‘What Makes You Not A Buddhist’ is an arresting title, isn’t it?
You know what it’s like in a bookshop, your eyes drifting along titles and covers and then something jumps out at you and you feel compelled to have a look… even if you’re only meeting someone in the bookshop and had no intention of buying anything! The title caught my eye and then the picture on the front of the book… as you can see it is also an arresting cover:
It is quite a slim book, only 128 pages long, but it is packed full of wisdom, information and humour. It is seemingly a light read because it is so well-written the pages fly by; however it is not light-weight; it is extremely thought-provoking and confronts every day issues… from a Buddhist perspective, obviously but even someone who is not a Buddhist, or maybe especially someone who is not a Buddhist would come away from reading this with a greater understanding of themselves, and what makes their own lives what they are. As the blurb says, this book ‘encourages us to examine our most fundamental assumptions and beliefs.’
Dsongsar Jamyang Khyentse was born in Bhutan, a beautiful place I would love to visit! He was born in 1961 and is renowned as a writer and film-maker as well as being a religious leader and teacher.
Once, I was seated on a plane in the middle seat of the middle row on a trans-Atlantic flight, and the sympathetic man sitting next tome made an attempt to be friendly. Seeing my shaved head and maroon skirt, he gathered that I was a Buddhist. When the meal was served, the man considerately offered to order a vegetarian meal for me. Having correctly assumed that I was a Buddhist, he also assumed that I don’t eat meat. That was the beginning of our chat. The flight was long, so to kill our boredom, we discussed Buddhism.
Over time I have come to realise that people often associate Buddhism with peace, meditation and nonviolence. In fact many seem to think that saffron or maroon robes and a peaceful smile are all it takes to be a Buddhist.
By the time I had read this far, I was captured. At the bottom of this first page, Khyentse says that he feels a little discontented that for many people Buddhism is just vegetarianism, nonviolence, peace and meditation. I’m only a beginner Buddhist, but I’ve already come up against that too!
Prince Siddhartha (who became the Buddha) who sacrificed all the comforts and luxuries of palace life, must have been searching for more than passivity and shrubbery when he set out to discover enlightenment.
‘Passivity and shrubbery’… I like that!