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Book Reviews By Buddha Dude and Butterfly

The Jade Buddha

All reviews have been written by Buddha Dude and Butterfly, to help you pick just the right book for you. All books reviewed here are available in our Book Store or just click on the book cover picture to take you right to the book.

We hope you enjoy reading the reviews as much as we enjoyed reading the books!

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Zen In The Art of Archery

Zen In The Art of Archery

Posted by: Buddha Dude
Posted On: 6/12/2010 8:16:38 AM

Some books are OK, some books you enjoy, some books you really enjoy, but some books… they change your outlook; this is one of the books that will change your outlook.

It is only 80 pages long, but I have never read a book that captures the essence of Zen as well as Zen in the Art of Archery.  Written in 1953, it describes the 6 years a German philosophy professor spent in Japan during the 1920's.  He wants to learn more then the theory of Zen, he wants to learn the practice.  He asks a Zen master and is refused instruction, he is told to pick a Zen art instead; he chooses the Artless Art of Archery.

He slowly learns to trust his master's method of teaching by not teaching, he learns to understand there is no separation of archer, bow, arrow and target, he learns to understand there is no archer, no bow, no arrow, no target; he learns to understand that the art is just a metaphor for mastering the mind.

We highly recommend this book to beginners and advanced students alike.

We give it 7 nothingness out of 5!!!  It really is that good

Buddhism For Dummies

Buddhism For Dummies

Posted by: Buddha Dude
Posted On: 3/11/2008 2:05:49 PM

For every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction. For every ying, there must be a yang. For every mind bending Zen book, there must be a straightforward, in plain English, book; Buddhism for Dummy’s, is one such book. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a frivolous piece of work; no coffee table publishing; there is a lot of good information here, just written in a way for a beginner, meaning you have no prior knowledge of Buddhism.

There is a lot of information in this book, and authors, Jonathan Landaw and Stephan Bodian, have done a wonderful job introducing you to a plethora of Buddhist concepts. Notice how I said, “introducing you to”, as this is exactly what this book does, and in reality, what its intention is.

The book lightly covers:

  • An introduction to Buddhism
  • Understanding your mind
  • The history of Buddhism
  • Buddhism in Practice
  • Meditations
  • The Buddhist Path
  • An much much more

It is no accident I choose this book to be the first book in the book review section, as it was one of, if not the first book we bought when we decided to explore the Buddhist path. This book gave us a basic understanding, and years later we still keep it handy, I consider it to be a great Buddhist dictionary.

I highly recommend this book for all levels, and give it 4 out of 5 stars.

How to See Yourself As You Really Are

How to See Yourself As You Really Are

Posted by: Buddha Dude
Posted On: 3/11/2008 3:04:11 PM

"There is no spoon" a young monk says to Neo, whilst Neo waits to see the Oracle.  Do not try to bend the spoon, for that is impossible, the boy continues, he then goes on to tell Neo that once he realizes the spoon only exists in his mind, he just needs to bend his mind in order to bend the spoon. -- from the first Matrix movie.

If you have no idea what that scene means, or what I am talking about, then, How to See Yourself As You Really Are, is the book you are looking for.  His holiness, The Dalai Lama, does a fantastic job teaching us the concept of Emptiness, Impermanence and why there is no such thing as the I; it only exists as an illusion in your mind. He goes step by step into the true nature of things, from wholes coming into existence from their parts, meditative techniques for understanding this and guiding us to the realization of, there truly is no spoon.

I have read many books on Emptiness and the concept of there is no I, but although I understood the logic of it all, I never fully "got it".  I went over this book twice, and used many of the meditation techniques described, and it was in one of these meditations I finally got it, the spoon just disappeared so to speak.

If you are looking for a great book on Emptiness and the destruction of the I (ego), this book is highly recommended.

I give it 4 out of 5.

How to Meditate: A Practical Guide

How to Meditate: A Practical Guide

Posted by: Buddha Dude
Posted On: 4/12/2008 6:16:07 AM

How to Meditate is one of the best collections of meditations we have read in a while.  Many other Buddhist books, the Dali Lama's, How to See Yourself As You Really Are, for example, primarily discusses emptiness, with emptiness meditations secondary; a practice to strengthen the teachings.  How to Meditate: A Practical Guide, on the other hand, primarily focuses on meditations, with teachings on these meditations secondary, in other words, it focus on the practical application, with theory as an introductory.

