Buddhism – Plain and Simple

Buddhism: Plain and Simple is a book by Steve Hagen (SH) is the book for anyone wanting to discover, or rediscover, the essence of Buddhism.

Book Overview : This is a book about awareness – it’s about being ‘awake’ and in touch with what is going on here and now. Practical and down-to-earth, it deals exclusively with the present, not with speculation, theory or belief in some far-off time and place. The teachings of the Buddha are plain and straightforward, and because they remain focused on the moment they are just as relevant now as they have ever been. This book for anyone wanting to discover, or rediscover, the essence of Buddhism.

Will Buddhism solve the problems of everyday life? No. As the Buddha says, if you've got 83 problems, he can only help with your 84th problem, which is that "You want not to have any problems".

Steve Hagen, a Zen priest from Minnesota, shows a plain and simple route to the heart of the Buddhist way. He offers engaging parables, some drawn from his own experience and some from Buddhist tradition. And he guides the reader through the more difficult concepts without need of baffling Zen riddles. He makes enlightening yourself sound so easy.

By applying the Buddha’s four truths and eightfold path to life today, the book aims to let the reader see the world in a new way.

When the Buddha was asked to sum up his teaching in a single word, he said, “awareness”. This is a book about awareness. Not awareness of something in particular, but awareness itself, being awake, alert, in touch with what is actually happening.

(Infinity Beckons – Review of Introduction)

After thoroughly enjoying The Immortal Mind by Messrs Laszlo and Peake, it took me a while to select the next book to read from my materialistic noetic nook (aka the bookshelf in my living room) which will in turn be reviewed on the aether(net) nook (aka this WordPress site).

I could have quite easily slipped into the most logical selection and review Anthony Peake’s Is There Life After Death: The Extraordinary Science Of What Happens When We Die (ITLAD to those in the know) but for some reason (at this stage at least) it didn’t seem right. My hand glid (for surely that is the past tense of the verb to glide) up and down the bookshelf, feeling the pull of Anthony’s many tomes as well as Ervin Laszlo’s Akashic productions and almost willing to pick up The God Delusion from “our nemesis” Dawkins (even if it was just to royally dump it in the bin). Instead I picked up Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance on the basis that I was in the mood to read a novel (after just watching the excellent “Into the Wild” on Netflix the night previous).

After only the first chapter I stopped. It didn’t feel like a book I could read just now and certain not a book I could review for the Noetic Nook. I gently placed it back on the shelf (after apologising to it in a way only a nerd could do) and picked up Buddhism: Plain and Simple by SH. I got this as a present on my 42nd birthday from my great friends “M” & “D” (the significance of the number 42 not lost on me – were they (and Arthur Dent by proxy) suggesting that Buddhism was the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything?). It was as if it beckoned me for some reason, all apologies Mr Robert Pirsig for putting your literary classic back in moth balls (for now). Imagine my surprise though when on the train to London this morning I read the back cover of “Buddhism…” to find a quote from none other than Mr R Pirsig – author of the aforementioned ZATAOMM (hasn’t got the same ring to it as ITLAD. Peake 1 – 0 Hagen). It was at that point that I knew this was the right place and the right time for me to read this book (smarting about my text conversation with “M” the night before regarding the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon).

Not only was that little synchronicity pointing the way to book, but there were quite a few sections in The Immortal Mind which referred to Buddhist principles (the concept of the bardo states for one), so with that in mind we were good to go.

So after that rather long pre-amble, onto the review of the first chapter…


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