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“Hagan’s book will appeal to readers interested in what true Zen practice is supposed to be about beyond all the popular images and colorful stories” Robert M Pirsig New York Times bestselling author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance   Bud. I really like this book in fact I reread it this fall The concepts behind Buddhism are so elegantly simple yet I find them difficult to absorb and digest I guess that s the challenge right Hagen writes in a clear and straightforward way illustrating major points of the religion with everyday examples to which the average Western reader can relate I find him to be an inspiring and thought provoking teacher and I would recommend this book as a good place to start if you are interested in Buddhism

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Buddhism Is Not What You Think Finding Freedom Beyond Beliefs

Dhism is Not What You Think is a clear direct and engaging guide to the most essential elements of spiritual inuiry attention intention honesty with oneself compassion and the desire to awaken A renowned Zen teacher Steve Hagen offers a valuable hands on gu. I prefer uites over reviews53According to Bodhidharma and to Zen if we make enlightenment or enlightened people into something special and set them apart from others and from ourselves we abuse them In the process we also abuse ourselves Thus enlightenment becomes remote otherworldly mysterious and seemingly virtually impossible to realize Zen is about freeing ourselves from such deluded thinking 57 58Try to nail down what anything is You can t It s like trying to answer the uestion Is that you in your baby picture What can you say You may say Yes that s me But obviously it is not You re not a baby But can you say No Who is it in the picture then And if you say That was me how could you still be you if you re six times bigger and far articulate Indeed what does you refer to And if you say It s both me and not me what can this mean Have you ever seen anything that both is and isn t what it is And if it s neither you nor not you what are we even talking about If we really look carefully such simple everyday uestions as these can set our minds spinning There s nothing absolute about our objects ever even though we usually think there is We uietly assume a cup is a cup is a cup But where can we draw the line between the cup and everything else If you pay very close attention you ll see that you can t 68 69 The sound of the bell is inseparable from everything that came before and that will come after as well as from every thing that appears now This includes your eardrum which vibrates in response to it It includes the air which pulses with varying waves of pressure in response to it It includes the stick that strikes the bell It includes the metallurgists past and present and those who learned to extract metal from ore and those who fashioned the bell And it includes that ancient furnace that supernova obliterated long ago in which this metal formed Remove any of these indeed remove anything at all and there can be no sound of the bell The sound of the bell is thus not the sound of the bell It is the entire Universe 75 76We can look deeper to an awareness characterized by Thoreau s famous uote In wildness is the preservation of the world In the city for better or worse everything is planned Every thing is put there for some purpose for good or ill convenience or decoration Nature on the other hand is unintentional Nature doesn t try to do anything produce anything or accomplish anything Nevertheless nature does produce a great deal But nature produces things in a radically different way than human beings generally do Most human actions come out of our intentions our desires our attempts to bring about certain situations and our yearning to prevent other situations from occurring In contrast what nature produces is without purpose intention or will This is because there is nothing outside of nature for it to act on or for or againstSo I would modify Thoreau s words and say that in wild ness is not only the preservation of the world but the revelation of the world Often we imagine that there s some particular thing or entity God say that made the world and that now runs it With such a notion in place we soon start talking about this entity as if it had attributes like us as if it had wants and de sires We talk of the will of God Soon we re developing ideas of how people should comply with God s will But if we look carefully at this we ll discover that this is just our putting our ideas of God that is our will onto un willed nature onto Reality If we think of God or whatever overarching principle we might have in mind as being out there we should realize that all we are doing is projecting our own attitude our own view our own small mind on the world and on others The intention and will that we find surging within us which all too often govern our minds and justify our motivations for doing this or not doing that come about because we re locked up in our petty egos because we forsake the Reality of the Whole We see ourselves separate and removed from the Whole and from everything else out there Thus we feel compelled to do something about our situation which only furthers our discontent We feel we have to protect this well loved thing we call me or I And we also want to please this I creature And so we find ourselves filled with longing and loathing This is delusion It s what most often characterizes our minds We don t recognize that our way out of such sorrow is simply to see not to fix something out there 98Once this moment is seen for what it is there s no believing in a universe consisting of a tiny isolated you that is distantly viewing everything out there There s no need to protect and defend yourself against out there or to get earn or coax good things from it This is liberation enlightenment freedom of mind It s the very opposite of resignation it s the dissolution of the desire to get everything you want or to do whatever you please You already have the capacity to see Truth right now You don t and can t get this capacity from another not from me from this book from Buddha or from anything or anyone else How could you possibly get what you already have No one can pin you down no one can call you back Just as no one binds you no one blinds you 114 115To act or not act is not the real uestion For the awakened what comes first is simply being awake seeing what s going on And in seeing what s going on in this moment appropriate that is natural action can occur Kuei shan said Why interfere When we act out of see ing we are no longer