Bestselling author and renowned Zen teacher Steve Hagen penetrates the most essential and enduring questions at the heart of the Buddha's teachings: How can we see the world in each moment, rather than merely as what we think, hope, or fear it is? How can we base our actions on reality, rather than on the longing and loathing of our hearts and minds? How can we live lives that are wise, compassionate, and in tune with reality? And how can we separate the wisdom of Buddhism from the cultural trappings and misconceptions that have come to be associated with it?
Drawing on down-to-earth examples from everyday life and stories from Buddhist teachers past and present, Hagen tackles these fundamental inquiries with his trademark lucid, straightforward prose. The newcomer to Buddhism will be inspired by this accessible and provocative introduction, and those more familiar with Buddhism will welcome this much needed hands-on guide to understanding what it truly means to be awake. By being challenged to question what we take for granted, we come to see the world as it truly is.
This book offers a profound and clear path to a life of joy and freedom.
— From back cover
Zen Buddhist priest and longtime teacher Hagen makes his central point emphatically and repeatedly throughout this book: Buddhism is about direct experience, not about the thoughts people habitually entertain about experience.
A student of Japanese Zen master Dainin Katagiri authorized by his master to teach, Hagen cites the Buddha's one-word summary of the goal of Buddhist teachings: awareness-awareness of whatever is taking place in the ever-changing present moment. Hagen's Buddhism is oriented toward big questions, strongly ontological and epistemological, and concerned with reality and how reality is ordinarily perceived (or, as he argues, habitually misperceived, because it is overlain with hopes, desires, concepts and other delusions).
So the author is not given to a lot of specific examples or stories from present life, though the book is peppered with the ancient-master stories that Zen teachers always draw on. The tone of the book is strongly didactic and abstract. Unlike Zen writers given to simplicity or poetry or startling paradox, Hagen relies on typographical conventions - italics and capital letters - to articulate and underscore his central point about Buddhist awareness ('to see Reality'), which contributes to a ponderous tone.
His Zen exegesis of Emily Dickinson is provocative, and the book would have benefited from more such surprises and re-readings of the lessons of everyday experience. That Hagen isn't a poet of prose doesn't detract from the worth of his content, but it does make his book harder to read.
— From Publishers Weekly
This is not just another nice book about Buddhism, one telling us what we like to hear and are used to hearing. No - it is a clear and challenging showing of the fundamental truth of our lives. This is an exceptional book. Make good use of it.