Book Review: 365 Nirvana Here and Now by Josh Baran

A little known secret: I enjoy quotes especially ones that take you deep within. Yes, I know, what a surprise! ūüôā It seems I am not the only one. most of my twitter contacts enjoy quotes also. Maybe like attracts like? Hmm.¬†365 Nirvana by Josh Baran

365¬†Nirvana¬†Here and Now: Living Every Moment In Enlightenment, edited and with commentary by Josh Baran is one of those quote books that you can let the book fall open and you have your ‘gem’ for the day or if you are me, for the week. (Barnes & Noble/Amazon do not have this book in stock at this moment…your local well-loved book store might though!)

Given the title, you would think 365 Nirvana is entirely¬†comprised¬†of Buddhist quotes, yet it is not so…. Examples: “With ‘I’ eliminated…this is Nirvana here and now. ~ The Buddha, ¬†‘It is right in your face. This moment, the whole thing is handed to you. ~ Yuanwu, ¬†‘You search for God in heaven and earth, but you don’t know the one who is right before your eyes,¬†because¬†you don’t know how to search into this very moment. ~ Jesus.’

And this from the Introduction by Josh Baran…’This treasury of insights, a chorus of the present moment sung by ancient and¬†modern¬†voices that span time, distance, religion, tradition, and culture – is an invitation’ … I could not have said¬†or¬†written it better. This little book has become a constant source of reflective material that sits on my nightstand within easy reach.

So tonight…I let 365 Nirvana ‘pick’ the quote ending this post…see where it takes you.

Just One Time

Where you are going

and the place you stay

come to the same thing.

What you long for

and what you’ve left behind

are as useless as your name.

Just one time, walk out

into the field and look

at the towering oak —

an acorn still beating at its heart.   Peter Levitt


Book Review: ‘Buddhism for Beginners’ by Ven. Thubten Chodron

Buddhism for BeginnersIn answering the most basic questions, this book will help new practitioners dispel confusion and gain a realistic, down-to-earth approach to the Buddhist path...”¬† Alexander Berzin, The Berzin Archives ~ ¬†I think that quote sums up my feeling on this book that I have gone back to numerous times during my fledgling practice.

The book is an overview of all the central concepts involved in Buddhist practice.¬† The book’s question and answer format made it very easy to return to again and again for answers that I was unclear on. Ven. Thubten Chodron‘s explanations are concise and easily accessible.

I find myself using it to answer questions that non-Buddhists ask me. Ven. Chodron explains the answers in such simple but thorough manner.  This book was recommended to me when I first started investigating Buddhism.  Since then I have found great wisdom in Ven. Thubten Chodron books and online resources. ~ Digging_the_Dharma

Book Review: ‚ÄėBuddha: A Story of Enlightenment‚Äô by Deepak Chopra

When it comes to reading books, I rarely choose historical fiction. In fact, this was my first spiritual historical fiction. (At least that I remember!) So I will admit some reluctance in starting this book.

Mr. Chopra does a fine job of storytelling with this ‘possible’ tale of how SiddhńĀrtha Gautama¬†became¬†The Buddha. He outlines SiddhńĀrtha’s¬†separateness before birth and how human he was. ¬†And how¬†different¬†he was from others around him. Yet he was the same, for he felt pain, suffered, and enjoyed pleasures as all humans do. SiddhńĀrtha’s difference is what made him seek out the answers to the questions we all ask.

I will not say much more about the book for fear of telling too much. I will say I felt what SiddhńĀrtha felt and at times had to put the book away until my eyes were not clouded with tears. (Maybe I was just tired and thus the watery eyes?) And the end is not quite what I had envisioned but it was great.

Now for the not so good: I felt the story plodded much of the time. Sometimes the scene changed¬†abruptly¬†which caused me to go back over what I had read to¬†make¬†sure I hadn’t missed a line or so. I also felt there was not always a clear reason for the main character to make a decision when he did.

All this taken into consideration, I say… this book. Glean¬†from¬†it as you may or not.‘Buddha: A Story of Enlightenment’ is worth your time. ¬†~ Debra Saturday

Book Review: ‘How to Practice’ by H.H. The 14th Dalai Lama

How to Practice : The Way to a Meaningful LifeIn How to Practice, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama presents the path to achieving enlightenment in these instructions for those seeking to follow the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha.

