The path of practice isn't easy. Ayya Khemma writes in this book her sense and personal experience with important aspects of Buddhist teaching; 4 Nobl...moreThe path of practice isn't easy. Ayya Khemma writes in this book her sense and personal experience with important aspects of Buddhist teaching; 4 Noble Truths, 4 Friends, 5 Aggregates etc and explores the experience of meditation in the Buddhist context. She writes with tremendous depth of understanding that derives from her decades as a Buddhist nun and with clarity and insight that helps the western practitioner come to terms with what are concepts foreign to our own traditions. It certainly helped me at a critical stage in my own practice, just entering the weird world that starts to come into view once the split between ego and the observer takes place. It was to me a very gentle way of understanding the things that were happening to me and of gaining a sense of direction and reassurance that all was well. I am not what I think and that's wonderful!(less)
This book is a handy manual with the main elements of the Buddhist path outlined. I've found it handy to use as a ready reference when reading other t...more This book is a handy manual with the main elements of the Buddhist path outlined. I've found it handy to use as a ready reference when reading other texts as they refer to common teachings and principles.(less)
As someone who had a long experience with the AA program and who was not able to apply it in a time of crisis so that addiction again became a part of...moreAs someone who had a long experience with the AA program and who was not able to apply it in a time of crisis so that addiction again became a part of my life this little book was a life saver! After 10 years of sobriety and then a further 10 years of using, my return to the rooms was very shaky indeed. At another bottom, coming after 10 years of drinking with a head full of AA and no faith, things were looking pretty bad. The alcohol had stopped working and I was trapped with my demons, I knew that there was a solution in the rooms but it soon became clear that the same intellectual approach I had taken before would serve me no better this time than it had the last. I knew that the key was the Higher Power, I had no felt sense of what that meant and I had to have one. The Christian bias that comes through in AA from the both the historical context(the 1930's, 40's and 50's)and the geographical context (the US Bible belt)and the cultural context (Judeo Christian) offered a concept of a Power outside myself that held no weight for me. Intellectually it just made no sense, the clutter of ideology surrounding it was antipathy for me and my life's experience just made mockery of it's basic tenets.
I had been introduced to Buddhism in Vietnam in the 70's and had had exposure to it again in Thailand and Laos during the darkest hours, there was something there but I knew not what nor could I see how it related to my problem with Higher Power.
Kvin Griffin's book helped me make the fundamental connection and pointed the way forward to me. His struggle wit addiction and his exposure to Buddhism came together for him over a long period and in the way of the fellowship his sharing of his story gave me identification and some simple introduction to Buddhist concepts in a twelve step context. He was able to show me that there was a higher power and I didn't need a name and Buddhism offered a connection. That was the starting gun for me, and for the insight, the aha! I will forever be grateful.
For anyone in contact with any 12 step program struggling with the leap of faith that is seemingly being asked of them as a prerequisite for their own survival don't panic! There is a way forward here. In the words of the Buddha "ehi passikho"; come and see for yourself. Believe only what is rings true for you on the basis of your own life's experience. Buddhism may ultimately not be the room behind the door for you but it did offer a key that opened the door to my prison and it is providing the signposts. More shall be revealed(less)
While many years of therapy that involved delving back into a horrendous childhood and service in 3 wars helped me to identify the issues it did not h...moreWhile many years of therapy that involved delving back into a horrendous childhood and service in 3 wars helped me to identify the issues it did not help me to deal with them. The process of ego splitting that is the crucial point for both therapy and Buddhist practice just never happened for me. It would have been helpful if the therapists I had had contact with could have told me and shown me what we were aiming for.
A bit much to ask for, given the perceived wisdom prevailing during the 80's and 90's, but certainly a Mark Epstein would have been a godsend. A psychiatrist and practising Buddhist who understood the process of the journey I found myself on and what Buddhism and meditation offered could have saved me a great deal of suffering with some judicious guidance.
This book fell into my hands at a time when I felt beyond human help and trapped. The deep change necessary for the resolution of my problems had just not occurred. In retrospect I had had the sense that nothing was complete and while form was changed the demons now known, seen and felt were still there. I was them!
