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Why I Am a Buddhist: No-Nonsense Buddhism with Red Meat and Whiskey [Format Kindle]

Stephen T. Asma

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Descriptions du produit

Présentation de l'éditeur

Profound and amusing, this book provides a viable approach to answering the perennial questions: Who am I? Why am I here? How can I live a meaningful life? For Asma, the answers are to be found in Buddhism.

There have been a lot of books that have made the case for Buddhism. What makes this book fresh and exciting is Asma's iconoclasm, irreverence, and hardheaded approach to the subject. He is distressed that much of what passes for Buddhism is really little more than "New Age mush." He loudly asserts that it is time to "take the California out of Buddhism." He presents a spiritual practice that does not require a belief in creeds or dogma. It is a practice that is psychologically sound, intellectually credible, and esthetically appealing. It is a practice that does not require a diet of brown rice, burning incense, and putting both your mind and your culture in deep storage.

In seven chapters, Asma builds the case for a spiritual practice that is authentic, and inclusive. This is Buddhism for everyone. This is Buddhism for people who are uncomfortable with religion but yearn for a spiritual practice.

Biographie de l'auteur

Stephen T. Asma is professor of Philosophy and Interdisciplinary Humanities at Columbia College in Chicago. He has written books published by OUP and Harper

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 1458 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 192 pages
  • Editeur : Hampton Roads Publishing (1 mars 2010)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B003IT6CKW
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  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°639.296 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)

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Commentaires en ligne

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Amazon.com: 3.9 étoiles sur 5  50 commentaires
45 internautes sur 49 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Why Buddhism? 15 mars 2010
Par Robin Friedman - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
The reasons for a person's religious belief, or lack of belief, are highly personal, especially for individuals who adopt a religion other than their birth religion. Much can be learned too from a religion without becoming a formal adherent. Thus, I was eager to read Stephen Asma's new book "Why I am a Buddhist". I have been studying Buddhism for many years, mostly in adult life, and was eager to compare my experiences with Asma's. In addition, I am aware of the diverse nature of the appeal Buddhism presents to many Americans, as this diversity is suggested in the subtitle of Asma's book, "No-Nonsense Buddhism with Red Meat and Whiskey."

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 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 is a musician who has played jazz and blues on the guitar for many years. My background in philosophy and in music (playing classical music on the piano) further attracted me to this book.

Asma writes in a colloquial, punchy style that will probably be of greatest appeal to young people. The book wears its learning lightly with many references to popular American culture as well as to scientific literature and to Buddhist texts. The books' style results in a mixed feel. Portions of it didn't seem especially useful to me, but much of the book spoke with insight. I attend a Buddhist Sutta studies course, and found Asma useful to our ongoing discussion of detachment and sexuality as it related to a specific Buddhist text. Asma's comments on sexuality and on Buddhism and art seemed particularly good, and much of the rest also was valuable. Thus, I found the book helped explain the attractions of Buddhism, for Asma and for others and for myself. In the rest of this review, I focus on those portions of Asma's discussion of Buddhism of most interest to me.

Well, what then is the appeal of Buddhism? Many Americans learn from Buddhism because they find themselves unable to believe in theistic forms of religion and yet seek a spiritual basis for their lives. This is the fundamental appeal of Buddhism to Asma as he recounts how he spent a rebellious adolescence moving from religious skepticism to a turn to Transcendentalism, and ultimately to Buddhism with its emphasis on change and on the here and now and its rejection of fixed transcendent entities such as God or gods and the soul. Asma views the Buddha as a philosopher, and this is certainly an important part of the attraction Buddha has for many Americans. (Asma also distinguishes American forms of Buddhism from the varying forms of cultural Buddhisms found in Asia.)

As Asma's understanding of Buddhism deepened, he came to learn from it a great deal of the nature of desire, its causes, and its control. This too is something I have tried to learn from Buddhism with, as in the author's case, limited success in putting it into practice. Asma developed an understanding of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism and of the value of meditation and concentration in curbing the passions to avoid being ruled by them. Asma teaches his own version of the Buddha's teaching of the "Middle Way" which for him involves accepting the passions without being overcome. He is particularly concerned, as most people probably are, with sexuality and erotic passion. I found what Asma had to say valuable and linked well to Buddhist teachings and my own experiences.

