Read Why I Am a Buddhist: No-Nonsense Buddhism with Red Meat and Whiskey by Stephen T. Asma Online


This is a profound and amusing book that provides answers to the perennial questions: W ho am I? Why am I here? How can I live a meaningful life? Where am I going? For Stephen Asma, the answers to those questions are found in Buddhism....

Title : Why I Am a Buddhist: No-Nonsense Buddhism with Red Meat and Whiskey
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781571746177
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 179 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Why I Am a Buddhist: No-Nonsense Buddhism with Red Meat and Whiskey Reviews

  • Jason Pettus
    2019-02-03 11:19

    For those who need catching up, I'm spending the summer reading a bunch of random books from my local library on the subject of Buddhist meditation, after starting a secular form of meditation in my own life and having a friend recently remark that my insights about the practice sounded "accidentally Buddhist" to them. (See my review of Start Here Now for the entire backstory.)This is one of the last books of the reading project -- I've burned through about ten of them now, and I suspect I won't find any other books in other library branches that will be too fundamentally different than the ones I read at mine -- which makes it ironic that this turned out to be the best out of all of them, or at least "best" when it comes to my specific personal goal of finding a book about Buddhism that approaches it from a decidedly secular standpoint that's friendly to atheists like me, and that uses the everyday language and vernacular of contemporary Americans instead of drowning itself in hard-to-pronounce foreign terms from thousands of years ago. A blue-collar Chicagoan professor at Columbia College who unapologetically eats red meat and drinks liquor on a regular basis, Asma in fact seemingly wrote his book specifically with someone like me in mind, a refreshingly down-to-earth look at the philosophical real-world underpinnings behind so many of the most famous concepts in Buddhism, deliberately written with an eye towards how it can practically help in the day-to-day lives of most ordinary people, regardless of whether they're ready to convert to Buddhism or even really have much of a spiritual bent at all.This really helped me understand the self-directed insights I've been having this year, after starting to apply daily bouts of mindfulness and "gratitude journaling" into my life (after first learning them in the computer-programming bootcamp I attended last year, of all places); and it's been enlightening (so to speak) to realize that just the natural things I've been noticing about the world and myself because of these new activities actually have deep roots in the very heart of what Buddhism is supposed to be about. This especially applies to what's turned out to be the most beneficial thing that's come out of my mindfulness experiments, the way it helps stabilize my mood and keeps me on an even emotional track no matter how particularly bad or good that particular day went for me; and out of all the books I've read this summer on the subject, Asma was the only one to share a well-known simile about this (the "Six Animals" simile from the Samyutta Nikaya, discussed on page 125 in Asma's book) that made the entire subject just immediately sort of click into deep understanding in my brain.Although there are of course better books out there for people seeking other things from Buddhist writings than me, I can honestly say that this was the best one specifically for those like me who are not particularly religious, who cast a skeptical eye towards all the New Age hippie baggage that usually come with American Buddhism, and who mostly want to understand this subject in terms of how it can affect just their normal, day-to-day lives out in the secular world. I'm grateful to have finally found a book like this before my summer reading project ended, and it comes strongly recommended to the kinds of people I just described.

  • Alexis
    2019-02-07 08:53

    Four and a half stars. I love, love, loved this book. This was one of the books that I just pulled off the shelf during a recent visit to the library. So glad I did!Did I mention that I LOVED it?Stephen T. Asma is a man after my own heart. He came to Buddhism the same way I did- reading about mysticism, rock music and the Beats (Except he did a lot more drugs than I have ever done- hi mom!)Anyway, this is a no-nonsense guide to how Buddhism and Buddhist philosophy helps him live his life and how it helps him strive to be a better person.He describes the various avenues where Buddhism helps him- in his understanding of romantic relationships, his parenting, and how Buddhism and science intersect. This book is really easy to read and I would recommend it for any Western Buddhist.I found that he has written books on a variety of topics, including one on our fascination with monsters, and another on his travels in Southeast Asia. I'm going to check them out!

  • Sara
    2019-01-29 06:00

    This one man's rational experience with Buddhism written in an accessible, non-pious voice. His life isn't perfect, Buddhism helps him cope, and doesn't require anything in return. Asma dismisses religious constructs that control the seeker with gains & losses in the next world, contrasting them with Buddhism's focus on the now, and the ending of human suffering. He also *eviscerates* the new age-y "think it and it will be" crowd (I loved that part).I enjoyed his intelligent, reasonable style, found his story compelling, and thought his arguments were full of common sense.

  • Tobey
    2019-01-30 04:12

    As a buddhist who is sick of all the books in the stores about buddhism being either zen or tibetan it is nice to read a book that is less 'new age' and more about the reality of buddhism.

