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4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 12 March 2002
I'm not sure I would have been able to get to the root of Buddhism as easily without Steve Hagen's book. Because of this book, I see the clarity of the Buddha's message. I respect the Buddha Dharma as it is essentially a scientific and experimental approach. One is not asked to take a leap of faith as so many other religions require. Buddhism is an adaptable approach that can work with any culture imaginable and any religion imaginable. Steve Hagen has presented a work that westerners can digest and easily find application to their everyday lives. Why? Because the core of Buddhism remains in the 4 noble truths and Mr. Hagen has done a superb job at focusing on just that. I fit the sterotype of a western skeptic myself, and can't find any argument against the 4 noble truths. If you are sincere about investigating Buddhism, read about the core of the Buddha's teaching, sincerely apply it to your life, then decide for yourself the value in it. Mr. Hagen's book is not the only way to do this, but I highly recommend it.
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on 25 January 2006
This is the 1st book about buddhism I read. I have read also Buddhism without beliefs, Buddhism is not what you think, Returning to silence, and Everyday Zen. This was an excellent introduction and 'plain and Simple' as the title suggests. Simply an excellent starting point for those interested in learning about buddhism...get your toes wet with this first before moving onto far more indepth texts such as Everyday Zen.
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on 9 February 2012
I came to this book looking for 'something', what I found was much greater.

It is not a book of answers, it provides the reader with the desire to ask the questions and this is much more powerful than a series of spoon-fed answers which, by definition cannot be relied upon.

It may, as some have suggested, seem a little repetitive but as I read this over a series of evenings I found this repetition to be useful as it helped to put the thoughts I was experiencing into context.

Religion, Faith, Belief whatever your preferred term is handled in here but if you are looking for something to try to help your understanding but do not want to feel the pressure of a given 'tradition' or to have to kneel to be worthy then this book may help you. Religion is addressed but at no point do you feel you must begin to chant or pray in order to complete the experience.

There are still many unanswered questions for me such as 'what is consciousness?' and this is my next step; however, I feel that this book has empowered 'me' to try to see 'me' as part of The Whole.

A few evenings invested in this book is but a small investment in time and is highly recommended.
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on 21 June 2001
Steven Hagen's book strips away all the cultural accretions surrounding the subject and gets down to the core message.
His style is easy to read and connects with real life.
Rather than dwell on the ins and outs of reincarnation, 'other realms' and distracting imports of mainstream eastern buddhism, Hagen sticks to the main message of the Buddha.
An excellent introduction and one I have come back to after reading other 'recommended' books that seem to miss the point.
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on 27 February 2009
This man is able to strip buddhism down to what it is really all about (presence and awareness). This book is so simple, highlighting the Buddhas deepest teachings in the way I think the Buddha would've done it himself. Buddha is famous for remaining silent when he was asked a question which had nothing to do with the brass tacks of presence and awareness. This man has done him proud in this book and for anyone interested in Buddhism or spiritual enlightenment this is a must read book. A book called THE ONE  also highlights this simplicity deeply and beautifully and together they should help to bring the enlightenment you seek.
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on 2 September 2001
I have read a number of introductions to Buddhism and this is probably the one I have found the most helpful. It explains the core teachings of Buddhism without asking the reader to accept anything on trust, and as such seems ideally geared to the sceptical Westerner. It is written in a very clear and straightforward style - it could hardly be more enlightening!
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on 22 February 2007
The best compliment I can give this book is that if someone is interested in learning what Buddhism "is", this is the book that I give them.

You might get the impression from one or two of the other reviews on this page that this is "Buddhism Lite" i.e. that it lacks the comprehensiveness and history of some other books. I don't really think that's the case personally. If the essense and purpose of Buddhism is to become awake, then to me this is the most emphatically "Buddhist" of books. Certainly I would start here, as you can always progress onto more detailed books about the Buddha's life in due course.

