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Buddhism Is Not What You Think: Finding Freedom Beyond Beliefs Paperback – September 7, 2004

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; Reprint edition (September 7, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780060730574
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060730574
  • ASIN: 0060730579
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #226,464 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Zen Buddhist priest and longtime teacher Hagen makes his central point emphatically and repeatedly throughout this book: Buddhism is about direct experience, not about the thoughts people habitually entertain about experience. A student of Japanese Zen master Dainin Katagiri authorized by his master to teach, Hagen cites the Buddha's one-word summary of the goal of Buddhist teachings: awareness-awareness of whatever is taking place in the ever-changing present moment. Hagen's Buddhism is oriented toward big questions, strongly ontological and epistemological, and concerned with reality and how reality is ordinarily perceived (or, as he argues, habitually misperceived, because it is overlain with hopes, desires, concepts and other delusions). So the author is not given to a lot of specific examples or stories from present life, though the book is peppered with the ancient-master stories that Zen teachers always draw on. The tone of the book is strongly didactic and abstract. Unlike Zen writers given to simplicity or poetry or startling paradox, Hagen relies on typographical conventions-italics and capital letters-to articulate and underscore his central point about Buddhist awareness ("to see Reality"), which contributes to a ponderous tone. His Zen exegesis of Emily Dickinson is provocative, and the book would have benefited from more such surprises and re-readings of the lessons of everyday experience. That Hagen isn't a poet of prose doesn't detract from the worth of his content, but it does make his book harder to read.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“This is not just another nice book about Buddhism, one telling us what we like to hear and are used to hearing. No--it is a clear and challenging showing of the fundamental truth of our lives. This is an exceptional book. Make good use of it.” (Charlotte Joko Beck author of Everyday Zen)

“Hagen (Buddhism Plain and Simple) here presents 43 short chapters dealing with various aspects of Buddhist practice in a way that cuts to the heart of the matter. Hagen reminds us that whenever we’re grasping, aspiring, analyzing, judging, or in any way adding to the simple experience of the present moment, we are missing the point. The book will appeal to readers interested in what true Zen practice is supposed to be about beyond all the popular images and colorful stories. For practitioners it is also a book that will reward multiple readings over time.” (Robert M. Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)

More About the Author

Steve Hagen is a Zen priest and long-time teacher of Buddhism. For fifteen years he studied with Zen Master Dainin Katagiri. He lives in Minneapolis and teaches at Dharma Field Meditation and Learning Center in St. Paul.

Customer Reviews

This book is easy to read and brilliant in it's simplicity.
A. Walsh
Steve Hagen shows the barest, most basic tenants of Buddhism without the cloud of confusion and mystery that accompanies most religious traditions, ex. prayer.
Shane M. Bernard
If you want to be happy -- whatever that means -- you need to detach.
Charles C. Euchner

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on May 30, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In this book, Steve hammers chapter after chapter about what being AWAKE really is. He goes into depth of how we live in dukka or the world of delusion and gives chapter after chapter of the various ways we stay asleep and live in dukka. Many practictioners decieve themselves about what being Awake is. Steve hammers away at the delusions, because they are so subtle and hard to realize...As far as compassion is concerned, real compassion comes when one becomes truly Awake, otherwise it is still a sophisticated form of delusion. This book may not be suitable for the beginer, but it is a must for practictioners that truly desire to WAKE UP.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Scott Knupp on October 14, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Another terrific installment of Hagen's clear conceptual rendering of things perceptual. This book didn't read like 252 pages, seemed shorter through it's engaging style, and straight-forward presentation. Buddhist-novices, if there is such a thing, may want to start with the prior book "Buddhism Plain and Simple". I find that Hagen's writing style is digestable, yet sophisticated....ie....subtle points are made without alot of philosophical jargon or excruciating digression.
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful By J. adams on December 12, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Steve hagen like his teacher Dainin Katigiri, has a knack of describing the Buddhist teachings in simple straighfoward terms. Just be here, just be "now". The past and the furture are just delusion. Its always "Now". As hagen says, if we could just see this all pervading truth thats right infront of our face, we would be enlightened on the spot (that is, we would realise we are, and always have been, enlightened). And no longer reach for things "out there" that lead to turmoil in the first place. Nobody points this out better than Mr. Hagen. This book is completely on par with and adds to his first book. This book is a must for anyone (in my opinion). Especially for those who just want to "wake up", and live in a world with equality and compasion for every living being.

Pretty sure I'm not the first to ever notice the people with 'noble' egos, who like to smother and numb themselves with spiritual materialism do not seem to take to well to these books (see previous reviews). Ironically these are the ones who need it most. This book isnt to confirm your previous beliefs, but rather to free you from the burden that accompanies them. Contrary to some of the things previously said. This is a great book, but one needs and open mind before reading something as profound yet sublte as this. So dont pass this one up because some people find it easier to pigeon-hole things than to give them a fair unbiased chance. I would recommend this to beginner, intermediate, advanced or whatever... one would consider themselves on the spiritual path. After all, we are all just here in the...

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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Quaker Annie on May 31, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book affected me with the aggravation and annoyance I suspect I will experience if ever I allow my arrogant self to come under the guidance of a flesh and blood teacher.

Here are thoughts I have about why this book is hard for many of us to take.

Steven Hagen is sure in his beliefs and despite knowing that Buddhism is not what you think (and therefore cannot be experienced by reading the written word), he is trying to explain things to those of us who have a longer way to go (or we wouldn't be reading this book).

I still would recommend it - it has some good stories and if you just read it to read it, without high expectations, parts of it may settle in well.

The book is divided into three sections.

The first, Muddy Water, addresses our confusion about what we think we see and experience in the every day world. (Human beings). We are confused. We think we know, or we think we can know. This section is very wordy, long and thick. So are we. Hah.

The second goes back and tries to view our experiences with a different view. Pure Mind. It offers some thoughts and stories, some explanations about why we are so muddy and what it would be like if we were not.

The third section, Purely Mind (a small section indeed) on being in the moment.

The book is a frustrating experience because it is a book. It contains thoughts of someone, when perhaps we are seeking experience.

I read and read, looking for explanations and answers that I know, from brief moments, are not 'there' and cannot really be explained well.

Until we stop reading the books and 'get it' I don't know that a book will be what we want in finding freedom beyond beliefs. Because Buddhism is not what you think. Nor what you read.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By digitalbeachbum on June 28, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book has changed my life. I recommend it to all walks of life, not just Buddhists, but Christians and other beliefs.

I like the short chapters and how the author avoided rambling on about Buddhism. It explains life based on truthful observations and isn't filled with biased opinions. This isn't a book that tells you what you need to do, nor does it tell you what you shouldn't do. This is not a "self-help" book.

Although there are times when the book is a little deep, the author pulls you out of the abyss and back to a comfortable plateau with simple and easy to understand analogies. It's a book that laymen and advance students would understand.

Absolutely one of my top three books on philosophy and Buddhism
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