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The Novice

Why I Became a Buddhist Monk, Why I Quit & What I Learned

by Stephen Schettini

Convinced he doesn’t belong anywhere, a young man hitchhikes from Europe, through the Middle East, to Asia, searching desperately for peace of mind.

Disenchanted by Western culture and dispirited by middle-class values, author Stephen Schettini sets out to find truth and discovers the world of Tibetan Buddhism. In this lyrical and affecting memoir, Schettini explores the roots of his quest and, after eight years as a monk, unearths the soul of the Buddhist faith and ultimately the personal truth buried beneath formal religious structures.

A life of comfort and security awaits Stephen Schettini but, feeling trapped by the conventional expectations of his parents, teachers and culture, he scorns his unhappy childhood and determines to pursue his deepest hopes and dreams. This intimate, colorful memoir tells the story of a disillusioned young man who sabotages his university finals and abandons home, family, and possessions to journey through Europe, the Middle East and Asia in search of a meaningful life. Narrowly escaping death by sickness and drugs, he encounters Tibetan refugees in exile. Entranced, he finally stops running. In introspective detail and lyrical prose, the author recounts his monkhood in the Buddhist tradition—staring down the gaping hole at the center of his life to come back strengthened and confident. With eye-opening accounts of the most famous Tibetan lamas to escape Chinese occupation, poetic descriptions of faraway places and faces, and dozens of evocative photographs, The Novice is destined to become a classic memoir of faith in oneself and the search for ultimate truth.

http://www.schettini.com/novice_excerpts/Cover.html#PageTop

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Just casting about for good book recommendations. This is not a question of favorite Suttas, but more a modern take on the Dhamma, as it is mutating its way out of Asia. The two favorites that come t

A great personal story of a guy who did the hippy scene and drugs but describes his progress through dhamma and meditation .... http://archive.org/stream/OneNightsShelter/OneNightsShelter-Ven.Rahula_

Intuitive Awareness by Ajahn Sumedho.   https://forestsangha.org/teachings/books/intuitive-awareness?language=English

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ok, my duaghter is off to the land paved with gold, specifically, she has a week in boston with my father. THAT MEANS BOOKS. so i want dad to buy me two books: i want specifically theravada /thai buddhism and not so much the self help guru stuff... i have the dhamapada translated by :sangharakshita and two or three other books.

i would actually also like the ramakien/ or jataka stories ; any suggestions? from the major /minor book stores in boston (i cant order online stuff, and cant afford most books anyhow so this is like a trick question: what would u take with u if u could only choose two books)i need to know today or tomorrow at latest as child is continueing on to tucson and will have no contact with books stores there.

sorry, i just cant choose on my own... prefer recommendations , worse come to worse, i read, dont like, and re read in an other year on yom kippur when theres nothing on tv/radio for two days. then i might like it.

please dont make me read throught the entire thread. it kills my eyes to read fromt he internet anyhow, so a few suggestions and then will email to child to give to dad to search and find.

reading about buddhism in hebrew just gives me brain death :)( i need it in english so thank you in advance;

bina

israel

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Bina, I'd page through this subsection of the forum, am sure you'll pick up a few titles that would appeal. So hard for me to select just a few. I have enjoyed Brad Warner's work if you're ready for something non-traditional. Or anything by Stephen Bachelor or Aye Khema for Western-orientated Theravada. Joseph Goldstein was my teacher long ago and his works hold a special place as well.

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THANX, , i was looking for the quick answers :)) i hadnt the time or patience a the moment to scroll; it kills my eyes... and also, hard to know what a boston book store would have on its shelves for my dad and daughter to pick up for me...

but there already in arizona for the next part of kid's trip so will have to wait... will ship dad off to used bookstores, his fave places, to search and pick random titles...

bina

israel

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The Biography of the Venerable Phra Acharn Mun Bhuridatta Thera

A Spiritual Biography by Acariya Maha Boowa Ñjanasampanno

http://www.luangta.com/English/site/book8_biomun.html

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This is a very inspiring book and a great insight into Thai Buddhism and culture. It's the story of Thailand's most well known arahant, Ajahn Man, written 20 years after he died in 1949. More than half the book relies on collected recollections from Ajahn Man's most senior disciples and the rest is first-hand from the author, Ajahn Boowa. Ajahn Man predicted that two of his disciples would also become arahants and the translator's notes inform us that by general consent Ajahn Boowa is one of them but the other is unknown.

A few years ago one of our members described the book as "stodgy." Perhaps it is compared to a normal biography, but this one was clearly written to inspire faith, teach the Dhamma, and record everything anyone can remember about a great and unusual teacher. So it can be verbose at time. There is much praise for Ajahn Man, some repetition of themes and some long sermons delivered to devas and nagas. Also, many examples of his "fierce" style of teaching.

The book seems to draw parallels between Ajahn Man and the Buddha or his main disciples. Ajahn Man had a whole range of psychic abilities that made him similar to Maha Mogallana. In some cases the supernatural beings he encounters are described as nimitta (mental images), in other cases not, but in the latter cases he is always in some level of samadhi at the time.

