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No-Nonsense Buddhism for Beginners: Clear Answers to Burning Questions About Core Buddhist Teachings

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Presented in a practical Q&A format, No-Nonsense Buddhism for Beginners is the most clear-cut introductory guide to understanding the essential concepts of Buddhism and how they relate to your daily life.

How is an awakening different from enlightenment? Can agnostics and atheists be Buddhist? Am I supposed to stop thinking when I meditate? In No-Nonsense Buddhism for Beginners, renowned Buddhism teacher and host of the popular Secular Buddhism podcast, Noah Rasheta, delivers an easily accessible introduction to the teachings of Buddhism that answers these common questions and many more.

With No-Nonsense Buddhism for Beginners you’ll gain a fundamental understanding of Buddhism and how to apply the philosophies in your everyday life, through:

A simple 4-part structure addressing the different aspects of Buddhism—the Buddha, key Buddhist concepts, the Buddha’s teachings, and current Buddhist practices Straightforward Q&A’s that simplify the vital concepts of Buddhism into easy-to-understand ideas “Everyday Buddhism” Sidebars that make Buddhism less abstract by offering down-to-earth examples from everyday life

Presented in a simple, conversational style, the information and guidance in No-Nonsense Buddhism for Beginners provides the groundwork that is necessary for building or continuing your own Buddhist practice.

125 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 1, 2018

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Noah Rasheta

6 books119 followers

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5 stars
2,396 (56%)
4 stars
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3 stars
404 (9%)
2 stars
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1 star
12 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 386 reviews
Profile Image for Gary Moreau.
Author 9 books235 followers
May 1, 2018
How do you write something new and fresh about a topic that has been analyzed down to its toenails? You have to really “get it” and Naoh Rasheta clearly does. Written in an inspired Q&A format, this book really is “No-Nonsense,” which, of course, to the Buddhist means, “It makes all the sense in the world.”

I am a proud-to-be-an-American Buddhist philosopher who lived in China for almost a decade. Which means, essentially, that I study the teachings of the Buddha, including the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. I don’t, however, meditate, although I do contemplate. And there is a difference.

The point is that whatever you’ve heard about Buddhism is probably both right and wrong. The teachings of the Buddha are so straightforward (notice I didn’t say simple) as to be very difficult to communicate. And, as such, they can take many forms, as evidenced by the large number of Buddhist sects in existence today.

Noah Rasheta, however, does a better job than anyone else I’ve read at pulling it all together. And I perceive he is motivated to do so both because he cares and he appreciates that this lack of discrete definability is precisely what many sufferers in the West need, but which prevents them from finding relief.

The language of Buddhism can be difficult, in part, because there are so many exotic terms used in its ancient teachings. But these terms are not exotic so much as they are merely unfamiliar and I suggest you largely ignore them. And Mr. Rasheta will help. He doesn’t ignore them but he does marginalize their importance for native English speakers.

I like to explain how by using the example of an old tree sitting high up in a mountainous meadow. The tree is real. I can touch it. I can smell it. I can hear the rustle of its leaves. I could even cut it down if I wanted. I can’t, however, “know” the tree. The tree is a product of the things within itself but it is also the product of the climate, the altitude, the soil, the trees and vegetation around it, and an infinite variety of other variables that contribute to defining that tree, and all of which are constantly changing. I can only know that everything is interconnected; to know the tree is impossible, but the tree is real.

Buddhists talk a lot about suffering. And there is plenty of suffering in the world today. But like the tree, we cannot truly know suffering unless we embrace the arrogance that would allow us to think we can truly know it. We all suffer but there is no reason to truly embrace it. And as soon as you don’t, whether it’s in meditation or reading a very good book like this one, you can hold that suffering at a distance. And in its isolation it will dissipate.