Other chapters of the book explore Asma's adventures as a single, divorced parent in raising his son, including the need to curb one's expectations and desires, to control one's own ego, and to let go. These are each valuably Buddhist lessons. Asma also finds in Buddhism a tolerant, accepting attitude towards the sciences which does not require the rejection of modern inquiry in the name of religious faith. Asma seems to qualify or reject Buddhist teachings that, in some form, may conflict with scientific teachings of with the Western mind. Thus he has critical things to say about Buddhist teachings of rebirth and karma. In these respects, his teaching owe a substantial amount to another contemporary Buddhist writer, Steven Bachelor, in his book "Buddhism without Beliefs". Buddhism Without Beliefs: A Contemporary Guide to Awakening

Asma appealed to me with his discussion of Jack Kerouac and with his analogies (which the Buddha also drew) between attaining religious insight and learning to play a musical instrument. The unhappy details of Kerouac's own life sometimes detract from the importance of his understanding of Buddhism as shown in his "The Dharma Bums" The Dharma Bums (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) and his biography of the Buddha, "Wake up". Wake Up: A Life of the Buddha And Buddhism resembles playing an instrument, whether blues guitar or classical piano, in the long-term practice and devotion that each require, learning every step of the way. Asma concludes his book by developing his analogy: "In both ventures, my skills wane significantly if I don't practice... Sometimes I challenge myself and run headlong at stuff that's over my head, and other times I lay back and just find the groove. My goal is not extreme virtuosity in Buddhism or music, but well-rounded living." In other words, there is always more to learn in playing music and in practicing Buddhism. This is the case, of course, with any religion.

Readers interested in Buddhism and in the appeal it has to a diverse spectrum of Americans will enjoy reading Asma's fine and personal book.

Robin Friedman
40 internautes sur 45 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Blue-Collar "Chicago Buddhism" 26 février 2010
Par Amazon Customer - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
There are a lot of good things about this book. The author, Stephen Asma, does a great job laying out the basics of Buddhism, providing just enough technical language to educate the reader without getting bogged down in Sanskrit terms or doctrinal details. He provides an important framework for thinking about Buddhism in terms of a "first language" (cultural Buddhism) and a "second language" (learned Buddhism).

But parts of the book are quite disappointing. The author teaches philosophy at a Chicago college and I suspect that he wrote parts of this book to serve as a textbook in his classes. Some of the chapters seem very much directed at an adolescent population. His discussion of cravings, for example, is all about romantic love. Then he has a chapter about being a parent that has only a rather tenuous connection with the concept of "no-self" that is the purported subject of the chapter. It does include some very entertaining anecdotes that I'm sure work well in the classroom.

His chapters on Buddhism and science and Buddhism and the arts are much better. He demolishes the quantum mechanics mysticism that seems very popular in New Age thought and demonstrates nicely the connection between Zen and the arts.

"Chicago Buddhism" is his term for a Buddhism that is separated from what he calls "hippie" values and is more based in the gritty details of everyday life. I liked his ideas about Buddhism being a force that can help neutralize our Western consumerism. But his ending chapter, which discusses a more "muscular" Buddhism with examples of violence in Buddhist countries, ends with an odd essay on the struggle between Buddhism and Christianity in modern China that seems to have little to do with the rest of the book. It's a final example of the uneven quality of the sections in the book - some are very good and others are not.
44 internautes sur 57 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 disappointing slide 23 mars 2010
Par Amazon Customer - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
I started this book really enthused and excited. The early parts are interesting and full of life and an interesting point of view. Toward the middle of the book, that began to change and went downhill quite rapidly.

It began to fall apart in the section on relationships. The author's inability to see how his own attachments to ideas and rules about relationships cloud his attempts to rationalize problems in this area as a part of some great spiritual quest. The fact that he quotes Freud, Plato, and Darwin in his discussion of relationships pretty sums up the whole problem with how he views this area. He also begins to reveal his reductionist materialist views by treating human consciousness as just chemical fluctuations, but more about his mistaken scientific interpretations later.

