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Buddhism is Not What You Think: Finding Freedom Beyond Beliefs [Paperback]

Steve Hagen
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 July 2012

What is Buddhism? In Buddhism is Not What You Think Steve Hagen, bestselling author of Buddhism Plain and Simple and a Zen priest, cuts through the many misconceptions surrounding Buddhism, and shows us its true purpose. Drawing on down-to-earth examples from everyday life, this practical and straightforward guide penetrates the most essential and enduring questions at the heart of the Buddha's teachings: How can we see the world in each moment, rather than merely as what we think, hope, or fear it is? How can we base our actions on reality? How can we live lives that are wise, compassionate, open and honest? What can it bring to our lives?

This book offers a profound and clear path to a life of joy and freedom.

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Buddhism is Not What You Think: Finding Freedom Beyond Beliefs + Meditation Now or Never + Buddhism Plain and Simple (Arkana)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (5 July 2012)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0718193067
  • ISBN-13: 978-0718193065
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 36,781 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


A clear and challenging showing of the fundamental truth of our lives. This is an exceptional book. Make good use of it (Charlotte Joko Beck, Author Of Everyday Zen )

Cuts to the heart of the matter ... a book that will reward multiple readings over time ... Hagen's writing flows in a tranquil way, like a spring trickling up effortlessly from the earth (Robert M Pirsig, Author Of Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance )

About the Author

Steve Hagen is a Zen priest and long-time teacher of Buddhism. For fifteen years he studied with Zen Master Dainin Katagiri. He lives in Minneapolis and teaches at Dharma Field Meditation and Learning Center in St. Paul.

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First Sentence
IF YOU VISIT a Buddhist temple in Japan, you'll likely encounter two gigantic, fierce, demonlike figures standing at either side of the entrance. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Marvellous introduction to Zen Buddhism 11 Jan 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Wisdom of InsecurityMy first foray into Zen for many years and I can't recommend this book enough. Steve Hagen makes a great deal of sense out of what can be a mystifying concept for a society founded on the idea of ego. Written with a real sense of 'commonsense' and a deep understanding of the subject but a renowned practitioner its very easy to grasp. I find Hagen and Alan Watts to be clear lights in a sometimes muddy landscape regarding Zen. I felt truly uplifted by reading this book and hungry for more experiences of 'now'.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very, very good 27 Sep 2009
I came across this book by accident, looking at the American Amazon site. Quite a few of the reviews there said Steve Hagen repeated the same thing over and over again, one even said the whole book could have been condensed into just twenty pages. I would say this is missing the point. Anyone who practices some form of Buddhism finds after a while that it is often about re-visiting the same things over and over again always from slightly different perspectives (which our life offers us quite naturally)until we understand. Hagen does this wonderfully. I found the times he dipped into ideas from modern science very interesting. The fact is we really do need to 'wake up' and 'see' as he puts it, but until we have tasted this, it can be hard to understand that it is truly possible and quite different from what we expect. Buddhism is just as Steve puts it...not what you think. If you are at the beginning, this book gives an insight you can trust. If more experienced, it gives valuable incentive to keep up the practice.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not HIs Best Work 30 April 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I do not offer this review as some form of counter-argument against the other high rated reviews about this book, but only to compare it with Hagen's better work.
Whilst there are some good chapters in this book, I would say that it is a fairly softly delivered and fragmented piece of work. It has an important difference from the earlier best-seller, Buddhism Plain and Simple (BP&S): The latter is a structured presentation of the main teachings of the Buddha, and so one can expect to start at chapter one and read through in a progressive way. In "Buddhism Is Not What You Think" one finds what amounts to a series of short essays. In fact this is indicated in the copyright and publishing data at the beginning of the book, where one will see that the book is really a compilation of talks and articles delivered by the author at the Dharma Centre in the USA. It has been shuffled together in what the author no doubt thought was a themed way, but I don't think it quite works.
The advantage of the unstructured characteristic of the book is that one can pick it up and read at random, without missing out a vital earlier element of the Buddha's teaching. The disadvantage, for me, is that the author doesn't really engage with the reader for long enough, on any particular topic, to shift his/her consciousness into a radically different perspective. Even if one reads two or more chapters in one sitting it is no different, because the topics being addressed do not flow naturally into each other.
Overall I would recommend it - as a gentle read and prompt for reflection - but it all comes across as rather safe and uncontroversial; unlike BP&S which, with the exception of two chapters I found profound and mind-altering.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I found it interesting but unnecessarily wordy, with the same point made over and over throughout the book. The author argues that being in the now is all there is and to 'awaken' or find 'enlightement' is in fact simply a matter of stripping away the mental constructs we have built in our minds and seeing what is really here, right now, in each moment. He states that there is no self or outside world, it is all fundamentally an illusion created by our minds. Dropping this illusion is therefore essential to release ourselves from suffering.

I agreed with and found many of his points relevant and easy to understand despite the rather waffly references to being in the moment. I did find myself disagreeing with some of the author' views, however. He argues that the Buddha did not teach reincarnation and that there is no consistent sense of self or in fact any self at all because we are all dying to each moment. Any belief in God, spirit, angels, karma, afterlife or anything else is simply a belief and therefore a construct of the mind. At this point the author and I parted polite company. Certainly his points carry a lot of weight and are useful in terms of understanding the limits of our thoughts and concepts, but to argue that there is no sense of self, that everything is a construct of the mind, bypasses what I have directly experienced where no mind or expectation was involved.

Even on a mundane, worldly level, I find it hard to reconcile a non-existent self with my psychological and personal knowledge of how the intelligence of the body and the subconscious mind can 'hold' onto memories, experiences and emotions until we are consciously capable of dealing with them.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding 5 stars! 21 July 2013
By exton
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Very helpful and informative, i found Steve Hagen's book to be clear and very encouraging, i would highly recommend it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars First book on my read list so far
This is the most informative and study book that I have found on the subject matter. I will read more.
Published 6 months ago by kconway
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and thought provoking
This interesting book is about reality and how to wake up in order to start living life in the real world rather than the unreal constructs of our own minds. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Huw
3.0 out of 5 stars Why, Steve?
You have written one of the best books ALL CATEGORIES, 'Buddhism plain and simple'.
Please, see my review!

It's a masterpiece. Read more
Published 15 months ago by docM
5.0 out of 5 stars A really fascinating read.
Before I read this book, i was only into Therevada Buddhism. Although written by a zen practitioner, this book really sheds a great deal of light on non-dualism and no-self and... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Buddhism for Real
I found the author's earlier book an interesting read and bought this one as a follow up It cuts through a lot of the monastic traditions and treats the teachings as a 20th... Read more
Published 19 months ago by J. Scott
2.0 out of 5 stars Too waffly
I'm a beginner to Buddhism and this is the 4th book I've read, and by far the worst. Very waffly, and Hagen seems to just repeat the same point over and over in different ways. Read more
Published on 5 Sep 2011 by Emily
5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing Reminder
Hagen strips back much of the 'paraphernalia' that Buddhism has amassed along the way (even Zen) and presents the central tenet of the teachings in clear, sparkling prose. Read more
Published on 3 Aug 2011 by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Essays that hit to the core
Read this before and now buying it for a friend. The beliefs that ensnare us all are exposed here under the great title Buddhism is not what you think. Read more
Published on 8 Jun 2009 by wayitis
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