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The Accidental Buddhist: Mindfulness, Enlightenment, and Sitting Still, American Style
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The Accidental Buddhist: Mindfulness, Enlightenment, and Sitting Still, American Style

3.86  ·  Rating Details ·  1,023 Ratings  ·  117 Reviews
THE ACCIDENTAL BUDDHIST is the funny, provocative story of how Dinty Moore went looking for the faith he'd lost in what might seem the most unlikely of places: the ancient Eastern tradition of Buddhism. Moore demystifies and explains the contradictions and concepts of this most mystic-seeming of religious traditions. This plain-spoken, insightful look at the dharma in Amer ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published February 16th 1999 by Harmony (first published 1997)
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Jan 08, 2008 Leslie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: if you want to learn and appreciate another faith and get a good laugh at the human condition too!
Dinty Moore (yah that's his real name and no, he doesn't make soup) has written a completely fun journey into his study of Buddhism. He sets out to study the American swing toward Buddhism and ends up finding himself drawn to it as well. His observations on meditation, the inside of his mind and retreat are hilarious. I have loaned this to people and gotten a kick out of watching them laugh outloud. How many books really do that???

(on reflection that his teacher "Geshe-la"
Jan 17, 2012 Clifford rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a quick, enjoyable read about a spiritual search that in some ways parallels my own, although Moore goes much deeper in his quest by undertaking retreats in several different Buddhist traditions. Written in the 90s, it refers to the emergence of a "cottage industry" of Buddhist books; at this point, nearly 15 years later, that cottage industry is a virtual Buddhist-Industrial Complex, with several glossy magazines, meditation supply megastores, and countless books published each year, in ...more
Apr 05, 2011 Sue rated it really liked it
I liked this book - it reflects my own search for knowledge about Buddhism (through books and online, I've never been able to go to a Buddhist retreat or ask the Dalai Lama a direct questions, as Moore does), and it reassures me that following the Buddhist path does not mean one has to shave their head (my head is not shaped nicely) or join a convent (my husband might object.) As Moore (and, by the way, he is no relation to the Dinty Moore for whom the Hormel chili is named) says at the end of t ...more
Jun 21, 2013 Ro rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An overall easy and enjoyable read. A little bland for my taste, but still fun to read. It is about a journalist in his mid 40's who is searching for the meaning behind Buddism and what draws Americans to it. Although raised Catholic, he is not religious and finds many faults with it. In his work to study Buddism and how it is practiced in the Western World, he accidentally finds a new sense of calm and understanding about the world around him after attending several different Buddist retreats. ...more
Heather Fineisen
Oct 10, 2011 Heather Fineisen rated it really liked it
Shelves: spirituality
I finished this book while in the middle of reading the Dalai Lama's Autobiography and strangely, my enjoyment of both was enhanced. Moore is looking for American Buddhism and may have found it, or the fact that there really is no "American" Buddhism. His various and varied experiences in this quest showcase the Dalai Lama's own discourse on Buddhism in the West. The Accidental Buddhist is a fun yet informative read that acts as a nice companion to the subject and headier reads. I will read more ...more
Oct 29, 2007 Lauren rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people looking to learn more about "american" buddhism
Shelves: buddhism
This book was really useful to me in helping me understand the landscape of American Buddhism and what the various shades of thought are in Western adaptations. There was even a mention of the NC company that makes zafus and zabutons! Quick and entertaining read.
May 20, 2015 Ang rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A "journalistic memoir" in the style of "pick it, try it, and write a book". Moore chronicles his own search for American Buddhism and tries to answer the question of whether or not it even exists.

