buddhism Plain And Simple by Steve Hagen

The best little book on Buddhism that is available. Masterfully written. This book needs to be studied, not just read. It is worthwhile to read again and again. If you only read one book on Buddhism, then this is the one to read. The author is an American Zen teacher whose clarity of explanation will appeal to the American Zen student.

Hagen's concise work, a brief introduction to Zen Buddhism, is arranged in a straightforward manner with lucid explanations. He describes techniques for meditation, making this a rather practical recording. Reading this abridgment of his own work, the Zen priest's soft, serene voice is pleasing to the ear; the pace is unhurried, allowing the listener to grasp the material.

Steve Hagen prefers to call Buddhism "the buddha-dharma." He states that "It's a process, an awareness, an openness, a spirit of inquiry -- not a belief system, or even (as we normally understand it) a religion. It is more accurate to call it 'the teaching of the awakened,' or the buddha-dharma."

You might want to digest this book slowly, a few pages at a time. Although Zen teacher Steve Hagen has a knack for putting the philosophy of Buddhism in a "plain and simple" package, it may take a while to sink in. There is so much there. Seeing reality, realizing the wisdom of the self, breaking free of dualistic thinking--this is pretty heady stuff. Thankfully, Hagen passes it along in the form of examples from life, psychological tidbits, and stories from Buddhist teachers past and present. And when it clicks in, it can be life-transforming. Hagen explains this shift in outlook and how the fundamental way we look at the world affects everything we do. As an outline, Hagen follows the basic teachings of the Buddha, and we see that, rather than dogmatic truths, they are reminders for us as we reconsider the life we have taken for granted for so long. As it turns out, Buddhism is life, plain and simple.

We start by learning the four truths: (1) life involves suffering; (2) this suffering arises within us; (3) we can end the most profound and existential forms of suffering; and (4) the way we end this suffering is by following the eightfold path. The existential angst we experience from the unanswered question of what life is about is at the heart of our suffering. The buddha-dharma is like a journey. By following the middle way we can reach enlightenment and nirvana.

There are three kinds of suffering, or duhkha: (1) pain, both physical and mental; (2) change; and (3) being. Our goal is to just see. We must awaken from our confusion. We need to see reality for what it is.

The eightfold path is a concrete way for us to practice bringing about the cessation of duhkha. The eight aspects of this path are right view, right intention, right speech, right action , right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right meditation.

Nothing in this book is offered as something you are to believe. Somehow through his life of contemplation the Buddha was able to formulate these notions. They are simply a guide. The Buddha can only point the way. It is left for each one of us to find the way for ourselves.

Find Steve Hagen's book in
Buddhism Plain And Simple

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