* Prices may differ from that shown
PART ONE The giant, curving sensuous leaves, lit from behind by the sun, shone bright amber, mauve and lemon. "What about these trees?" I said to Rahayu as we walked along a path through some rainforest in South West Java. "Pretty big and solid, eh?" "Not solid," said Rahayu. "The Darma, the Law of Nature, is the only solid thing we have." "The tree looks solid to me!" "The trees and our bodies are made up of subatomic particles and empty space. You probably know the subatomic particles are not really solid. They exist only for a trillionth of a second." "Gosh." "The particles continuously arise and then vanish. They come in and out of existence. the trees have no real being." "They look real to me." I touched a tree to make sure. "That's because you can't see what's really happening." A large colourful spider was perched in a web just above us. "What about all the suffering in nature?" I asked. "Suffering is not due to chance. There are causes. Our actions are the cause of suffering." "Isn't it possible," I said, "that everything has come about by chance?" "No. Mind precedes all phenomena. Everything is mind-made." "When a baby dies, or an insect is swallowed up, couldn't it just be bad luck?" "Everything must have a cause," said Rahayu. "But what about a baby that dies? How can you say its actions are the cause of its suffering?" "Karma. The baby's previous life. People who cause pain to other living things experience a lot of sickness. There's a path leading to happiness and one that leads to suffering..." "Sounds a bit different from Christianity," I commented.
"It's possible to be a Christian and a Buddhist. Because Buddhism is not strictly speaking a religion in the same way as Islam or Christianity." Well, I thought I should read more about Buddhism. And took a look at BUDDHISM by Christmas Humphreys. Christmas Humphreys, born in london in 1901, was a judge, a Buddhist, and the founder of the Buddhist Society of London. His famous book is quite simply about Buddhism, its teachings (in all its forms, and its history. For anyone interested in the meaning of life, it's a 'must'. But, it does use language which is quite chewy : for example "All things are One and have no life apart from it; the One is all things and is incomplete without the least of them. Yet the parts are parts within the whole, not merged in it..." PART TWO Humphreys explains that everything we are is the result of our thoughts. All forms of life are interrelated in a complex web. Light and dark, ultimately, are one. The Universe includes but is not limited by causation. There is no First Cause; no ultimate End. The cause of misery? The belief that the self, the part, can pit its separate self against the will and welfare of the whole. For the law is love. Compassion is the Law. If all that we are is the result of what we have thought, all that we shall be is the result of what we are thinking now. We are building now our tomorrow. We are predestined now by the previous exercise of our own free will. Do we survive death? What walks on is consciousness. Life is ever seeking self-expression in new forms. PART THREE Humphreys gives us a life of Buddha and a history of what followed Buddha's death. He deals with Theravada Buddhism in great detail, and other schools in less detail. There are chapters on Zen, Tibeta
n Buddhism, Mahayana and so on. The style tends to be intellectual. PART FOUR Buddhism, according to Humphreys, teaches 'Love your neighbour.' How can anyone rest content while his brother's life is filled with suffering? True happiness is only to be found in ceaseless effort on behalf of suffering mankind. Sounds like Christianity? Yes. But Humphreys points out that Buddhism has nothing to do with the sacrificing of animals, or, other people, as a way of appeasing some angry old man in the sky. And, Buddhism does not believe in what the typical churchgoer might conceive of as God. Now, I have a worry here. If there is no God, in that traditional sense, how come we get reincarnated? Who or what makes the system work? This is where Buddhism and Humphreys start to use big words that confuse my simple mind. At one point Humphreys uses the words Ultimate Reality in place of God. He writes, "If there is a Causeless Cause of all causes, an ultimate reality, a Boundless Light, ....it must clearly be infinite, unlimited, unconditioned and without attributes. We on the other hand are clearly finite...It follows then that we can neither define, describe, nor usefully discuss the nature of that which is beyond the comprehension of our finite consciousness." Mmmmmmmm! Buddha maintained about God/Ultimate Reality 'a noble silence.' A pity. I wanted to know. Sounds a bit like the priest who says, in answer to one's probing question, "It's a mystery."
I'm going to write about Buddhist books here. The section title tends to imply writing about Buddhism. I'll stick with books though. It's amazing that when you pick up most Buddhist books you are in fact picking up Zen Buddhist ones. Not that this is a bad thing but there should at least be a small hint as to what the source is. Picking up a book such as Buddhism Plain and Simple, you'd think that you would be getting an over view of the whole of Buddhism, wrong. Look before you leap. I find that since becoming a Buddhist I am much more careful about the books I buy. This is partly due to the fact that you get bogged down with different views or ideas about Buddhism. Not a bad thing but I don't want to get too confused or snowed under with different traditions. My own tradition is Karma Kagyu. So I am focusing on books that cover the Kagyu history/teachings. Tibetan Buddhism pays a lot of respect to the lineage of masters. So I think sticking to one's own tradition of Buddhism is best. I do read books by the Dalai Lama (Gelug tradition). He spells out Buddhism in a non-sectarian way. Also, his books are very interesting. I won't buy books that go into advanced teachings or are the teachings themselves. Mainly because I've been adviced against it. Which is a good thing because it would end up being misunderstood and interpreted incorrectly. Not imply that it says what you want it to. You build up the spiritual foundations and then when you are ready you can request the teaching from a Lama. Going out and buying it seems a good idea but without proper instruction, it won't be worth it. So Buddhist books are good as a starting point. Finding out which tradition you feel most comfortable in is a must. Then try it out. I found Tibetan Buddhism was for me, even though, I'd read a few Zen books.
For books concerning the history and tenets of the Buddhist religion.