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1,189 of 1,219 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 31, 2001
Format: Paperback
My approach to this book is different than the other reviewers. I am not a man of faith. I do not believe in the existence of God and I believe the whole issue is unimportant. More important than the existence of God (which is a question neither side can settle) is the question of how to live our lives now. I came to this book as I always come to religious writings and practices; will this help me to understand others or myself better? Will this teach me to be more loving, to live more mindfully, with more compassion?
From this point of view, this is a wonderful book. Not because it answers all questions (or any questions for that matter). If anything it creates more ambiguities, it raises more challenges. That is a good thing. Many of the other reviewers seem to react to Thich Nhat Hahn based on whether or not his is the True Buddhism or just one man's opinion. Fair enough. But unless you are so fortunate as to have some sort of satori or God decides to drop in for a chat what else do you ever have but one person's opinion? It seems to me that what we all do is find something that seems to make sense to you, a practice that carries you along your path and you practice. Thich Nhat Hahn will help most readers to do this. This is a man of extraordinary faith who is apparently equally diligent in trying to live his faith. I do not know about the other readers but this man is a wonderful and unnerving challenge to me in my ideas on how to live my life.
Throughout the book the author suggests very simple practices to improve mindfulness and diligence. He calls us back to the breath always. In my experience, whether doing yoga, tai chi, chi-kung, kung fu, meditation or just plain living this is always the beginnings of real practice.
The presentation of Buddhists dogma that the other reviewers find so wonderful or controversial is, I believe, very well done and is as clear as could be hoped. It is also very arcane. I was not aware that there were Twelve Levels of Independent Co-Arising, Seven Factors of Awakening, Six Paramitas, Five Powers, Four Immeasurable Minds, Three Bodies of Buddha, Two Truths and, yes, a Partridge in a Pear Tree. Sorry, I could not help myself. My point is that a lot of this part of the book is probably most useful after having been read, lived and read again. For someone looking for a true introduction, this part of the book will seem a little much. Parts of it seem a little PC as well such as the occasional emphasis on sex abuse. I cannot imagine that was a burning issue back in the days of the Buddha. This is not a problem for me- it just shows that the author's religion is a living one.
Wonderfully though, what also comes through, is the author's spirit- that of a gentle, compassionate and strong person. I have not read any of his other books. After this I will read more. I have already found some of the practices helpful and will continue to try to integrate them into my life. Give this book a chance. I do not think it will answer all of your questions. How nice would that be if we could get that from a book? It will give you a deeper understanding of Buddhist's beliefs and practices. Some of the practices suggested may help you to live your life. What more could you hope for?
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295 of 300 people found the following review helpful
on February 10, 2001
Format: Paperback
Of all the books I have read and enjoyed by Thich Nhat Hanh, this is the one of the most comprehensive, inspiring and practical. His introduction to the Four Noble Truths is simply written, easy to understand, and yet lacks not one bit in depth. Like all his books, this one helps us to integrate Buddhist ideas into our everyday life without becoming too encumbered with terminology. Although Thich Nhat Hanh does tend to repeat himself in subtle ways, within this book and across his other books, The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching seems to integrate many of his ideas into one very coherent and practical treatise on the nature suffering as one of the most basic human conditions we spend our lives trying to accept, or possibly escape.
He makes the Buddhist concepts of attachment to objects and people very clear in relationship to human suffering and then highlights the path of well-being, peace and liberation from it.
If I was stuck on an island and could bring a few books, this would be one at the top of the list. It's a reminder that much our our suffering is self created and an illusion. In the same way we imprison ourselves mentally, is the way we begin to liberate ourselves. Freedom and liberation come from within and are possible even under the most extreme, excruciating and trying conditions.
I highly recommend this book, and especially to those who are having difficulty dealing with the loss of a loved one (or loss in general) and those who are imprisoned mentally (with fear), or even physically incarcerated.
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120 of 122 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
This book is probably the single best book for those interested in learning the fundamentals of buddhism, as well as for those looking for a guidebook to refine and contemplate their buddhist views. Thich Nhat Hanh is living testimony that Buddhist practice can transform a life of suffering and despair into one of peace and joy. His books were the start of my path and this book is almost like a handbook to the four noble truths and the eightfold path, as well as other fundamental thoughts of buddhists. The language does get somewhat abstract and spiritual and may require some re-reading by some, especially those with no previous exposure to buddhism. Otherwise, the best book covering fundamental buddhism I've ever read.
