Nathan's Reviews > Buddhism Plain and Simple

Buddhism Plain and Simple by Steve Hagen
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Mar 26, 2016

bookshelves: nathan-library, theme-cockeyed

Hagen is incredibly gifted in the art of explanation. Of the books I’ve read on Buddhism, this was by far the clearest and most concise. He packs the essence of the religion into a tidy 150 pages.



The book helped clear up many of my misconceptions about Buddhism. Hagen lays out the buddha-dharma view simply: “An ordinary person is simply one who is not awake in this moment; a buddha is a person who is. That’s all.”



Throughout the book, Hagen italicizes every use of the word “see.” This seems to be core. “Right view,” he writes, “is simply seeing Reality as it is, here and now, moment by moment.” And again, “The point of Buddhism is to just see.”



While this sounds poetic, as I continued to read I started to wonder how (within Buddhism) a person would know if what he was “seeing” was reality or not. Those who aren’t awake, aren’t seeing--but aren’t seeing what? Who or what distinguishes between what is real and what isn’t?



In fairness, this book aims for explanation, not persuasion. Still, while some of the points Hagen makes can hold water, others leak like a sieve. Hagen’s description of Gautama (or “Buddha”) is only two pages. (I did appreciate this, as I’ve gotten confused following other books’ extensive description of the religion’s history.) But to trace all the ideas backward and see that ideas of “seeing” come from this one man’s experience under a tree is unnerving at best. For all the Buddha really knew, instead of awakening, he may have fallen into a yet deeper sleep.



Hagen left me unconvinced, yet more informed. With minimal lingo and talented writing, Hagen's work is best for those looking to learn the basics. Buddhism Plain and Simple is a perfect title.

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03/26/2016 marked as: read

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