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Hooked!: Buddhist Writings on Greed, Desire, and the Urge to Consume Paperback – February 8, 2005

4.7 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Kaza, who co-edited the environmental Buddhist collection Dharma Rain, gathers key Buddhist thinkers to reflect upon aspects of consumerism, greed and economics. Certainly, many other authors have examined consumerism from the lens of their religious traditions, but this book's Buddhist perspective is unusual, and its pairing of consumerist critiques with core Buddhist concepts is generally fruitful. Buddhism assumes, for example, that the very foundation of suffering is desire - a core teaching that has obvious applications to consumerism, whose goal is to multiply and intensify desire. Moreover, Buddhism stresses the impermanence of all things, providing a valuable perspective on the transient nature of goods. Several of the authors in this cogent anthology draw upon the metaphor of the "hungry ghost" of Buddhism to describe the ethos of consumerism: with their enormous bellies and tiny mouths, hungry ghosts are incapable of ever being satisfied. Some of the book's most helpful essays draw on Buddhism not merely to diagnose the problem, but to prescribe solutions on individual, local or global levels. Second-generation Zen American Sumi Loundon seeks the Buddha's middle way as a viable compromise between the consumer desires of her heart and the austerity of her antimaterialist childhood, while Vermont Zen Center teacher Sunyana Graef discusses taking refuge in the Three Jewels as an antidote to selfishness and excess. (Feb.)
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Review

"Finally! A book about consumerism that goes to the very heart of the matter—that it corrodes our precious human capacities to know truth, see beauty, and feel love. These seventeen highly intelligent, compassionate, and lucid Buddhist teachers each give a unique understanding of what gnaws at most of us about our consumer habits. They each show how Buddhist thought can help clear our minds and settle us down. Hooked! is also just an exceptional Buddhist primer for Westerners no matter what their consumer habits. I highly recommend these essays to everyone."—Vicki Robin, coauthor of Your Money or Your Life and founder of Conservation Cafes



"Stephanie Kaza is gently and winningly shrewd; Buddhism is the faith practice that has looked most clearly at desire and what it means. This volume, therefore, is extremely readable and extremely useful to those of us from other faith traditions trying to come to grips with the modern plague of consumption."—Bill McKibben, author of Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Shambhala; 1 edition (February 8, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590301722
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590301722
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #143,102 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By T. Takahashi on September 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
When my mother-in-law gave me Hooked!, by Stephanie Kaza, for my birthday, I thought that I might be in for some dreadfully guilt-laden reading. A collection of 17 essays on Buddhist perspectives on greed, desire and the urge to consume, Hooked! was at first glance intriguing yet potentially upsetting. I wasn't sure if I was ready to face up to my own materialistic views.

I have always considered myself a minimalist. For many of my college years, I had only the bare minimum I needed to get by, with a few perks (a computer always being one of those perks). But the real reason that I was a minimalist, was that I spent so much time moving from place to place, that I didn't want to have to haul all my stuff around, so I kept my possessions light (except for the heavy 286 I lugged around everywhere.)

Now, I live in a house that is crammed full of stuff. Much of that stuff is mine, but it's also a lot of stuff for the kids. Mostly it's stuff that we don't use very often. I get a grand satisfaction in having garage sales and giving away bags of stuff, yet the space that giving stuff away makes is soon filled with more things. I struggle with this issue a lot, because although I don't feel that I need very much, I actually do have more stuff than I think, and that makes me uncomfortable.

So, reading Hooked! was scary for me. Fortunately, Buddhist views are generally less extreme than mainstream environmentalism and anti-consumerism. Most of the essays in Hooked! have a moderate viewpoint, and focus more on being aware, than being guilty. I found the first section of essays to be the most enlightening (pun intended), as it spoke of what makes humans, and in particular Americans, have an incessant desire to have more stuff.
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I don't think that anyone would dispute that we are living in a chronically addicted society, in which chronic overload, habits and addictions have become the norm and are even rewarded. Many of us have written about the extraordinary rise in intemperate, narcissistic behaviors that threaten not just ourselves and our families, but the planet as a whole. This book, written by a number of prominent thinkers in the Buddhist traditions is challenging and thought provoking. It is certainly not a book just for Buddhists: the collection of essays deals with the problems of wealth, greed, excess, over-indulgence, and over-consumption.

I think that the book will likely affect anyone who reads it, by challenging us to look at how we live. To really see, feel and understand how our lifestyles affect the earth is in itself a revelation. Most of us have only intellectualized about the link. The other side of the coin is the way in which the material world challenges our spiritual development.

This is not a call for us all to become austere non-consumers, but instead a series of suggestions for becoming more conscious consumers who leave less of a footprint on the earth. What is different about this book and what so clearly differentiates it from so many environmentalist works, is that the Buddhist worldview is by its very nature based on awareness, balance and temperance. It does not tell you that you need to live in a tent and eat tofu and lentils. Though if you want to, that's obviously just fine. Instead it points you toward a more healthy and balanced way of living, while avoiding the common trap of replacing one set of addictions - say chocolate and over-consumption - with another: such as Buddhism or some other spiritual path.

The last section is about giving.
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Format: Paperback
Hooked! Buddhist Writings on Greed, Desire, and the Urge to Consume is an anthology of essays by a wide variety of learned authors that scrutinize the overpowering desire for material items from a Buddhist viewpoint. From how yearning for material things can have a corruptive influence, to the value of Buddhist tools in restoring balance to one's life and wants, to ethical principles of Buddhist consumption (ranging from how to successfully be generous in a consumerist world to Green Power in contemporary Japan) and much more, these essays strike directly to the heart of modern materialism - what it is, how much is too much, and how to put the craving in its place before it escalates into untold misery. Highly recommended; one does not have to be a Buddhist to see the value in moderation in an increasingly advertisement-saturated world.
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As with all collections of essays, some selections are better than others, but the overall quality displayed in this book is superb. While I expected to see essays about the evils of materialism and rampant consumption (and I wasn't disappointed), I was pleasantly surprised that the Middle Path was represented with excellent insights on the perils of righteous self-denial. In a philosophical work, it's pretty easy to preach about the virtues of simplicity, but this book offered something more in its examination of the issues of the real world in which we live. The chapter on the practical aspects of generosity was a gem. This book is worth every penny.
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A Kid's Review on January 9, 2006
Format: Paperback
First off, I'm not a kid (I'm 40) but this form is easier to submit than signing in and so forth. That said...

This book is outstanding. In fact it is one of the best books I have ever read. (No, I am not the author and I don't own stock in the publisher.) The book deals with the subjects in the subtitle comprehensively and with lots of perspective. The article by Diana Winston is one of the funniest (and best) ones in the whole book and readers will probably relate to it immediately, both Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike. I totally recommend this book. James.
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