What Makes You Not A Buddhist Review

What Makes You Not A Buddhist Review

what makes you not a buddhist

Book Title: What Makes You Not A Buddhist
Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse
Year Published:
Paperback Price: $
Kindle Price: $


The author of this book is Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse, a lama from a prominent and influential Tibetan Buddhist family living in Bhutan.  He is also a filmmaker and directed a movie called “The Cup” (1999) which is about a group of Tibetan monks who become obsessed with soccer.

He also directed two other films, “Travellers and Magicians” (2003) and “Vara: A Blessing” (2013).  And he is the author of another book named “Not For Happiness: A Guide to the S0-Called Preliminary Practices” (2012) which is a no-nonsense book on Tibetan Buddhism meditation practices.

Book Summary

This book challenges common misconceptions, stereotypes, and fantasies around Buddhism.  He uses wit and irony to bring the reader to move beyond the superficial aspects of Buddhism such as beads, incense, or prayer wheels.  Not only that, but he uses examples from everyday modern life in order to explore the core teachings of the Buddha.

Khyentse uses stories from the Buddha’s life and places great importance on the four seals of Buddhism which constitutes “Right View” which itself is part of the Fourth Noble Truth, the Noble Eightfold Path.

what makes you not a buddhist

Dzongsar Lamyang Kyentse Rinpoche

These “Four Dharma Seals” are:

  • All compounded things are impermanent
  • All conditioned phenomena and experiences are unsatisfactory
  • All phenomena are non-self
  • Nirvana is true peace

Essentially, these are the four characteristics of true Buddhist teaching.  It is said that if any teaching contains the “Four Dharma Seals” then it can be considered to be Buddha Dharma.

The four chapters in this books also address each of the Buddhist Dharma Seals one at a time, using modern examples to help get the point across and so enhances our understanding of what Buddhist is not.


Chapter 1: Fabrication and Impermanence
Chapter 2: Emotion and Pain
Chapter 3: Everything is Emptiness
Chapter 4: Nirvana is beyond Concepts

My Critique

This is a great book.  I really enjoyed reading it and was pretty impressed with some of the examples and metaphors he uses.  It doesn’t seem like Buddhist monks should be this familiar with Western culture. But this book by this Buddhist teacher certainly changes that perception (or stereotype) of them.

That being said, I must say that this book does not contain any meditation practices or instructions but instead this book “looks at everyday life through a Buddhist lens” as Publishers Weekly put it.


In conclusion, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the philosophy behind the practices of meditation, but don’t expect to learn how to meditate from this book.  If you’re look for a book on Tibetan Buddhist meditation practices, then I would recommend his other book Not for Happiness: A Guide to the So-Called Preliminary Practices which I’ve also included in my Amazon picks below this article.

Buy your own copy of “What Makes You Not A Buddhist” from Amazon today!

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4 Responses to What Makes You Not A Buddhist Review

  1. Rachel Annie says:

    I loved the review about the book Buddha at Bedtime. I also really liked that he made the names easier. Do you have any other good children’s books that you would recommend that teach meditation and relaxing? Especially to help children with anxiety? Do you write any other articles besides book reviews? I would be very interested in learning what you think are some of the most 5 helpful meditations for children with high energy/stress anxiety. Do you know of a site that has this, or do you have any suggestions? Where can I search to find simple exercises for children, and what age is good to get started doing these meditations? Thank you so much! Talk to you soon!

    • Ian H says:

      Thanks! There is another book that I reviewed recently called “Planting Seeds” which goes into specific meditations for children including those that deal with anxiety. I would highly recommend that one. I also write articles on Buddhist teachings, history, and other aspects of Buddhism. For example: The Four Brahma Viharas, Karma in Buddhism

      I will actually write an article about some simple and helpful meditations for children in the near future so stay tuned.

  2. Anastazja says:

    Hi. I found the site a bit complex, but was very impressed with the content. I am a reader so I was not intimidated by the amount of content, but there was alot. I guess the folks who review the site will be fine with that. I found the teach section particularly good although I was happy to see that you offer a number of books for those whose interest had been sparked. Its an interesting site.

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