The book is divided into sections or "topics"

  • Introduction to Meditation
  • Meditations on the Mind
  • Analytical Meditations
  • Visualization Meditations
  • Devotional Practices

Each topic has has multiple subsections, or multiple meditation techniques.  Each techniques starts with a history, or reason why we should perform this particular method, it then moves to the practice. The practice (the meditation) starts with a motivation, a way to set up the mind for the meditation, the meditation, and finally, a way to end the meditation, complete with dedication.

This book really does have something for every level of mediators, from the beginner to the advanced.  For the beginner, it will introduce you to the whys and how's, progressing you to more deeper and advanced forms.  For the the more advanced, the opening topics are a great "review", the more advanced topics give some great depth and understanding in ways that have been missing in traditional teachings.

This book is highly recommend to all mediators, from beginners and masters, we know you will keep going back to it again and again, for inspiration and meditative topics.

Dzogchen: The Heart Essence of the Great Perfection

Dzogchen: The Heart Essence of the Great Perfection

Posted by: Buddha Dude
Posted On: 4/13/2008 5:41:44 PM

Dzogchen, Heart Essence of the Great Perfection, is the most difficult Buddhist book I have ever read; considering I have read some really, “noodle baking”, Zen books, this is saying something. I am not sure if it is due to this book being an earlier collection of the Dali Lama’s teachings, 1982 – 1989. A poor translation of the teaching (this edition of the book is a new edition with “new and improved” translations), or the Dali Lama’s weaker understanding of Dzogchen (he admits in the book he has not yet mastered it), but the book is not one of the Dali Lama’s best teachings. My biggest complaint of the book is it does not really tell me what Dzogchen is, more of what Dzogchen is not.  A topic, or teaching is picked, but instead of going into the topic directly, the topic is constantly compared to the other Buddhist schools and the other schools’ philosophies; it seems to jump all over the place and you are left scratching your head wondering just what the teaching means.

The book is divided into five sections:

  • Ground Path and Fruitation, presented in Paris, 1982.
  • Hitting the Essence in Three Words, London, 1984.
  • Dzogchen and the Buddhadharma, Helsinki, 1988.
  • The Pinnacle of ALL Yanas, San Jose, 1989.
  • Notes, a very detailed cross reference explanation. The teachings are constantly referencing other sources and other teachings; this section gives a dictionary like explanation of those references.

Each section has a history, a “setting the seen” so to speak, describing a bit about the teaching and the context of where and why the Dali Lama is giving it, the translated teachings section and a mild conclusion.  There are definite extremes in the length of the sections/teachings, from around 20 pages in Helsinki, to a whopping 87 in San Jose; this might also explain why the, The Pinnacle of ALL Yanas, section is the most easily understood teaching of the book.

Our intention of buying this book, was to get a good, or at least general, understanding of Dzogchen, in that aspect, the book missed the mark; even though I would reread sections over and over again, I failed to grasp the message, and felt more confused then anything.  Having said that, I did really enjoy, The Pinnacle of ALL Yanas, teaching, especially the area on the Buddha’s teaching, The Mind is Devoid of Mind”.

Comparing the quality of this book against other Dali Lama books, I must give this one a 2 out of 5 and do not recommend it for the general reader.  On the other hand, if you have a good understanding of Dzogchen, this book might give you a greater understanding from a different perspective.

Joyful Path of Good Fortune: The Complete Buddhist Path to Enlightenment

Joyful Path of Good Fortune: The Complete Buddhist Path to Enlightenment

Posted by: Buddha Dude
Posted On: 5/27/2011 9:39:08 AM

This is the textbook studied by Kadampa practitioner’s world wide in the Kadampa Foundation Program, it teaches the foundations of Tibetan Kadampa Buddhism, diving deep into the Lamrim (Tibetan for Stages of the Path) teachings. It includes not only the Lamrim teachings, but also the history of Buddhism in Tibet, the lineage of the teaching that came from India, the lineage Gurus, how to properly listen to Dharma teachings, how to bring the teachings into your daily life and how to teach dharma.

I will admit, the first time I read this book I thought it was a little “dry” and a bit on the “slow” side, meaning it took forever to get to the “good stuff”, but from studying this book in Kadampa FP classes, I can now see how wonderful this book truly is, and I have come to truly appreciate the history of Lamrim, properly setting up a shrine to honour the Buddha and especially how to listen to, and learn dharma; it’s funny, I never knew until I read this book, that I needed to learn how to learn Dharma, properly.

It is highly recomended that you perform one of the 21 meditations listed in the New Meditation Handbook each day before your reading session