Buy this book, read it through, and put it on your shelf to read it again. The writing is simple and clear and full of simple wisdom that you can reach out and touch.
Profile Image for Chelsea.
20 reviews1 follower
May 1, 2018
This is such a great book for anyone looking to learn more about a secular approach to Buddhist teachings. The question & answer format makes it easy to jump around to whatever interests you most, and it is jam-packed full of useful parables and teachings from traditional Buddhist texts. If you’re curious about integrating practical Buddhist ideas into your daily life but aren’t sure where to start, this is the book for you. Highly recommend!
Profile Image for Doctor Action.
486 reviews4 followers
November 13, 2021
Thoroughly engaging trip around the concepts and practices. I'm a middle-aged, non-religious person who feels he could use some input on finding a more restful perspective at this point in his existence. I feel I have already benefitted from the content and believe I will be returning to it. 🙂
Profile Image for Marta.
994 reviews99 followers
March 28, 2020
This book does exactly what its title says: explains the key concepts of Buddhism to complete beginners in plain language. The format is question-answer, none longer than a page and a half, printed in large font. The concepts are illustrated with everyday examples.

I am not a total beginner as I have been practicing meditation and even joined a small local sangha (meditation group). I have read some books, too, but they each address a subtopic or just are a collection of sayings, so I was left with the feeling of knowing bits and pieces but not knowing how they fit together. This is a good, basic book to give that structure I needed to hang the pieces on. Not a book that will make you enlightened - but more of a Wikipedia style “What is Buddhism?”. I found it useful but not terribly deep.
Profile Image for Shauna.
141 reviews2 followers
February 17, 2021
I've enjoy listening to Noah Rasheta's podcast Secular Buddhism since I stumbled across it last year. This book was just as enjoyable and informative. Q&A format, easy to understand and digest therefore leading to actual action.
7 reviews1 follower
May 21, 2019
Very well explained

Rasheta provided a clear and natural flow of Buddhism concepts that made this book easy to understand and enjoyable to read.
Profile Image for Melanie G..
18 reviews1 follower
August 29, 2022
This is the book that cleared up a lot of my misconceptions about Buddhist philosophy and practice, and helped me get over my anxieties about exploring Zen Buddhist community as a complement to my existing religious and spiritual life. Extremely grateful this exists.
Profile Image for Michael Dubakov.
204 reviews124 followers
July 14, 2019
I like short books in Q&A style. They usually fun to read and well organized, thus providing good mental flow about the topic. This book is a good intro into Buddhism and deserves 4.5/5 stars.
Profile Image for Nieve.
13 reviews1 follower
July 23, 2022
I was looking for a simple introduction to guide me on how and what Buddhism is/ does in a neutral way, and this was exactly what I needed! I now know that I do want to look into Buddhism further, as it is fascinating and sounds like it’ll help a lot with understanding myself.
Profile Image for Katie.
1,319 reviews23 followers
January 12, 2019
Disclaimer: this is the first book I’ve ever read about Buddhism (except Siddhartha, which I didn’t realize at the time was actually about Buddhism, but is in my top ten favorite books of all time.). So what I’m saying is, I don’t know much about Buddhism, so this might be totally wrong and I wouldn’t know.

This is truly a fantastic, easy to read and understand book on the bare bones basics. I was interested in learning about Buddhism and didn’t know where to start. I tried a few other books that were specifically marketed to beginners, but after a few chapters, my head was spinning, and I’d get distracted (hey-o Buddhism!) I felt like an idiot for not being able to understand the absolute beginner books and when I saw this one I decided it was “too easy”. Me? I don’t need Buddhism for beginners!


