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Thread: Book Recommendation (For Folks New to Buddhism): Buddhism For Dummies

  1. #1

    Book Recommendation (For Folks New to Buddhism): Buddhism For Dummies

    Hi,

    What an unfortunately named book!

    I have been looking for a very long time for a book for people very new to Buddhism who want to know basic information and all the many flavors of Buddhist schools, their beliefs and practices. Most of the books I encountered until now were tilted to one particular school or view, too simple, new agey or dry, or otherwise not up to par.

    Despite the silly title, this is a very smart, well written, comprehensive and detailed yet easy (and fun) to read, humorous and serious guide, covers most of the major bases and in quite some detail, gives fair treatment to the many flavors of Buddhism, is very down to earth about the more magical aspects of Buddhism (it tries to present a more psychological than literal take on Karma and Rebirth, for example) .... and it covers everything and the kitchen sink. I learned a thing or two. I just wish they would change the title!

    Buddhism For Dummies
    by Jonathan Landaw, Stephan Bodian

    http://www.amazon.com/Buddhism-For-D.../dp/111802379X

    Thank you to Hans for first pointing this book out to me. I am going to add it to our recommended book list.

    If I have one criticism, I wish they had done a better job in explaining the different approaches of Zen, such a Koan Introspection Zazen and Shikantaza, which they sometimes explain but sometimes lump and mash all together.

    Although folks who have more experience with Buddhism may also find the book interesting in many parts, I primarily recommend it for newcomers who don't know Thai from Tendai from Tibetan.

    Gassho, Jundo
    Last edited by Jundo; 02-27-2014 at 03:02 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  2. #2
    Hello,

    glad you liked it! What I particularly enjoyed was the fact that they managed to remain fairly neutral in most cases. There are always countless ways in which one can (and sometimes maybe should) criticise certain approaches to Dharma, but to someone completely new to the big bad word "Buddhism" in general it is important to be able to gain some kind of general overview. Such an overview will never be perfect and will always be found lacking, but this one does manage to convey a ton of useful stuff that can help dharma rookies orient themselves.

    If someone asks you "what does sports mean?" , and you give them a baseball bat, in a way you may have given them a great answer...but maybe that person is more of a cricket/squash/water polo/soccer kinda gal/guy.
    So especially for people who really have no clue but are intrigued nevertheless, this is as good an overview as they come.


    Gassho,

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

  3. #3
    Senior Member Clark's Avatar
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    I actually have one called Zen for Dummies. I will post the author when I can look it up. This book led me ultimately here.

    Gassho
    C

  4. #4
    "Complete idiots guide to zen living" is a good beginners book too. :-)

    Gassho
    Jishin

  5. #5
    Senior Member Clark's Avatar
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    Sorry Yes Jishin that's the one:

    http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Idiot.../dp/159257243X

    Gassho
    C

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Clark View Post
    Sorry Yes Jishin that's the one:

    http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Idiot.../dp/159257243X

    Gassho
    C
    I do not mean to judge a book by its cover, but I will base it on 10 minutes looking through it at Amazon. I am not going to recommend it. To make a long story short, it seems a big cluttered mess of modern mindfulness this and that. Not really a Zen book, although they try to tie it all to "Zen". I will see if I can find a copy to look thru more closely.

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  7. #7
    Senior Member Myosha's Avatar
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    Hello,

    Read the "Complete Idiot. . ." book when it was first published.

    This portion of an Amazon.com review is pretty accurate:

    " In my opinion, you don't need to be told ZEN this and ZEN that in your daily life. The author, though well-intentioned, has written a comprehensive book that in the end says the same thing thousands of times.

    Sit quietly for 20-minutes a day and try not to think about anything. Be compassionate to others around you, enjoy and appreciate each moment and live in the present - if you do these things, you are practicing ZEN. It doesn't take 300 pages to state the obvious." A Customer


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

  8. #8
    Senior Member Clark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    I do not mean to judge a book by its cover, but I will base it on 10 minutes looking through it at Amazon. I am not going to recommend it. To make a long story short, it seems a big cluttered mess of modern mindfulness this and that. Not really a Zen book, although they try to tie it all to "Zen". I will see if I can find a copy to look thru more closely.

    Gassho, J
    Well, I can see how you would feel that way. I will say that it left me realizing I wanted/needed to know more and ultimately here. I will tell you that they do go over Zen as Buddhism but then go on to talk about Zen with or without it. So take that for what it is worth. The book does cover the basic tenets of Buddhism, Dukkha 4 Noble truths etc. Having only read a few other books on Zen Buddhism I don't have much to compare it to.

