Friday, June 19, 2009

What I'm Reading Now-Buddhism Plain and Simple

Well, What I Was Reading Several Months Ago might be more appropriate here. I've been a bit behind on some of my reviews lately, but, luckily, this week's Weekly Geeks theme had to do with catching up on reviews. Weekly Geeks participants who were behind in their reviews were asked to solicit questions about their unreviewed books from other participants. Answers to those questions could count for the whole review or as a jumping off place for a review. So, thanks to all the Weekly Geeks who stopped by to ask me questions!

My first question came from Guatami at Everything Distils into Reading. She asks: Why did you pick the Buddhism book? This was a book club pick. Our book club gets together about once a month and each month a different member will present three books that they would like to read for the next meeting, and we all vote to decide which one we will read. Buddhism plain and Simple was the winner for our March meeting. The other books that were up for selection that month were The Impact of Awakening by Adyashanti and Mental
Resilience: The Power of Clarity: How to Develop the Focus of a Warrior and the Peace of a Monk by Kamal Sarma. We have a rather small group, but everybody's reading tastes are pretty different, so we get a fairly good mix of reading materials.

Next, Trisha at Eclectic/Eccentric said: I would love to know if you think Buddhism Plain and Simple is too plain and simple or if it is a decent introduction to the spirituality. I'm glad you said "spirituality;" that reminds me that I wanted to point out that one of the things that the author tries to make clear is that "Real Buddhism is not really an 'ism.' 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." (p.9)

Back to the rest of your question: I thought this was a good introduction. It makes Buddhism feel very approachable and not at all intimidating. I think a lot of people think that Buddhism requires you to worship Buddha (but which one??), which is not the case, or to be a zen master going into it, someone who can sit and meditate for hours, someone who can see the beauty of the universe in a single lotus blossom, that sort of thing. What Steve Hagen does is basically say, hey, you've got to start somewhere, and here's how to do that.

Near the beginning of the book, the author provides you with an optical illusion-one of those pictures that sort of looks like an ink blot
until you finally look at it just the right way and then all of a sudden you see that it's actually a picture of something-and if you don't ever see the picture, I think a lot of his book might be lost on you. He relies heavily on the mental shift that occurs when you go from searching for the picture to seeing the picture. If you can't see the picture yourself, there is a section in the back of the book that tells you what it is, but even then a few in our book group weren't able to see it until one of us actually pointed it out to them. So, I would recommend making sure you can see the picture (even if you have to find someone else to show it to you) before you read the rest of the book. For me, that example worked really well throughout the rest of the book. I think this would be a good place to start for anyone who is curious about Buddhism (it's only 176 pages) or even for anyone who is just feeling unsettled in their life right now.

If you have any more questions about this book, please feel free to ask. Also if you have read this book, I'd like to hear your thoughts; and if you have reviewed this book, let me know and I'll post a link to your review.

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Ewa said...

Love the picture of lotus u presented. Thsnks so much for coming over and commenting.

Trisha said...

I'm glad you responded to my question! I worry about "intro books" being too simplistic and either boring or not worth it.

Dreamybee said...

Ewa-Thanks! I've been playing around with Zemanta which is this program you can open up when you're writing your blog posts and it will sift through what you're writing and suggest pictures and links that might go along with what you're writing. Sometimes it's useful, sometimes not, but it's nice for stuff like this where you just want a stock photo and don't want to worry about things like copyright infringement.

Trisha-I'm glad you asked! If you're somebody who already has sort of a shallow understanding of a lot of different religions, this one might come across as too basic; but for somebody who really doesn't know much and wants to find out more before going too deep into the philosophy, I think this is a good place to start.