Book Review: Dharma Road

“Dharma Road: A Short Cab Ride to Self Discovery”
Written by Brian Haycock
Published by Hampton Roads

“Dharma Road…” is easily, hands down, one of the most down to earth books on Zen/ Buddhism I’ve read. Yes, there is a “/” there because although it is obvious Brian is a Zen guy, I don’t think you have to be a follower of the Zen tradition to enjoy this book. He does makes references to other traditions as well, especially when talking about death and reincarnation.

Brian brings us into his world as a cab driver and contrasts that life with his practice. I appreciate his analogy here, I drove a cab for a summer and laughed numerous times while reading “Dharma Road..” We’ve read this kind of book before, even I compared my love of metal with Buddhist practice. But, what I truly loved about “Dharma Road” is just how practical the advice based on the comparisons are.

The chapters titled “Clean-Up Time” and Blue Monday” offer us a glimpse into the life of a simple, practical man who struggles just like the rest of us. In his words, “I’ve read a lot of books about Buddhism. The authors traveled to Nepal at twenty, learned to speak five languages fluently, including ancient Sanskrit, and attained full enlightenment in a Himalayan cave at twenty-three. I didn’t. That’s alright too. I did some other things, lived the way I wanted most of the time. I’ve had some good times and some bad times, like anyone. It’s today that matters. We’re all here right now, and the past is just a sideshow. On these streets, I’m a bodhisattva in a Hawaiian shirt and a ball cap, driving down the Eightfold Freeway in a spotless Yellow Cab, trying to get through these blues without giving into them.”

If there were a book on Buddhism for the “working class heroes” of our time, this would be the one. Like a wood carver whittles away until he gets the result he is looking for, Brian has whittled away a lot of the hub bub in Buddhism and made it functional for anyone and everyone.

Hop in, enjoy the ride, and see where this Yellow Cab can take you on your travels down “Dharma Road.”

Book Review: The Wisdom of Imperfection, The Challenge of Individuation in Buddhist Life

“The Wisdom of Imperfection: The Challenge of Individuation in Buddhist Life”
by Rob Preece
Published by Snow Lion Publications

Like in a previously reviewed book, “The Courage To Feel”, Preece brings his psychological viewpoint, ala Carl Jung, and his immense knowledge of Tibetan Buddhist practice to the forefront once again in this book.

“The Wisdom Of Imperfection…” identifies some issues folks have when they come to Buddhist practice. Preece addresses the fact he has treated folks who were struggling, specifically newer practitioners. Some folks, when they first come to this path may have some things they have to work out, and they believe that Buddhist practice in an of itself can cure those issues. In one example, he talks of a woman who sacrifices herself over and over, the overbearing Bodhisattva we could call her.

I took a good amount away from the chapter “Individuation and Spiritual Crisis” which dealt with those of us, that hitting a certain age begin to feel a bit disjointed with the world around us and stumble on this practice. He talks about the complications we encounter as our minds have been accustomed to the way we’ve lived, not the way we hope to live. We all know how powerful the mind is, and Preece gives some practical tips to help.

My only criticism is that the book seemed a bit dry at times, and for me, the use of Jungian terms did not resonate. I can appreciate what the author was going for, but not being a fan of psycho-babble I was lost at times. If finding a delicate balance between Jungian psychotherapy and Tibetan Buddhist practice is something you are searching for, Rob Preece is the author that will satiate that urge. I did enjoy his previous book “Courage To Feel” a lot more, maybe I need to put this one down and come back to it again later.

Book Review: Light Was Everywhere

“Light Was Everywhere”
Written by Richard Wehrman
Published by Goldenstone Press

If you’ve read “The Banyan Deer” or “Endless Path: Awakening Within the Buddhist Imagination: Jataka Tales, Zen Practice, and Daily Life” by Rafe Martin you surely know who Richard Wehrman is. Richard’s art graces both books, and very much so help tell the stories in which they are included.

Richards poetry is just as artistic and extravagant as his illustrations are. The prose flows in such a way you can visualize every word he is crafting. His words are heartfelt and as honest as one could hope to be.

From specific poems, “You”, reminding one of this practice we all partake in to “Simple Things” that remind of the things we take for granted in our youth. Then, Richards wit and humor shine brightly in one of my favorites,  “Krispy Kreme Bodhisattva”. I was nearly in stitches after reading it.

