Sunday, September 05, 2004

Awakening the Buddha Within: Eight Steps to Enlightenment (Lama Surya Das)

This book is a wonderful, practical approach to Buddhism with a distinctive Tibetan flavor that takes the study of Buddhism out of the monastic environment and into the real world. The book is written in a very casual, lucid, and concise style that makes the reader feel like s/he's participating in a transformative process that actually can be understood and directed. The author speaks the language of the modern Western world. Some section titles illustrate the point: "Getting Real, Becoming Clued In," "Better Late Than Never," "Avoiding Idiot Compassion." I've read a few books on Buddhism and would say this is by far the most accessible.

The title mentions eight steps: The Noble Eight-Fold Path. These steps are treated individually through a collection of insightful key ideas, fresh viewpoints, psychological tools and techniques, and personal anecdotes. The anecdotes especially give the book a kind of warmth and intimacy that allows the reader to relate to the author on a more personal level. The practical suggestions offered are based on personal life experience and are much easier to take as the author has clearly walked the walk.

Reading this book I found myself repeating things like "wow!", "amazing!" page after page in a seeming continuous stream. Insights galore. It embraces all the traditions of Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana, culminating in Dogzchen. The author seems to describe a kind of evolution of Buddhism that moves from the more disengaged ascetic traditions in the Buddha's day to increasingly engaging life-affirming traditions that take everything we experience as a form of meditation: Krishnamurti's "choiceless awareness." Quite probably the best book on practical Buddhism for the modern Western world.



PART ONE: Discovering Ancient Wisdom in a Modern World

We are all Buddhas
A Tibetan Prophecy
Deconstructing the House that Ego Built

PART TWO: Walking the Eight–Fold Path to Enlightenment - The Heroic Journey

The Four Noble Truths

Wisdom Training: Seeing Things as They Are

・Step One: Right View – The Wisdom of Clear Vision
・Step Two: Right Intentions – Plumbing Your Wise Buddha-Nature

Ethics Training: Living a Sacred Life

・Step Three: Right Speech – Speaking the Truth
・Step Four: Right Action – The Art of Living
・Step Five: Right Livelihood – Work is Love Made Visible

Meditation Training: Awareness, Attention, and Focus

・Step Six: Right Effort – A Passion for Enlightenment
・Step Seven: Right Mindfulness – Keeping Your Eyes Open
・Step Eight: Right Concentration – The Joy of Meditation

Epilogue: Toward a Western Buddhism and Contemporary Dharma

Recommended Reading Index

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