Sunday, March 7, 2010
I got an email from a wonderful friend of mine the other day asking about Buddhism. I typed my response to his questions, and later thought that it may, in some way, assist others that had similar questions. I'm by no means an expert, so your mileage may vary.
Zen, or more generally, Buddhism is many things to many people. For some it's a religion, for others its a personal philosophy. The great thing about Buddhism is that it doesn't care one way or the other. No one will ever tell you what to believe; this is right and this is wrong, this is good and this is evil; Buddhism lets you make those decisions for yourself.
As far as books, there are a plethora; most of which are very ethereal and difficult to understand for the brand new lay practitioner. Having said that, my favorite book in this whole world is Lama Surya Das', Awakening the Buddha Within. I read this book every year, and while Surya Das is a very practiced Buddhist he only uses Buddhism as a framework to find greater spirituality in one's life. So it's really applicable to everyone that is seeking. Surya Das' book serves as a great primer for Buddhism and how it can fit into and augment your daily life. That's my number one recommendation.
As stupid as you may think it is, Buddhism for Dummies or Idiots is a good book to sort of help you make sense of the larger things that you may see or feel. In other words, what is the difference between Soto Zen, Rinzai Zen and say Tibetan Buddhism? It helps you understand the major muscle movers.
I'm just back from Haiti, now working on the ambulances for a few days before I jet off to Mexico for a few months. Good luck in your search.... I hope that you find nothing (Zen koan).