Being a book of poetry, it could be a quick read. But, then, that might be wasting the time the writing deserves. Richards poetry should be enjoyed, something to be savored. I highly enjoyed “Light Was Everywhere” and hope you do too!

Book Review: Beyond Happiness, The Zen Way to True Contentment

“Beyond Happiness: The Zen Way to True Contentment”
by Ezra Bayda
Published by Shambhala Publications

I really appreciate the author’s approach with this book, and at this point in my practice I really needed something like his to come along. Those that are regular readers of my blog know of my constant, and more frequent, stumbles and questioning this thing we call practice.

Ezra, I believe, has found that delicate balance between that plastic outer happiness so many of us “Buddhists” project, and the real underlying happiness we truly desire but fail to tap into. He describes a level of contentment, where we just come to this place of still happiness. Not the kind of contentment where just forget about everything that is going on and masquerade our “inner happiness”, but being content with where we are.

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Book Review: Daring Steps, Traversing the Path of the Buddha

“Daring Steps: Traversing the Path of the Buddha”
Written by Ringu Tulku
Published by Snow Lion Publications

I’ve read quite a few books that try to break down the fundamentals of Tibetan Buddhism, but truly believe that “Daring Steps…” is one of the most explicit books I’ve read on the subject to date.

The section on empowerments really helped me understand the meaning and purpose behind them, as well as transmission. I’ve received a couple different empowerments, and understood the practices at the time. But, being a noob there were still some questions I always held in the back of my mind.

“Daring Steps…” is a great overview of the three yanas (Shravakayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana) as well. What I liked though, is the fact Ringu Tulku did not try to separate them all. He says they are all dependent and independent of each other, and as crazy as that sounded at the time of reading it, it makes perfect sense now.

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Book Review: The Tao Of Success

“The Tao Of Success”
Written By Derek Lin
Published By Tarcher/ Penguin

I have little, to no, knowledge of Taoism and will never pretend that I do. I was asked to read and review this book though so I thought it would be a great opportunity to at least have some semblance of an understanding of what the Tao is.

Derek Lin, in “The Tao Of Success”, goes through step by step how one can attain spiritual growth through their study of the Tao. He does so with stories, proverbs and ancient tales. After each one, he breaks them down and teaches how to bring those stories into action. What he’s doing here reminds me a lot of the Jataka Tales and how each has some sort of underlying moral to it.

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Book Review: The Four Immeasurables

The Four Immeasurables: Practices to Open the Heart
Written by B. Alan Wallace
Published by Snow Lion Publications

“The Four Immeasurables: Practices to Open the Heart” is a compendious study of the four immeasurables, the precursor to generating bodhichitta, a core piece in Tibetan Buddhist teachings.

For those unfamiliar with the four immesaurables, which can be written or recited in various ways, they are as follows…

May all sentient beings have happiness and its causes.
May all sentient beings be free of suffering and its causes.
May all sentient beings not be separated from sorrowless bliss.
May all sentient beings abide in equanimity, free of bias, attachment and anger Continue reading →

Book Review: Endless Path

Endless Path – Awakening Within the Buddhist Imagination: Jataka Tales, Zen Practice, and Daily Life
Written by Rafe Martin
Published by North Atlantic Books

Recently I reviewed one of Rafe Martin’s other books, “The Banyan Deer” and I raved about it. Not only did I rave about the storytelling, but for the fabulous illustrations by Richard Wehrman. The pair have teamed up again, this time in a much larger book, with multiple stories and illustrations.

“Endless Path…” is a collection of 10 jataka tales. For those that do not know, the jataka tales are stories which are based, and believed to be, about the Buddha’s previous incarnations as either humans or animals. Jataka tales have been told for many years, and while some are not the exact story they may have originally been, they are very close representations I’m sure. Continue reading →

Book Review: Rebel Buddha

“Rebel Buddha”
By Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche
Published By Shambhala Publications

This has got to be the most clear and concise take on Buddhism for the Western audience. Without all the buzzwords and mysticism, DPR breaks down the facade many folks in the West have of Buddhism and other Eastern religions/ philosophies.

“Rebel Buddha” briefly tells the story of DPR’s upbringing. From the revolutionary 60’s to the current status of the West, his insights and instruction are distinct. I love his comparison to the age of the US to that of a young child, still asking questions and still trying to find our identity and direction in the world, “Who am I?”

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