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Buddhism Plain and Simple: The Practice of Being Aware, Right Now, Every Day Paperback – December 29, 1998
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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. --Brian Bruya
About the Author
Steve Hagen is a Buddhist teacher and a Zen priest. The author of Buddhism Plain and Simple as well as other publications, he studied with Zen Master Dainin Katagiri for more than a decade. He teaches at Dharma Field Meditation and Learning Center in Minneapolis, where he makes his home.
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Is is plain, but it is NOT simplistic. As Goldilocks might say it was "just right" for newcomer to Buddhism the philosophy. I don't know how good it is to understand Buddhism the "religion."
It answered a question that I had for a long time: how can a buddhist survive in the real world, without conceptualizing, making judgments and having desires - all things that he is supposed to be free of? Well, as it turns out, being “free” does not mean not having thoughts and desires. Being “free” is recognizing them for what they are - being aware of them - and not being controlled by them.
I came to this topic and book, totally by chance, and I have been richly rewarded beyond any hope or dream I could have ever had imagined. Below I offer some pro and con points - some may not apply to those seeking wisdom from a different direction than which I arrived, but hope you can at least appreciate some of the other points.
+ Plain and simple as promised. Author did not try to run on and on, nor dress up concepts
+ Part of simplicity is brevity. This book is relatively short and points are made and then the author moves on
+ Clearly states what Buddhism is... and is not - good contrast made!
+ Book was not dull. It was smooth and lively, moving well
+ Startling number of items that could be credited with core TPS concepts such as go and see at the actual place, reduce duhkha "out of kilter" (variation that induces stress/suferring), be awake/see what is really going on right now
+ Behaviors of letting people figure things out for themselves, including the journey metaphor, I believe are also clear parallels to TPS and how it is passed to others and even improved
- The most recent printing eliminated my complaint on the book binding.
Bottom line: Highly recommended as one of the best books I've ever read, and certainly the most applicable and useful to everybody. No matter your station in life, age, or direction, you should get a copy of this book. Coming back to my research, this book is a must have for the aspiring TPS sensei (teacher). A hidden gem. Since my initial review, I bought a second copy and gave it to a friend.
The title pulled me in right away, and in the main I feel the book was successful in bringing the core of the message to me in way that was generally jargon-free and logical.
There were still some points that were difficult to comprehend, but I don't think it's the author's 'fault'. The nature of the message for me was to accept what I could see and what I could directly experience- and therefore when I tried to 'analyze' or 'conceptualize' buddhist 'thought' I found myself a bit lost, as before.
That was the greatest lesson learned from this book and for me thoroughly worthwhile.