This is exactly that, but I’m so glad I read this because it piqued my interest even more and I feel like I now know enough to understand the more detailed books much better.
Profile Image for Rebekoval.
30 reviews11 followers
February 14, 2021
Really enjoyed this slim, user-friendly introduction to the nuts and bolts of Buddhism. Although I studied the religion in college, this book doesn’t spent much time on the history. Instead, it serves as a guide to the practices of Buddhism and how they can be implemented in your life, regardless of your faith background. I am constantly looking for ways to be more mindful and at peace with the world around me (and my place in it). As a book designed to whet your appetite and encourage you to dive deeper, No-Nonsense accomplished its mission— I have another book on the subject ready to be devoured.
Profile Image for Petr.
403 reviews
July 28, 2019
I really liked this approach of narrowing down Buddhism to answers to a few questions. Each question was answered in at most two pages of clear exposition and as far as I can tell, the answers were correct and captured the main ideas well. The exposition is accompanied sometimes also by practical examples from the author's life. I did not appreciate some of them. However, they usually served as a good illustration of the more theoretical explanation.
Profile Image for Aurelio Rodriguez.
18 reviews1 follower
May 6, 2021
Rasheta does a great job introducing the reader to the principal beliefs and ideas that compose Buddhism. After having taken an introductory Buddhism course this last semester I was intrigued by what I learned and wanted to learn more. This book cemented some of the principles I had learned and broke them down into simpler explanations than the academic sources we had used in class. I also recommend Rasheta’s podcast, Secular Buddhism podcast and website.
Profile Image for awesomatik.de.
330 reviews13 followers
March 6, 2020

Sehr kurze aber sehr klare Einführung in die Kernlehren des Buddhismus. Wer war Buddha, was sind die verschiedenen Strömungen, was sind die Kernthesen und Kernpraktiken?

Vor allem für nicht religiöse Menschen wie mich interessant, weil es vor allem um philosophische Fragen und Praktiken geht, die jeder Mensch unabhängig von seinem Glauben oder Nichtglauben in sein Leben integrieren kann.

Macht Lust auf mehr.
Profile Image for Debbie Boucher.
Author 5 books12 followers
May 22, 2020
This is my other spiritual reading adventure for the year. I recommend it to anyone with questions about Buddhism. It was a quick, informative read that helped me understand a tradition I know little about. The format is such that you can thumb through to your "burning questions." I read this book from start to finish and found it to be an enjoyable, satisfying experience.
Profile Image for emily.
23 reviews
February 1, 2023
This book accomplishes exactly what it set out to accomplish. I love the Q&A format, along with the Every Day Buddhism examples, which helped me understand how the practices can be implemented in daily life. I also enjoyed the quotes included throughout. I’d definitely recommend this as a starting point for anyone interested in Buddhism.
February 27, 2023
This book is great for anyone who is interested in Buddhism or looking to get into Buddhism. The Q&A format of the book makes it an easy read while still being informational. I also like that Rasheta included a glossary in the back of the book to make things easier to look back on, and a reference page for anyone wanting to dive deeper into the subject. Overall, a great read.
Profile Image for Nicholas Finch.
Author 2 books13 followers
October 10, 2019

Written clearly and precisely, and yet not in a way that makes you feel like you’re five years old and stupid.

So for that reason, I’d highly recommend this to anyone who wants to know more about Buddhism, where, and how to start.

Great stuff I’m glad I picked up now!
30 reviews3 followers
March 10, 2020
A very good read for anyone looking to learn about Buddhism. Straightforward Q&A approach makes it accessible, easy to read, and easy to learn from.
Profile Image for Rachel.
142 reviews
September 10, 2020
quick read with an overview but could of gone a bit more into detail and had more of the q and a
Profile Image for Su Neyman.
47 reviews
May 4, 2022
A modern take on ancient teachings. I loved that this book covered all schools of Buddhism rather than focusing on one.
Profile Image for Ali.
85 reviews52 followers
February 22, 2023
The perfect, quick book to read if you know next to nothing about Buddhism (like I did, before reading this!). If you know the basics, though, you can skip it and move on to something meatier.
Profile Image for Dennis Littrell.
1,079 reviews44 followers
June 3, 2018
Rasheta, Noah No-Nonsense Buddhism for Beginners (2018) *****
Outstanding introduction

The literature of Buddhism is vast. There are more sutras than you can shake a stick at, some of them deeply esoteric and some of them contradictory (or seemingly so). Some are anything but concrete and take themselves way too seriously, which is why we have the “correction” of Zen Buddhism.

