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The Reluctant Buddhist Kindle Edition
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I read The Reluctant Buddhist at the start of 2012 and am very glad I did; it is a book that I think will resonate with me and which I'll refer to from now on. My position is someone who is interested in Buddhist thought but suspicious of the religiosity of some strands and of organisations like SGI. However I am attracted to the simplicity of meditation and chanting and do both occasionally with a view to regularising the practise. I am not that "knowledgeable". Although I've read stuff over the years from Siddhartha to Mindfulness Meditation and lots inbetween, I don't retain much of the language and detail in part because of the oriental roots. I respect the differences but have no desire to memorise the language, nor dress in robes etc, but can appreciate the processes and philosophy behind it. Hence, I wanted to read a secular intro to Nichiren Buddhism and am impressed with William Woollard's way of explaining things. He seems to want to reach out to mere mortals and pass on what he has learned on the journey.
I enjoyed the book - it is a 'good read' and although I note that there has been some criticism of proofreading on Amazon it didn't affect my enjoyment. I was keen to finish the book, am now reading it again and will pass it on to family etc if they are interested in the meaning of it all. I emerged with an insight into 'the whole' and a way of joining up my way of thinking about things. I found the explanations of the history and development of Buddhism and its relation to religious and scientific thought to be very clear. At the same time the book gave me an understanding of Buddhism's simple profundity and universality. I can also listen to/read Buddhist stuff now with an insight into what is being 'sold' by an author.
Woollard himself was a massive sceptic and so that is a useful standpoint for any exploration. He does quote Ikeda and explains about SGI but not to excess. The message is put across without it seeming like a recruitment campaign; I took it as a call to embrace Buddhism by whatever means works for you.
Woollard went through this process (and then some!) himself and explores some of the key and most difficult issues of Nichiren Buddhism; mutual possession, oneness of self and environment, karma, myoho, etc. He does this in such a way that really clarified a few serious stumbling blocks for me. His truly westernised view of the practice and his scientific background make him the perfect person to explain the "mystic law" in way the average reason dominated western mind can deal with.
Admittedly it does have some flaws in editing etc, but it is very well produced compared to some other books on this subject. Buddhists are wonderful passionate people, but not always great writers!
This is a wonderful starting point for anyone interested in the practice of Nichiren Buddhism and should probably be followed up by reading Richard Causton's The Buddha in Daily Life: Introduction to the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin, a far more involved explanation of the detail of the practice, and the key phrase nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Only, I read them the other way round!
BOth books are available in audio format through the WONDERFUL podcast "A Buddhist Podcast"
The Buddhist Life Coach
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