The hospitals and psychiatrists treating the war related trauma just kept me trapped in that sense of who I was. I just couldn't break free. It seemed that they had no real idea what to do with what they had brought to the surface and I was certainly not equipped to do anything with it. I was lost in the mind numbing, soul destroying cycle of alcohol,antidepresdsants and hospitalization.
Given my experience now I would have every practising psychiatrist and mental health professional in the west read this little book. What it did for me was to take a newly emergent exploration of Buddhism as a way forward out of the nightmare of depression and addiction and confirm it as true north. It gave me faith that what was beginning to happen for me was understandable in terms and contexts I knew and was in fact the way forward for me. It provided a road map.
The only issue I would want to raise is that the first time I started this book, Epstein's slightly arcane approach through the analogy of the wheel of life obscured the value of what he had to say. I also found in reading it through that my understanding and experience of psychology and psychotherapy were invaluable. I would have been a bit lost without them. I also found that I really needed some understanding if not experience of Buddhist practice to make the most of the book. It helped set me on the path with conviction.
Notwithstanding, I think this book must have been ground breaking when first written and thankfully what Epstein saw as a trend for collusion between traditional western psychiatry and Buddhist psychology today appears to continue.
For the sake of all troubled souls it can't happen rapidly enough.(less)
This is the best how to manual I have read. I recommend it for anyone interested in Buddhist practice and meditation. It will give anyone a great star...moreThis is the best how to manual I have read. I recommend it for anyone interested in Buddhist practice and meditation. It will give anyone a great start on the journey(less)
This is the most important book I have ever read, maybe I feel that way because of all the practical meditation and reading on the Buddhist path I hav...moreThis is the most important book I have ever read, maybe I feel that way because of all the practical meditation and reading on the Buddhist path I have done so it's timely. It gives a scientific and physiological basis for understanding all the changes that have taken place in my life. While demystifying it all, the Buddha never claimed that it was anything but totally human,it just strengthens my resolve with the understanding that it's all real and that the benefits promised are a physiological fact. Put in the footwork and these things will happen.(less)
This book writthen by an amazing woman. She had the spiritual bent to begin with. Without it I think it would have been next to imppossible to do what...moreThis book writthen by an amazing woman. She had the spiritual bent to begin with. Without it I think it would have been next to imppossible to do what she did. She has tremendous insight into the Buddhist path and the following of it. For anyone interested in the Buddha's teaching or meditation it's a very useful book. It shows how another human being has been able to move a great distancve towards what the Buddha taught is our purpose in this life. Her easy style and clarity of understanding mke it a really accessible read. There are Q&A seesions at the end of every chapet presenting questions that many of us have had and her answers illuminate and guide in a very real way. This has been a great book for me. I have been able to translate what is being put into my owqn practice and my life.
I recommend it to anyone and everyone. I hope my kids read it(less)
This is the text book for living life according to the Buddha's prescription. Very helpful and a kind of manual for daily life. It is an important adj...moreThis is the text book for living life according to the Buddha's prescription. Very helpful and a kind of manual for daily life. It is an important adjunct to my own daily practice, I read a chapter at least once a week. It's necessary for me to continually be reminded of the aiming point.It makes accessible some of the more esoteric aspects of the Eightfold path. The path to the end of suffering as set out as the last of the four noble truths. Re redaing it constantly brings to the fore the realisation od justy how big a task living according to this prescription can be while at the same time providing reassurance that it is possible for any of us.(less)
As a Vietnam veteran, this book gave expression to a lot of the confusion and pain that was kind of swirling away right down inside. In some ways it r...moreAs a Vietnam veteran, this book gave expression to a lot of the confusion and pain that was kind of swirling away right down inside. In some ways it really focussed my attention, not only on what was happening to me but what was happeneing to other vets I had seen in hospitals over a period of many years, coping with the same problems. It shook me into realising that in a very real sense I was beyond the help of those who were trying to helpme and often the places I ended up in just helped cement the difficulties into place.I needed to take responsibility for my physical, mental and spiritual condition now, not for the idiocies of our political masters 40 years ago. Enough!
