Buddhism Plain and Simple: The Practice of Being Aware, Right Now, Every Day
In this article, I will be reviewing a book named “Buddhism Plain and Simple: The Practice of Being Aware, Right Now, Every Day” by Steve Hagen. Steve Hagen is a Zen priest residing in Minneapolis, Minnesota who has studied Buddhism for more than 30 years.
Half of these years were spend under the tutelage of Zen Master Dainin Katagiri from whom he received the Dharma Transmission (endorsement to teach). Katagiri Roshi is himself the author of a book on Zen Buddhism named “Returning to Silence: Zen Practice in Daily Life“.
He also teaches Buddhism at the Dharma Field Meditation and Learning Center in Minneapolis and much of this book is actually based on his lectures on various Buddhist topics. He is also the author of a few more Buddhist books:
- Hagen, Steve (2004) Buddhism Is Not What You Think
- Hagen, Steve (2007) Meditation Now Or Never
- Hagen, Steve (2012) Why the World Doesn’t Seem to Make Sense: An Inquiry into Science, Philosophy, and Perception
This book “Buddhism Plain and Simple” strips away all of the religious trappings that Buddhism has adopted in the various Asian countries where it took root and looks at the teachings of the Buddha themselves and what they mean for us in the present.
The book is composed of three sections as outlined below:
Part One: The Perennial Problem
This first section of this book focuses on the main teachings of the Buddha, the Four Noble Truths, and Eightfold Path.
Chapter 1: The Human Situation
Chapter 2: A Wheel Out of Kilter
Chapter 3: Coming
Chapter 4: Going
Chapter 5: The Art of Seeing
One amazing trick is found in Chapter 2 where the author asks you to name what is in the following image:
The author uses this as a way to illustrate the kind of “Aha” realization that we’ll get once we attain enlightenment and we experience a shift in perception. Once you can see the image in the above picture, note that you’ll be able to recognize it after you see the answer (I will include the answer at the end of this post) as it really is and not what your brain wants to make it. And all right under our noses, as is Nirvana itself the awakened mind.
Part Two: The Way to Wake Up
The second section of this books focuses on the Fourth Noble Truth, the Eightfold path which is the path by which we can understand and deal with the world as we find it.
Chapter 6: Wisdom
Chapter 7: Morality
Chapter 8: Practice
Chapter 9: Freedom
Part Three: Free Mind
In the third section of this book there is a focus on the first two aspects of the Eightfold path (Right View and Right Intention) which comprise the Buddha’s wisdom teachings.
Chapter 10: The Way We Are
Chapter 11: Can’t Pin “Me” Down
Chapter 12: Interdependence
Also included are resources on Dependent Arising (sometimes called Dependent Origination) and the two ways to view the Twelvefold Chain of Dependent Arising.
This is a great book since it explains Buddhism without getting into the terminology too much, which can be confusing for many beginners. Instead he presents the teachings of the Buddha simply and in plain language as the title suggests.
I would recommend this book to all who are looking to get a better understanding of Buddhism. After I read this book, I was left with a very profound understanding of Buddhism, much deeper due to the accessible and simple language without the religious and linguistic trappings. And I still use it for reference purposes or as a refresher as a Buddhist myself.
Conclusion / Rating
This is by far one of the best books on Buddhism that I have ever read that was written for lay Buddhists, so my rating for this one is:
Thanks for reading my review of “Buddhism Plain and Simple” by Steve Hagen, I hope you enjoyed it and I hope you enjoy the book as well.