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Why I Am a Buddhist: No-Nonsense Buddhism with Red Meat and Whiskey
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Why I Am a Buddhist: No-Nonsense Buddhism with Red Meat and Whiskey

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
Hardcover, 192 pages
Published March 1st 2010 by Hampton Roads Publishing (first published 2009)
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Jason Pettus
Jun 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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 suspect I won't
Sep 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
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, reasonable
Oct 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
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 philosophy helps him live his life and how
Jul 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
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.
Jul 27, 2011 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Oct 19, 2011 rated it liked it
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 coedified in The
Jul 11, 2016 rated it liked it
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
Oct 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Rob Hugi
Sep 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
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 ...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 does like,
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 ...more
Feb 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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, clear-eyed
Jun 16, 2016 rated it liked it
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 and attitudes throughout the book
Chris Aylott
Oct 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
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 problems.

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 ...more
Apr 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Jun 04, 2013 rated it liked it
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 / ...more
Dec 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Dec 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
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.
Apr 19, 2011 rated it liked it
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.
Apr 22, 2012 rated it liked it
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.
Michael Burden
Jun 09, 2014 rated it it was ok
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.
Jan 26, 2013 rated it liked it
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.
Benjamin Schwarcz
Sep 12, 2012 rated it liked it
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.
Mar 31, 2011 rated it did not like it
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.
May 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Krissy Bergmark
Jan 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Awesome! A really reasonable, down to earth read on Buddhism. :)
Feb 08, 2011 rated it liked it
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.
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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 their pilot