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What the Buddha Never Taught Paperback – November 1, 1995

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

According to Ward's delightful account of a stay in a Buddhist monastery in Thailand, there are many things that the Buddha never taught. One is the extreme rigor of the Pah Nanachat monastery, involving rising at 3 a.m. for chanting, walking on gravel roads in bare feet and eating only one meal a day. Another, Ward concludes, is that all this self-denial and sacrifice is ultimately hollow. The final lesson is the redemptive power of laughter. Ward, a Canadian journalist, traveled around Asia for six years, eventually winding up at Pah Nanachat, which was built to spread Theravada Buddhism to farangs (or non-Thais). Among the motley crew the author finds at the monastery are an ex-gospel singer from England, a former accountant from China and a former real estate millionaire from Chicago. The head monk is an Australian who used to play jazz guitar in his last life. The book is Ward's affectionate, and often very humorous, account of his sojourn in this place of meditation and renunciation. The volume could have been improved by some sharp editing, but its little redundancies and repetitions help capture the often monotonous life of the monk.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This book is a first-person narrative of the author's training as a monk in a Theravada Buddhist monastery in Thailand. Unlike other books in which Westerners find new meanings to life from Eastern religious training or praise Eastern mysticism over the West, there are no enlightenments, but there is bureaucracy, drudgery, and dogmatic laws. Ward's book paints an exotic, exclusive world and fills it with complex characters and contradictory incidents. It succeeds in relating the frustrations, confusions, and, surprisingly, humor that accompanies Eastern religious training and speaks of the author's experiences honestly. Recommended for public libraries.
- Glenn Masuchika, Chaminade Univ. Lib., Honolulu
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 242 pages
  • Publisher: Celestial Arts; Reissue edition (November 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0890876878
  • ISBN-13: 978-0890876879
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,706,239 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 55 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 2, 2002
Format: Paperback
Inscribed on the inside cover of this book is the saying: "do not speak unless you can improve on silence." If the maxim was followed, this book would never have been written.

The author travelled to the Thai Temple for International Monks, Wat Pah Nanachat, and spent a brief period there practicing the dharma. Most of what he found out there is essentially valid. Namely: 1.) you don't need to be a monk in order to meditate; 2.) many of the rules in the vinaya don't always make sense in modern life; 3.) Samsara is a mental state; and 4.) disciples can and do misinterpret their teachers.

As someone with a philosophy background, he was also quick to pick up the fundamentals of the philosophy of buddhism and buddhist practice. By the end of the book, he was at least able to recognize and apologize for his passive-agressive attacks, tests, and harangues of the monks there, which he describes with admirable frankness. I was very impressed by the restraint exercised by the monks in the face of this. The monks were remarkably kind and tolerant; they must have regarded Tim Ward's personal attacks and outbursts with compassion.

I read this book because I was interested in Wat Pah Nanachat, and this is a book about a brief stay at Wah Pah Nanachat. Tim Ward is a journalist, and was on a trip through asia in which he sampled various different religions and temples. It was interesting in its own right for being a beginner's tale, but would have been more illuminating had the author been more experienced by the time he arrived at Pah Nanachat, or spent much more time there sincerely practicing.

It is also written from the standpoint of a journalist who appreciates scandal and drama more than peace and harmony. In the book, Mr.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Gerald R. Johnson on February 26, 2007
Format: Paperback
More than ever, Buddhism requires a good old fashioned spring-cleaning. Every school of Buddhism has its own biases, problems, hypocrisies and sheer nonsense...all are now tending to stray further and further away from the original point. Theravadan Buddhism is no exception.

Tim does a good beginner's job of highlighting some of the obvious question marks about Theravadan monastic life. Since Tim never professes to be an expert in Buddhism, one should read the book from this point of view. His views are not "expert" but neither should his views be dismissed out of hand.

I was very fortunate to get my hands on a used copy prior to going to Wat Pah Nanachat myself last summer and thought it provided an interesting if dated observation (his stay was back in 1985). I stayed at WPN and another Theravadan monastery in Thailand for a few weeks and was able to compare notes, 20 years on.

While I concur with many of Tim's observations and questions (such as the almost excessive degree of veneration that the Thai people tend to show these mostly Western monks, many of whom were dropouts or ne'er do wells in their society), I felt that he may have spent a bit too much time observing and writing notes and not as much time practicing the Dhamma in such a conducive environment. WPN is extremely spacious, both in the physical sense and spiritual sense. It really gives one the feeling of silence and emptiness, at least when I was there.

I was expecting a very exciting and dangerous environment after reading his book. Instead, I found WPN to be extremely clean, empty and very still.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 27, 1999
Format: Paperback
For me a newly practicing Buddhist, reading "What the Buddha Never Taught" was like being in a support group with a whole cast of characters failing where I fail and doubting where I doubt. Their novice exploration of practice serves as a great introduction to basic Buddhist thought and follows up with a lively discussion. Their questions helped me find my own answers. The book includes an excellent glossary of Pali and Thai terminology. An excellent journey into the Therevadan mindset. Be forewarned Tim feels no compulsion to keep within dogmatic lines. Fudamentalists might want to steer clear.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Charles S. Fisher on September 26, 2011
Format: Paperback
This is a sweet book of self discovery on a path that many Westerners have taken over the past forty years using Asian ideas and practices to come to terms with an inner world they find uncomfortable. Tim Ward ended up in the Western monastery in Thailand of the Buddhist monk Ajaan Cha who was teacher to Jack Kornfield and Ajaan Sumedho. Ajaan Cha is the lineage head of the many monasteries Sumedho has help found in England, America, Australia, and elsewhere around the world. By the time Tim arrived in 1985 Ajaan Cha had been disabled by water on the brain for more than five years. Tim's tale of the monastery is revealing of the outer flaws of monastic life and his own struggle to come to terms with them. Monks influenced by Ajaan Cha and his students often promote monastic life as the answer to life's problems. The world Tim reveals is all too human. There are personalities, there is blind submission to Thai culture which treats monks almost as magical persons. Laypersons earn merit for themselves in this life and future lives by feeding and serving the monks, and the monks rationalize what they know to be a way too simple understanding of Buddhism because it maintains their lifestyle. Tim befriends another novice with whom he can talk about all these contradictions. The friend leaves and, although apparently not there much longer, Tim becomes really angry about what he feels are compromises. The anger is palpable and the reader senses how out of proportion it is to the inconsistencies in monastic life. The book is redeemed and Tim begins to understand what he has been missing when the very monks he dumps his anger on respond to him with authentic compassion.Read more ›
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