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Thread: Best starting book about buddhism for secular westerners?

  1. #1
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    Best starting book about buddhism for secular westerners?

    Hello guys!

    I'm sorry if this gets into the wrong section but. I often do get the question from friends and people around me about what is a very good starting book about buddhism, a softcore one. And I'd take a guess that it needs to be very down to earht (not 20 pages at the start about emptyness ), secular (nothing about the religions parts), just the philosophy. Something that explains very simple and not to hardcore about no-self, impermancence and suffering.

    There must be at least a couple of these?

    thanks

  2. #2
    Dear Neo,

    in my humble opinion there is no clear cut way one can completely and neatly divide the phenomenon of Buddhism into philosophy (in a western sense) on one and religion on the other hand.
    The recent thread about the secularisation of Buddhism raises a few interesting points in that context.

    Since you were asking about Buddhism in general and not about Zen in particular, I feel one must point out the fact that there is no such thing as general Buddhism.


    To cut the long story short, quite a few people I know like Steve Hagen's book "Buddhism plain and simple".

    I personally have to admit that for those who want a readable overview of Buddhist beliefs, practises and the basic philosophical outlooks, one could do worse than to grab "Buddhism for Dummies".
    Seriously, it gives a pretty good and fairly neutral overview if one is not looking for Zen in particular.


    Obviously we have a very substantial recommended reading list here at Treeleaf anyhow (I'll find the link in a second).

    HERE

    Gassho,

    Hans Chudo Mongen
    Last edited by Hans; 01-17-2014 at 09:32 AM.
    Chudo Mongen, Ordained Novice Priest-in-Training

  3. #3
    Senior Member Nameless's Avatar
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    Hey Neo,

    I may suggest Taking the Path of Zen by Robert Aitken. It was the book that introduced me to Zen Buddhism. Haven't looked back since. It's mostly about zazen and the philosophical basis of Buddhism.

    Gassho, John

  4. #4
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    I second Hans' recommendation of the Steve Hagen book. When I first read it, I thought it was too simple, but when I read it a second time, I realized that he has a very simple way of presenting complex concepts, without jargon.

    Kirk

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    I mean, the term mindfulness is starting to get a grip here in the swedish culture right now. They feel like it's a term founded by us and it's very accepted. But because like 80% here is secular (more or less atheists) their instincts tell them "wtf, hell no" when any kind of ism is presented to them. Even though buddhism/zen feels very much atheistic to me. And of course it's their biases about religion as a whole that makes sure it's like this.

    I know that the philosophy is hard 'to grasp' (not even possible) but I still feel like there should be a book that puts it simple to the westerners world view somehow. Like fight club has many aspects of eastern philosophy, or into the wild.'

    I've heard of Steve Hagens book, I'll read it and look if it's what I'm looking for. I guess it's good reading for me anyway.

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    Senior Member Myosha's Avatar
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    Hello,

    Hagen' s book. . .then throw it away.


    Gassho,
    Myosha
    Practice with humility, respect all beings, avoid attachments, give rise to praj˝a from your own awareness, put an end to delusions - Hui-neng

  7. #7
    Senior Member Entai's Avatar
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    Steve Hagen's "Buddhism Plain and Simple" would be my choice as well. It lives up to it's name. It does explore no-self, impermanence and suffering (I couldn't imagine a book on Buddhism that wouldn't)...but in a very accessible way. Also, it doesn't really present anything in a "religious" or "cultural" way that might complicate things for newcomers.

    Entai (Bill)
    "Be kind - for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle" - Plato

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    With newcomers, I really mean anti-religious people. Well I got my answer, thanks everyone!

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    Senior Member TimF's Avatar
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    As I noted in another thread, I am partial to the first book I read which is "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Zen Living". It certainly cleared the air for me. Maybe the title will seem a bit less "ism" for them. It does cover the the Buddha's teachings as well as the history of Zen, etc...

    Gassho,
    Tim

  10. #10
    I am sorry to say that I have never read "Buddhism for Dummies", so just ordered a copy. Based on what folks say above, sounds like a good recommendation.

    As to Soto Zen Practice, yes, Steve Hagen's book "Buddhism plain and simple" is a good basic introduction.

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

    #SAT TODAY!

  11. #11
    Hello Jundo,

    just to clarify my recommendation of "Buddhism for Dummies", I don't think it is particularly helpful for those wanting to find out more about a modern Soto-Zen style approach, but in terms of giving a non-intimidating overview of the main currents of this strange thing called "Buddhism", I still really really like it.

    The following book is pretty cool and non-intimidating as well:

    http://www.amazon.com/Introducing-Bu.../dp/1848310110


    Gassho,

    Hans Chudo Mongen
    Chudo Mongen, Ordained Novice Priest-in-Training

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    Friend of Treeleaf Taikyo's Avatar
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    If your looking for a good introduction to Buddhism, its philosophy, history and central concepts and ideas, then a very good book is Rubert Gethin's The Foundations of Buddhism. I use this book to teach Buddhism to first year undergraduates and it is useful as it makes the subject very accessible. It is elementary without being superficial.

    Gassho
    Taikyo

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    Senior Member Tiwala's Avatar
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    I personally wouldn't call Buddhism atheistic, but rather apatheistic. God or no God (or neither, or both), not too important.

    Gassho,
    Ben.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Taikyo View Post
    If your looking for a good introduction to Buddhism, its philosophy, history and central concepts and ideas, then a very good book is Rubert Gethin's The Foundations of Buddhism. I use this book to teach Buddhism to first year undergraduates and it is useful as it makes the subject very accessible. It is elementary without being superficial.

    Gassho
    Taikyo
    That book appears to be available as a PDF online through a Thai Buddhist Temple in the US, so I assume it is in keeping with the Precepts and not a copyright question.

    http://www.watflorida.org/documents/...ethin_1998.pdf

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

    #SAT TODAY!

  15. #15
    Senior Member Myosha's Avatar
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    Thank you.


    Gassho,
    Myosha
    Practice with humility, respect all beings, avoid attachments, give rise to praj˝a from your own awareness, put an end to delusions - Hui-neng

  16. #16
    Hello all.

    Waking Up to What You Do is a very stripped down version of Zen Buddhism by Diane Eshin Rizzetto. She's from the Open Mind school of Zen that broke away from the Soto sect. It's very nice as it takes the precepts and tells you how they're put into practice in a very modern perspective. Worth a read.

    Gassho
    Javier


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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    Senior Member Nindo's Avatar
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    I really liked "Buddha" by Karen Armstrong. It explains how Gautama fit into spiritual developments during his life time, and what was unique about his approach. It even has a skeptical approach towards "enlightenment".

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