Moore gets a little further in his quest than I expected him to and his conversations with teachers from various traditions are interesting - when they let him in. For example, the chapter on Father Kennedy is much deeper than his other encounters maybe because Moore actually interviews the man instea
Debra Chalhoub
Aug 19, 2013 Debra Chalhoub rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An easy, humorous adventure to the land of Buddhism. I learned more reading this book than I did in other books on buddhism. I enjoyed the easy pace, the light notes and the humor of his book
Oct 08, 2009 Lorie rated it it was amazing
Loved, loved, loved this book! It made me laugh out loud, while at the same time drove me to ask questions and delve into my own spirituality.
Rebecca Gates
Feb 28, 2016 Rebecca Gates rated it liked it
This book was a flashback down memory lane to when I began exploring Buddhism in the late nineties. I completely related to the author as he dabbles into the various Buddhist traditions and philosophies. It made me wonder if every American discovers Buddhism through Thich Nhat Hanh and Shunryu Suzuki. (or who am I kidding Richard Gere...) I can't tell if I liked the book for the book itself or simply from the nostalgia it brought up in my lapse Catholic soul. If nothing else it reminded me to ju ...more
Feb 27, 2013 Erica rated it liked it
The author describes his journey from frustrated former Catholic to practicing American Buddhist, which all started as a sort of research project about why Buddhism has become (or had become, in the late 1990s) a trendy practice in America. As an American who practices mindfulness—I would not go so far as to say I’m a Buddhist—I could relate to many of the author’s experiences, even if some anecdotes in the book felt slightly outdated. The whole “free Tibet” movement, for example, isn’t quite wh ...more
Oct 28, 2011 Dale rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book - I liked it a lot. Moore's prose is very readable, genuine, and his tale is engaging. As he sought out what direction to take his spirituality, I felt like I was right there beside him.

I was a bit taken aback with all the pot shots he took at Catholicism, however. Now, I realize the Catholicism he was raised with fraught with oversimplification and probably outright misteaching. I also realize that for Moore Catholicism will always be interwoven with what was a troubling child
Feb 21, 2008 Ken rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: the religious and philisophically bent
Shelves: finished-in-2008
One American's search for Buddhism in that moral desert we call the United States. OK, maybe the desert is perfect grounds for this religion. Why else are so many Americans driven if not to embrace it, at least to satisfy their curiosity about it?

Dinty Moore uses humor and an Everyman approach to this now ten-year-old book that still rings true because neither America nor Buddhism has changed much (surprise, surprise). He travels from retreats to meditative circles to concerts in Central Park to
Mar 21, 2012 Holly rated it it was ok
Losing His Religion, and Finding it Again

Moore, Dinty W. The Accidental Buddhist. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 1997. 208pp. $19.95.

The secret to contentedness is not simply revealed to Dinty W. Moore in his book, The Accidental Buddhist. He covers his discovery with several approaches; echoes of memoir, essay, and even place writing are recognizable as he relays travels to Buddhist retreats across the Northeast and the Midwest. Moore begins with a prelude, a memory of Brother Damien the Catholi
Apr 01, 2014 Nagaraj rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Initially I thought this is a kind of biography of the author, however, as I read further, I got lot of info about Buddhism. He explored different meditation practices (Buddhism, Zen, etc.) and gave info about them. One chapter is dedicated to His Holiness Dalai Lama. I love to re-read 12th and 14th chapters one more time. I like the way he end the book also where he says, "if God does exist, I will keep my values. If he doesn't exist also, I keep my values". Easy read and worth reading.
Zev Friedman
I'm currently reading. Just began, but am already halfway through. Being gay, I'm sometimes at a crossroads with Orthodox Judaism, and drop out for periods of time. I love yoga, and thought to check out Buddhism, so this book caught my attention when I saw it displayed at my local library (with other books about religion). I'm finding I really relate! So far, I'm learning that Buddhism is about stillness and silence, and finding that inside you. Well, this is what I've always sought, which is wh ...more
Apr 03, 2013 Mike rated it liked it
Search for enlightenment, travelogue, and coming to terms with the author's "old-school" Catholic upbringing come together in this intro to American Buddhism. He gives life to Buddhism far beyond "Free Tibet" or "guys with shaved heads" that most Americans associate with it. His personal growth, or semi-enlightenment, as he describes it, was compelling - his initial instincts to try to impress those in authority (legacy of Catholicism?) give way to a simpler effort to calm his "monkey mind", tak ...more
Jim Lavis
Feb 20, 2016 Jim Lavis rated it it was amazing
I read this during my vacation last week, and what a treasure it was. With a few exceptions, this could have been my own memoir. The author and I have read many of the same work, and his understanding and experiences go right along with mine. I sure would love to have a cup of Joe with this guy.
Dean Summers
Aug 25, 2011 Dean Summers rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
This is my number-one favorite introduction to Buddhism! It is engaging, readable, informative, instructive, poignant, and funny. It is one man’s quest for an authentic, personally fulfilling, contemporary American expression of Buddhist practice.

