Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Why I Am a Buddhist” as Want to Read:
Why I Am a Buddhist
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Why I Am a Buddhist

by
3.49  ·  Rating details ·  274 ratings  ·  42 reviews
Profound and amusing, this book provides a viable approach to answering the perennial questions: Who am I? Why am I here? How can I live a meaningful life? For Asma, the answers are to be found in Buddhism.
There have been a lot of books that have made the case for Buddhism. What makes this book fresh and exciting is Asma's iconoclasm, irreverence, and hardheaded approach
...more
Paperback, 245 pages
Published June 1st 2011 by Paul Watkins (first published 2009)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Why I Am a Buddhist, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Why I Am a Buddhist

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.49  · 
Rating details
 ·  274 ratings  ·  42 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Start your review of Why I Am a Buddhist
Jason Pettus
For those who need catching up, I'm spending the summer reading a bunch of random books from my local library on the subject of Buddhist meditation, after starting a secular form of meditation in my own life and having a friend recently remark that my insights about the practice sounded "accidentally Buddhist" to them. (See my review of Start Here Now for the entire backstory.)

This is one of the last books of the reading project -- I've burned through about ten of them now, and I suspec
...more
Alexis
Oct 11, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
Four and a half stars. I love, love, loved this book. This was one of the books that I just pulled off the shelf during a recent visit to the library. So glad I did!


Did I mention that I LOVED it?

Stephen T. Asma is a man after my own heart. He came to Buddhism the same way I did- reading about mysticism, rock music and the Beats (Except he did a lot more drugs than I have ever done- hi mom!)

Anyway, this is a no-nonsense guide to how Buddhism and Buddhist
...more
Sara
Sep 01, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spirit
This one man's rational experience with Buddhism written in an accessible, non-pious voice. His life isn't perfect, Buddhism helps him cope, and doesn't require anything in return. Asma dismisses religious constructs that control the seeker with gains & losses in the next world, contrasting them with Buddhism's focus on the now, and the ending of human suffering.
He also *eviscerates* the new age-y "think it and it will be" crowd (I loved that part).

I enjoyed his intelligent, rea
...more
Tobey
Jul 09, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asianstudies
As a buddhist who is sick of all the books in the stores about buddhism being either zen or tibetan it is nice to read a book that is less 'new age' and more about the reality of buddhism.
Ami
Jul 27, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
Certainly an interesting take on applying Buddhism in a Western context. Asma is well-grounded and critical of new-agey, "hippie" incarnations of Western Buddhism that currently flood the market, although he does ramble on a bit about the Beats & their forays into Zen debauchery. The first chapter is a witty narrative of his path to Buddhism, via other "high school subcultures", followed by a chapter of applying Buddhist principles like "eon perspective" to parenting. I thought he was genera ...more
Emily
Dr. Asma, a practicing Buddhist living and working in Chicago, explains that the goal of Buddhism is “liberation from ego.” As a sometimes “frazzled father,” he recognizes that it's not possible for him to be a “cave-dwelling monk” or to be completely freed from experiences and feelings. However, by finding a Middle Way between extremes and applying mindfulness, we can be more effective and less overwhelmed by the stress and worry of daily life.

A basic foundation of Buddhism is coedi
...more
Sasha
A solid enough introduction to Buddhism for your average secular Western type. To be fair, I don't think I'm the target audience - the smug dismissal of theism, etc., didn't really ring my bells, and this book, along with other works by Jay Michaelson and the like strikes me as Dude Buddhism. There's something DIY and happily rugged individual-that-not's-an-individual in the godfree, un-handholding universe that doesn't appeal to me, but YMMV.

Decent and even-handed discussion of meditation-heav
...more
Rachel
Oct 18, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book, it was funny at times, very informative and definitely opened my eyes to the possibilities of Buddhism in Contemporary Western society. If you are unsure about or skeptical about Buddhism and want to see real life examples of how it can be adapted into Western culture this is the book for you.
Steve Greenleaf
What questions would I like to have addressed concerning Buddhism? What perspectives would I find most helpful in better understanding Buddhist tradition and practice? What do the author and I share on our paths toward Buddhism? Let me offer a checklist and apply it to this book.

How did the author first come into contact with Buddhism?

