Here you can begin. Everything that you need to begin is here.
The author's ability to help one understand the dharma is a little astonishing. And really very wonderful. He shows
Buddhism in a very objective light while making it personal at the same time. Other authors can't seem to do this. They can either do one or the other. The chapter on karma alone will
obliterate you. I had never seen this before! And I want you to see it to. Everything that you are experiencing at this moment is the effect of some action or thought which was the cause. What you see in your room. What you feel in your body.
What you look like. Your entire range of just being alive is a manifestation of your past actions. It's like science fiction.
He explains this so simply and directly. Everything you see, touch, smell, hear, feel is an outcome of what you have done in the past. The chapters in this book are like little gemstones
that sparkle. Do I like this book? Yes. Do I think that you should buy this book? Definitely.
The author seeks to introduce the reader to Buddhism. My purpose in reading it was to advance a little in my understanding of the way of life, to water the small garden that was there. For me the author really didn't succeed, maybe for a variety of reasons. I didn't come away with a better understanding.
Some things were interesting. Geshe Gyatso writes about the three ways we can use our precious human life (p.32). In the chapter on meditation, he writes about the power of breathing meditation, which I find helpful. The chapter on death, a meditation chapter, was insightful and practical. In the chapter on the Buddhist way of life, he writes about the Three Jewels, as well as compassion and renunciation quite clearly. The chapter on Developing Renunciation was like a meditation on the First Noble Truth, that all life is dukkha. His illustration of the three types of laziness was informative. I also liked Appendix I, on "Going for Refuge".
There are probably many reasons why I had so many problems with the book. Despite the better elements of the work, there is lacking a structure or organization on which to place them. I am used to the traditional way in: the 4 Noble Truths and the Eightfold path. There is no mention of the latter at all! Why is it that I read about "transference of consciousness into another body" on p. 17 and about the 4 Noble Truths on p. 51?
I know that one hang-up I have is dualism. I do not value mind-over-body, as does the author but value both and see each as needing the other. Gyatso's example of going to the moon--mind v. body--is wrong. The mind can have an idea of the moon, but cannot go to the moon. Moreover, just how does the mind come to know the moon?
I know I have a hang-up with past and future lives. The chapter did not clarify things for me in this area. Nor did the chapter on Karma help me. Gyatso values good intentions, which I believe are not enough. Karma sounds so fatalistic. There are set up--almost--class distinctions. It seems like poverty is equated with being bad. Talk about the inability to escape samsara! And since we have countless depictions of the Buddha in the book, why can't we have a depiction of what a "hungry ghost" or a "hell being" looks like?
Gyatso lambastes the concept of anger. There is nothing good about anger. It becomes a buzzword. "Nothing harms us more than anger" (52). The denouncement of anger continues on p. 84. There is more in the book on anger than there is on sangha! I believe there is something good about anger. It helps us overcome obstacles. It is a force in the doing of justice. Gyatso believes that if anger is directed at you, it is because you directed it at someone else in an earlier life. This "blame the victim" way of seeing things will do little to curb anger socially.
I will try another book on understanding Buddhism,