Digital Dharma

The Middle Path, One Day At A Time


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Would You Rather Be Right, Or Would You Rather Be Happy?

An overpowering need to be right is born of perfectionism, pride and fear. Some people would risk a relationship, rather than admitting they were wrong, or that someonesoap else’s point of view might be valid – at least for that person. Those of us who carry around that character defect – and the writer is most assuredly in recovery from know-it-all-ism – are often (or often have been) so unable to admit that there are two sides to most things that we have been willing even to alienate loved ones: We’d rather be right than loved.  More…

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Wisdom Publications Has A New Website and DRM-free EBooks

Our friends at Wisdom Publications have asked that we publish information about their newly-designed website:

The new content-rich website of Buddhist publisher Wisdom Publications, www.wisdompubs.org, is now live. The clean new design makes it easier than ever for readers to find the books and information they want and to share it with others.

New site features include:

  • Expanded book pages, complete with excerpts and tables of contents. Browse before you buy.
  • In-depth author pages containing biographies, photos, and social media links
  • Books organized into special interest collections including Wisdom Academics, Mindful Living, Tibetan Buddhism, Theravada, Zen, Buddhism and Psychology and Children’s, making browsing simpler than ever
  • The Wisdom Blog, packed with book excerpts, quotes, interviews, original posts, and more to engage the audience.

Additionally, Wisdom Publications is now offering DRM-free ebooks for sale on the site. The books are delivered simultaneously in three formats (PDF, ePub, and Mobi), allowing readers to download them onto multiple devices and preserve them in their personal libraries for future device migration.

Visit the new website today at www.wisdompubs.org.

Note: Digital-Dharma has no connection with Wisdom Publications apart from admiration for the books they publish.


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Book Review — The Misleading Mind, by Karuna Cayton

Karuna Cayton, a psychotherapist and practicing Buddhist, has written an interesting book for non-Buddhists who are looking for ways to make their life more manageable. Based on the 2600 year-old principles of Buddhist psychology, it covers the general range of the Four Noble Truths and the eightfold path, but in a fashion that does not require extensive knowledge — any knowledge at all, really — of Buddhist teaching and principles.

“It is odd that we can describe our hands or our face but if we’re asked to describe our mind we can only offer vague, nebulous descriptions. That’s because, not examining the mind, we don’t know the mind. Knowing how our mind really functions is the first step to mental balance and health and, yes, greater happiness. We need to become explorers – curious about our idea of self, our mind, our emotions, how they function and how we can master them. As such, we’ll seek the knowledge, contemplation, and wisdom to become our own best therapist. Our discoveries become the pathway to solving our problems and revealing a happier and healthier way of being.”

The ideas covered in The Misleading Mind will not come as anything new to those who have even casually perused the Buddha’s teachings. However, in approaching them from the perspective of people with no knowledge at all of suffering and the causes of suffering as understood by Buddhists, Cayton has illuminated corners that may not have been examined even by long-term practitioners. These principles are presented in a way that is accessible to non-Buddhists, and at the same time can profitably be considered by experienced students.

Finally, unlike many writers, Cayton does not minimize the need for continuous, long-term work to effect the changes he promises.  While reasonably gentle, he insists we understand that we are the “captains of our souls,” that we have to work for what we desire, and that the ultimate responsibility for our happiness rests upon — and just above — our own shoulders.

The Misleading Mind: How We Create Our Own Problems and How Buddhist Psychology Can Help Us Solve Them, ©2012 by Karuna Cayton. New World Library.


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Review: Living Fully — Finding Joy In Every Breath

When I opened Living Fully I was expecting another Buddhism for the masses sort of thing. I’ve known of Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche for some time, but had read only a couple of excerpts from his writings. Having become accustomed to the seemingly compulsive efforts of a variety of commentators to, in the words of Mark Twain, “Shed darkness upon this subject,” I expected another instance of what I’ve sometimes referred to as Buddhism lite.

Let me hasten to add that I find nothing wrong with popular writing about Buddhism and dharma. We all had to start someplace on the path, and these steppingstones are only slippery when the reader decides she knows enough to go out and practice without finding a teacher. While it is true that anyone can find enlightenment in an instant, it is also true that the more one practices mindfully, the more likely it is that the instant will come to pass. Unhappily, I have read the work of many teachers who fail to emphasize the essential nature of a teacher-student relationship, and I don’t think those worthies are imparting all that a seeker needs to know.

In any case, Living Fully is not that kind of book. I was slightly put off by the imperative style, until I realized that this is essentially a book of short dharma talks. If I were fortunate enough to embark on a prolonged retreat, I would certainly take this collection with me. The individual chapters, comprising a couple of pages each, would make perfect reading before meditation sessions.

Nor is it a book for beginners. Rinpoche’s writings, while not at all inaccessible, lend themselves more to contemplation by those with some understanding of basics, such as the Four Noble Truths, Eightfold Path, and Precepts, than to folks just approaching the subject. Had I run across this book fifteen years ago, I would have thought it pretty impenetrable. As it is, I look forward to again mining it for such gems as these.

When we finally achieve the things we desire, we fear losing them, and this triggers constant anxiety. There is a feeling of sadness and frustration born of out inability to make the world conform to our hopes and expectations.

That is as clear an explanation of a major aspect of dukkha as I ever expect to read, and worth of twenty minutes contemplation all by itself. And again…

It is senseless to continue chasing after the things that have failed us in the past….

and

The best approach is to focus on your own faults. When you condemn others for their shortcomings, think, “This must be my fault. I am causing suffering for myself by being judgemental. I am rejecting what I don’t like, and accepting what I like. I will become bound in an endless cycle of accepting and rejecting.”

I highly recommend this book for anyone who has a basic understanding of Buddhist thought. For beginners, however, the writings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, The Venerable Thich Nhat Hahn, or some of the popular teachers such as Joko Beck and Chuck Hagen might be a better place to start. Finally, however, I have to say that Living Fully is a must for those serious about expanding their practice.

Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche, Living Fully – Finding Joy In Every Breath, New World Library, Novato, California, 2012.


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Put This On Your “Must Have” List For June

I just received an advance reader’s copy of “This Truth Never Fails,” by David Rynick, from Wisdom Publications.  I’ve only gotten a few pages into it, and I’ll be posting a full review later.  However, I wanted to give you a heads-up on this one, since it may be the most important book about Zen thought to hit the shelves this year.  It’s due for publication in early June.  Put it on your list.


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Safety Margins

I came as close to using drugs last night as I have in over 20 years.  My experience — totally unexpected — draws a line under the reasons that we have to keep our heads in the right place, have supports available, and the several other things involved in maintaining our sobriety.

Safety Margins – Sunrise Detox Blog