Like many Western Buddhists, I first came to understand the fundamentals of the dharma by reading books. Most Western Buddhists have grown up in families that we
...more
Rob Hugi
Sep 10, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: god-books
I picked this up because of my longtime, on and off interest in Buddhism, but I found it pretty idiosyncratic to the author and ended up giving most of it the very lightest of skims. What I read tended to support my by impression that much of the practical parts of Buddhism are similar to my way of thinking and living, but I don't feel like further study would yield any benefits for me.
Craig Bergland
Jul 19, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: buddhism
I had high hopes early on - the author writes engagingly and with great humor about his experiences as the parent of a young child and its impact on his self-understanding and spirituality. Toward the middle of the book it became clear that, for him, the valid parts of Buddhism are those that are empirically provable by science. He dismisses mysticism and metaphysics as irrelevant and misleading, the stuff of superstition. The fact is, however, that there is much of life that isn't empirically v ...more
H.A. Fowler
Not very good. Why is this guy a Buddhist (although the way he talks about people and things he disagrees with doesn't seem very Buddhist to me -- especially his rants about how Buddhism needs to be more "kick ass" or manly or something. Oy!)? Apparently, from what he says in this book, it is because he doesn't like anything else. He doesn't like anything metaphysical, he doesn't like being told what to do, he doesn't like anything that relies on faith... and the list goes on.

What he
...more
Frank Jude
I would have LOVED to like this book more than I did. Asma sounds more like the kind of "buddhist" I am, and yet there is something about how he says things that sound 'off.' At times, he sounds like yet another of those rational, naturalists who, rather than just say out front that this is their take on Buddhism, say that this is what the Buddha really was about! I think, most probably not! BUT that doesn't matter for me. I practice and teach the take on the Buddha's teaching I think makes the mos ...more
Kevin
Jun 16, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had a definite love-hate relationship with this book....

Essentially, the author was rebelling against the New Age hippy-dippy lets-all-sing-Kumbaya-around-the-drum-circle metaphysical stuff and eventually discovered and found solace in Buddhism.

A lot of his anecdotes probably resonate more with older readers than young, but it's still a fairly entertaining story of his experiences along the path.

That being said, there were enough few cringe-worthy comments a
...more
Jeff
Feb 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Vanessa, Valerie, Brian
Recommended to Jeff by: Deb
Shelves: favorites
"No-nonsense Buddhism with red meat and whiskey," the subtitle says it all. Asma brings out the main tenets of Buddhism and looks at them through the prism of being a single Dad raising a very young son by himself. He also applies his love of jazz music and his times as a member of a band to his understanding of what Buddhism means.

He goes out of his way to be respectful of other world religions and makes very few comparisons, but Asma shows that Buddhism is a vibrant, contemporary,
...more
Chris Aylott
Oct 02, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Now that's more like it.