In the section on parenting, he reveals his lack of understanding of his own behavior and the inability of his Buddhist leanings to combat his dangerously aggressive reactions to perceived threats to his child. Punching cars which get too close and nearly wrecking his car while trying to keep a mosquito off his child (to whom wrecking the car would have caused FAR more harm) shows an incredible immaturity and irrationality, born at least in part from an amplified case of "first time parent" syndrome. His romanticizing of parenthood clearly reinforces that assessment.

He really lost me when he attacked "mystical" views of spirituality and several important schools of Buddhism - for example, characterizing Tibetan Buddhism as a "distortion" and dismissing it. His attempts to use science as a method to "disprove" mysticism was humorous at best. Like most pathological skeptics, he mistakes a clever use of poorly understood models for reality.

The basis for these attacks is clearly demonstrated to be a reductionist, materialistic view of reality which embraces the highly distorted pablum of mainstream science. In his discussion of physics, his lack of understanding of modern physics becomes glaringly obvious. In trying to debunk the "mystical" view of quantum physics, he confuses the wave-particle duality with the principle of indeterminism, which are two very different things. He also shows an absolute lack of knowledge of the serious research which has been done in the areas he is discounting, which is the exact opposite of a scientific attitude. On the science he gets a complete "fail."

As concerns his attempts at religious history in Asia, I am going to have a friend who seriously trained in this area go over the book and let me know what he thinks. If the author approaches this area with the same rigor as his science knowledge, I fear another major "fail."

Despite his apparent fondness for Buddha's original exhortation against dogma, the author seems to have more than his share to dish up, despite liberal quotes and stories about Kerouac and Ginsberg.

In the final analysis, it all just doesn't ring true. There are many parts which are interesting and quite good, but the overall feel and problematic areas of inaccuracy pretty much ruin the book for me.
10 internautes sur 13 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 One Man's Journey through Buddhism 19 mars 2010
Par Lisa Shea - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
Why I Am a Buddhist by Stephen Asma is subtitled "No-Nonsense Buddhism with Red Meat and Whiskey". You might think it's a how-to guide on being a Buddhist while maintaining your fun passions for steak and alcohol. However, what this really is is one man's personal biography of his path through Buddhism. It's not about sweeping generalizations, and it spends a lot of time focused on Asma's love of Beat literature and Blues music. With that in mind, it's a lot of fun to read and it does provide a solid background of historical information as well.

Asma explains how there are two main groups of Buddhists, all variations aside. There is the group which grows up with Buddhism as a "native language", considering it as natural as speaking and breathing. Then there is a second group which comes to Buddhism later in life, seeking it out. He finds that generally the first group tends to be devotional, weaving their Buddhism in with their praying and dreaming. The second group tends to be drawn by the meditation / psychology aspects of Buddhism.

On to the topic at hand. Buddhism was never about vegetarianism! Buddha himself ate meat. He had *tried* the aesthetic path - and rejected it. He found a life of denial was not one that worked. What Buddha preached was moderation - and care for others. Yes, eat chicken, but make sure it had a happy life. Yes, eat a cow, but make sure it was well cared for.

This moderation extends into all areas of life. Be patient, take your time, and prepare yourself before you act. People who marry before the age of 24 are 37% likely to divorce. People who wait until they're 35 are only 6% likely to divorce. That is a HUGE difference. He talks about being willing to look straight-forwardly at the reality of a situation and either accepting it or moving on. "You cannot date a boy and expect him to be a man," he advises.

He talks about people who spend their time and money serving a God. To Asma, funneling all that cash and precious minutes could have a far better purpose. The God does not need your help - but needy fellow humans do. If you have time and money you can spend, then do so in the service of others.

He provides some interesting metaphors to think about. To explain how energy moves from person to person and from generation to generation, he has us imagine a candle. Now imagine we light as second candle from the first, and blow the first out. Then we light a third candle from the second, and blow the second out. It's not the same candle, or the same flame, at the third candle. However, the energy is all related.