Ajahn Man's teacher, Ajahn Sao, was not particularly gifted as a teacher and had a very different mental make-up from Ajahn Man so he wasn't able to help him much with his meditation problems. As a result, Ajahn Man spent years alone in the mountains figuring out for himself how to uproot the kilesas. After he attained the level of Anagami, he went back to the northeast to teach, but ultimately had to head for the mountains in Chiang Mai to attain nibbana.

Before reading this, it would be a good idea to read Kamala Tiyavanich's Forest Recollections for background and to be familiar with Thai Forest Tradition teachings. You also need an open mind. Ajahn Man's branch of the Thai Forest Tradition had its own model of the mind, centred on what they call the citta. In their teachings, the citta is in fact sati, but it is also what passes from one life to another. It isn't the standard definition of citta. They also talk about different levels of samadhi and the citta "converging" rather than about jhana. Some of it is similar to what Ajahn Chah taught, some of it isn't. Whatever, the fundamental practice was uprooting the kilesas by investigating them and understanding them. Apparently, a dangerous environment (forests full of tigers) was conducive to this.

Personally, I found it fascinating. It doesn't end with Ajahn Man's parinibbana. There is a section outlining Ajahn Boowa's theories on how and why arahants' cremated remains become relics and why the time it takes differs according to the length of time they had been enlightened. There is also a sad story about how some women more or less con Ajahn Boowa out of the five relics he had for their own selfish reasons.

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Alternative To Consumerism From A Siamese Buddhist Persective

Sulak Sivaraksa

First Published 2009

2009 Sathirakoses-Nagapradipa Foundation, Bangkok

ISBN 978-974-660-435-2

Edited by Damnern Garden

Cover design by Lavdine Dubeaux

Distributed by Kledthai Co., Ltd.

117-119 Fuangnakorn Rd., Bangkok 10200

Tel. 662-225-9536-9, Fax 662-222-5188

www.kledthai.com

300 Baht

Not my favourite Buddhist book, nor really a book about Buddhism in the general sense, but a revealing view of Thai politics, society and religion from the perspective of an "engaged Buddhist" and one who constantly stirs the social pot in Thailand.

Sulak Sivaraksa, now 76 years old, has been fighting the good fight for many years against the new values that dominate Thai politics and discourse generally - materialism, consumerism, scientism and the accompanying cultural cringe toward all things "Western". He is constantly in trouble with the Thai authorities, having spent extended spells of voluntary exile in the US and Europe. He has more than once been charged with lese-majeste and, to my knowledge, is still on bail for the same alleged offence.

Having spent some years as a novice in Thailand (which he usually refers to as "Siam"), he has subsequently incorporated aspects of Mahayana and is a friend of the Dalai Lama and Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. He has an Honorary D.Litt. from the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, Sarnath/Varanasi.

Sulak is an angry man. A lifelong activist, he is an outspoken critic of, inter alia:

  • The Thai sangha ("State Buddhism")
  • Thai politicians
  • All those who encourage a cult of personality
  • The Thai propensity for honouring the greatest rogues in Thai history (Sarit Thanarith, P. Phibulsongkram, etc.)
  • Thai high society
  • Rationalist thinking among the Buddhist clergy
  • The lese-majeste laws
  • Thai unwillingness to criticise their leaders and a general Thai view that even helpful criticism is impolite
  • Thai reverence for and imitation of things "Western"
  • The influence of the United States on postwar Thai politics, diplomacy and culture
  • The loss of the forest tradition in Thai Buddhism
  • The errors of the modernizing monarchs
  • The inability of the Thai Buddhist clergy to provide example and leadership; their pursuit of comforts, awards and state honours
  • The failure of even the top universities to provide a benign locus for serious critical analysis and comment

Some of these, of course, overlap and some are deducible from his belief in "kalayanamitra" - that we all need friends, but our true friends are those who will criticize us out of love and loyalty. Sulak, who believes monarchy is essential for Thailand, justifies his criticisms of the present and previous royal institutions on the ground that he loves the King and respects the institution and, for those reasons, he must criticize them, in conformity with the King's wishes, expressed in his Birthday speech of December, 2005.

I suspect I would not like Sulak and would not have the moral intensity he seems to demand of his "kalayanamitra". While acknowledging the worthiness of the man, I think he is hypercritical (though at times a softening shows through) and, indeed, downright rude. Still, as a lifelong social activist, engaged in serious and committed social criticism, he would have to retain a hard edge in order to have an impact. Being too concessionary would not help his cause. In Western countries he would also be disliked, but would have an honoured place as a public intellectual and critic. This kind of role is not regarded so well in Thailand.