There is, however, a very sad undertone. The quest is a quest to fill the heart’s God-shaped chamber, empty, bricked over, and stagnant from the author’s days growing up with a soul-crushing form of religion that passed for Christianity. Though there is
Janet Beneitone
Jul 26, 2013 Janet Beneitone rated it really liked it
I came upon this book on a shelf in a cafe while I was on vacation in Vermont. The shelf contained books that were left by people who were done with them for other people to read in the cafe or take. I stayed in the cafe and read it for several cups of coffee then took it with me. It's about a discouraged Irish catholic man who explores how Buddhism could fit into life in the American culture. If you already know a lot about Buddhism you won't learn much, but I enjoyed it very much. It was light ...more
Mark Flanagan
The account of Dinty W. Moore's 1995 "dharma road trip" around America to visit Buddhist meditation centers, retreats and happenings in search of the heart of Buddhism in America is an honest, funny and self-deprecating (he calls himself "the doofus of dokuson") memoir. What is the sound of one toe dipping into enlightenment?
Joseph (Millennium Man)
Apr 23, 2014 Joseph (Millennium Man) rated it it was amazing
I very much enjoyed this book. Author writes of his road trips to different Buddhist retreats as well as his personal experiences meditating. Written in a personal and fun stlye, I could not help feel like I was along on the journey with the author.
Jerry Wall
Aug 20, 2016 Jerry Wall rated it really liked it
Breezy sort of book on stumbling into Buddhism, though with some aciduity and devotion.
Path to enlightenment starts with "a longing for freedom from problems." p. 41
" the source of our problems is our human weakness, and that weakness is our tendency to become attached."
"Craving something good and hoping to avoid something bad is what causes problems," though
most philosophers say we all do this reflexively as we go through life. p. 44
Jan 22, 2015 Michelle rated it liked it
Had to read this for my English class but it was an interesting story of a former penn state Altoona professors journey of applying Buddhism to his life. If you want a quick and witty read do pick up.
Molly Bunshaft
Jun 01, 2016 Molly Bunshaft rated it liked it
This book is an easy short read if you are just getting into understanding mindfulness. Enough to spark my interest in reading other books on the subject.
Feb 11, 2015 Mckinley rated it really liked it
A memoir, without much Dharma to it. One man's search; the author does adopt a Buddhist approach and practice. It's well written, quick and enjoyable.
Kathe Coleman
The Accidental Buddhist by Dinty Moore
Moore goes in search of the meaning of life and first meets a Jesuit priest, Father Kennedy, who taught Zen. He explained that priests who are in foreign countries try to learn something to bring back to the Church. In Japan Father Kennedy meets Yamada Roshi who had just completed his studies in the US under the tutelage of Bernard Tseutgen Glassman, himself a Jew who taught him the way of Zen. Beautiful short story thats message is to "Be kind, be careful.
Dec 21, 2015 Margie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Full of humor and deep thoughts. Glad I read. Interesting comments on mindfullness and the "industry" of Zen.
Nov 27, 2014 Pixie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
This was an interesting introduction to Buddhism giving a light and playful aspect to one mans search for enlightenment. A fun read.
Jun 22, 2010 Melinda rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone curious about the richness of experience available in North American Buddhist practice
Recommended to Melinda by: my sister-in-law as she prepared for HER first retreat!
This is a "must-read" for anyone contemplating a retreat at a monastery! Moore does a good job of balancing fresh observation of timeless traditions with an appreciation of the richness available in the experience. I had to laugh at what seems to be an inevitable juncture, the time when you imagine yourself sticking out your thumb to get a ride home rather than stay another day. Did he find American Buddhism? Perhaps. Like so many other American dreams when deconstructed, this one revealed commo ...more
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Dinty W. Moore is the author of numerous books, and has published essays and stories in The Southern Review, The Georgia Review, Harpers, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, Gettysburg Review, Utne Reader, and Crazyhorse. He edits BREVITY, the journal of concise creative nonfiction ( and teaches at Ohio University.
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"Self-propulsion," such as biking, walking, canoeing, puts us in touch with the land below and the world around us.”
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