Buddhism Plain and Simple

Posted by on Sep 15, 2009 in Blog, Philosophy, Success | 0 comments

While there are things that I didn’t like about the book, there were a bunch of good things I liked about the book. The book might have been a simplification of Buddhist teachings, but it didn’t seem simplified enough to me, but the thing is, it probably was. In the end though, the principle of becoming more aware and present which isn’t a principle at all is something that we should be at every moment. That’s probably the simplest summary of the book called Buddhism Plain and Simple by Steve Hagen. Now, with this book, the excerpts that I’m posting here are the most profound parts of the book to me. These are the things that really stand out to me as having the most impact. Here goes.

As Yang Chu, the fourth century B.C.E. Chinese philosopher put it:

We move through the world in a narrow groove, preoccupied with the petty things we see and hear, brooding over our prejudices, passing by the joys of life without even knowing that we have missed anything. Never for a moment do we taste the heady wine of freedom. We are as truly imprisoned as if we lay at the bottom of a dungeon, heaped with chains.


Back when I had cancer, I would occasionally meet with oth­ers who had cancer. We always had much to share. And so it happened that I became friends with a man who was dying of the illness.

I used to visit him in the hospital. But I remember one evening in particular when everything seemed different. It wasn’t like the other nights I had visited him. For one thing, the hospital seemed so much quieter than usual.

My friend was lying in bed, hooked up to a machine that would sigh on occasion and break the silence every few minutes. Otherwise it was extremely quiet, except for the radio, tuned to the classical station, which was barely audible.

I sat by his bed and we talked quietly for a while. Our conversation was mostly silence. Just the radio and the sighing machine.

He was in pain and asked me to give him a massage. I did for a few minutes. Then, again, we talked for a while.

After a silence, he suddenly put his hands over his face and gave out a forceful gasp. Reality was overtaking him at last. He had been struggling with cancer for the better part of a year, but in that moment, the reality of his death was finally hitting him. At last he put his hands down and just stared ahead.

I said to him, “Wherever we go, it’s always like this.”

Puzzled, he looked at me and said, “What do you mean?”

I gestured and said, “thus.”

The look of bewilderment remained for a moment. Then his face transformed. He understood.

It was the last time we spoke to each other.

I sat with him a while longer, in that deathly silent room with the gasping machine. And the radio, exceedingly soft.

He died the next day.


When we latch on to an identity, it’s easy to take offense. But we offend ourselves. We lock ourselves into a very rigid way of seeing and thinking and feeling and reacting.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The fact is, I’m not anything in particular. Nor are you. nor is anyone.


“Do not do unto others what you would not have done unto you.”


Mindfulness of the body is awareness of how it moves: the position of the hand, head, or tongue; our posture; our breathing; the touch of grass, or sand, or wood, or stone underfoot; and the taste and smell of this moment.

Thich Nhat Hanh, in one of his walking exercises, asks us to imagine we’re astronauts who have crashed on the moon. We’re stranded. We look up into the sky and see the beautiful blue Earth, but we can’t get back to it because our ship is damaged. All we can do is look at that brilliant blue orb in the cold black sky and long to be home again.

But suppose we managed to fix our craft after all, and landed once again, on Earth. How would we feel as we first set foot upon the Earth? What would we observe and savor? How intensely would we experience the smells and flavors, the gentle rain, or the warm sand underfoot?

This, says Thich Nhat Hanh, is how we should walk on the earth with each step.

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