"Engaged Buddhism" may not be everyone's cup of tea, but if it is, I would say Sulak Sivarak's life and work provides a good model of how a lay Buddhist can engage the forces of darkness in contemporary life: ignorance, selfishness, obsequiousness, attachment to status and honours, conformism, indifference to others' suffering, and so on. One also gets a lot of insight into the way in which Thai politics, religion and culture have developed since the critical developmental periods of modernisation under Rama IV and V; bureaucratisation of the sangha; overthrow of absolute monarchy; tension between civilian and military leadership; military dictatorship and its manipulation of monarchy, nation and religion; the alliance with the United States; and the rise of money politics, exemplified by Thaksin Shinawatra. It would be interesting to know what Sulak thinks is actually going to happen here in the near future, but he wants his book distributed in Thailand, so he doesn't say.

Edited by Xangsamhua
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Sulak Sivaraksa, now 76 years old, has been fighting the good fight for many years against the new values that dominate Thai politics and discourse generally - materialism, consumerism, scientism and the accompanying cultural cringe toward all things "Western". He is constantly in trouble with the Thai authorities, having spent extended spells of voluntary exile in the US and Europe. He has more than once been charged with lese-majeste and, to my knowledge, is still on bail for the same alleged offence.

Some more info about Sulak can be found on his website.

http://www.sulak-sivaraksa.org/en/index.ph...e&Itemid=67

Here you can also read that he still faces a possible sentence of 45 years prison for lese majesty.

(Untill now I not read any of his books)

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Zen at War by Brian Victoria.

41810SV3WTL._SS500_.jpg

Not exactly a "favourite" Buddhist book, this one is depressing but interesting. I mentioned it previously here and there is a review at Dark Zen.

When I finally got around to read it, it was I expected - page after page of demented writings by supposedly enlightened Japanese masters and lay scholars in support of Japanese aggression in Asia.

It starts off with a little bit of history, but not quite enough. Prior to the Meiji Restoration in 1868, Japan had been ruled by the Tokugawa clan and its allies in the North and East for hundreds of years. Domains in the South and West were left alone as long as they behaved. Samurai were paid a stipend, mostly in rice, but were not allowed to work. With centuries of peace there were more and more samurai and less and less to pay them with since there were no "spoils of war." The low ranking samurai weren't happy. Many were getting into business or criminal activity. Then the foreigners turned up with gunships and imposed unequal treaties on the Japanese as they had with other Asians. This gave the proud and xenophobic low-ranking samurai the reason they needed for getting rid of the shogun. A southern and a western domain finally joined forces and used the restoration of the Emperor (as ruler) as a rallying call.

Having overthrown the shogun, the new leaders quickly realized they needed something to bind the country together and break the old feudal system. So they created State Shinto and Emperor Worship. Meanwhile they raced to modernize the country's military. One of the old rebel domain's leaders controlled the army and leaders of the other the navy. The emperor was basically a figurehead controlled by a council of these ex-samurai, and the one feeble rebellion against this New Order was partly depicted in the movie, The Last Samurai.

For hundreds of years, the Buddhist clergy had been religious functionaries and spies for the shogunate, mostly engaged in registering births and deaths, and performing funerals. In its promotion of State Shinto the new rulers began destroying temples and denigrating Buddhism and Christianity as foreign religions. But it soon backfired. There were riots against the government and they had to give up on the idea. But institutional Buddhism saw the threat to its existence and responded by supporting the government and attacking Christianity.

Almost everyone came on board in the end. The few Buddhists who spoke out against militarism ended up in jail or disappeared. It went so far that it developed into "Imperial Way Buddhism," and the duty of Buddhists was to serve the emperor and protect the state. Because of its long association with the military, Zen was at the forefront of this. When Japan moved aggressively into Korea, Taiwan, Manchuria and China, Buddhists of the Zen and Shin sects followed with evangelizing missions (noting the success of Christianity in this regard), Buddhist army chaplains and help for the needy. Even the Christians did their patriotic duty for the emperor. Buddhist commentators seemed proud of the fact that it was Mahayana that changed the origianal Hinayana Buddhism from passive (the reason India and China had been colonized) to a religion that could justify a holy war. Japanese Buddhism was of course the one true Buddhism and thus had to be taken to the other Asian countries.

The theory behind all this was "the sword that gives life," meaning it's OK to kill people for the greater good. With regard to Asia, it was OK to massacre hundreds of thousands to bring them to their senses and get them to stand up to Western imperialism. Japan, of course, selflessly sacrificed its soldiers to free Asia. What these Buddhists wrote is barely believable. The villain of the book (not to mention hypocrite) turns out to be D.T. Suzuki, the man who brought Zen to the west. He was on board with the rest of them.

After the war, there is a section about who reflected on what they had done and who apologized. Some didn't change, some believed they had betrayed Buddhism but the war had been just, a few really understood that the war and Buddhism's support for it had all been wrong. Suzuki first blamed Shinto, then blamed Zen, and ultimately blamed everyone except himself. Like some others, he said very different things when speaking or writing to Japanese and Western audiences. He tells the West it was a "ridiculous war" but the author points out that Suzuki had spent 10 years in the US and knew very well that when Japan attacked the US it would lose. That's the only reason it was ridiculous. The various sects didn't make any kind of apology about their role in the war until decades afterwards, and the Rinzai Zen sect still hasn't said a word.

