lördag 21 mars 2015

Bookreview: Why i am a buddhist


The book takes a grounding in the life and thoughts of the author Stephen T. Asma. 
From there we go through the Buddhist basics in a ”no-nonsens with redmeat and whiskeyway” as the frontpage of the book says.Asma is professor of philosophy and interdisciplinary humanities at Columbia College in Chicago. He has written extensively on Buddhism and taught it at the university level.

Asma does a good job laying out the basiscs of the basics of Buddhism in a very elegenagt punchy style which will attract people of all ages. Providing just enough technical language to educate the reader without getting bogged down in Sanskrit terms or doctrinal details is another one of the upsides. 
His chapters on Buddhism and science and Buddhism and the arts are good. He deconstructs the quantum mechanics mysticism that seems popular in New Age thought and demonstrates the connection between Zen and the arts in a nice way. 
He puts forth the notion for thinking about Buddhism in terms of a "first language" (cultural Buddhism) and a "second language" (learned Buddhism). He also makes a great deal of the difference between what he terms "Chicago" Buddhism and what he sees as a more New Agey form of California Buddhism.
Asma also talks about how there are two main groups of Buddhists, all variations aside. There is the group which grows up with Buddhism and a a second group which comes to Buddhism later in life, seeking it out. A topic he covers fairly well in the exposee.
He also talks about the attraction of Buddhism and Buddha, and does a good job about it.

The author teaches philosophy at a Chicago college which makes me wonder why he wrote this book as he did, maybe as some sort of textbook to be used at his lectures, as there is plenty of anecdotes who would work there. But then comes the question on why would he then leave so much out that needs to be in a comprehensive  book about Buddhism and why does he include writings the way he does.
He attacks views of spirituality and schools of Buddhism and dismisses them right off, which makes no sense.
His discussion of cravings, for example, is all about romantic love, which could be a good start to the chapter, but where's the rest?
The chapter on parenthood leaves a lot, even though he showes he is protective of his kid, there is not much buddhistparenthooding in the chapter. His ending chapter, in which he looks at Buddhism and the global stage, he both outlines the attacks on and uses of Buddhism but includes an assault on Islam in favor of Christianity. It makes for an final example of the uneven quality of the sections in the book - some are very good and others are not. 
Near the end we come back to the message of balance. 
Buddhism is all about the middle road. 
Buddhism is a practice of both mind and body, you cant just read/write or just sit your way to it's core. 
But with a bit of practice, and/or editing Asma might might get it, just as you can.

Thank you for your practice.


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