  • Ami
    2019-01-25 10:51

    Certainly an interesting take on applying Buddhism in a Western context. Asma is well-grounded and critical of new-agey, "hippie" incarnations of Western Buddhism that currently flood the market, although he does ramble on a bit about the Beats & their forays into Zen debauchery. The first chapter is a witty narrative of his path to Buddhism, via other "high school subcultures", followed by a chapter of applying Buddhist principles like "eon perspective" to parenting. I thought he was generally at his best when relating aspects of his personal practice of Buddhism, although he rather cleverly skewered quantum physics-inspired "mind becomes matter" philosophies. Although he differentiates between cultural, psychological, and philosophical aspects of Buddhism, and most squarely aligns himself with the philosophical camp, I felt that at times he had a tendency to overintellectualize. Still, his point that Buddhism is not as much a faith as a testable science indicates that he is not going to be content with belief alone, and thus the ink spilled. Definitely worth a read if you're at all interested in Buddhism as practiced/practicable in modern Western society.

  • Emily
    2019-01-29 11:13

    Dr. Asma, a practicing Buddhist living and working in Chicago, explains that the goal of Buddhism is “liberation from ego.” As a sometimes “frazzled father,” he recognizes that it's not possible for him to be a “cave-dwelling monk” or to be completely freed from experiences and feelings. However, by finding a Middle Way between extremes and applying mindfulness, we can be more effective and less overwhelmed by the stress and worry of daily life.A basic foundation of Buddhism is coedified in The Four Noble Truths:1.All life is suffering.2.All suffering is caused by craving.3.Letting go of craving liberates us from suffering.4.The Eightfold Path is the way to let go of suffering.While the First Noble Truth certainly sounds awfully pessimistic, Dr. Asma clarifies that “the Buddha is simply stating that a variety of pains and misfortunes accompanies the human condition.” If you've lived, you've experienced pain and misfortune; no argument there! Building off the Second Noble Truth, Dr. Asma explains that “suffering flows from the clinging attachment that mistakes impermanent things and sensations for lasting and permanent realities.” It isn't the experiences themselves that necessarily cause suffering; it's an erroneous mindset that misplaces their priority and elevates their importance. The Third Noble Truth states that if attachment causes suffering, the way to avoid suffering is to avoid being attached. However, as Dr. Asma describes it, “freedom is not the renunciation of all emotions and feelings, it's the ability to rise above the incoming sensations.” The Fourth Noble Truth points the way towards putting the first three into practice by finding the Middle Way or a balance in life. The Eightfold Path includes Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration, Right View, and Right Thought.One perspective I found fascinating in Why I Am a Buddhist is the idea that “technically speaking, there are no sins in Buddhism, not in the sense of violations of divine prohibitions” because, according to Buddhism, there isn't a deity or religious leader who declares binding laws. Instead, “activities and life choices are always weighed pragmatically as to whether they contribute to or detract from suffering.” The activities in and of themselves are neutral; however, they can become good or bad based on your attachment to them and their effect on other people. While this may not seem to mesh very neatly with the LDS understanding of sin, I can certainly find parallels. For example, Paul's counsel to the Corinthians to avoid eating meat that had been offered as a sacrifice to idols was not because the actual act of eating the meat was in itself sinful, but because it could be a stumbling block to others (see 1 Cor. 8:1-13).Dr. Asma has a very practical, down-to-earth approach to Buddhism, weaving this Eastern tradition into his modern Western life. He provides applicable suggestions for living a more peaceful, balanced, and mindful existence, regardless of your religion.For more book reviews, come visit my blog, Build Enough Bookshelves.