There is also a chapter on how Zen enthusiastically participated in post-war 'corporate Zen' and training for employees to turn them into self-sacrificing ideal workers.

The author then asks "Was it Buddhism?" and examines the inherent violence in Cha'an and Zen, it's absorption of Confucian hierarchy and discipline, it's relationship with the sword and with Bushido, the way of the samurai. He looks at the various Mahayana sutras that condone violence of some sort and comes to the conclusion that Zen went astray a long time ago.

Finally, in examining how easily Buddhism turned to be "state-protecting Buddhism" he goes back to the time of Sakyamuni and points out that right from the start Buddhism had royal or state patronage, and that that always comes with a price. He covers some not-so-well-known points about King Asoka's patronage of Buddhism and follows the compromises made by Buddhism for various Chinese emperors and then Japanese emperors and shoguns. At the end of the book he says he doesn't know how Zen can be fixed.

Frankly, I wonder how he can remain a Zen Buddhist priest.

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Interesting about Suzuki. Like Heidegger, the appeal of power seems to have affected his mind. I'm rather inclined to think, though, that war and its imminence, especially when one is close to it, can have a very unwholesome effect on even the most eirenic of minds.

Without justifying war crimes, I'm disposed to think (though with some misgivings, in view of their impact) that one should bracket a philosopher's or religious teacher's wayward comments in wartime rather than hold them eternally and absolutely accountable. War can make men devils, even if just for a time.

Hannah Arendt, the prominent Jewish writer on the Nazi mentality and its criminality, forgave Heidegger for his Nazism. She loved him.

I notice that Christmas Humphreys, the founder of the Buddhist Society in Britain and a pacifist, wrote the 1949 preface to my edition of Suzuki's "Essays in Zen Buddhism" and said nothing of Suzuki's wartime or pre-war comments on the compatibility of Zen and things like the Bushido cult. (And yet Suzuki wrote some bizarre and vicious things about war as a manifestation of enlightenment.)

Gandhi is widely remembered for his suggestion that the Jews should commit mass suicide.

The remarks (Gandhi, Suzuki) or the behaviour (Heidegger) are not forgiveable, but the protagonists themselves may be for all the other valuable things they have provided. I guess we have to look at the whole person and, from a Buddhist perspective, at a person who is neither permanent nor irreducible.

Answers.com says the following about Suzuki and his teaching on war and Zen:

Suzuki's academic career in Japan was quite successful, but he suffered some criticism after the Second World War on two counts. First, some cited his limited vision of Buddhism in Japanese culture, in particular, the complete omission of Nichiren Buddhism from his account of the interaction of Buddhism with Japanese spirituality. Second, after the war, he recanted some of the things he had written prior to and during the war that, implicitly at least, defended Japanese militarism. Many young men had taken his books as their inspiration into battle; his post-war disavowal of his previous writings, and his claim that he had always known Japan would lose but feared that his works would be banned if he spoke his mind, dismayed those young men, and provoked a backlash against him. His influence in the English-speaking world which knew nothing of these criticisms was unaffected. His fluency in English, his willingness to speak of Zen enlightenment (satori) in theoretical terms, and his deep familiarity with the wide scope of Zen traditions, made him a primary channel for the West to learn about Zen. http://www.answers.com/topic/d-t-suzuki

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The key point with Suzuki is in the sentence: "His influence in the English-speaking world which knew nothing of these criticisms was unaffected."

I agree with one review I read that the big question implicitly raised (but not answered) by the book is: Were those verified Zen masters really "enlightened" in any sense of the word if they could hold the views they did? What good is "satori" if major defilements (patriotic pride, etc) and delusion remain in the mind?

One can imagine the average layman or priest being scared enough to do anything in a period of fascism, but not someone who has attained real enlightenment. After the war, Suzuki himself didn't deny those Zen masters (his own teacher was one of the worst) were enlightened, but he cast doubt on the ability of satori to counter certain ingrained views. A strange attitude for someone who proselytized Zen in the US.

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The key point with Suzuki is in the sentence: "His influence in the English-speaking world which knew nothing of these criticisms was unaffected."

I agree with one review I read that the big question implicitly raised (but not answered) by the book is: Were those verified Zen masters really "enlightened" in any sense of the word if they could hold the views they did? What good is "satori" if major defilements (patriotic pride, etc) and delusion remain in the mind?

One can imagine the average layman or priest being scared enough to do anything in a period of fascism, but not someone who has attained real enlightenment. After the war, Suzuki himself didn't deny those Zen masters (his own teacher was one of the worst) were enlightened, but he cast doubt on the ability of satori to counter certain ingrained views. A strange attitude for someone who proselytized Zen in the US.