My own journey has taken me into Buddhist thinking and practice, I can honestly say that this path has done for me what no psychiatrist, no pill, no counselor was ever able to do. It has begun to unravel that locked in sense of myself as "my story" which of course included all the evnts I participated in while serving as a soldier in Vietnam in 1970-71 and in Cambodia and Laos in 1972. It isn't personal any longer, it is just a series of events that happened.
While I still have nightmares they lack the terrible intensity they once had. They are no longer capable of crippling me for days and exhausting my very limited supply of compassion for myself and others as they used to.
There is a way out of the nightmare, this path has been my guide and I say to any veteran who still suffer, what the Buddha said to us all "Come and see, for yourself.
I have just finished this book for the second time. I first read it in 2007 when the current part of my journey had just begun. The review I wrote then is above. I was as touched by this account this time as I was the last. The difference is that the wounds are no longer so raw. My practice continues as does the unraveling of the pain. If this account is one man's it also belongs to all who served there in one way or another. The Vietnam experience still reaches into the present in the lives of those who served and in a much wider circle. There are the families, wives and children, parents, siblings and lovers, they all carry their own version of the wounds. They too are part of that section of a generation that was psychologically crippled by the deceit, the futility and the barbarity of that war. Though they live as evidence of what evil ego driven, self righteous politicians can wreak, nothing has been learned. Vietnam veterans everywhere, must weep as I do when I see the same idiocy being perpetrated today and the same blithe political faces rallying the masses around the flag with the fable of Anzac in ways that neither we nor our forefathers would willingly countenance. To top it off they quietly strip those who serve today of the support that has saved so many of our generation, if there is everlasting shame it has a permanent home hanging over Parliament House in Canberra (less)
I am prejudiced so I can't say much. I am sure my experience reading this would be different to yours. Buy a copy hough, help my kid become famous som...moreI am prejudiced so I can't say much. I am sure my experience reading this would be different to yours. Buy a copy hough, help my kid become famous some of ot might rub off on yours truly and I neeed all the help I can get(less)
This was a great overview of the Australian struggle with the Japanese in New Guines in WW2. People don't realise how much we owe to these poorly trai...more This was a great overview of the Australian struggle with the Japanese in New Guines in WW2. People don't realise how much we owe to these poorly trained, poorly equipped, over stretched and outnumbered men. No book can ever describe with any real accuracy the diificulties, the suffering, the agonies and the brutality of this episode in Australian history but this one gives a good taste. Thank god that Damien Parer and Chester Wilmott were there lest the efforts of these common yet uncommonly courageous men would have submerged into history under the gloss of self promotion generated by those two grossly overated human beings and if possible more grossly over rated military leaders Blamey and McArthur.
To their everlasting shame these two pumped up, arrogant, self promoting bastards were carried to glory by the sacrifices of outstnding men at the front.(less)
This is a very personal account of one man's war, set in the very earliest days of the US commitment to Vietnam. It is told with scarifying clarity an...moreThis is a very personal account of one man's war, set in the very earliest days of the US commitment to Vietnam. It is told with scarifying clarity and honesty that sets it among the great literature that came from the First World War, from authors like Owen, Graves Sassoon and Remarque- towering story tellers of that horrific tragedy whose words Caputo acknowledges as a primary influence in the style and presentation he has employed to tell his tale.... and what a tale. Anyone can feel, and taste and smell that place; can sense the frustration and numbing experience of climate and terrain; can exhaust themselves in the gradual disintegration from being a "good man" into something evil. For those of us who were there, particularly in combat this book cannot help but invoke a kaleidoscope of memory much similar to that described by Caputo at one point. For most of us, our time there is nothing but that a kaleidoscope of vignettes cobbled together by the skein of emotion that is our felt sense of what it was for us. That skein holds us, I am sure all of us who lived it,in its thrall still, even to this day when we are now old.