  • Sinn
    2019-01-31 10:17

    Mit dem Buddhismus ist das so eine Sache. Kaum glaubt man, man hat ihn begriffen, erfährt man ein neues Detail, das alles über den Haufen wirft. Das liegt zum einen daran, dass er - wie jede Philosophie oder Religion - eine Menge Potenzial zur Interpretation in sich trägt. Und zum Anderen daran, dass seine reichhaltige Geschichte viele Facetten zu eigenständigen Wegen geschliffen hat.Der Buddha - jener Herr, den sie in allen möglichen Formen überall verstauben sehen - hat eine Menge Weisheiten über seine Mönche ergossen. Sie führten zum Teil seine Gedanken ähnlich weiter, wie das wohl bei Jesus und seinen Anhängern gewesen sein muss. Und wie bei der christlichen Religion wurden die ursprünglichen Ideen modifiziert, während sie die Jahrhunderte hindurch diskutiert und geprüft wurden.Eigentlich steht ja der Buddhismus einer Philosophie wesentlich näher als einer Religion. Zumindest in seiner ursprünglichen Form. Nimmt man das Konzept der Wiedergeburt hinweg (also auch das 'Karma'), dann erhält man eine unglaubliche Menge an Ratschlägen darüber, wie man sein Leben meistern kann ohne dabei zu verzweifeln. Was aber, wenn die Lehre von der Wiedergeburt gar nicht so verstanden werden sollte, wie das im Westen früher die Hippies oder New-Age-Begeisterten taten?Stephen T. Asma lebte eine lange Zeit in buddhistisch geprägten Ländern. Er hat sich dabei seine eigene Variante des Buddhismus zurechtgezimmert, die er in diesem Buch präsentiert. Und auch, wenn man sich stellenweise fragt warum er thematisch über diesem oder jenem Thema zu lange kreist, hat er seine Sache wirklich gut gemacht: So entfernt er die übernatürlichen Elemente argumentativ und zeigt, dass auch (oder eigentlich: gerade) ein auf ein einziges Leben beschränkter buddhistischer Lebenswandel lohnenswert sein kann.Der Titel ist reißerisch - und manchmal formuliert Asma dabei ein wenig zu salopp. Trotzdem ist das Buch eine Lektüre wert; besonders, wenn die Übernatürlichkeit das einzige Konzept ist, dass uns von den prinzipiellen Lehren des Buddha fern hält.Whisky und Sex erklärt er übrigens ausgezeichnet. Also ... warum diese in Ordnung sind, meine ich. Leider ist seine Erläuterung dafür, warum auch Steaks dazu gehören ein wenig zu kurz geraten - und das ist schade. Schließlich war Buddha auch nicht wirklich Vegetarier. Auch, wenn das viele heute annehmen. :)Ich finde seinen Zugang sehr erhellend (Wortwitz) und amüsant. Er hat mir eine Menge gegeben, auch wenn ich nicht überall seiner Meinung war. Was vielleicht sogar am meisten hervor sticht ist übrigens, dass er stets eine gewisse Neutralität bewahrt, wenn er von opponierenden Meinungen berichtet. Ein tolles Beispiel hierfür ist sein Kapitel über Tibet und China.Lesenswert, wenn jemand die liberale Seite einer "Religion" kennen lernen möchte, die mehr eine Philosophie darstellt.

  • Sasha
    2019-02-19 12:19

    A solid enough introduction to Buddhism for your average secular Western type. To be fair, I don't think I'm the target audience - the smug dismissal of theism, etc., didn't really ring my bells, and this book, along with other works by Jay Michaelson and the like strikes me as Dude Buddhism. There's something DIY and happily rugged individual-that-not's-an-individual in the godfree, un-handholding universe that doesn't appeal to me, but YMMV. Decent and even-handed discussion of meditation-heavy Western Buddhism vs. "cultural Buddhism." It's clear that the author has done his time in the "real" Buddhist world, and has gained insight from it without undue adulation of the "we must all be monks in Thailand/imitate the mystical Tibetans/artful Japanese," etc. variety.

  • Rachel
    2019-02-08 09:16

    I really enjoyed this book, it was funny at times, very informative and definitely opened my eyes to the possibilities of Buddhism in Contemporary Western society. If you are unsure about or skeptical about Buddhism and want to see real life examples of how it can be adapted into Western culture this is the book for you.

