I’d never heard of this book before I started this class. I’ve always been interested in the nature and customs of different cultures in other countries. That may be one of the reasons why I took this class. I believe another reason is that I had already taken Western Religion and wanted to learn more. This book didn’t really spark my interest at first but after I got to reading it I seemed to keep going back to it and reading more.
In the book the author Dinty Moore takes a year and begins to ponder the shift to Buddhism. He does this along with a couple other Americans. Along with some other things that he does he got to a strict Zen Monastery and a loose Theravada Center. Moore also interviews experts and visits a pair of struggling cushion makers. The author gets the extreme honor and pleasure of being able to ask the Dalai Lama a question when he attends a talk at Indiana University. This inspires a little of his own quest for meaning after the God from his childhood left him for the most part but also left a sense of suffering.
His travels proved worth while and often modestly told exploration of one mans mid-life quest for something that was spiritually missing. This book moves more towards the less visible and un-promoted side of how Buddhism is starting to filter into today’s American life. For Moore this fits better than the shaved head, mantra chanting, and incense wreathed thought that most Westerners have associated with Dharma. The author looks for something or someway for him to replace what he lacked from his childhood faith.
In the book, he seeks guidance towards confronting and being able to answer the big questions that leave us dissatisfied and wanting more information. My favorite parts of this book were Chapters 6 “Catholic Boy Zen” and 9 “The Plain-Spoken Theravada. ” In Chapter six the author talks to Fr. Robert Jinsen Kennedy who is a Jersey Jesuit that combines Zen and Catholicism. Their intelligent conversation addressed the lack of maturity in ways that Catholicism has been presented to those who came from his generation.
There were the last ones to get the pre-Vatican II version of the negative “thou shalt not” mindset which was combined with a simplified version of God and Jesus that was manufactured for an easy transmission to about a billion followers. Moore acknowledges that his current attraction towards Buddhism may be an overreaction to the Catholicism from his childhood. Even the Dali Lama’s own caution for Westerners not to over romanticize Buddhism as opposed to their “Judeo-Christian” mentality hits a nerve as the author listens to the Tibetan leader respond in Indiana to his own question.
Inside Chapter Nine it reveals a growing comfort with Dharma. Moore takes pains not to glamorize those who adapt to Buddhism. Being well-read in this field his sources remain largely invisible and he aims for an accessible jargon-free presentation that anyone can understand. The author concentrates on overcoming his “rock” with in, his resistance and his angst, his entrapment in the cycle of suffering, and keeping his anger in. this is similar to many Irish Catholic males of at least a certain age and upbringing.
Everything that has happened in his life has compelled him to look for what is missing and wanting to find out more about Buddhism. Moore attempts to get over the thing that permeates our mental habits which he calls the “if only” postponement of happiness. The author compares this to missing the sights and sounds of a hiking trail because your rushing down it eager to finish. He also compares it to him driving down the interstate thinking of how the vehicles engineering detracts from distractions but it also blurs any sense of the journey’s own beauties and discoveries. One of the things that challenge Mr.
Moore to slow down and appreciate wisdom is his fear that forty-five years of work and the worry of twenty years over lost opportunities will zip past him. The author knows full well a few hours of practicing Buddhism over a years’ time won’t bring on dazzling illuminations. However, after he attends a second Zen retreat gets a glimpse of more than he had in the beginning. He tries as a mediator to silence the restless “monkey man” inside, before calming down: “Maybe enlightenment is when the monkey just sees the sunset and when the sunset ends that monkey just looks at the stars. Another thing Moore brings up is that “You can’t slow the brain down with a few brief attempts any more easily than you can stop a speeding freight train with a white picket fence. ” To the authors astonishment he adapts well to being able to sit still. Even though there are no dramatic changes in his life he grows calmer, more equitable, and perhaps become a lot happier. Instead of being a self-promoting journey towards insight this book ends up being very quiet. If this book were found at the right time and in the right mood it should be satisfying to a patient and quiet seeker.
However, this could be too much for the eager inquirers to handle. Concerning whether God exists or not Moore realizes that he isn’t going to worry to much about it. “If God does in fact exist, I should live my life according to the principals of kindness, compassion, and awareness. Even if there isn’t a God the same principals apply which is his summation of an intimate Buddhist perspective. ” I recently had the opportunity to go and see Dinty Moore speak here at Sinclair. I learned quite a lot about him during his talk starting with that he was born in Erie, Pennsylvania.
One of the things that I learned about him is that he sees writing and Buddhism as being connected. While Mr. Moore was on his journey to finding himself he traveled around the country. I learned two aspects of Buddhism are you can’t control outside aspects and you can control the reaction people have. He informed the group that came to see him speak that after writing the book he became a writing teacher. He also let us know that to him Buddhism and other religions have wide similarities.