This is an important work in part because of the time in which it is set, those heady early days when the rot had yet to set in. What is so clear from this account is the presence of all those elements that would later be drawn out as contributing so much to America's demise in that war, both its physical and its moral demise. The accountants mindset where all was judged by numbers, the body counts and kill ratios, the de-huamization of the Vietnamese, the creation and support of the counterfeit universe, the lack of leadership at Battalion and Regimental level, the provision of sub standard equipment, the corruption and inefficiencies of the regime being supported,the total unpreparedness of US forces to fight such a war ....and on and on it goes. The writing then was on the wall in 1965 for anyone who was prepared to read it and no one who had reputation, career, pride or arrogance tied up in the venture was so prepared.
The account of the incident that resulted in a charge of murder and a court martial just showed so clearly how "there but for the grace of..." applies in these kinds of circumstances, the way in which "the machine" created to fight that war resulted in the complete dismemberment of the souls of so many. That without the balance of "good purpose", nothing but some philosophical ideal driven by the political right and the American belief in its own omnipotence, was at stake here. "It don't mean nothin" the universal response by soldiers on the to pain and hardship was born out of that absence of any greater guiding principle for which the fight was conducted.
For those of us who saw it and went through Vietnam, the parallels in Iraq and Afghanistan have been almost too much to bear. It seems that nothing has been learned in America or in Australia, still riding the coat tails of Uncle Sam into another misadventure. It is truly pitiful to see....again!(less)
Placed in context this is an amazing piece of work. It's two books in one really,a history, (and a primary source at that to some degree because he wa...morePlaced in context this is an amazing piece of work. It's two books in one really,a history, (and a primary source at that to some degree because he was there during much of what he describes)and a journal of some very touching vignettes from that experience. In a way I think the book would have been better if the vignettes had been separated out from the history and presented in another place or at the end of this volume, but that is just a matter of organisation that in no way detracts from the content.
The French debacle in Indo China has been largely overshadowed by the American debacle which followed it. Such that we lose sight of the fact that it lasted almost as long with a much higher casualty rate (just over 90,000 dead as opposed to just over 60,000 American dead) and with a greater proportion of French troops engaged in combat.....and the fighting was fierce indeed with a myriad of last stands by small dedicated French soldiers who covered themselves in glory, if there is any such thing in a bloodletting on this scale.
Fall has the gift of vivid description which set him apart as one of the outstanding journalists of the 20th century and what he describes here sometimes left me stunned, at others just took my breath away.
The great pity of it all is that the Americans in their arrogance, backed by vast material resources simply went in and repeated many of the disastrous moves the French had already proven to be ineffective and ignored some of the lessons about what would work much to their cost. They might actually have blundered their way to military victory except that the one lesson they ignored totally was the lesson to never underestimate the particular enemy on that particular ground. They did continually for decades. In that ignorance they gave no credence to the central assumption of the Viet Minh and later the North Vietnamese that no European power had the stomach for a prolonged and drawn out slaughter and that if they the Vietnamese could make the price paid for the venture high enough over sufficient time the resolve of their enemy would simply collapse; and it did on both occasions.
I probably enjoyed this book so much because I served in Vietnam in 1970 and 1971 and later in Cambodia and Laos in 1972 so the ground and much of the timbre of Fall's experience is familiar ground to me. I felt that I was sharing an experience rather than just reading about one. I also spent some time in the 70's in the company of a Legionnaire who had fought at Dien Bien Phu. Much of what I read here brought back memories of those conversations, one old soldier to another.
Not enough credit is given to the French servicemen who fought with tremendous bravery on so many occasions during this war in engagements that drew little notice then but which would have drawn international attention and accolades had they enjoyed the coverage the Americans did later. I am full of admiration for the soldier on the ground, they did all that was asked of them and so often much more; even if that is tempered by disdain for the policies and conduct of French politicians and at times their High Command.
The stupidity of the American decision makers and military leaders who followed the French into this cauldron is beyond comprehension when it was all there before they set foot on the ground. This book itself was published in 1961 4 years before the commitment of major US ground forces.(less)