  • Steve Greenleaf
    2019-02-18 06:10

    What questions would I like to have addressed concerning Buddhism? What perspectives would I find most helpful in better understanding Buddhist tradition and practice? What do the author and I share on our paths toward Buddhism? Let me offer a checklist and apply it to this book. How did the author first come into contact with Buddhism? Like many Western Buddhists, I first came to understand the fundamentals of the dharma by reading books. Most Western Buddhists have grown up in families that were monotheistic, culturally speaking, and we discovered our Buddhism via the printed word rather than at the neighborhood temple or war or shrine.Stephen T. Asma. Why I Am a Buddhist: No-Nonsense Buddhism with Red Meat and Whiskey (Kindle Locations 45-46). Kindle Edition.Check.How does the author perceive Buddhism? Buddhism is not a set of beliefs to be adopted by faith, but a set of practices and beliefs to be tested and then employed in our pursuit of the good life.Id. 64-66Check.How does the author address the issue of temptation? The trained mind can rise above distraction and craving, but the normal mind is fraught with temptations, agitations, and diversions. The idea of not looking at a beautiful woman (or man) when we are clearly drawn in that direction may sound rather puritanical. But the point of the simile is not to denigrate beauty, but to isolate the tension between natural inclination and discipline. It is perfectly natural to look at beautiful people, and Buddhism doesn't require the forfeit of such trouble-free pleasures. I suspect that our very biology ensures that we'll take a quick gander at any attractive prospect, and such radar abilities probably had some evolutionary advantages for our ancestors. But if I simply cannot help myself from gawking at a stunning model on the street, then I have overturned a division of labor inside myself. I have become the servant of my desire, rather than being the master of my desire. I am being led, rather than leading.Id. 90-95Check. (And would I ever have such a problem? Please, no speculations here. I disavow any admissions against interest.) For mere mortals, the issue of desire is the crucial issue in life, is it not? How do we attain our desires? Should we attain our desires? How much should we pay for our desires, not just in terms of money, but also in terms of time, energy, effect on relationships, and so on? Does this author share a perspective with Robert Wright and me that Buddhism (and aspects of other traditions as well) is intended to overcome inheritances from natural selection that don’t work in a civilized society? Buddhism attempts to give us a second nature-one that writes over the old genetic and psychological code.Id. 98Check. Does the author come from a religious tradition that I can identify with? I was ripe for such communion because I had been raised as a devout Catholic. Some people think that the conventional and conservative experience of Catholicism and the eccentric, lefty spiritualism of hippy culture are worlds apart. But, in fact, Catholics have a deep sense of mystery in the very belly of their religion. Unlike most Protestants, Catholics give themselves over to the irrational mystery, miracle, and authority. There is an undeniably conventional and institutional aspect of Catholicism, but beneath its traditionalism is a robust mystical approach to God. When I was in primary and middle school I was an altar boy and even a lector. When I began to ask philosophical questions in my early teens, my blue-collar parents knew of no other outlet for such precocious intellectualism except perhaps the priesthood. I was dutifully driven to the local seminary to meet with priests and be interviewed to see if I had the calling. I didn't.Id. 157-163Check. Indeed, one of my friends was once a candidate for the priesthood and now finds himself in the Buddhist camp. (N.B. Perhaps because of my Presbyterian father, or perhaps the local priest sensed that I’d was far too randy, I was never recruited. After all, the priest heard my confessions: one impure thought after another.)Did the author explore traditions other than his native Catholicism and Buddhism? I . . . graduated to a tougher-minded mysticism, reading Aldous Huxley, Krishnamurti, and Thomas Merton.Id. 191-192 Check. Merton, by the way, was a Catholic monk who explored the Buddhist and Daoist traditions and wrote eloquently about his encounters with them from his position as a Trappist monk.If we reject the metaphysics of the monotheistic religions, is there another path that shows the way to a good life and that provides some sense of spiritual wholeness? Many people like myself come to Buddhism through the arts, because crafts, arts, and even meticulous chores can be expressions of spirituality. The secular and the sacred are collapsed in Zen, and that is a very attractive integration for many of us who are dissatisfied with the two-world thesis of most religions.Id. 324-325Check. Can the author explain the different types and processes of Buddhist mediation?Check. He does. Does the author recognize the affinity between Buddhism and some of the Western tradition, such the thought of Spinoza? The Dutch/Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) offered a very Buddha-like theory (despite having never heard of the Buddha) of human happiness through intellectual enlightenment. In his famous Ethics (part V), he says that when the mind comes to understand the real causes of things—how some things could not have been otherwise and simply lie outside the realm of our control—then we cease to worry and fret over them.Id. 724-725Check. Does the author recognize the affinity between Buddhism and Stoicism?Buddhism, like Stoicism in the West, seeks to reduce suffering, in part, by managing human emotions. There are several tactics for getting one's emotions under control. One tactic that both Buddhism and Stoicism recommend is the adoption of the