Buddhism Is Not What You Think : Finding Freedom Beyond Beliefs

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2010-02-17
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publications

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Bestselling author and renowned Zen teacher Steve Hagen penetrates the most essential and enduring questions at the heart of the Buddha's teachings: How can we see the world in each moment, rather than merely as what we think, hope, or fear it is? How can we base our actions on reality, rather than on the longing and loathing of our hearts and minds? How can we live lives that are wise, compassionate, and in tune with reality? And how can we separate the wisdom of Buddhism from the cultural trappings and misconceptions that have come to be associated with it? Drawing on down-to-earth examples from everyday life and stories from Buddhist teachers past and present, Hagen tackles these fundamental inquiries with his trademark lucid, straightforward prose. The newcomer to Buddhism will be inspired by this accessible and provocative introduction, and those more familiar with Buddhism will welcome this much needed hands-on guide to understanding what it truly means to be awake. By being challenged to question what we take for granted, we come to see the world as it truly is. Buddhism Is Not What You Think offers a profound and clear path to a life of joy and freedom.

Table of Contents

Prologue: See for Yourself xi
Paradox and Confusion
Stepping on Reality
The Problem with Eradicating Evil
We've Got It All Backward
The Itch in Your Mind
A Mind of Winter
No Mystery
Rebirth, Not Reincarnation
The Deep Secret in Plain View
The Warp and Woof of Reality
Neither Sacred nor Profane
Canyons in a Cup
Just Seeing
The Revelation of the World
Liberation, Not Resignation
The Host Within the Host
Before Ideas Sprout
True Freedom
Misguided Meditation
Turning Things Around
It's Enough to Be Awake
Life Without Measure
The Most Valuable Thing in the World
Before We Say
Needle in the Water
Why Seek Liberation?
Pure Mind
The Thing Well Made
Transforming Heart and Mind
Truth Is Nothing in Particular
Without Religious Egotism
Getting Out of Your Mind
Forsaking Understanding
How Do We Know?
Nothing Else
It's Not a Matter of Belief
How to Be Liberated on the Spot
This Will Never Come Again
The Elixir of Immortality
Ice Forming in Fire
Purely Mind
Time and Now
Epilogue: Reality Is Not What You Think 251(2)
Acknowledgments 253(2)
About the Author 255


Buddhism Is Not What You Think
Finding Freedom Beyond Beliefs

Chapter One

Paradox and Confusion

If you visit a Buddhist temple in Japan, you'll likely encounter two gigantic, fierce, demonlike figures standing ateither side of the entrance. These are called the guardians ofTruth, and their names are Paradox and Confusion.

When I first encountered these figures, it had never occurredto me that Truth had guards -- or, indeed, that it needed guarding.But if the notion had arisen in my mind, I suspect I wouldhave pictured very pleasing, angelic figures.

Why were these creatures so terrifying and menacing? Andwhy were the guardians of Truth represented rather than Truthitself?

Gradually, I began to see the implication. There can be noimage of Truth. Truth can't be captured in an image or aphrase or a word. It can't be laid out in a theory, a diagram, ora book. Whatever notions we might have about Truth are incapableof bringing us to it. Thus, in trying to take hold ofTruth, we naturally encounter paradox and confusion.

It works like this: though we experience Reality directly, weignore it. Instead, we try to explain it or take hold of it throughideas, models, beliefs, and stories. But precisely because thesethings aren't Reality, our explanations naturally never matchactual experience. In the disjoint between Reality and our explanationsof it, paradox and confusion naturally arise.

Furthermore, any accurate statement we would make aboutTruth must contain within itself its own demise. Thus such astatement inevitably will appear paradoxical and contradictory.In other words, statements about Truth and Reality arenot like ordinary statements.

Usually we make a statement to single something out, to pinsomething down and make it unambiguous. Not so if our businessis Truth. In this case we must be willing to encounter,rather than try to evade, paradox and confusion.

Our problem with paradox and confusion is that we insiston putting our direct experience into a conceptual box. We tryto encapsulate our experience in frozen, changeless form: "thismeans that."

Ordinary statements don't permit paradox. Rather, they tryto pin down their subjects and make them appear as real andsolid as possible. Ordinary statements are presented in thespirit of "This is the Truth; believe it." Then we 're handedsomething, often in the form of a book or a pamphlet.

But all statements that present themselves in this way -- whether they're about politics, morality, economics, psychology,religion, science, philosophy, mathematics, or auto mechanics -- are just ordinary stuff. They're not Truth; they're merely theattempt to preserve what necessarily passes away.

When we claim to describe what's Really going on by ourwords, no matter how beautiful, such words are already in error.Truth simply can't be represented.

We want Truth badly. We want to hold it tightly in ourhand. We want to give it to others in a word or a phrase. Wewant something we can jot down. Something we can impressupon others -- and impress others with.

We act as though Truth were something we could stuff inour pockets, something we could take out every once in awhile to show people, saying, "Here, this is it!" We forget thatthey will show us their slips of paper, with other ostensibleTruths written upon them.

But Truth is not like this. Indeed, how could it be?

We need only see that it's beyond the spin of paradox thatTruth and Reality are glimpsed. If we would simply not try topin Reality down, confusion would no longer turn us away.

What we can do is carefully attend to what's actually goingon around us -- and notice that our formulated beliefs, concepts,and stories never fully explain what's going on.

Our eyes must remain open long enough that we may besuddenly overwhelmed by a new experience -- a new awareness -- that shatters our habitual thought and our old familiarstories.

We can free ourselves from paradox and confusion onlywhen we set ourselves in an open and inquiring frame of mind while ever on guard that we do not insist upon some particularbelief, no matter how seemingly well justified.

If it 's Truth we're after, we 'll find that we cannot start withany assumptions or concepts whatsoever. Instead, we must approachthe world with bare, naked attention, seeing it withoutany mental bias -- without concepts, beliefs, preconceptions,presumptions, or expectations.

Doing this is the subject of this book.

Buddhism Is Not What You Think
Finding Freedom Beyond Beliefs
. Copyright © by Steve Hagen. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from Buddhism in Not What You Think: Finding Freedom Beyond Beliefs by Steve Hagen
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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