interfering with the world instead we are operating the way the natural world operates out of the Whole out of Totality For the awakened the primary concern is simply to see what is taking place and to act in accord with it This is how the awakened differ from those of us who are caught up in delusion It s a very subtle uiet and gentle point but its implications are total Realizing this creates a complete transformation of heart and mind Enlightenment is nothing than this to be fully present to see the grasping nature of our own minds and not to act out of that grasping It s to see ourselves not as separate not as lacking not as in charge not as weak and helpless When we re no longer acting out of a sense of self out of our wants our fears our worries our obsessions we re no longer being driven by the compulsion to arrange everything in a way that feels comfortable and satisfying The truth is you ll never succeed at getting things arranged just so You ll never live happily ever after You ll never please and protect yourself for than a fleeting moment In fact if you look for it you ll never even put your finger on just what it is that you re trying to please and protect So why interfere If we look carefully at what s going on in each moment we ll see there s nothing we need to take hold of indeed there s nothing we can take hold of All of this doesn t mean that we can t or shouldn t act It doesn t mean we can t plan or think or believe or hold ideas It does mean that we don t have to be deceived by this or taken in by that For the awakened motivation has shifted The motive now is simply to be awake from moment to moment and to deal with every fresh and new situation as it arises We step into each situation not knowing but with our eyes open to what s actually taking place We act from there Seeing each new moment as it arises creates action that is in accord with how things are now 153The French have a phrase la chose bien faite the thing well made the thing well done or the life well lived Zen practice goes to the heart of this same matter doing and living well doing and living fully doing and living our best Throughout most of our lives we re so caught up in this and that rushing through these wonderful distractions and stages that we don t or can t take the time to settle into the mellow light that s always there and to let freshness suffuse the frame Thus we miss this simple matter of just doing and living fully Actor Peter O Toole once told of receiving a coat he had sent to the cleaners It came back with a note pinned to the inside that read It distresses us to return work that is not perfect This to me is what it means to be fully human Not that we must be perfect or that we can bring everything to perfection or completion but rather that it is our concern that we do so This is precisely what Zen practice is about doing our best Whatever we re doing whether it be humble or grand we take care of it all in each moment from beginning to end Thus we arrive at completion in each moment 167We live through experience not through description Though we want to share our experiences with others we actually can t To share a sunset with someone there s no point in de scribing the sunset or debating about how best to describe it Just stand next to the person and watch the sun go down with out saying a word The ultimate failing of a teacher is to believe that what they tell their students is Truth When the student takes hold of that belief such a teacher will be incapable of taking it away and thus letting the student taste freedom Ultimately we need to abandon any notion that taking hold of some particular thing some particular idea belief ritual religion perspective form of dress or way of acting is going to bring us to Truth Finally we have to stop looking for something to save us something to stand under to identify with to improve us to make us whole We must abandon understanding and being understood As we do we can come into this moment fully alive and awake 172 173Don t believe me because you see me as your teacher Don t believe me because others do And don t believe anything because you ve read it in a book either Don t put your faith in reports or tradition or hearsay or the authority of religious leaders or texts Don t rely on mere logic or inference or appearances or speculation Know for yourselves that certain things are unwholesome and wrong And when you do then give them up And when you know for yourselves that cer tain things are wholesome and good then accept them and follow them Another way of looking at this is through the Buddha s teach ing of avoiding of extremes Don t be a hundred percent gullible don t be a hundred percent scornful and dismissive either The Buddhadharma urges each of us to be good skeptics in the classical Greek sense A good skeptic is slightly gullible willing to consider and examine any evidence or argument be ing raised at least temporarily They neither swallow it whole nor reject it outright They continuously observe it test it and engage it with interest curiosity and openness To dismiss something as bunk before you examine it is the hallmark of a believer not a skeptic Those who won t even examine something are operating out of an agenda are shut down to actual experience and are so full of ideas that they can t see what s coming at them For them the world is structured and fixed and they re often caught up in their own form of bunk an insistence on dismissing and devaluing certain propositions or attitudes This is not skepticism but cynicism In order to cultivate a pure mind we need to set aside our personal agendas But this doesn t mean taking up the personal agenda of someone else a teacher for example No true Dharma teachers would ever direct you to follow their personal agenda In fact they really don t have much of a personal agenda regarding you Their only concern for you is that you awaken As my teacher used to say the final job of a teacher is to free the student of the teacher Many of us initially take up the religious life with a lot of high minded ideas about what we re going to accomplish But that s only ego business as usual religious ego tism If we truly want to live the religious life we simply have to drop our agendas even our religious ones Only then can we begin to cultivate a mind of true goodness and compassion which comes out of a concern for the Whole As we live out of such a mind we become generous with no sense of giving or of making a sacrifice We become open with no sense of tolerance We become patient with no sense of putting up with anything We become compassionate with no sense of separation And we become wise with no sense of having to