long-range perspective. I'll refer to this as eon perspective. When we are feeling overwhelmed by anger, or despair, or fear, the Buddha asks us to think about the impermanence of our problems and ourselves. Similarly, Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius asks us to contemplate the human drama of families, cities, and even nations that lived hundreds of years ago. They all did just as we do. They married, worked jobs, had children, loved and lost, felt great joys, killed each other, and engaged in every other emotional human endeavor. But, Marcus Aurelius reminds us, "Of all that life, not a trace survives today." It will be no different with the dramas of our own generation.Id. 869-874Check. Asma also notes an affinity with Epicurus, so gets even more points on my score chart. I’ve yet to find a careful, book-length exposition about the correlations between Buddhism and Classical philosophy, which someone with more skills and knowledge (and time and money) than me ought to write. All of these thinkers can be very austere. I cherish my loved-ones, my family, my friends. Do I have to surrender all of these relationships and go live in a forest monastery to avoid all attachments? Does this mean that I cannot be attached to my son? Well, if that's what it means, then I wouldn't call myself a Buddhist. No, I think the Buddha is pointing out something that we all understand at some level. He means, rather, that I cannot possess my son.Id. 784-786Check. I understand that. I know that modern science gives us the most concrete, tangible knowledge of nature. It’s far from complete, and it’s imperfect, but between a belief taken on faith, custom, or an ancient metaphysics, and natural science, I’ll take natural science. So do I have to surrender that choice to follow a Buddhist path? One of the reasons why I'm a Buddhist is because Buddhism makes friends of the sciences, and the sciences are the best methods we have for understanding nature.. . . .For Buddhism and for science, the mind is a natural rather than a supernatural entity.. . . .Buddhism and science share a similar approach to phenomena, an approach that can be called naturalism. Naturalism rejects (or at least brackets) supernatural explanations of the world and its occupants (e.g., us). Unlike many other religions, Buddhism does not find itself in the awkward position of having to reconcile the metaphysical assertions of faith with the experimental findings of science.Id. 879-881; 988-989; 1064-1066Check. The natural world doesn’t make sense without Darwin, Einstein, and the quantum thinkers, to mention just a few fields of investigation. What about karma and reincarnation? That stuff seems pretty spooky to me, at least in some sense. [T]he only really compelling interpretation of karma—one that doesn't conflict with science—is the radical reinterpretation that asks us to think about karma as a psychological fact rather than a metaphysical one. For example, it is possible to say that one's early lack of mental control and discipline results in a later batch of suffering—perhaps I never disciplined my cravings for fast food as a young man, and now I'm an obese older man who lives like a slave to French-fries. Or my younger taste for drama and negative attention has resulted in a later relationship pattern wherein I only try to date married women. This more naturalized version of karma is the only one that seems reasonably defensible.Id. 1123-1128Check. Although some Western Buddhist thinkers, I believe, would argue with this limited conception of karma and reincarnation, such as B. Alan Wallace. However, this more conservative approach is the easiest to accept and incorporate into our life and thought. Let’s go back to the austerity and detachment thing for a moment—such scary words! What about some of the good things in life, like art? Must we surrender our appreciation for beauty and meaning to non-attachment? Appreciating art and making art are meditations that liberate us from self-absorption.….I think the role of art is especially important in Buddhism, because Buddhism embraces a nondualistic metaphysics. In some supernatural religious frameworks art is a gateway or communication to a divine realm, but in Buddhism the artistic experience is "naturalized" like everything else. This is why Buddhists have always been more interested in the psychology of art. Art is a meditation that brings one in contact with the formless nondiscursive mind. So, it's not a mere communication with a transcendent reality, it is a transcendent reality. As an analogy, I think "memory" becomes more important in the secular Confucian framework of the Chinese, because there is no supernatural immortality—only an "afterlife" in the memories of your descendants.Id. 1064-1066; 1173-1177Check. In fact, Buddhist art runs a gamut from the detailed intricacy of the Tibetan tradition to the negative fields of a Zen garden. As Asma notes: Mandalas, for example, are wonderful examples of the Indian idea (in both Hinduism and Buddhism) that the macrocosm can be found inside the microcosm. To paraphrase Gottfried Leibniz, "every single substance is a perpetual living mirror of the universe." And in Tibetan Buddhism the mandalas also convey the Buddhist teaching of impermanence (anicca), because when the elaborate and agonizing sand-paintings are finally finished, they are immediately and intentionally swept away and destroyed. . . . [T]he Far Eastern traditions of Daoism and Zen Buddhism, on the other hand, have turned away from the spiraling complexity of forms. Negative space and the aesthetics of minimalism help to convey the equally powerful emptiness.Id. 1189-1192Check. Can Buddhism help me deal with the difficult people (or chose your more apt and colorful description) that I struggle with? I need help!If I don't feel genuine kindness (metta) toward the bully who's browbeating me, that's understandable—but I can still act as if I feel it. There's nothing disingenuous about