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What Makes You Not a Buddhist

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  5,767 ratings  ·  350 reviews
Dzongsar Khyentse is one of the most creative and innovative young Tibetan Buddhist lamas teaching today. The director of two feature films with Buddhist themes (the international sensation The Cup and Travelers and Magicians), this provocative teacher, artist, and poet is widely known and admired by Western Buddhists.

Moving away from conventional presentations of Buddhist
Hardcover, 128 pages
Published December 5th 2006 by Shambhala (first published 2006)
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Cucoo Well that's not true at all. It's not important tp believe in past and future lives.…moreWell that's not true at all. It's not important tp believe in past and future lives.(less)
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Sean Barrs
If Khyentse read this he would tell me that I'm not a Buddhist, which would be a fair remark, for I am not yet. This book did not help me on the journey towards it either, as a teacher Khyentse is not one whose words I’d listen too.

The author debunks many of the popular misconceptions associated with the belief system, and he delves deep into one of the main truths that drive it. The recognition of impermanence is the key. Nothing is lasting. Our own expectations can only lead to misery if they
Tricky book to read and to review... I remember reading it about ten years ago, disliking it and giving my copy away. After a conversation with my friend Amanda, to whom this book was recommended by a fairly reliable source, I wanted to check it out again. Maybe I had read it wrong the first time?

I understand that Khyentse wanted to take some erroneous Western misconceptions about Buddhism and Buddhists and debunk them, and I find that both interesting and important. There are a lot of really we
Jun 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
When I started this book, I thought, "Oh, cool, a great book for those new to and curious about Buddhism. He's dispelling a lot of common misunderstandings about Buddhism that I don't have but that I know a lot of other people have -- like that we all have to be vegetarians, etc. And he's so charming and knowing and wry. Great book to read then recommend to family."

But as I kept reading, I became more unsettled. DKR discusses the four truths that essentially define Buddhism, and throughout the
May 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a challenging book. I love the author's direct, irreverent and humorous approach, and it is mostly rational, not steeped in mystical double talk if you think about it. I read parts of this twice - I was bothered by it, for sure, and still am. Of the 4 seals, 1, 2 and 4 seem like no brainers - 1, everything changes and is impermanent, 2, no emotions are purely pleasurable (“all emotions are pain”) - if we're wanting pleasure, then we're wanting the absence of the opposite, which is imposs ...more
Mar 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This short, concise book simply rocks! Incredible introductory Buddhist book for anyone with even the slightest interest of understanding Buddhism. Must read.
May 11, 2012 rated it did not like it
I really didn't like this book for a number of reasons. First, the Buddha that Khyentse presents is not the Buddha that I have come to admire and respect from reading other books. Khyentse's Buddha flies and does other supernatural things. For me, the appeal of buddhism is its practical nature. The Buddha is an inspiring figure precisely because he was an ordinary human. His teachings appeal to me (as I have encountered them) because it doesn't incorporate a whole bunch of hocus-pocus like relig ...more
Gordon Young
Dec 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosphy, buddhism
I love the way this guy cuts right to the point - he's not caught up in teaching a religion. Instead, he talks about the basic observations about existence that the Buddha noted, and the practical implications of those. IMHO, "Buddhism" is a set of instructions for dealing with the situation in the most beneficial way that Siddhartha could come up with at the time - and so I don't know if I exactly agree with the idea that accepting the 4 marks of existence as an accurate depiction of reality ma ...more
Apr 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: buddhism
So you think you're a Buddhist, eh? With wit and irony, Khyentse lays out the "four seals" at the heart of the Buddha's teaching.

You are a Buddhist if you accept the following:

1. All compounded things are impermanent.
2. All emotions are pain.
3. All things have no inherent existence.
4. Nirvana is beyond concepts.

Easy, eh?