Indeed I wouldn't say that this book is only for the novice either, as it would also serve as a useful reminder and meditation to someone more versed in Buddhism. One review below states that it's message is rather repetitive, but I imagine that this is on purpose, and it didn't deter me at all. Without constantly reminding yourself of the message contained within (through various means), the ego tends to re-impose itself, so repetition is necessary.

If you're interested in this subject, I whole-heartedly recommend this book.
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on 30 March 2010
Steve Hagen is American. It's really unfair to turn this against him, but I want to use this fact to illustrate just one of the ways in which his approach to Buddhism seems quite suspect. At the core of this very unclear book is one, clear-cut message: that in order to truly "see" reality, the mind must let go of all pre-conceived ideas, beliefs and concepts. Supporting this core idea are numerous analogies and anecdotes... a great number of which are written from an American perspective. Baseball, the LA riots, Mount McKinley, "first grade" and "high school", Paul Bunyan, the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, etc. All of these cultural examples are put forward by Hagen to illustrate his own conception of Universal Truth... and thereby his version of Truth is anything but universal. He uses the preconfigured ideas of his native land to "label" and "compartmentalise" the tenets of Buddhism, which is exactly what he spends 157 pages telling us not to do.

That's just one thing that made me wary of Hagen's take on Buddhism. Other examples would include his "self-help" tone of voice and the repeated notion that all of us can "see" but we're just not trying hard enough. I was unsure of his "belief" (he's not supposed to have belief in "frozen" objects or sequential thought processes of any kind) that simple optical illusions can illuminate the profoundest inner workings of the human mind. A blob of ink becoming a cow when you stare at it for long enough isn't quite good enough for me. That's what it will feel like to be enlightened? Seems like a weak way of explaining something so huge.

But above all else, what frustrates me is that I've come away from this book not understanding Buddhism at all. Steve Hagen claims to be breaking down the cultural trappings of this ancient religion and giving it to us "Plain and Simple". But he's stripped it down so far that his subject matter has become virtually meaningless. Reading his philosophy is like trying to hear a taste or smell a colour... words don't seem to serve his purpose very well and everything he says devolves into abstract terms like "Truth", "Reality" and "Wholeness". These words, on and of their own, don't mean anything unless they have some context. They can't be used like nouns: you can't walk to the end of the road, find Truth and put it in your pocket. But Hagen talks about these words like they're real, tangible "things" that we just can't "see".

There's a great part in the Bible when Jesus comes before Pontius Pilate and says: "All who are on the side of truth listen to my voice." To which Pilate simply says: "What is truth?". And Jesus has no answer. That's what I want Hagen - or any religious figurehead, for that matter - to explain in real, lucid words. What does the word "truth" used in this way actually mean? It basically means whatever you want it to mean... which makes it mean nothing.

I don't think Buddhism has been done justice in this book and I think I need to read a lot more to get a proper grip on it. Here's a quote from the back cover: "For those readers approaching Buddhism for the first time... this book offers invaluable, clear insights into the heart of Buddhism." If that was the primary aim of this work, then - for me at least - it's definitely failed.
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on 29 December 2006
A good introduction to Buddhism. Rather than going into any historical matters or attempting to describe the Buddhist universe, it instead strives to express the fundamental spirit behind it all. Consequently it is extremely accessible, and achieves its purpose. In admirably lucid prose the book iterates, and reiterates, the very fundamental issue of seeing the world as it is. Ultimately this singleness of purpose and continued repetition of the same point can get monotonous. I was reminded of Men are From Mars and Women are from Venus: the book says some really useful and insightful things, but then throws these same things out, dressed up in different ways, again and again. It's done better here than in that book, though, with far more intelligence and with a less patronising tone.
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on 5 March 2016
I'm not religious, and don't want to be. This book is excellent at premoting calmness and awareness from with in. Simply written for me, a thicko to get. . ..The message is simple. Live life calmly and be pleasant and the reward is pace of mind. . I feel like I'm in a good place.
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