this. We're so hung up by our Romantic ideas about acting from our authentic feelings, and expressing ourselves authentically, that we forget how new habits of behavior can slowly transform our internal habits of the heart.. . . .Spinoza noticed the same thing and gave the same reasons for recommending the goodwill strategy. "He who lives according to the guidance of reason strives, as far as he can, to repay the other's hate, anger, and disdain toward him, with love or nobility" (Ethics IV.46).Id. 1419-1421; 1458-1459Can that work? Spinoza, like the Buddha, adds that a kind and noble person will be more joyful (because joy is a harmonic state of the healthy psyche), so such a person will be more powerful and effective in pursuit of his goals.Id. 1461-1462Check. It seems like it can work--most of the time.But what if either on a personal level or on a political level, returning loving-kindness to mistreatment or exploitation doesn’t stop profound harm, even death? [T]he overall critique-Buddhism is too peaceful-is worth examining. . . . The Buddha and the dharma also represent sources of strength. Power is necessary, because life is struggle. Even the ultimate goal of detached equanimity can only come after substantial struggle.Id. 1740-1741; 1748-1749Stop! Only half-credit (I don’t know how to give a “half-check”). Buddhism, even less than Christianity, doesn’t have a complete and compelling theory of politics to govern political actors on issues of war and peace. This challenge isn’t unique to Asma. As far as I know, Buddhism simply doesn’t have an articulated theory of politics. Islam melds politics into religion, and this can lead to great problems, as we see around the world today. Christianity skirts the issue with the doctrine of the Two Swords (sacred and secular) and the Two Cities (St. Augustine), which are based on a couple of sayings in the Gospels that provide a shaky foundation for any definitive doctrines. Among those who call themselves Christians, we see a spectrum that runs from pacifist to warmonger. I believe that the tragic, ironic, and realist views of Reinhold Niebuhr and Max Weber (commenting from a secular perspective) provide the most compelling responses to these ethical concerns, but no easy answers. I don’t know that Buddhism offers any authoritative answers. Someone, help me here! (I will be investigating the work of William (Patrick) Ophuls, Western political scientist-philosopher and Buddhist practitioner-teacher. I will report what I find in his work The Buddha Takes No Prisoners, which includes an essay on “The Politics of Meditation”.) The author came to my attention in the NYT writing an article about John Dewey’s pragmatism and its reception in China, where the Asma has lived and taught. So how does contemporary China relate to Buddhism? In previous ages, one would, if gripped by a philosophical mood, simply turn to the great indigenous works of Chinese intellectual culture: Kongzi's (Confucius's) Analects, Laozi's Daodejing, the Buddha's Sutras, and so forth. But these days such fountains of wisdom are like trickling rivulets in the landscape of religious competition, and the Christian Bible is often more readily available to the average spiritual searcher.Id. 1823-1825Check, but I’d like more. I suspect an entire book—or more—could be written about culture, ethics, and religions now afield in China and how these are changing—as the very landscape is changing—at a dizzying speed. What ethics work for hyper-capitalism, hyper-consumerism with Chinese characteristics? But can I retain what’s valuable in my Western Christian-liberal tradition if I take this Buddhist path? Buddhism, like Christianity, pushes us away from the natural biases of human nature-it pushes us beyond the usual concentric circles of value that surround our own families and seeks to expand the circle to include all people, all animals, all beings. The West has been pursuing this same model, in secular form, for several centuries now. We can trace the development from Luther's Reformation up through Enlightenment Kantian morality that asked us to treat all people equally as "ends in themselves" rather than "means" to some end. And after Immanuel Kant, we have the utilitarian tradition that asked us to maximize the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people, and finally the "fairness" philosophy of John Rawls and the rejection of personal bias, nepotism, favoritism, preferential treatment, and partiality. Discordant on almost every other point of comparison, Buddhism, Christianity, and Western liberalism all make strange bedfellows on this one point of egalitarianism.Id.1859-1860Check. Finally, I like red meat and I cannot lie. Must I limit myself to rabbit food if I want to follow the Buddhist path? Can I follow a Chicago diet of brats and beer? Animal suffering is to be avoided at all costs. But the idea that Buddhists have always been, and always should be, vegetarians is pure myth. The historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, ate meat—he even died eating meat.[SNG: not a great plug for Buddhist meat-eating.] My Buddhist friends in Cambodia eat meat. Most Tibetan Buddhists eat meat. Meat, contrary to popular opinion, is not the problem for Buddhists. The problem is causing unneeded pain to animals, so if we can kill them humanely, then the ethical transgression is averted. In the West these days, you will meet many Buddhists who are smug lettuce-nibblers, and that's fine. But be assured, it is not Buddhism per se that compels their diet.Id. 300-304Check, thankfully. I didn’t see anything about whiskey except in the title, but I take the ban on intoxicants to be a ban on intoxication, so a beer or glass of wine—or whiskey if you’re made of sterner stuff than I am—seems to me okay.I trust that it comes as no surprise that at the end of this review I say that I enjoyed and benefited from this book a great deal. It’s always nice to meet a fellow seeker exploring the same paths.

