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The Dharma Books Are Winning

According to a recent post, winning is for losers. So what do I mean, "the dharma books are winning"?

They are winning the battle for space in my apartment and on my bookshelves, that's certain. I gazed hopelessly at my piles of books tonight, exhausted, then turned away to Facebook. Where I faced this:

"To have some deep feeling about Buddhism is not the point; we just do what we should do, like eating supper and going to bed. This is Buddhism."


That line comes from Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, Shunryu Suzuki's beloved work on Buddhism, the book that many credit with starting them on the Buddhist path. Shambhala Publications is celebrating the 40th anniversary of its publication with a special edition, and they posted that quote in their Facebook feed. And I'm grateful they did. Made me think maybe I don't need to read piles of books right now.

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few." This sentence begins Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. How many possibilities are in my mind? Do I need another edition?

Best intuition says not right now. Do I need to reread the edition I have? Best intuition says yes.

Eating supper: check. Going to bed: soon. Deep feeling about Buddhism: not the point.

Suzuki Roshi and Chogyam Trungpa both brought Buddhism to the West, from Japan and Tibet respectively. They both founded traditions in American Buddhism that influence the world today--and my personal world--profoundly. Both respected each other highly and had a deep friendship. Both knew how to make a proper cup of tea. I don't. But that's not, exactly, the point, is it? Maybe here in 21st c New York City we can know how to make a proper pot of coffee. Make it with attention, just doing just that. Maybe I'll do that, right now. Though that would probably interfere with going to bed.

All these musings on dharma books made me realize I am curious, too, about other people's dharma books. How many IDP blog readers would put Suzuki Roshi's work in, say, their top five dharma books? Top ten? What are our favorite dharma books? Which ones have turned us one way or another on the path? I'm still compiling my list. Of course, I find it hard to keep to just five. But I'm practicing.

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my dharma book library started with Siddhartha circa 1992.  Then, if you count it as dharma reading, Krishnamurti - a pile of it.  Then a streak of Kerouac - on the road, dharma bums, etc - an aborted attempt at Robert Pirsig, some cheesy book about meditation with some godawful title, then Be Here Now (leafed through initially at my sisters cobwebby communal farm in Vermont, not read cover to cover and still admired frequently, now with my own copy courtesy of same said amazing sister), some great Cheri Huber stuff (from my crazy inspirational cousin Abby - The Key and The Name of the Key & That Which You Are Seeking is Causing you to Seek - only know do I realize it was Soto Zen writings) - detour into a decidedly new age swamp lots of lessons but lets not think about that TOO much - I was moments away from diving deep into ACIM (look it up) - then kersplat back into practical Buddhism with Sit Down Shut Up (Brad Warner) a creek that led to IDP and more serious buddhist studies.

that's my dharma library reading path in a nutshell. too many hours spent at now departed East West Books and the old Open Center on Spring Street.  not enough time on the cushion. until 3 years ago on a hot summers day....and both Patrick and Ellen were there....

First Dharma Book!

This book is what brought me to meditation practice!   When I first heard the phrase "Beginner's Mind" it blew my mind.

Also, in terms of ratio -- Dharma books occupy about 90% of my reading titles lately.   Trying to work up the courage to actually take a break and read a novel, but the dharma is so fascinating!   Can't get enough right now --- I'm sure that will change one day.

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