Book review: Buddhism for beginners

Buddhism for beginners, written by Thubten Chodron, a Tibetan Buddhist nun and endorsed by the fourteenth Dalai Lama. The book is written in a question and answer format, which allows the reader to follow the book easily and intake the answers better than endless text moving from one topic to another. There are numerous health benefits of religion & spirituality and it can help us feel more connected to the world around us. My only understanding before reading the book was of reincarnation so I had hoped this book would help me understand the religion more and introduce aspects a I could use in my life. The book at no point shys away from difficult questions and is another reason the book can be trusted.

The essence of Buddhism is where the book starts. This chapter focuses on the Buddha’s teachings and what this religion is all about. Four Noble Truths, the Buddha’s path, Three higher trainings and the Three jewels are all focused on in this part, it allows the reader to start getting an idea about what Buddhism really is. The religion seems very open and people have the chance to practice the Buddha’s teachings without becoming a Buddhist. I like how the religion is all about bettering yourself by following the Buddha’s path. Attempting to eliminate disturbing attitudes (Ignorance, attachment and anger) which affects the things we do and say which therefore have an impact on our mind and happiness is one of the goals on the path.

Coming into the book I wouldn’t have been able to tell you who the buddha was. After reading the second chapter explaining all about the buddha, I would still not be able to, this is because they dont identify Buddha as one thing or person. The chapter focuses on the historical buddha, a prince that purified himself and his mind. This is the reason why Buddha translates to ” The Awakened one”. But those who follow the path have the chance to become enlightened and purify themselves allowing them to become buddhas.. So what I understood from the book is that although the Buddha started as one man it actually takes the form of many people.

Love and compassion is the easiest to understand out of the first three chapters. This chapter shows that Buddhism focuses on humans being equal, that we are all just trying to find eternal happiness and we shouldn’t judge someone for what they do or wear because just like everyone else they are trying to end their suffering and become enlightened. The chapter also focuses on attachment. I enjoyed this chapter because using the examples throughout I was able to relate to it and get a better understanding of buddhism than I did in the last two chapters.

Chapter 4 looks at meditation, first defining what is mediation generally and then followed by a brief look of the Buddhas different meditation teachings. The benefits of meditation are also explained relating back to the mind. Following on from this chapter is four short pages regarding Impermanence and suffering. One of the key points I gained from this chapter is thinking a relationship or job is going to stay the same forever is going to bring the person suffering so Buddhism focuses on ridding ourselves of false expectations and attachment to the things/people we love. Selflessness is a chapter I really struggled grasping with. Emptiness is the main focus and the Buddhas version of emptiness oppose to our everyday meaning.

Going into the book myself I knew Buddhism believe in rebirth and karma, It’s common knowledge. The following three chapters focuses on this, starting with science and rebirth. This chapter does a fantastic job of explaining how this religion sits alongside science and it even states that if science can prove parts of the religion wrong then followers have to accept it but are yet to do so. It also allows the reader to get a better understanding of rebirth answering some key questions about our past lives. It leads on nicely to the cause and effect of karma. Karma is probably the most familiar word and concept to someone that is new to buddhism. The book states that Karma affects our future rebirths along with our current experiences in this life and our personalities, it then goes on to talk more in depth about how Karma works. Death, An ideal time to introduce this chapter. The writer answers questions around passing of loved ones, rebirth, Suicide, Euthanasia. They do a good job in explaining buddhism’s views on these difficult topics and what a person can do in their final hours to prepare themselves for rebirth.

The later stages of the book focus more on topics such as shrines, women and the Dharma, monks and nuns and ethical issues. These chapters might be useful if you are really looking to push your knowledge on Buddhism. The family chapter I found extremely interesting as questions around topics such as having a good relationship with tennagers and introducing meditation to children get answered,

Although this book is for beginners it does a fantastic job of going in depth but in a easy to understand way. At the end of the book I feel like I do have a better understanding of Buddhism which means this book works. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a religion or just wanting to get more educated on Buddhism. I purchased the book through Amazon which you can do so here but many other book stores stock this book. I really do believe that even if you dont believe in Buddhism after reading the book that you are still able to introduce aspects to improve your life, others and your mindfulness.

Thanks for reading.

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