Buddhism Is Not What You Think: Finding Freedom Beyond Beliefs

ISBN: 0060730579
ISBN 13: 9780060730574
By: Steve Hagen

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About this book

Bestselling author and renowned Zen teacher Steve Hagen penetrates the most essential and enduring questions at the heart of the Buddha's teachings: How can we see the world in each moment, rather than merely as what we think, hope, or fear it is? How can we base our actions on reality, rather than on the longing and loathing of our hearts and minds? How can we live lives that are wise, compassionate, and in tune with reality? And how can we separate the wisdom of Buddhism from the cultural trappings and misconceptions that have come to be associated with it?Drawing on down-to-earth examples from everyday life and stories from Buddhist teachers past and present, Hagen tackles these fundamental inquiries with his trademark lucid, straightforward prose. The newcomer to Buddhism will be inspired by this accessible and provocative introduction, and those more familiar with Buddhism will welcome this much needed hands-on guide to understanding what it truly means to be awake. By being challenged to question what we take for granted, we come to see the world as it truly is. Buddhism Is Not What You Think offers a profound and clear path to a life of joy and freedom.

Reader's Thoughts


He repeats himself so many times that it becomes a bit boring after a while. The choice of words should have been a bit more precise - this lack of care for the exact "name" is really a pity because the general ideas are quite interesting.


Terrific book. A lot of practical sense and getting to grips with real Buddhism. I like Steve Hagen's books and have a couple of others—they're all worth reading.


While it seemed basic and simple to start, and in many ways stayed that was throughout, I found a lot of interesting concepts to ponder. This is a good book to read slowly. Zen.

Pieter Dubelaar

"Buddhism is not what you think" refers to the view of Zen Buddhists on how we all look at the world around us and ourselves in it. This flawed view of everything consists of seeing the world, and our minds immediately applying countless moulds - our concepts like "cat", "book" and "rain" - on this view. Steve Hagen goes to great lengths in his book to teach us that the reality does not consist of the concepts we use, but merely is the way it is. All we need to do is to just see the world, and not apply any concepts upon it.


Some of the ideas put forth in this book, especially those concerning various Zen conceptions of life and reality, are pretty nice thoughts and have even been pleasant and helpful in everyday life. However, Hagen is unclear at best on a number of important philosophical ideas and claims. Often he falls back on the claim that if we could "just see" reality for what it is in this moment, we would know the truth of Zen teaching.As an overview of Buddhist teachings and beliefs, this book is useful If a little repetitive. I would now be interested in examining the philosophical presumptions of Buddhism in more depth in another book should I find one more focused on them.


A good basic intro book into Buddhism teaching how to get out of our thinking & overly analytical minds and how to just observe and be in the moment, be in the now.


Perhaps a slightly less metaphor-heavy alternative to Charlotte Joko Beck's books, this is probably a great introduction to zen. Some of the examples he uses verge on the gimmicky, and feel at odds with the rest of the work. I also wasn't convinced by the latter sections which call upon rather speculatory science - yes, it's really pretty interesting, but also mostly irrelevant, I would have thought, detracting from the major themes of the book.


This is easily one of the best books about Zen - and life in general - that I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Steve Hagen is able to write about these topics in a way that makes it clear and easy to absorb what he's talking about. This is a life altering book, read it!


The next Buddhism book for me after "Living Buddha Living Christ" - this book goes into depth on the way Buddhism works in practice. Alternatively, reading this book and thinking deeply about the concepts in it is one excellent exercise to develop skills of critical thinking.


I'm surprised I didn't jot this down, but in one of the chapters Steve Hagen makes a distinction between Belief and Knowledge. If I remember correctly, there are two insights packed into this distinction.First that Science is about Belief, which maybe something materialists like me may not be comfortable with at first glance... but actually kind of makes sense. It just so happens that Science has a very good way of controlling belief so that we're not just believing any old thing, but the bits and pieces that are left behind when we've ruled out a bunch of our other beliefs in a good way.The second insight is that Science and Religion are often fighting in the Belief category, which is stupid. Science is an excellent tool for managing Belief (eg. we can rule out that the sun goes around the Earth because X), and Religion has no business trying to interfere, particularly since it's got its own territory to tend to (Knowledge). This is a bit like that irritating Science-says-Why/Religion-says-How thing that people use (which sounds really trite to me), but somehow a bit more satisfying.I hope that without a copy of his book and many months after reading it, this interpretation of his statement is correct.I kinda like this distinction, but something which bugs me is the word choice "Knowledge". It sounds like this could lead a lot of people to confusion because "Knowledge" for many people is just very strong belief (I don't Think it's true, I Know it's true -- well, actually, you don't Know it's true, you think very fervently that it's true). I wish there was a better word than Knowledge, something that better conveys the orthogonality with Belief.Hope somebody knows what I'm trying to get at and can run with it...


Great book. Can seem a little redundant, but there's a valuable teaching in every chapter. Well worth the read.


Steve Hagen has done another great job of making some of the very intangible aspects of Buddhism (specifically Zen) much more tangible. Using duality to talk about non-duality is tricky business, but as shown here just like a well given dharma talk it can be done.


More of a book for those who are already practitioners. I don't think newcomers to Buddhism would actually understand what he is talking about. I would recommend to those who are already Buddhist practitioners.

Rich Neal

Beautifully written - I'm learning a lot. A very detailed deposition of modern Buddhism that debunks the western-hemisphere initiated misunderstandings and biases towards the ONLY life philosophy that Albert Einstein mentioned as being worthy of further consideration.

Courtney Rinker

Good read. Sometimes confusing. You need to be open to the reading for it to be worthwhile.

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