straighten anyone out 187 188One other point about authority no human being or institution ever has authority than that granted by other human beings This means that you are the final authority in terms of whom you give credence to and how you live your life Turning over this authority to anyone else is a kind of spiritual laziness You ll be disinclined to pay careful and critical attention to what s actually going on and you ll be left wide open to being manipulated misled and scammed The Buddha recognized this and warned against it For in stance he told people not to make any images of him And people didn t at first You need to realize that you are Buddha Yet the we glorify and deify the man we call the Buddha the diffi cult it is for us to wake up After all if you make your teachers into gods how can you realize the Truth that you are fundamentally no different from them In the end it comes down to this authority which is yours already rests only with direct experience Ultimately there is no other place for you to look 194 195The time came when my friend realized Tippy had to be euthanized He went to get Tippy for the last time As he came into the room Tippy was too weak to lift her head though she tried But her tail started to wag She was happy to see her friend and master Even as she faced death she was serene Unlike animals we fool ourselves about death We think we know that we re going to die But death isn t something we can know as an idea What we call death is only something we imagine Real death Real anything is always right here right now It s not lurking somewhere off in the future It occurs it can only occur now Animals are not confused about this matter It is we with our complex thoughts who are confused we who whine about our condition We do this because we imagine everything set apart from ourselves here and now But what you or I or anyone thinks doesn t belong to now It s not the Reality we actually live from moment to moment Birth and death occur right here right now Were we to awaken to this moment we d find nothing to complain about 206The awakened see Reality as it is They see that enlightenment is nothing than not being deceived by the conceptual world each of us creates Consciousness splits the world into this and that and the next thing The most basic split of course is here I am and out there is everything else But when we understand what consciousness is and how it functions we realize that our sense of self and other of subject and object is an illusion created by consciousness itself The enlightened person isn t taken in by such conceptual dualities Still it isn t that the illusion goes away The illusion still appears but it s seen for what it is an illusion And this seeing is utterly liberating As the Buddha put it Just as a man steps upon a serpent and shudders in fear but then looks down and notices that it s only a rope so it was that one day I realized that what I was calling I cannot be found and all fear and anxiety vanished with my mistake But what exactly has changed In a sense nothing The rope is still there the foot is still there But everything is seen as empty of self Thus with seeing the sense of I drops away We no longer have to get in there and manipulate or control Enlightened people don t suddenly disappear Neither do they suddenly forget how to eat a meal or drive a car or take care of their children But they understand that they cannot hurt others without doing injury to themselves In the end what is understood is that this is all of one fabric 216 217Gradually however we can begin to appreciate what the experience of smelling a rose actually entails It s of the nature of the mirror itself that is that the source of all experience is Mind As such the act of smelling or seeing or hearing or touching or thinking literally has no location This non locality is the very essence of Mind We naively think Mind conveys actual objects to us as though the objects themselves were Real Although they may appear this way no separate objects are ever created and conveyed to us In fact such an arrangement is uite literally impossible We know from physics for example that the book you re holding and the hand that holds it are reconstructed that is reborn moment after moment as a blur of rapidly moving molecules and atoms each exchanging electrons and energy with other molecules and atoms at enormous speed As a result in no two instants is there the same book or hand The whole picture reduces to energy and movement Early Buddhist teachers who did not have the benefit of modern physics nevertheless recognized this as total thorough going impermanence Nothing whatsoever abides for a moment In each instant we find a different picture a changed universe And why is the physical world this way Because this is the only way it can be experienced It s a mental experience Mind is the Source But I m not talking about our common idea of mind like your mind or my mind Your mind and my mind are just examples of the mentally fabricated and labeled stuff such as this book the rose the fragrance and all the rest These all exhibit a reality we cannot deny yet if we think they are all there is to Reality we ve got it all backward The multitude of labeled things is not Reality but merely our interpretation our concepts of Reality 241 242It s only in our mental construction of the universe our conception of it that we encounter something vast and enduring In our actual experience however that is what we actually perceive rather than conceive of all we ever have is here and now Our experience is always in the present We literally cannot exist in the future or past only in the timeless moment of infinitely short duration that we call now We only remember the past and imagine the future but both of these activities necessarily occur now And where can you ever possibly be but here Here we conceive of a there but you cannot actually go there No matter where you go you never leave here What we experience as duration and extension time and space results from the way Mind operates Consciousness produces them Indeed this is what consciousness is Consciousness is the division of this otherwise seamless Whole which transcends space and time into space and time that is into here and there then and now It s the various mental constructions that we hold and hold dear that appear as time and space extension and duration These and all of the material world derive from consciousness which ladles out time and space from a timeless spaceless sea To the awakened however what is Real is this seamless boundless spaceless timeless Whole The enlightened person sees that this Whole doesn t have any dimension apart from Mind