The book is written for practitioners of all levels from those who are curious or just beginning with meditation to an explanation of the philosophy of mind and emptiness for those further along their path.

I thoroughly enjoyed every chapter.¬† This title will be one I return to on a regular basis for guidance and wisdom.¬† The book is separated into sections that correspond to a practitioner’s ability to gain understanding starting with morality.¬† Behavior and ethics are discussed as related to the Four Noble Truths, Refuge and the ethical precepts taken by Buddhists.¬† He then moves on to explaining meditation and the types and methods for cultivating your practice.

The final section expounds upon the essence of emptiness and wisdom with an explanation of the Heart Sutra and then briefly explains Deity Yoga and Tantra and their relationship to the path.  This to me is a must have title for everyone seeking to understand the teachings of Buddhism. ~ Review by Digging-the-Dharma

Book Review: Breakfast with Buddha

It wasn’t as if I’d been suddenly turned gullible in western Indiana, but the raspy hard edges of my suspicion had been worn down, and I have to admit that it frightened me.¬† This was not a physical feat but something else, a shakiness at the base of who I thought I was.

Breakfast with Buddha is a wonderfully witty ride through America both physically and spiritually.  Through this road trip parable, Robert Merullo challenges us to analyze our own spiritual life and see the equality of compassion and happiness.  Without preaching, he weaves a tale that gives us reason to see all religious traditions in a different light.

I enjoyed every page as Otto Ringling takes us from his wonderfully upper middle class perfect life to the point where he is prostrating to a Skorodovian monk.

The journey begins when Otto is tricked by his sister into transporting her guru across the country on his way to North Dakota.  Along the way, he acquires some realizations about his life, his family, and his spirit.  Volya Rinpoche is an amalgam of several eastern traditions, zen master, Tibetan lama, yoga guru all mixed in a delightfully wise and funny character whose purity of spirit runs through the pages.  Through his words, actions, and silence, Rinpoche shows Otto how to remove the chaos that controls his life and appreciate each moment.

We’ve all had moments when the fabric of our belief system is challenged and this book delves into that challenge with humor and wit. ¬†The western skepticism of eastern philosophy is touched on through interaction with a Catholic nun, Philosophy professor, and Otto and handled in the inclusive manner of the Dalai Lama.¬† As the hard shell of Otto’s belief system is cracked, the teachings reveal their truths in a way that is completely relevent to his life.

As Cecelia (Otto’s sister) put it “The country needs help, spiritual help.¬† He’ll change your life too, if you just let him“.¬† While the book itself isn’t going to necessarily change your life, hopefully it will give you pause to contemplate where your life is spiritually.

~ Review by digging_the_dharma

Day 4 – (yesterday 4 Feb) Resuming a meditation practice

One of the keys is knowing we can titrate the experience… we can feel empowered to move our attention to something easier to be with, like listening to sounds, or a relaxed, easy place in the body. Or opening our eyes. Or lovingkindness for ourselves. It’s an experiment. We’re looking for a sense of balance in relationship to our experience, not for a breakthrough. Of course, we’d all love a breakthrough, to be able to say “At noon I finally loved myself completely,” or “This afternoon I vanquished that pattern of fear.” But the reality of our work is that it is based on the idea that healing comes from balance, insight comes from balance. So even as you are resuming a meditation practice, know that within any one session, it is fine (and indeed appropriate) to keep remembering balance‚ÄĒto feel free to shift your focus, to be kind to yourself. ~ Sharon Salzburg, Real Happiness

Day 3 – Commit to Sit …moving towards wholeness

As meditation moves us toward wholeness, we discover a strong center, an inner store of mental and emotional strength that was once lost to us. Many people who practice concentration to steady their attention use the same word to describe the feeling it gives them: empowered. Once we have a sense of a center, we can more easily withstand an onslaught on overstimulation, uncertainty, and anxiety the world launches at us without getting overwhelmed. We’re stronger because we not only see more but also see more clearly. When your attention is diffused, it’s like a broad, weak beam of light that doesn’t reveal much. Concentration brings the weak beam down to a single, sharply focused, supremely bright, exponentially more illuminating point.  ~ Sharon Salzburg, Real Happiness