So, it was a pleasure for me to read this clear and down-to-earth treatise for beginners.

The book is attractively presented, well edited and entirely readable. The only weakness is of course it is only a beginning. But you know the cliché: a journey of a thousand miles begins with…just opening the pages and reading.

Rasheta concentrates on introducing the reader to the core ideas and values of Buddhism using a question and answer format along with illustrative mini-essays. I especially liked “Looking at a River” (p. 118) on impermanence and the interdependence of all things. Earlier in the book (p. 44) he asks the question: “When Buddhists say everything is impermanent, what do they mean?” and answers with another mini-essay that is clear and insightful.

On the grand Buddhist subject of dukkha or “suffering,” Rasheta presents three types: (1) pain, (2) loss, and (3) “all-pervasive.” The latter he identifies as the one “that Buddhism is most concerned with.” (p. 46) He allows that the Pali word “dukkha” can be rendered as “unsatisfactory,” which is how I see it.

I want to say a few words about this essential Buddhist understanding.

The whole point is that it is not suffering per se that is the problem. It is deeper than that. The truth is that our existence, our being is unsatisfactory. The fact that we are pleasure and pain creatures (in the widest sense of pleasure and pain) is unsatisfactory. Living to increase our pleasure or decrease our pain, even if it is the pleasure of doing something good for others is unsatisfactory since we can never get enough of it. We may be sated one day and relax and bask in how good we feel, but the next day will come. And although we may heal today’s pain, the pain from some source will come again another day. And what kind of creatures are we if our highest calling is to avoid pain and to maximize pleasure? How do we rise above that?

The bottom line is, if the pain is great enough we will do what is necessary to end it; and if the pleasure is so wonderful, we will seek it above all else, and that includes mental or “spiritual” pleasures.

Really? Some people kick the heroin habit and some people deliberately suffer great pain to help others. Yes, but they do so because the heroin addiction is not without its terrible downside. So, in kicking the habit they are following the pleasure trail. And those who take risks and suffer to help others do so because that is pleasurable.

If this sounds cynical and something you must reject, consider that the Buddha did in fact say that life is dukkha, and whether we translate that as suffering or unsatisfactory, it is still not what our hearts would desire.

To go deeper, consider that we take up space and energy that other creatures could use. Consider also that however much we want to do the right thing, we are liable to fail some of the time, possibly because of lack of knowledge or skill. Simply put, we may not know what is the right thing to do in some circumstances. It may be enough to say that we did our best; however, if you do your best and someone you love dies because your best wasn’t good enough, that is deeply unsatisfactory, and massively painful.

So, we are flawed creatures living in a not entirely agreeable world.

And this relates to “emptiness,” one of the core understandings in Buddhism. Everything fully understood is “empty” to us, we creatures of flesh and blood, until we personally give meaning to something. But again, the meaning that we give always relates to our need for physical and psychological homeostasis.

On the one hand, on the other hand…. Herbert Hoover famously said he wanted a “one-handed economist.” I think to be a Buddhist in the true sense of the word, one must continually balance what is right and what isn’t and always strive to do the right thing, to have right employment, right intent…, etc.

By the way, Rahseta’s use of the word “beginner” in the title is particularly apt since a beginner’s mind is greatly valued in Buddhism because it is (or should be) an open mind.

--Dennis Littrell, author of “Yoga: Sacred and Profane (Beyond Hatha Yoga)” and other works
July 21, 2022
4/5 | Practical, easy to understand discussion of the basics of Buddhism. I really appreciate how it was presented via Q&A. It made the topics specific and easy to follow. It also didn't sound preachy at all and presented very pragmatically, which I can't say for most books that tackle religion.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 386 reviews

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