  • Rob Hugi
    2019-02-07 12:12

    I picked this up because of my longtime, on and off interest in Buddhism, but I found it pretty idiosyncratic to the author and ended up giving most of it the very lightest of skims. What I read tended to support my by impression that much of the practical parts of Buddhism are similar to my way of thinking and living, but I don't feel like further study would yield any benefits for me.

  • Craig Bergland
    2019-02-06 03:59

    I had high hopes early on - the author writes engagingly and with great humor about his experiences as the parent of a young child and its impact on his self-understanding and spirituality. Toward the middle of the book it became clear that, for him, the valid parts of Buddhism are those that are empirically provable by science. He dismisses mysticism and metaphysics as irrelevant and misleading, the stuff of superstition. The fact is, however, that there is much of life that isn't empirically verifiable - we cannot, for example, scientifically measure love or determine its causes. The author has a great love for art and music, which aren't scientific endeavors at all but in reality are much closer to the mystical, which seemed to me to be a direct contradiction in his beliefs. He also misunderstands other religious traditions such as Islam and Christianity, tending to take the actions of fundamentalists in both traditions as reflecting the totality of the teaching of those traditions. He redeemed himself somewhat in the last section of the book when he looked at the relationship between Buddhism and current events, international conflict, politics, and the unfortunate tendency of Protestant Fundamentalist Christianity to attempt to convert the world - especially Southeast Asia. In the end, it was his steadfast rejection of mysticism - which is the heart of every spiritual tradition - that most reflected a rather glaring blind spot in his assessment of Buddhism. Surely it is religious experience that transmits truth in a way that transcends the limitations of language and under-girds spirituality. If we hold that the only real things are those that can be measured, we voluntarily absent ourselves from the beauty of life.

  • H.A.
    2019-02-15 05:18

    Not very good. Why is this guy a Buddhist (although the way he talks about people and things he disagrees with doesn't seem very Buddhist to me -- especially his rants about how Buddhism needs to be more "kick ass" or manly or something. Oy!)? Apparently, from what he says in this book, it is because he doesn't like anything else. He doesn't like anything metaphysical, he doesn't like being told what to do, he doesn't like anything that relies on faith... and the list goes on.What he does like, apparently, are his son (understandable), the Beat Generation, and... that's all I can remember. But don't worry, he goes on and on and ON about them. Frankly, and this isn't very Buddhist of *me*, the author comes off as a snotty jerk. If I was a new seeker or a curious non-practitioner, this book might send me screaming back to standard Judeo-Christian religion. He offers a "pragmatic view of Buddhism," but what he gives is criticism of everything else (including schools of Buddhism) that he doesn't like.Well written gramatically, but I can't recommend it.

  • Frank Jude
    2019-02-13 04:05

    I would have LOVED to like this book more than I did. Asma sounds more like the kind of "buddhist" I am, and yet there is something about how he says things that sound 'off.' At times, he sounds like yet another of those rational, naturalists who, rather than just say out front that this is their take on Buddhism, say that this is what the Buddha really was about! I think, most probably not! BUT that doesn't matter for me. I practice and teach the take on the Buddha's teaching I think makes the most sense for our world, rejecting all super-natural, other-worldly 'stuff.' That said, I do recommend this book to anyone who is more interested in the practice and cultivation of a more wholesome, skillful, mindful life rather than in practicing a 'religion.'

  • Kevin
    2019-02-10 12:05

    I had a definite love-hate relationship with this book....Essentially, the author was rebelling against the New Age hippy-dippy lets-all-sing-Kumbaya-around-the-drum-circle metaphysical stuff and eventually discovered and found solace in Buddhism.A lot of his anecdotes probably resonate more with older readers than young, but it's still a fairly entertaining story of his experiences along the path.That being said, there were enough few cringe-worthy comments and attitudes throughout the book that rubbed me the wrong way and kind of turned me off from feeling any sort of connection to the author or his beliefs.

  • Jeff
    2019-02-13 07:18

    "No-nonsense Buddhism with red meat and whiskey," the subtitle says it all. Asma brings out the main tenets of Buddhism and looks at them through the prism of being a single Dad raising a very young son by himself. He also applies his love of jazz music and his times as a member of a band to his understanding of what Buddhism means.He goes out of his way to be respectful of other world religions and makes very few comparisons, but Asma shows that Buddhism is a vibrant, contemporary, clear-eyed religion/way of life that is as much a part of (maybe even more of)this modern day as Christianity, Islam, or Judaism.

  • Chris Aylott
    2019-02-06 09:51

    Now that's more like it.Asma explains his "red-meat Buddhism" with wit and grace, summarizing the ancient principles and showing how they can be applied to modern life. A musician as well as a philosophy professor, he has a strong appreciation of the connections between Buddhism and creativity; a secular Buddhist, he is also quick to criticize the streak of magical thinking that runs through the practice. His Buddhism is a method for improving the self, not a magic wand to wave at problems.I'm not a Buddhist, but I'm closer to that than many other things, and this is a reminder of why it's a good idea to step back and let go of my various angers and obsessions.