Good points all. Generally I find Zen pretty hard to fathom. Even Thich Nhat Hanh's writing on Zen ("Zen Keys") is a bit beyond me. It seems so counter-logical (at least counter-verbal logic) that I imagine all sorts of strange and contradictory views could emerge, as has indeed been the case, particularly in Japanese Zen.

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The book which has brought me the most real results and notable manifest experience through practising the methods taught in it is "Vipassana Bhavana" by Titawanno Pikhu. วิปัสสนาภาวนา ธิตวัณโณ ภิกขุ

Unfortunately it is in Thai - I think the reason it is good for me is that it has no conjecture or analytical woffle - after all Buddhism is full of "Vipassaneuk" instead of Vipassana (neuk means to "think")

Vipassaneuk is a joking phrase used by the masters to let the student know he is "thinking he knows it" instead of "knowing it"

Books are all good and well but if we just sit pondering the Dhamma, we do not manifest it as a real experience.

I myself spent 20 years studying and thinking i had attained knowledge of this and that simply because i understood a concept intellectually. this is one of the biggest mistakes we make in Dhamma practise. It is to be experienced directly and i feel that it is better to concentrate on one single aspect of practise until it has been gathered intuitively, than to spend years absorbing millions of suttas.

Exponding the Dhamma and sounding as if one is a master is relatively easy, and many Bhikkhus do this well, but it is deceptive because this is not a sign of having attained the true innate knowledge and realisation of an aspect of Dhamma. If everyone could practise as well as they can speak of the Dhamma, then we would see many masters.

To understand that all things are Amnatta for example does not mean that we have attained realisation of Non-Self, because even though you know and have pondered this truth, the first moment that someone insults you, you get angry. This is the proof that one has not attained the true knowledge, rather simply understood it as a concept without a direct experience.

A direct experience of Anatta would come for example, in meditation, when you would notice the wind blowing on your skin and know that the wind is not you, nor is it anything to do with you, rather it is just something coming into contact with your conscious perception (sanya)

Then you might notice that your other percieved sensations within the khandas and your body (such as warmth, muscle tension, and even non physical aspects such as emotions, thoughts or reactions to sensations), are also actually just like that wind which blows against your skin. You would then notice that all those phenomaena are not that which is self (non-self) - that they are just phenomena which arise and fall just as the wind that blows through your hair or the waves on the ocean. the only difference between those and our emotions and feelings is that emotions and feelings exist within our 5 khandas not outside of them, and so we automatically identify with them and think it is ourself or ours, or part of us.

This is not something to be read and understood, it is something to be looked into within oneself and tasted.

The book which i mentioned above (Vipassana Bhavana - วิปัสสนาภาวนา ธิตวัณโณ ภิกขุ gives the correct things to practise and way to contemplate whilst practising which leads to a correct development of the yana needed to attain insight and constant mindfulness on every necessary level and the way ton complete the path to becoming an Ariyabukkala)

I spoke with the author about translating this book into English and he wishes it to happen but unfortunately i have little time. I wish to complete this one day but for now must put it aside. Perhaps when i finally ordain for the second time later in my life i may complete it for him.

The book is second part of a two part series; the forst book WAS translated already into English (i dont know if it was translated well or not) and is called "Mind Development" printed by Maha Makut Rachawitayalay

You can find the Author at Wat Somanas Viharn (he is the Abbot) - he teaches Vipassana Kammathana around Thailand and has also published a great many other books.

He is of the Tammayut lineage.

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Can anyone suggest a good book about Mahayana Buddhism, especially if it has relevance to Thailand? I studied Theravada Buddhism at Chula some years ago. That (top-level) knowledge, and my own day-to-day experiences of Theravada as it is practiced in Thailand, left me with the view that Thervada Buddhism was not the path for me. But Mahayana seems more akin with how I feel and how I try to act in my everyday life.

So, a good book or some online articles to expand my knowledge of Mahayana Buddhism would be much appreciated!

Simon

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Can anyone suggest a good book about Mahayana Buddhism, especially if it has relevance to Thailand? I studied Theravada Buddhism at Chula some years ago. That (top-level) knowledge, and my own day-to-day experiences of Theravada as it is practiced in Thailand, left me with the view that Thervada Buddhism was not the path for me. But Mahayana seems more akin with how I feel and how I try to act in my everyday life.

So, a good book or some online articles to expand my knowledge of Mahayana Buddhism would be much appreciated!

Simon

The Nectar of Manjushri's Speech is a really good detailed commentary on one of the most important Mahayana texts (Shantideva's Bodhicaryavatara). It's a good book to slowly take your time with and reread to contemplate parts over and over. It's not a book about Mahayana. But it is Mahayana. So it's great if your intention is to actually develop your mind in a positive way. But if you are looking for just something that's a general overview of Mahayana, it might be too meaty for your purpose.

I don't think you'll have any luck finding a Mahayana book specifically relevant to Thailand.

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Buddhist Thought: A Complete Introduction to the Indian Tradition. Anthony Tribe and Paul Williams. Routledge. 2000.

Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations. Paul Williams. Routledge. 2008.

