When most of us think of Buddhism we probably think of the Dalai Lama, some guy meditating in Northern India a few thousand years ago and people with a penchant for saffron clothing.

We have a vague sense of the many similarities between our yoga practice and an affinity towards meditation but our understanding of Buddhism is probably very limited.

I wanted to deepen my own understanding of Buddhism so asked Pete for some advice on books that would deepen my knowledge of the subject. I was looking for a book that was intellectually robust but not impenetrable (as I have found some books on this subject to be in the past) and he suggested this one.

Gethin is clearly very intelligent and humble and able to communicate fiendishly complicated topics to the layperson.

It’s an amazing book about a man about whom I wonder more and more often “was this guy the most radical person ever to set foot on this planet.” Reading the book reinforced my impression of Buddhism as less of a quasi religion and more of a structure to help people address the problems of suffering.

Buddha wanted to address the question of why do people suffer and he had a radical answer to this question. It’s our greed for “good” feeling; our aversion towards “bad” feelings and our understandable delusion that this strategy is helpful. His answer is also radical: not to hold onto good feelings and avoid bad ones but to treat all experience with equanimity and that this will over time fundamentally alter our experience of life. The tools to achieve this are meditation, wisdom and compassion.

Much of the later sections of the book are about the different schools of thought that emerged within Buddhism and its fascinating but incredibly complicated philosophical underpinnings. I really enjoyed these chapters but am not sure they really changed my fundamental understanding from the first few chapters of the book.

My advice is read this book. It might change your life or, more accurately, the way you respond to changes in your life…

James