Asma is a great proponent of the arts. He feels creating and enjoying works of art ARE acts of meditation, activities which can bring you great knowledge and insight. Meditation is not solely about going within to a space of quiet. It is also about drawing new thoughts and connections from something visual / sense related.

There are giant sections on things Asma loves. Sex. Parenting. Dizzy Gillespie. Kerouac. If you're bored with these sorts of topics then you'll find yourself skipping a bunch, but people who feel a kinship will get even more out of the book. Near the end, there is a section which is actually more of a "functional Buddhism" instruction set, on how to be serene and happy at work. It is almost odd to find that how-to information after all of the rambling memoirs. You're told that being happy is *internal* - if someone bugs you, let it go. Your serenity is inside.

Another metaphor which is worth pondering is about growing a garden. Say you plant lettuce, but it doesn't grow well. You don't scream and yell at the poor wilted lettuce plant. Instead, you check the water levels, you check the fertilizer, you watch the sun. You figure out what is not providing the lettuce with what it needs.

Near the end we come back to the message of balance. Buddhism is all about a middle road. If you train yourself to love expensive food, then you'll always be at the whim of making and having money. If instead you learn to love simple foods, good friends, and intellectually challenging activities, then you'll always have those by your side and be quite content.

Similarly, the internal satisfaction of being able to do something well - write code, make a chair - *anything* - can never be taken from you. Find what you love to do and learn how to do it well. Your skills and your inner serenity can never be removed.

There's an interesting section on why some areas of the world have conflicts with Buddhism, when this should be a peaceful way of life. He explains that Buddhism, like all religions and paths, has its healthy and unhealthy practitioners. Just like some churches became obsessed with wealth and stole from people, so did some Buddhist monks become very wealthy and power-hungry at the expense of the poor. Some Buddhists would uses torture and violence against any who threatened them. This would then (naturally) cause others around them to be upset with their activities.

Buddhism is about a peaceful path - but not about being a doormat. Asma tells about a dragon who talks with a Buddhist and who decides to become Buddhist. He stops blowing fire and becomes very quiet. The local children start tormenting him - poking his eyes, throwing rocks at him. When the dragon asks the monk what he should do, the monk tells him to blow some fire. Not to hurt the children - but to keep himself safe and to draw a boundary line of what behavior he will accept. In the same way we should all be peaceful, but we should speak up respectfully for ourselves if we are not being treated well.

The book could use a bit of editing. For example at one point Asma says, "the Buddha offers a simile (SN 47.20) ..." What is a SN? This book is written for newcomers, so some description would be nice.

There are also some statements which I'd like to see more backing for. Apparently people whose ring finger - on their left hand only! - is longer than their index finger has extra testosterone in their body.

I did not enjoy how he dismissed some points of view as "childish". Surely if he has a rational reason for disagreeing with someone he can state what that rational reason is instead of demeaning them. He says things like "Dream it, and it will happen ... somebody get me a bucket." I'm annoyed by both his rude statement and his callous dismissal.
19 internautes sur 26 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
1.0 étoiles sur 5 A Shockingly Awful Book 11 avril 2011
Par Kindle Customer - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
The kindest thing I can say about Dr. Asma's book is that he manages to explain some of the basic doctrines reasonably accurately. There are hundreds of other books in print that provide better explanations, however, and often Asma reveals he just plain doesn't know what he is talking about.

As a Zen student of several years, it is obvious to me that Asma's knowledge of Buddhism comes entirely out of other books, not from personal experience within any Buddhist tradition. He talks about Zen quite a bit, for example, but his ideas about Zen are grounded in the long-ago days of Jack Kerouac and the Dharma Bums. And judging by his photo, Asma wasn't yet born during the Beat Zen era. Asma reveals no connection with, or even a dim awareness of, contemporary American Zen, which is a far cry from the "Bohemian" Zen of his romantic fantasies.

Asma's tone is glib, shallow, and self-centered. He belongs under a bell jar in an exhibit titled "What's Wrong With Western Buddhism."

If you are looking for a "no nonsense" role model for living as a Buddhist in today's western culture, read Brad Warner.
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