Books by the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh in which they discuss the Mahayana sutras.

The Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition has a series of audio-based courses in Mahayana teaching that you can download for $45. The courses have typescripts, forum pages, access to the teacher, etc. and you can test yourself online after each section of each course.

There's a lot of stuff around, but not much attention to Thailand, where Mahayana is pretty much a non-event (except in an unstated form via Dhammakaya, some would say).

Incidentally, Paul Williams converted to Roman Catholicism a few years ago and wrote a rather breathless book about it, but he is still Director of the Centre for Buddhist Studies at Bristol University.

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  • 1 month later...

The new one from Stephen Batchelor...

Confession of a Buddhist Atheist

Written with the same brilliance and boldness that made Buddhism Without Beliefs a classic in its field, Confession of a Buddhist Atheist is Stephen Batchelor’s account of his journey through Buddhism, which culminates in a groundbreaking new portrait of the historical Buddha.

CBAcover.jpg

Stephen Batchelor grew up outside London and came of age in the 1960s. Like other seekers of his time, instead of going to college he set off to explore the world. Settling in India, he eventually became a Buddhist monk in Dharamsala, the Tibetan capital-in-exile, and entered the inner circle of monks around the Dalai Lama. He later moved to a monastery in South Korea to pursue intensive training in Zen Buddhism. Yet the more Batchelor read about the Buddha, the more he came to believe that the way Buddhism was being taught and practiced was at odds with the actual teachings of the Buddha himself.

Charting his journey from hippie to monk to lay practitioner, teacher, and interpreter of Buddhist thought, Batchelor reconstructs the historical Buddha’s life, locating him within the social and political context of his world. In examining the ancient texts of the Pali Canon, the earliest record of the Buddha’s life and teachings, Batchelor argues that the Buddha was a man who looked at human life in a radically new way for his time, more interested in the question of how human beings should live in this world than in notions of karma and the afterlife. According to Batchelor, the outlook of the Buddha was far removed from the piety and religiosity that has come to define much of Buddhism as we know it today.

Both controversial and deeply personal, Confession of a Buddhist Atheist is a fascinating exploration of a religion that continues to engage the West. Batchelor’s insightful, deeply knowledgeable, and persuasive account will be an essential book for anyone interested in Buddhism.

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Can anyone suggest a good book about Mahayana Buddhism, especially if it has relevance to Thailand? I studied Theravada Buddhism at Chula some years ago. That (top-level) knowledge, and my own day-to-day experiences of Theravada as it is practiced in Thailand, left me with the view that Thervada Buddhism was not the path for me. But Mahayana seems more akin with how I feel and how I try to act in my everyday life.

So, a good book or some online articles to expand my knowledge of Mahayana Buddhism would be much appreciated!

Simon

In 1991, Sogyal Rinpoche founded the retreat centre of Lerab Ling near Montpellier in southern France. The first three-month retreat was held there in 1992.[11]

In 1992,The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying was published. :)

Not the Bardo -Todol, only practical considerations.

it differs from what I know of Teravada on this point.

A good read by all means.

Otherwise I am content with Teravada -which I just approach at lotus-root level.

In 1993, Christine Longaker established the Spiritual Care Program which is based on the teachings of Sogyal Rinpoche and demonstrates practical ways in which the compassion and wisdom of the Buddhist teachings can be of benefit to those facing illness or death and also to their families and medical caregivers.[12][13]

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Distant - one of my favorites:

"Zen and the Art of Archery"

...“hitting the target in darkness”...

......after three years when he was permitted to shoot at a target on

the archery range (which is twenty-eight meters long), his arrows did

not reach the target no matter how many times he shot. Finally, Her-

rigel asked what he needed to do to hit the target. Awa told him,

“Thinking about hitting the target is heresy. Do not aim at it.” Her-

rigel could not accept this answer. He insisted that “If I do not aim at

the target, I cannot hit it.” At that point, Awa ordered Herrigel to come

to the practice hall that evening. Herrigel explained what happened

that night, as follows:

We entered the spacious practice hall adjacent to the master’s

house. The master lit a stick of incense, which was as long and

thin as a knitting needle, and placed it in the sand in front of

the target, which was approximately in the center of the target

bank. We then went to the shooting area. Since the master was

standing directly in the light, he was dazzlingly illuminated.

The target, however, was in complete darkness. The single,

faintly glowing point of the incense was so small it was practi-

cally impossible to make out the light it shed. The master had

said not a word for some time. Silently he took up his bow and

two arrows. He shot the ³rst arrow. From the sound I knew it

hit the target. The second arrow also made a sound as it hit

the target. The master motioned to me to verify the condition

of the two arrows that had been shot. The ³rst arrow was

cleanly lodged in the center of the target. The second arrow

had struck the nock of the ³rst one and split it in two. I

brought the arrows back to the shooting area. The master

looked at the arrows as if in deep thought and after a short

while said the following…

(HERRIGEL 1982, pp. 46–47; cf. HERRIGEL 1953, pp. 84–85)

but then...

