Jason Pettus's Reviews > Why I Am a Buddhist: No-Nonsense Buddhism with Red Meat and Whiskey

Why I Am a Buddhist by Stephen T. Asma
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it was amazing
bookshelves: contemporary, self-help, nonfiction, far-asia

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 find any other books in other library branches that will be too fundamentally different than the ones I read at mine -- which makes it ironic that this turned out to be the best out of all of them, or at least "best" when it comes to my specific personal goal of finding a book about Buddhism that approaches it from a decidedly secular standpoint that's friendly to atheists like me, and that uses the everyday language and vernacular of contemporary Americans instead of drowning itself in hard-to-pronounce foreign terms from thousands of years ago. A blue-collar Chicagoan professor at Columbia College who unapologetically eats red meat and drinks liquor on a regular basis, Asma in fact seemingly wrote his book specifically with someone like me in mind, a refreshingly down-to-earth look at the philosophical real-world underpinnings behind so many of the most famous concepts in Buddhism, deliberately written with an eye towards how it can practically help in the day-to-day lives of most ordinary people, regardless of whether they're ready to convert to Buddhism or even really have much of a spiritual bent at all.

This really helped me understand the self-directed insights I've been having this year, after starting to apply daily bouts of mindfulness and "gratitude journaling" into my life (after first learning them in the computer-programming bootcamp I attended last year, of all places); and it's been enlightening (so to speak) to realize that just the natural things I've been noticing about the world and myself because of these new activities actually have deep roots in the very heart of what Buddhism is supposed to be about. This especially applies to what's turned out to be the most beneficial thing that's come out of my mindfulness experiments, the way it helps stabilize my mood and keeps me on an even emotional track no matter how particularly bad or good that particular day went for me; and out of all the books I've read this summer on the subject, Asma was the only one to share a well-known simile about this (the "Six Animals" simile from the Samyutta Nikaya, discussed on page 125 in Asma's book) that made the entire subject just immediately sort of click into deep understanding in my brain.

Although there are of course better books out there for people seeking other things from Buddhist writings than me, I can honestly say that this was the best one specifically for those like me who are not particularly religious, who cast a skeptical eye towards all the New Age hippie baggage that usually come with American Buddhism, and who mostly want to understand this subject in terms of how it can affect just their normal, day-to-day lives out in the secular world. I'm grateful to have finally found a book like this before my summer reading project ended, and it comes strongly recommended to the kinds of people I just described.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
June 22, 2016 – Shelved
June 22, 2016 – Shelved as: contemporary
June 22, 2016 – Shelved as: self-help
June 22, 2016 – Shelved as: nonfiction
June 22, 2016 – Shelved as: far-asia
June 22, 2016 – Finished Reading

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message 1: by spikeINflorida (new)

spikeINflorida Sounds great. I've been looking for something like this to better understand Buddhism and how it applies to my worldly views.


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