Hagen’s Buddhism:Plain and Simple

I’ve decided that I don’t have time to read and comment on another Hardy novel before my trip to California next week, so I’m going to read some other books that other bloggers have recommended and I’ve had around for awhile now. Awhile back The Solitary Walker said that Seven Hagen’s Buddhism: Plain & Simple was his favorite book on Buddhism so I had to buy it. Considering how little I really know about Buddhism, the title was a definite attraction.

When I read this

When the Buddha was asked to sum up his teaching in a single word, he said, “awareness.” This is a book about awareness. Not awareness of something in particular, but awareness itself — being awake, alert, in touch with what is actually happening. It’s about examining and exploring the most basic questions of life. It’s about relying on the immediate experience of the moment. It’s not about belief, doctrine, formula, or tradition. It’s about freedom of mind.

in the introduction, I knew I would enjoy this book for I’ve always felt that the time I’ve devoted to the arts, whether literature or the visual arts, has been devoted to “awareness.” Isn’t this precisely the role of arts in our society?

I also like Hagen’s idea that

Real Buddhism is not really an “ism.” It’s a process, an awareness, an openness, a spirit of inquiry — not a belief system, or even (as we normally understand it) a religion. It is more accurate to call it “the teaching of the awakened,” or the buddha-dharma. Since the focus of this book is on the teaching of the awakened and not on any sectarian presentation, from here on I will usually use the term “buddha-dharma” rather than “Buddhism.”

I’ll have to admit that previous experiences with large, authoritarian groups have left me more than a little wary of belonging to authoritarian groups. As my friend Mike said recently, “If I had to guess, on the wrong side of (your) tracks would be those who love imposing rules on others. I’d guess you don’t have much faith in institutions generally…”

I was even move impressed with this analogy:


Buddhist teachings and writings can assist you, but you won’t find Truth in them, as if Truth somehow resided in the Buddha’s words. No words — Buddha’s, mine, or anyone else’s — can see for you. You must do that for yourself, as Buddha did while seated under a tree a hundred generations ago.

Buddha’s words can also be likened to a finger pointing at the moon. His teachings can point to the Truth, but they cannot be Truth. Buddhas — people who are awake — can only point the way.

We cannot hold Truth with words. We can only see it, experience it, for ourselves.

I’ve long felt that literature can only awaken us to what we already know deep down, though we might well not be aware of what we really know until the author points it out. The greatest authors simply point out the deepest truths.

3 thoughts on “Hagen’s Buddhism:Plain and Simple

  1. The greatest authors point out the deepest truths? Yes Loren I would go along with that. And I think it is true that often they put into words deep thoughts that one has held for a long time without being able to express them. A few succinct words can say a whole lot.

  2. I’m so glad you found something of value in this book, Loren. Apart from this book, there’s another ‘layman’s guide’ I own and like a lot, and that’s called ‘Buddhism Without Beliefs’ (great title) by Stephen Batchelor.

What do you think?