...

One must also note that practitioners of kyðjutsu in Japan share the

common understanding that shattering the nock of one’s own arrow

is a failure of which one should be ashamed...

I just love the simpleness in this ... is like a bowl of staeming Sencha Makoto

in the Bamboo Grove...

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Meet Brad, the bad boy of Zen Buddhism

A punk rocker whose latest book is about death, sex and divorce — it is no wonder Brad Warner is known as Buddhism’s enfant terrible, says Liam Clarke

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Brad Warner, the Zen teacher and punk rock bass guitarist who is speaking in Belfast this week, has built himself a bit of a reputation as the enfant terrible of Buddhism.

A shock wave ran through the staid, reverential viharas, gompas and zendos of western Buddhism when he penned a series of articles on the Dalai Lama, in which he admits: “I’ve never read his books or paid much attention to him on TV.”

Warner went on: “He's supposed to be the reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lama. If he actually believes that, he might want to see this email I got from these guys in Nigeria who say they want to deposit $28m in my bank account. But I get the impression he's smart enough to take that kind of thing with a grain of salt. As famous guru-type guys go, he seems okay.”

His latest book, Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate, doesn’t disappoint. It’s subtitled, A trip through death, sex, divorce, and spiritual celebrity in search of the true Dharma.

It spares us no details in laying bare his personal life to illustrate the insights which he believes Zen practice has given him in one of the worst years of his life.

He suffered bereavement, lost his job, got high, had affairs with students and emerged strengthened from the experience.

We don’t just hear of affairs, he takes us into the bedroom with him and gives us a blow-by-blow account. We share nights of passion in the stunning surroundings of Zenshinji, a Buddhist training monastery at Tassajara in California.

Celibacy hasn’t been mandatory for Zen monks for more than 150 years and he believes it causes problems on Churches who enforce it on their clergy.

“Celibacy, if you can really do it, is probably a good thing as far as keeping your state of mind peaceful and even and so on and so forth. But there are very few who can do it easily; a lot more attempt and fail,” he says.

“The pressure of being a lifelong celibate may push a person into terrible things, like child abuse. But there are also more subtle examples of just being kind of a little frazzled all the time because you are constantly bothered by thoughts of sex. In those circumstances, if you just have a little bit of sex, you will probably be of more use to everybody.”

When you strip away the bad- boy rhetoric which Warner uses to catch our attention, his teachings turn out to be remarkably common sense and compassionate.

In Soto Zen, the Japanese Buddhist tradition of which he is a teacher, “killing the Buddha”, to get a message across, is part of the armoury of many a Zen master. Blasphemy is a hallowed tradition used to encourage students to face reality without being blinded by preconceived ideas.

Every moment, the Zen teaching goes, should be encountered afresh, as if we were stepping off a 50ft pole.

When he calls people “asswipes” and suggests we should “whack the Dalai Lama”, Warner stands in a long tradition. He first encountered Zen in the US, but really got the bug when he moved to Tokyo to work in his dream job, making Japanese Monster movies.

There he met Gudo Nishijima, a former banker and recognised Zen master, whose enlightenment was certified by Rempo Niwa, then head of the Soto Zen order.

Nishijima, now in his nineties, named Warner his successor, |but Warner bats off questions about whether he is enlightened too. Enlightenment, it seems, |is another preconception we can do without.

“The word ‘enlightenment’ and the term ‘enlightened master’ have come to represent a kind of fiction. There really is no such thing as people who have reached a state where they are above anything that might affect a human being. There is a view of an enlightened master as a kind of god; people have a sort of cartoony image of a master who floats on the clouds.”

Zen is ideology lite, it’s a way of looking at things that does not demand faith or deny it either. This, he believes, allows people from faiths like Christianity, Islam or Judaism to practice zazen, as Zen meditation is known, without compromising their beliefs.

“If you believe Jesus Christ is your Lord and Saviour that would make you a Christian, but you could still be a practising Zen person. I have talked to people who wanted to be involved in Zen and not give up their Christian faith and I always say, I think that is fine and I think that is very possible to do,” he says, adding that one of his students is also studying for the Christian ministry in Sweden.

But always, with Warner, there is a twist in the tale. “You might find that after continuing the practice for a while your understanding of Christianity or Islam might change,” he says.

“It doesn’t mean you give up your belief, but you might find that your experience of your faith shifts in a way that may be difficult for other parishioners to understand.”