Don't forget to check out the Rinpoche -- as the major reincarnation of a famous Tibetan Lama (who's impermanent and has no inherent existence, mind you) -- he's attractive in
Jan 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion
Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse's What Makes You Not a Buddhist is perhaps the most perfectly worded book on Buddhism that I have ever read. Here are no endless systems of classification reaching to infinity. Instead, Khyentse discusses at length what he calls the four seals of Buddhism:

(1) All compounded things are impermanent
(2) All emotions are pain
(3) All things have no inherent existence
(4) Nirvana is beyond concepts

There are no sesquipedalian Sanskrit terms, just a discussion of each of the four
Thiago Marzagão
Sep 04, 2018 rated it did not like it
So, a true Buddhist:

- believes in mystical nonsense like "nirvana is beyond concepts" and reincarnation and that Buddha was capable of flying.
- believes in profound-sounding mumbo-jumbo like "all composite things are impermanent".
- believes that "One of the main effects of science and technology has been to destroy the world more quickly." (Never mind all the suffering that vaccines, penicillin, and anaesthetics have prevented, or that the world has never been so peaceful and prosperous.)
- belie
Jul 24, 2010 rated it did not like it
I read a few chapters but had to stop when my eyes got sore from too much rolling. Too bad you can't choose zero stars. Gratuitous pop culture references, needless trashing of world religions. I know it's not Buddhist to judge-- so hey, I guess he's right! ...more
Dr Zorlak
Sep 05, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: religion
Venerable Dzongsar Khyentse sounds a little bit angry and anti-Western. In fact, he is very anti-democratic and a homophobe for sure. Not the best book on Buddhism, but it gets the job done for analyzing the main tenets of the notion of impermanence.
Jan 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in Buddhism
If you've never been interested in the concept of Buddhism, then I'd ask you to give this book a miss. It will feel like a series of disjointed sentences taking about an abstract concept, not only impractical but also not from this era.

This book is a must read if you fall into any of these categories -
1. You are a wannabe Buddhist (am saying this without judgement). You've visited a bunch of Buddhist monasteries and have quite some Buddha statues collected from all over. You don't think it's fa
Mar 09, 2017 added it
Being born into a Buddhist family in a Buddhist country automatically made me a Buddhist from birth- and before there is confusion on that due to what I write next I would like to declare that I am a Buddhist. But I have always believed that religion should not be inherited, rather, with the realization gained through contemplation and practice it should be adopted by individuals based on their awareness informed by experiences.

I do wonder at times if the Buddhism I practice is adequate because
Lynn Flewelling
Mar 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Khyentse effectively demystifies Buddhism, scrapes away Western misconceptions, and lays out the structure of this philosophy in clear, eloquent terms.
Feb 02, 2020 added it
Shelves: buddhism
This is my first book-length reading on Buddhism (at least the first one I've completed), obviously I already have some preconceptions, because I've been arguing with the text the whole way.

It's also obvious that I'm not very humble about this, as much as I'm learning new information, I can't help but to suspect the way this particular "explainer" is written is rather problematic. It did claim that Buddha contradicts himself in order to condescend to "idiots" so as not to scare them away, and on
Angela Dawn
A title only a Buddhist could truly understand naturally intrigues me...this is on my list to read.
I love the way the title points up the concept that, in our finiteness, we can only really define things by defining what they are not.
That our minds lack the capacity to conceptualize what we truly are, (when we only think of ourselves as our solid and important selves), formless and void, nothing, merely a transitory and conditional movement of energy, that amounts to something as vague as infor
Jul 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The phrase that sticks out in my mind from this book is "naked babies missing their sex organs" (he's talking about cherubs in Christian art).

So: hilarious! This is a fresh, witty book that challenges (and even gently mocks) the certain, um, less aware forms of western Buddhism that have developed. Where by "less aware", I mean "Orientalist" and maybe even "ignorant" - but Rinpoche is much too kind to say something so mean. Nonetheless, he DOES provide a very readable, informative guide to help
Jun 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I read this book with the intention of better understanding Buddhist thought. There are many seeming contradictions that exist in Buddhism, and being trained in Western philosophy I find some of them dubious, but I read it with as open of a mind as I could given my philosophic and religious state. What I found interesting is that anyone who has ever told me that they are interested in Buddhism have never mentioned the four–or three depending on the school–seals and their importance in grounding ...more
Steve Woods
This is a great little book. it is very clear and presents some of the most daunting concepts of Buddhist thought in a way that anyone can understand. It addresses the essence of what it is to be a Buddhist in practice; what that means to the way we conduct out life. It's a terrific introduction that may whet the appetite for something more orthodox. Even if a reader goes no further, a serious consideration of what is being put in this book could fundamentally alter the quality of the experience ...more
Jul 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spirituality
For those just beginning to contemplate buddhist theology, this book is a bit esoteric. The author explains the "four seals": All things are impermanent. All emotions are pain. All things have no inherent existence. Nirvana is beyond concepts. For me, it clarified a few fine points like that karma is gathered by consciousness...if your conscious self acts out of greed or aggression, negative karma is generated.

