This user’s guide to Buddhist basics takes the most commonly asked questions—beginning with “What is the essence of the Buddha’s teachings?”—and provides simple answers in plain English. Thubten Chodron’s responses to the questions that always seem to arise among people approaching Buddhism make this an exceptionally complete and accessible introduction—as well as a manual for living a more peaceful, mindful, and satisfying Life. Buddhism for Beginners is an ideal first book on the subject for anyone, but it’s also a wonderful resource for seasoned students, since the question-and-answer format makes it easy to find just the topic you’re looking for, such as:What is the goal of the Buddhist path? What is karma? If all phenomena are empty, does that mean nothing exists? How can we deal with fear? How do I establish a regular meditation practice? What are the qualities I should look for in a teacher? What is Buddha-nature? Why can't we remember our past lives?
Buddhism is practiced by hundreds of millions of people worldwide, from Tibetan caves to Tokyo temples to redwood retreats. To an outside viewer, it might be hard to see what they all have in common. In Buddhism, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and American Buddhist nun Thubten Chodron map out with clarity the convergences and the divergences between the two major strains of Buddhism--the Mahayana traditions of Central and East Asia and the Theravada traditions of South and Southeast Asia. Especially deep consideration is given to the foundational Indian traditions and their respective treatment of such central tenets as the four noble truths the practice of meditation the meaning of nirvana enlightenment. The authors seek harmony and greater understanding among Buddhist traditions worldwide, illuminating the rich benefits of respectful dialogue and the many ways that Buddhists of all stripes share a common heritage and common goals.
It can be hard for those of us living in the twenty-first century to see how fourteenth-century Buddhist teachings still apply. When you’re trying to figure out which cell phone plan to buy or brooding about something someone wrote about you on Facebook, lines like “While the enemy of your own anger is unsubdued, though you conquer external foes, they will only increase” can seem a little obscure.
Thubten Chodron’s illuminating explication of Togmay Zangpo’s revered text, The Thirty-seven Practices of Bodhisattvas, doesn’t just explain its profound meaning; in dozens of passages she lets her students and colleagues share first-person stories of the ways that its teachings have changed their lives. Some bear witness to dramatic transformations—making friends with an enemy prisoner-of-war, finding peace after the murder of a loved one—while others tell of smaller lessons, like waiting for something to happen or coping with a minor injury.
Tara, the feminine embodiment of enlightened activity, is a Buddhist deity whose Tibetan name means “liberator,” signaling her ability to free beings from the delusion and ignorance that keep them trapped in ever-recurring patterns of negativity. She embodies a challenge, but one that is profoundly nurturing: to transform our minds and become like her, reflecting the tranquility, compassion, and wisdom that make her so beautiful.
Thubten Chodron describes a simple meditation on Tara, explaining its benefits and its application to daily life. She also presents two well-loved praises—“Homage to the Twenty-one Taras” and “A Song of Longing for Tara, the Infallible”—together with reflections on their meanings for modern practitioners.
An open heart is the dwelling place of compassion that extends toward all beings; a clear mind is the source of the penetrating wisdom of deep insight. Their union leads to the enlightened way of life that is at the heart of the spiritual path as taught by the Buddha. This introduction to his teaching is thorough yet wonderfully accessible, even to those with no previous knowledge of Buddhism. Thubten Chodron writes in an easy-to-understand manner as she skillfully relates the Buddha’s wisdom to the realities of our modern lives.