Asma explains his "red-meat Buddhism" with wit and grace, summarizing the ancient principles and showing how they can be applied to modern life. A musician as well as a philosophy professor, he has a strong appreciation of the connections between Buddhism and creativity; a secular Buddhist, he is also quick to criticize the streak of magical thinking that runs through the practice. His Buddhism is a method for improving the self, not a magic wand to wave at pr
...more
Cate
May 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I didn't know much about Buddhism when I started reading this book but most of the things i thought I knew were confirmed. It feels like I may be an uneducated / untrained Buddhist at heart... just need the practice! ;) This is less a rules & regulations explanation of Buddhism than it is an explanation of how Asma came to Buddhism and the bits of it that resonate with him enough to keep him engaged in the practice. Asma's style is easy to follow and wholely relatable and, in places, quite h ...more
AngiJo
Apr 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Asma is quite honest and his writing conveys loads of confidence in beliefs. Giving readers a fresh take on Buddhism, he explores the religion through the lenses of music and parenthood -- perspectives that I do not believe are widely written about. Atman's research supports his assertions. This can only be expected since the book is written by a guy who non-apologetically rejects the idea of the metaphysical and anything else that is difficult to prove. Why I Am Buddhist is definitely one I wil ...more
Glen
Jun 04, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A pretty standard "What is Buddhism" tome filtered through the lens of someone from Chicago (enough said?). There are parts of it that are enlightening re the history of Buddhism in general, but too much time was spent justifying the author's non-Buddha like behavior (at least the stereotypes) by some pretty fantastical stretches of logic and reason (and history). 3 stars for some of the history, especially if you are interested in Buddhism without all the Eastern / New Age / Incense / Ommmmmmmm ...more
Michael
Dec 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: buddhism
I really liked this book as it gave a pretty relaxed and informal approach to people discovering Buddhism. It brings in Buddhist perspectives and aspects of the religion in a nice simple way that the author found helpful in his discovery for a religion that finally fitted in with his own values and belief systems. I enjoyed his humorous approach to his escapades and discoveries and it was a great read. Highly recommended.
Sarah
Dec 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dhamma
Funny and insightful book on the philosophical side of Buddhism. Loved it until the end when he kind of just started to seem arrogant. I ended up skimming the last pages because I found myself rolling my eyes a lot. Not very Buddhist of me, but I really appreciated the majority of the content. It's a great book for people who don't necessarily want to follow Buddhism as a religion, but still want to practice the ideas.
Marge
Apr 19, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes, I found the language didn't quite fit the seriousness of the subjects Asma discussed, but, in general, I was happy I read this book. Notions I particularly found new and interesting were: some coverage of Buddhism's history, political and otherwise, in its early years; the notion of Buddhism as a Second language, in the west, after the first "language" of Christianity or Judaism or whatever the inquirer was raised in.
Michael Burden
Good story of how Asma found his way in the world through Buddhism. This was well written and a good read, but I guess Buddhism isn't my thing. I like how it's not transcendental, but I don't like the dulling of pain and pleasure to end suffering. Yes, it is suffering, but it's also amazing. I'll stick with keeping my senses fully open to everything and experience life in the raw. Good intro to Buddhism and good info. It's just not for me.
Teresa
Apr 22, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An entertaining but also informative narrative about the history and practice of Buddhism. The author is funny as he shares his own life struggles and the role that Buddhism and meditation have played in his life. He is not a hard core Buddhist but exams more practical ways that Buddhism interweaves with everyday living. He points out that Buddhism is not a religion as much as a way of thinking about life.
Benjamin Schwarcz
mostly disappointing. I had high hopes when i read the title. Seemed like a cool way of looking on modern buddhism to me. But most of the time, he just compares Buddhism to other religions (and talks in a dismissive way about them) or tells about his kick-ass experiences. Doesn't feel very buddhistic to me.
Jena
Jan 26, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Gods Drink Whiskey is one of my favorites, so this was quite a disappointment. Felt like an introduction to too many different topics and not enough 'meat' on any single one. A few interesting tidbits here and there, maybe a better read for someone looking for an overall survey of Buddhist concepts.
Jennifer
Mar 31, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I actually had to stop reading this book. It was just awful. The author seemed like he was trying to convince his audience that it was perfectly okay to pick and choose his way through Buddhism. Then on the other hand, he belittled anyone who didn't agree with him.
Ori
May 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
a very good book that try to introduce people to a Buddhism without the new age vibe and how to become an Buddhist without changing tour entire life, one problem is he like to talk abut his history to much
Rory
Feb 08, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm going to update this review later, but for now, let's say that it was kind of a mixed bag. Batchelor's book is better.
Krissy Bergmark
Jan 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Awesome! A really reasonable, down to earth read on Buddhism. :)
« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Milk and Honey (Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus, #3)
  • Stalker (Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus, #12)
  • Grievous Sin (Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus, #6)
  • Bone Box (Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus, #24)
  • Sanctuary (Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus, #7)
  • False Prophet (Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus, #5)
  • The Mercedes Coffin (Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus, #17)
  • The Spirit Box (Sherlock Holmes)
  • The Burnt House (Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus, #16)
  • Prayers for the Dead (Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus, #9)
  • Day of Atonement (Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus, #4)
  • Jupiter's Bones (Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus #11)
  • Serpent's Tooth (Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus, #10)
  • The Forgotten (Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus, #13)
  • Crisis
  • A Kind Man
  • Oolong Dead (A Tea Shop Mystery, #10)
  • Wild Chamber (Bryant & May #14)
See similar books…
50 followers
Stephen T. Asma is Professor of Philosophy at Columbia College Chicago, where he holds the title of Distinguished Scholar.

He is the author of "Why We Need Religion" (Oxford) and "Against Fairness" (University of Chicago Press), among others.

In 2003, he was Visiting Professor at the Buddhist Institute in Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia. There he taught "Buddhist Philosophy" as part of
...more