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How The Root of Kindness Works: The Virtue To Benefit Others Hardcover – June 16, 2012
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About the Author
Janet Kathleen Ettele is a musician and author who draws from her background as a student of Buddhist dharma to bring its teachings into contemporary practice through her writing and her music. Two CDs, Piano Mandalas and Piano Mandalas – Compassion, are collections of her meditatively improvised music. She graduated from Berklee College of Music in Boston and worked in the entertainment industry until becoming a mother. She lives in Connecticut, where she has raised two sons. How the Root of Kindness Works, the second book in the How Life Works series, is her second writing of fiction.
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In this second short volume, How the Root of Kindness Works, we again join Troy on his journey of discovery, this time with the aid of Abe, a Viet Nam veteran whose own discovery of Buddha Shakyamuni's teachings have helped him overcome the latent sufferings of the horrific experiences of war. Abe's character introduces us to two of the foundational concepts of Buddhism, the Four Noble Truths and the meaning of karma. On the surface these concepts are easily explained. On a deeper level they are difficult to fully comprehend and can seem at first an unreasonable basis for action. The responsibility for the suffering nature of our existence is placed squarely at our own feet, the result of our own actions in previous lifetimes. Abe teaches Troy, however, that he (we) need not be hapless bystanders, helplessly suffering the effects of our karma. On the contrary, through our behavior (actions of body, speech, and especially mind) we can both soften the effects of our previous negative actions and indeed do the groundwork to ensure whatever happy life we might seek in the future. The future is up to us.
Living an ethical life, indeed ensuring the happiness and well-being of others is the key to one's own happiness. Troy gets to field test this concept when what seems like amazing luck drops some easy money into his lap. With gentle guidance from Abe, Troy reacts to the situation as an opportunity to help others instead of himself in a way which seems totally counter intuitive from his usual way of thinking and acting but which leaves him feeling happy and rich nonetheless. He is beginning the process of re-training his mind in a way which can bring true and lasting happiness.. The result is a growing faith in Abe's and Grace's and in the Buddha's teachings, faith that although it is impossible to see the workings of karma it might be a wise and happy way to live, i.e. mindful that our present actions create our future happiness.
Once again Ms. Ettele has provided instruction in the Buddhist path with her rich narrative. Never didactic, her delightful visual and emotional descriptions of the settings are subtle and familiar. The heartfelt warmth of her style makes us feel present in the lives of her engaging characters and grateful for having spent time with them.
How Life Work, was the perfect introduction to these teachings. This is a character driven book that allows the reader to identify with struggles both past and present in the lives of these people. The scenes between Abe, the Vietnam Vet with a scarred past who has found peace and a foundation within the teachings of Buddhism, and Troy, a young man who is still struggling to find himself, are natural and compelling. Like Troy, I too wanted to learn from Abe, who has the patience and tenderness to present these teachings in a way that only someone who has applied these lessons to their own behavior and life can communicate. Janet Ettele has a style that is honest, unforced and luminous. This is a journey and education I want to continue.