    Gassho
    C

  9. #9
    Well, I am idiot. How I am supposed to know a good book from a bad one? :-)

    Gassho
    Jishin

  10. #10
    I will try to get a copy. It may still be a good book.

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  11. #11
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Thank you, Jundo!

    I am happy to see there's a Kindle version. I added it to my wish list and will buy it soon.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    Please remember I am only a priest in training. I could be wrong in everything I say. Slap me if needed.

    The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. Mr. Spock

  12. #12
    I read the book 3 years ago and should not have opened my mouth about it. I guess I was assuming that if I read it must of have been good. :-) There is a kindle version of it but Jundo's quick glance at is an accurate opinion since he is a speed reader. No need to buy the book. :-)

    Gassho
    Jishin

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    I do not mean to judge a book by its cover, but I will base it on 10 minutes looking through it at Amazon. I am not going to recommend it. To make a long story short, it seems a big cluttered mess of modern mindfulness this and that. Not really a Zen book, although they try to tie it all to "Zen". I will see if I can find a copy to look thru more closely.

    Gassho, J
    Jundo, don't bother. You got it right the first time. It's a piece of fluff...............no idea what/if there is an audience for it but I can't find anything in it of interest. It just misses the mark, in many ways.

    Gassho,

    Lee

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Fugu View Post
    Jundo, don't bother. You got it right the first time. It's a piece of fluff...............no idea what/if there is an audience for it but I can't find anything in it of interest. It just misses the mark, in many ways.

    Gassho,

    Lee
    Oh, well, since I have only perused the book for 10 minutes ... and some folks seem to like it, others not ... well, I cannot recommend it. On the other hand, I will not not recommend it either since I have not read it.

    Shall we call that a Zenny "Non-recommendation"?

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post

    Shall we call that a Zenny "Non-recommendation"?

    Gassho, J

  16. #16
    Senior Member Clark's Avatar
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    I've turned a new page, and remain unattached.


  17. #17
    Senior Member Clark's Avatar
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    Just guessing this book won't make the recommend list?

    http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/zen-...=9780060757991



    All kidding aside I was very pleased to se I could buy a number of the books that are recommended here on Barnes and Noble, some were only 1.99 in good condition.

    Gassho

    C
    Last edited by Clark; 03-02-2014 at 12:47 AM.

  18. #18
    Thanks Jundo ... this is nice to know as sometimes people ask me for a simple book to read on Buddhism. I have two books, which I will try to find, that are in the style of a comic strip. One is on Buddhism and one is on Zen. From my very...very limited ability to comment on the "scholarly" nature of the material, I found them to be fairly accurate and very entertaining. Perhaps one of these days I will run across them and I will post details.
    Gassho,
    Jisen/BrianW

  19. #19
    Senior Member Daijo's Avatar
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    Buddhism For Dummies is one of my favorites of my collection. They did do a very good job putting it together.

  20. #20
    Thank you Jundo!

    I'm excited to order this one! My toes tingle in anticipation, but however I will try to keep balanced

    Deepest bows, (and some excited energy)
    Chelsea

  21. #21
    Senior Member Clark's Avatar
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    I was excited to just get many of my book purchases in the mail. I started with Hagen, Buddhism is not What You Think. Hopefully I won't have to keep pestering people with so many questions. I think it is good to educate oneself, but I also can see the trap of collecting books instead of actually practicing. I will try to avoid temptation.
    Gassho
    C

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    If I have one criticism, I wish they had done a better job in explaining the different approaches of Zen, such a Koan Introspection Zazen and Shikantaza, which they sometimes explain but sometimes lump and mash all together.
    I think that a lot of that is due to the influence of the White Plum Asanga in North America. Maezumi's influence here is tremendous, and I don't think I have been to any Zen center in California that didn't practice the combination.

    Personally, I still like to hand out Steve Hagan's little white book Buddhism Plain and Simple to people who are curious about Buddhism. It is a quick, but good, little read that is always well appreciated. And doesn't cost me a lot to give out copies.
    Neika / Ian Adams

    寧 Nei - Peaceful/Courteous
    火 Ka - Fire

    Look for Buddha outside your own mind, and Buddha becomes the devil. --Dogen

  23. #23
    Senior Member Joyo's Avatar
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    Thank you for the book recommendation Jundo and Hans. I am very interested in reading it.

    Gassho,
    Joyo

  24. #24
    Junior Member David W's Avatar
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    I am halfway through an excellent book by David Barash where he seeks to connect buddhism and science. The early chapters deal with impermanence, non-self and interconnectedness and as a scientist I found his descriptions excellent. I'm looking forward (in a non grasping, mindful kind of way of course) to see how he deals with karma and rebirth. Here is the link if anyone is interested

    http://www.amazon.com/Buddhist-Biolo.../dp/0199985561


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