June 6, 2011

The Accidental Buddhist

I wrote a long involved review of this book and then my blog swallowed it, so now I’m thinking that was probably for the best and I’ll just write whatever I remember about the book two weeks after finishing it, which is probably the important stuff anyway.

The book is by an American, Dinty Moore, who sets out to discover how Buddhism looks in its American incarnation and what it might mean for him. In visiting one Buddhist gathering after the other across the country, rather than the academic treatise he expected would result from his search, he learns instead some things that create positive change in his life. He gets happier and spends more time with his wife and child, and finds that the Buddhist ideas that appeal to him don’t conflict with the Christian tradition in which he was raised.

This latter is what was most interesting to me. In being so horrified at and afraid of all the Eastern religions, Christians miss out on a lot of good ideas. All the gods and rituals interest me not at all, but the ideas for a healthy mindset resonate with me and coincide with what I’ve been studying lately about the freedom of being a Christian.

Buddhists practise being in the present, quieting your mind, respecting all living things, and understanding that we are a part of all that’s around us. One of the most interesting teachings to me was one on preferences – ideally Buddhism says you shouldn’t have any, but just appreciate equally the things that are around you, that are set before you and that have been given to you. This attitude of acceptance and thankfulness is a far cry from the constant picking and choosing that is such an important part of my life, and in general of our consumerist culture. We want the best and if we don’t have it, we try harder and get dissatisfied and feel unlucky.

So I’ve been practising odd things, like chewing my food carefully and swallowing it before I take the next bite, getting my racing mind to settle down once in a while, and not being so picky about things.

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