"It's time for modern people like ourselves to give some thought to spiritual matters,
Craig Werner
Jul 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
If you're fairly well versed in the basics of Buddhism, knock off a star. The virtues of the book are simplicity and clarity, appropriate values for what's essentially Buddhism 101. Khyentse emphasizes the "Four Seals" (not to be confused with the Four Nobel Truths), stressing the impermanence of all compounded phenomena (which entails everything). There's a bit of "self help" style rhetoric in the style, but it grows directly out of the vision, so it never becomes intrusive. ...more
Mar 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Phenomenal read that gets to the depth of Buddhism and doesn't sugar coat things. Khyentse uses the basics of the four principles and finds enlightening ways to illustrate them into some that's both complicated and simple at the same time. A definite read for anyone who wants to learn less on practices of Buddhism and more about the heart of it. ...more
George K. Ilsley
Nov 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Written on the shore of Daisy Lake and polished In the Himalayas. Dzongsar has had it with Buddhist books in the self help section of the new age bookstore. Not For Happiness is a bold title. What Makes You Not A Buddhist is what really makes you uncomfortable. Buddhism is not for happiness, this teacher goes on to tell us.
Apr 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, buddhism
“What Makes You Not a Buddhist” by Dzongar Jamyang Khyentse is a short, direct and confrontational book. The author examines the Four Noble Truths as revealed by Gautama Buddha as the “baseline” of Buddhism. He rejects and criticizes all labels and identities, which is a bit uncomfortable, and seems to have made many readers defensive. In doing so, he forces us to confront ourselves. It isn't the best book for beginners to Buddhism. It's a great book for challenging what YOU think you'll get ...more
This is one of the more accessible books on Buddhism I have read. The author does a good job of explaining the fundamental tenets and beliefs of Buddhism, and I would recommend for that reason.

Where the author loses me is in claiming that Buddhism is not a religion. Yet the origin story of the Buddha is a mythic epic, where Siddhartha faces demons and gods. As is often the case with believers of any faith, his own faith seems so true that it cannot possibly be compared with another religion, and
Jim Lavis
Apr 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
I’m not sure the Title of this book represents the content very well, because the author doesn’t disclose the connection till the end of the book. That being said, the title did catch my attention and influenced my decision to purchase this book in a positive way, but I do believe the title is misleading.

I looked at few reviews of this book, and I understand why some of the readers felt the concepts were too simplistic, but in some sense that is the beauty of the work. I’ve been studying Buddhi
May 23, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a lovely book by author Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse which I picked up in Paro, Bhutan. The author was born in Bhutan and is a monk. Written ten years ago, it describes what Buddhism is (and what it is not) through a modern lens. It is easy to read and the fourth chapter brings it home in terms of what it means to be Buddhist: accepting impermanence, emotions are pain, things do not inherently exist, and nirvana is unknowable. These 'seals' form the view which is what defines being buddhist ...more
Sonia Uttamchandani
Jun 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
I think few books on Buddhism are written as lucidly and with a practical bend in mind as this one. I thoroughly enjoyed the "modern" language of the author, flow was exciting, wanted to keep on reading and discovering, the analogies and examples given are contemprary and useful to keep in memory.
Most important it made Buddhism alive for me as practical, easy to understand and practice and also relevant for day-to-day.
Its a book I wish to read, and read and recommend to others too.
C. Varn
Jun 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book introduces you to the essential propositions of Buddhism--although it is admittedly from the Vajrayana point of view as one can see in his extensive use of Milarepa and examples from Words From My Perfect Teacher as well as Mahayana Sutras and Nikyana Sutras--in a way that addresses many of the pressures of the modern world. Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche approach is to radically contextualize the Buddhism message (largely from the Nyingma perspective) and integrate it into modern ...more
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Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche was born in Bhutan in 1961 and was recognised as the incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro (1894-1959). From early childhood, he has studied with some of the greatest contemporary masters, particularly his father, H.H. Thinley Norbu Rinpoche and H.H. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

From a young age he has been active in preserving the Buddhist teachings, establish

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