Brad Warner will be speaking at Bookfinders, University Road, Belfast, tomorrow (6.30pm) and at St John’s Hall, Ballymena on Thursday (7pm). Other engagements can be found at Black Mountain Zen Centre website www.blackmountainzencentre.org/8.html

belfasttelegraph.co.uk

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Many...here are just a few:

Buddhist Ethics by Hammalawa Saddhatissa

Heartwood of the Bodhi Tree by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu

The Buddhist World of Southeast Asia by Donald Swearer

Theravada Buddhism by Richard Gombrich

Contemporary Buddhist Ethics ed. Damien Keown

The Foundations of Buddhism by Rupert Gethin

British Buddhism by Robert Bluck

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Meet Brad, the bad boy of Zen Buddhism

A punk rocker whose latest book is about death, sex and divorce — it is no wonder Brad Warner is known as Buddhism's enfant terrible, says Liam Clarke

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Brad Warner, the Zen teacher and punk rock bass guitarist who is speaking in Belfast this week, has built himself a bit of a reputation as the enfant terrible of Buddhism.

A shock wave ran through the staid, reverential viharas, gompas and zendos of western Buddhism when he penned a series of articles on the Dalai Lama, in which he admits: "I've never read his books or paid much attention to him on TV."

Warner went on: "He's supposed to be the reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lama. If he actually believes that, he might want to see this email I got from these guys in Nigeria who say they want to deposit $28m in my bank account. But I get the impression he's smart enough to take that kind of thing with a grain of salt. As famous guru-type guys go, he seems okay."

His latest book, Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate, doesn't disappoint. It's subtitled, A trip through death, sex, divorce, and spiritual celebrity in search of the true Dharma.

It spares us no details in laying bare his personal life to illustrate the insights which he believes Zen practice has given him in one of the worst years of his life.

He suffered bereavement, lost his job, got high, had affairs with students and emerged strengthened from the experience.

We don't just hear of affairs, he takes us into the bedroom with him and gives us a blow-by-blow account. We share nights of passion in the stunning surroundings of Zenshinji, a Buddhist training monastery at Tassajara in California.

Celibacy hasn't been mandatory for Zen monks for more than 150 years and he believes it causes problems on Churches who enforce it on their clergy.

"Celibacy, if you can really do it, is probably a good thing as far as keeping your state of mind peaceful and even and so on and so forth. But there are very few who can do it easily; a lot more attempt and fail," he says.

"The pressure of being a lifelong celibate may push a person into terrible things, like child abuse. But there are also more subtle examples of just being kind of a little frazzled all the time because you are constantly bothered by thoughts of sex. In those circumstances, if you just have a little bit of sex, you will probably be of more use to everybody."

When you strip away the bad- boy rhetoric which Warner uses to catch our attention, his teachings turn out to be remarkably common sense and compassionate.

In Soto Zen, the Japanese Buddhist tradition of which he is a teacher, "killing the Buddha", to get a message across, is part of the armoury of many a Zen master. Blasphemy is a hallowed tradition used to encourage students to face reality without being blinded by preconceived ideas.

Every moment, the Zen teaching goes, should be encountered afresh, as if we were stepping off a 50ft pole.

When he calls people "asswipes" and suggests we should "whack the Dalai Lama", Warner stands in a long tradition. He first encountered Zen in the US, but really got the bug when he moved to Tokyo to work in his dream job, making Japanese Monster movies.

There he met Gudo Nishijima, a former banker and recognised Zen master, whose enlightenment was certified by Rempo Niwa, then head of the Soto Zen order.

Nishijima, now in his nineties, named Warner his successor, |but Warner bats off questions about whether he is enlightened too. Enlightenment, it seems, |is another preconception we can do without.

"The word 'enlightenment' and the term 'enlightened master' have come to represent a kind of fiction. There really is no such thing as people who have reached a state where they are above anything that might affect a human being. There is a view of an enlightened master as a kind of god; people have a sort of cartoony image of a master who floats on the clouds."

Zen is ideology lite, it's a way of looking at things that does not demand faith or deny it either. This, he believes, allows people from faiths like Christianity, Islam or Judaism to practice zazen, as Zen meditation is known, without compromising their beliefs.

"If you believe Jesus Christ is your Lord and Saviour that would make you a Christian, but you could still be a practising Zen person. I have talked to people who wanted to be involved in Zen and not give up their Christian faith and I always say, I think that is fine and I think that is very possible to do," he says, adding that one of his students is also studying for the Christian ministry in Sweden.

But always, with Warner, there is a twist in the tale. "You might find that after continuing the practice for a while your understanding of Christianity or Islam might change," he says.

"It doesn't mean you give up your belief, but you might find that your experience of your faith shifts in a way that may be difficult for other parishioners to understand."

Brad Warner will be speaking at Bookfinders, University Road, Belfast, tomorrow (6.30pm) and at St John's Hall, Ballymena on Thursday (7pm). Other engagements can be found at Black Mountain Zen Centre website www.blackmountainzencentre.org/8.html

belfasttelegraph.co.uk

He sounds really interesting. Thanks for posting this, Sabaijai. Something to look for when next at Kinokuniya.

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The mind boggles at a "Tipitaka that anyone can edit" and apparently anyone can translate. Given the differences in translations by scholars, I wonder how they'll make this work?

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The mind boggles at a "Tipitaka that anyone can edit" and apparently anyone can translate. Given the differences in translations by scholars, I wonder how they'll make this work?

Good question.

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