  • Angineeki
    2019-02-18 11:17

    Asma is quite honest and his writing conveys loads of confidence in beliefs. Giving readers a fresh take on Buddhism, he explores the religion through the lenses of music and parenthood -- perspectives that I do not believe are widely written about. Atman's research supports his assertions. This can only be expected since the book is written by a guy who non-apologetically rejects the idea of the metaphysical and anything else that is difficult to prove. Why I Am Buddhist is definitely one I will add to my collection and re-read from time to time.

  • Glen
    2019-01-25 08:58

    A pretty standard "What is Buddhism" tome filtered through the lens of someone from Chicago (enough said?). There are parts of it that are enlightening re the history of Buddhism in general, but too much time was spent justifying the author's non-Buddha like behavior (at least the stereotypes) by some pretty fantastical stretches of logic and reason (and history). 3 stars for some of the history, especially if you are interested in Buddhism without all the Eastern / New Age / Incense / Ommmmmmmm.

  • Cate
    2019-01-28 11:50

    I didn't know much about Buddhism when I started reading this book but most of the things i thought I knew were confirmed. It feels like I may be an uneducated / untrained Buddhist at heart... just need the practice! ;) This is less a rules & regulations explanation of Buddhism than it is an explanation of how Asma came to Buddhism and the bits of it that resonate with him enough to keep him engaged in the practice. Asma's style is easy to follow and wholely relatable and, in places, quite hilarious.

  • Teresa
    2019-02-15 05:02

    An entertaining but also informative narrative about the history and practice of Buddhism. The author is funny as he shares his own life struggles and the role that Buddhism and meditation have played in his life. He is not a hard core Buddhist but exams more practical ways that Buddhism interweaves with everyday living. He points out that Buddhism is not a religion as much as a way of thinking about life.

  • Sarah
    2019-01-28 07:04

    Funny and insightful book on the philosophical side of Buddhism. Loved it until the end when he kind of just started to seem arrogant. I ended up skimming the last pages because I found myself rolling my eyes a lot. Not very Buddhist of me, but I really appreciated the majority of the content. It's a great book for people who don't necessarily want to follow Buddhism as a religion, but still want to practice the ideas.

  • Marge
    2019-01-28 08:54

    Sometimes, I found the language didn't quite fit the seriousness of the subjects Asma discussed, but, in general, I was happy I read this book. Notions I particularly found new and interesting were: some coverage of Buddhism's history, political and otherwise, in its early years; the notion of Buddhism as a Second language, in the west, after the first "language" of Christianity or Judaism or whatever the inquirer was raised in.

  • Michael
    2019-01-24 03:52

    I really liked this book as it gave a pretty relaxed and informal approach to people discovering Buddhism. It brings in Buddhist perspectives and aspects of the religion in a nice simple way that the author found helpful in his discovery for a religion that finally fitted in with his own values and belief systems. I enjoyed his humorous approach to his escapades and discoveries and it was a great read. Highly recommended.

  • Michael Burden
    2019-01-28 12:00

    Good story of how Asma found his way in the world through Buddhism. This was well written and a good read, but I guess Buddhism isn't my thing. I like how it's not transcendental, but I don't like the dulling of pain and pleasure to end suffering. Yes, it is suffering, but it's also amazing. I'll stick with keeping my senses fully open to everything and experience life in the raw. Good intro to Buddhism and good info. It's just not for me.

  • Jena
    2019-02-18 03:54

    The Gods Drink Whiskey is one of my favorites, so this was quite a disappointment. Felt like an introduction to too many different topics and not enough 'meat' on any single one. A few interesting tidbits here and there, maybe a better read for someone looking for an overall survey of Buddhist concepts.

  • Benjamin Schwarcz
    2019-01-24 12:18

    mostly disappointing. I had high hopes when i read the title. Seemed like a cool way of looking on modern buddhism to me. But most of the time, he just compares Buddhism to other religions (and talks in a dismissive way about them) or tells about his kick-ass experiences. Doesn't feel very buddhistic to me.

  • Jennifer
    2019-02-13 05:58

    I actually had to stop reading this book. It was just awful. The author seemed like he was trying to convince his audience that it was perfectly okay to pick and choose his way through Buddhism. Then on the other hand, he belittled anyone who didn't agree with him.

  • Raechelle Thomas
    2019-02-05 08:12

    I quite enjoyed this guys view point; though a few things he seemed a bit harsh about (like mystical beliefs)-but can understand why he's annoyed when people lump Buddhism into the mystical new age basket. I feel much better about calling myself a buddhist even though I eat meat!

  • Ori
    2019-02-04 07:58

    a very good book that try to introduce people to a Buddhism without the new age vibe and how to become an Buddhist without changing tour entire life, one problem is he like to talk abut his history to much