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77 of 83 people found the following review helpful
on March 6, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book is the cure to all those [] self-help type introductions to Buddhism you see these days. This is far from a scholalry book, only suited for dry academics, but at the same time, it doesn't pidgeon hole all of the Buddha's teachings into a few maxims for the Busy American to absorb on the way to the gym or work. I can't gaurantee that you'll become a Buddhist after reading this, or even have much desire to (I know I didn't), but I simply do not see how you can walk away from it without some insight into how you live your life. At the very least, this book will cause you to locate your own self-deprecating actions and stop them (without being new age-y, or full of [] pop psychology). At best, this will cause you to start your life along the middle path. More likely than not, though, you'll end up some where in the middle, like I did. I read this at a very hard point in my life, and I can tell you that it was one of the main reasons I was pulled out of that funk. It helped me to understand why we suffer, and how to escape the cycle of pain and humiliation. Highly Recommended.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on November 17, 2002
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
As someone who'd been interested in Bhuddism for years, I picked this book out of a selection of book club discontinued sale items. After owning it for several years, I find it amazing that I found it as a cast off. This is the best primer for Bhuddism I've read.
However, this book is not just for beginners. It's for anyone who wants to remain on their path and make a life of improving the world they create on that path. Suffering has an origion, but it also can have an end.
Thich Nhat Hahn introduces us to the Noble Eightfold Path & the concept of "mindfulness" which he considers an important cornerstone to the practice of making your life right. It's not easy, but it is highly rewarding & your life will improve through diligence with these teachings.
The book also contains an explanation of many other Bhuddist concepts which become more & more useful as the understanding sinks in. You'll find yourself returning to them in order to make the benefits of practice manifest themselves in your life.
Lastly, this book dispels many of the myths & misunderstandings of Bhuddism in the West such as our often mistaken take on Bhuddism's view of suffering; though it is often inevitable, suffering CAN be changed. Hahn explains how many errors came to be out of teachings about suffering & sets the right views before us.
If you've ever been interested in Bhuddism but can find no answers, or are a practicing Bhuddist who needs clarification without a teacher, this book is the one to have. I love it.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on September 7, 1998
Format: Hardcover
The best book on Buddhism I have ever read. Thich Nhat Hanh presents the essential teachings of Buddhism in a way that really makes it come alive. The way he presents the four noble truths and eight-fold path are written with a minimum of fuss and jargon. He points out the mutations Buddhism experienced in its oral transmission over the centuries. His argument for critical thinking while reading Buddhist texts is very important reminder that errors in transmission do exist. The material displays not only his intellectual ability as a scholar but also his incredible compassion. He doesn't just write about Buddhism, he lives it.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on March 27, 2002
Format: Paperback
I still have yet to actually finish this book. Once I get half way through I start over from the beginning, because it is SO good. I now enjoy washing my dishes. I highly recommend this book.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on June 8, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I have read a number of books by Thich Nhat Hanh--while I enjoy most of them, I find this one most inspiring. His simple but profound introduction to the Four Noble Truths helps us to integrate Buddhist ideas into everyday life. His analysis of life and Buddhism is so rich that Buddhist or not, you can easily relate to the examples he gives or the reflection he makes. As he teaches us how to transform suffering into peace, he also tells us that we can deepen our serenity only by endeavoring to refine our character. I would like to thank him for showing me the way to become a better person, and for bestowing on me so much comfort in the course of my life.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on November 5, 1998
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Thich Nhat Hanh's presentation of the "basics" of Buddhism is a first-rate introduction to the essentials of this way of practice and faith. What distinguishes it from similar introductory treatments of Buddhism is its profoundly healing quality. The subtitle, "Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation" could well have been the title. In the Buddhist tradition of both wisdom and compassion, it enlightens the mind and heals the heart. An excellent read for anyone who feels life's difficulty, whether Buddhist or not.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on December 7, 2005
Format: Paperback
I have never been so happy while reading a book. Thich Nhat Hanh is very compassionate and you can feel it through his words. I found myself nodding in agreement and smiling while reading this book. It is written very simply. You don't need a Buddhist background to understand or appreciate this book. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a brief introduction to Buddhism. It's a book that I will definitely keep in my library. I'm sure that I will read it multiple times or at least read through certain sections for inspiration.
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