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Friday, October 22, 2010

The Power of an Open Question: A Book Review.

Recently I was sent a copy of Elizabeth Mattis-Namgyel's book, "The Power of an Open Question: The Buddha's Path to Freedom" by Shambhala Publications. I must be honest and say that this book probably won't make it onto my Buddhist "classics" bookshelf but I did enjoy parts of her work.

I enjoyed the section of the book about suffering and "fixing" things. In our deluded states of mind we sometimes think we can "fix" all the worlds problems but as Buddha teaches, "suffering is inevitable." This can often lead people down one of two paths: 1). Become frustrated with the ever suffering world, disconnect from it and live a solitary existence. Or, 2). Acknowledge that no one can end all the suffering in the world but do things that reduce suffering.

In this regard Mattis-Namgyel recounts a story about a lady who devotes much of her time reducing the suffering of animals. One of her projects was to redesign stockyard and slaughterhouse facilities that reduce fear and stress in cattle. In reaction to this a radio interviewer asked her, "Why bother creating more humane conditions for animals that are about to be slaughtered anyway?" Her wise and compassionate response was, "Why else, but to reduce their suffering?"

Overall, I found the book to be a bit too elementary for my liking. That, however, doesn't mean I think it's a terrible book; because it does have some good insights. I simply think it is a book best suited for those new to Buddhism who are looking for a very basic over-view of the teachings. Although, I must say that if you're looking for a good over-view of the core basics of Buddhism I would point you in the direction of, "The Heart of the Buddhas Teachings: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy and Happiness."

~Peace to all beings~

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Mumon said...

Overall, I'm glad I read Paul Krugman this morning, and Tokyo Vice recently. The former teaches, rather sanely, that while one might not be able to reduce suffering, there's really, really, crazy things one can do to make it worse, and the latter, well, it's a substantially more mature book, from the standpoint of a Buddhist viewpoint in real life.

I guess that's why I hardly read stuff like "The Power of an Open Question" any more.

Michelle said...

Thank you for your honest review. Thank you for the insight regrading suffering. I found it very meaningful for me.

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katabijakmotivasi said...

thanks for the recommended books

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