Read Buddhism Is Not What You Think Finding Freedom Beyond Beliefs

Idebook in which examples from everyday life are presented alongside stories from Buddhist teachers past and present to banish misconceptions and inspire the newcomer and the knowledgeable practitioner alike Buddhism is Not What You Think it is both and les. This could have been interesting if he hadn t reiterated his only message on every single page Instead it was just incredibly boringThe message is in the title don t bother reading the book


10 thoughts on “Buddhism Is Not What You Think Finding Freedom Beyond Beliefs

  1. says:

    Whatever you hold to let it go Step into this moment Come back to just this It takes some effort But come back come back come back to just this Just see what you've been ignoring for so longThis is how Steve Hagen ends this immensely comforting and insightful book I picked up this book during 2013 after some p

  2. says:

    Simple and free flowing book Buddhism Is Not What You Think written by Steve Hagen talks about what reality is as per Zen

  3. says:

    I really like this book; in fact I reread it this fall The concepts behind Buddhism are so elegantly simple yet I find them difficult to absorb and digest I guess that's the challenge right? Hagen writes in a clear and straightforwa

  4. says:

    I prefer uites over reviews53According to Bodhidharma and to Zen if we make enlightenment—or enlightened people—into something special and set them apart from others and from ourselves we abuse them In the process we also abuse ourselves Thus enlightenment becomes remote otherworldly mysterious and seemingly virtually impossible to realize Zen is about freeing ourselves from such deluded thinking 57 58Try to nail down what anything is Y

  5. says:

    One of the best ways to be introduced to the Dharma

  6. says:

    Buddhism is REALLY not what I thoughtThe author beautifully sheds light what being enlightened really is not You might be asking what it is then? The answer is that is the wrong uestion to askHere are some key poin

  7. says:

    This could have been interesting if he hadn't reiterated his only message on every single page Instead it was just incredibly boringThe message is in the title don't bother reading the book

  8. says:

    Liked the tempo of this book

  9. says:

    If there’s one thing Hagen has taught me it’s that you can only get so far by reading Perhaps the best thing you’ll get from his books is a sense that you’ve read enough that you’ve read it all before and it’s time to just do it That doesn’t speak well for his writing or does it?

  10. says:

    Buddhism is Not What Y

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