The Accidental Buddhist
Mindfulness, Enlightenment, and Sitting Still
A journey through the diverse landscape of American Buddhism, written with a “blessedly down-to-earth sense of humor” (Rodger Kamenetz, author of The Jew in the Lotus).
In an era when many of us yearn for an escape from a culture of noise and narcissism, this book takes us into the physical and spiritual geography of Buddhism, American-style: from a weekend at a mountain retreat for corporate executives learning effective ways to cope with stress, to a visit with a Zen teacher holding classes in an old Quaker farmhouse, to a meeting with a Catholic priest who’s also a Zen master.
Both a lively introduction to this Eastern spiritual tradition and a colorful portrait of American society, The Accidental Buddhist “makes the oftentimes impenetrable concepts of Buddhism accessible to the reader and contains striking, and important, parallels and contrasts between [the author’s] own Catholic upbringing and ancient Buddhist traditions” (Library Journal).
“A travelogue detailing the tremendous diversity within American Buddhism. His anecdotes make it clear that the umbrella term ‘Buddhist’ encompasses strict Zen monks, laid-back Tibetan politicos, and beatnik holdover Allen Ginsberg. In his travels, Moore attends weekend retreats, chronicles the Dalai Lama’s 1996 visit to Indiana, and grooves to Change Your Mind Day, a meditative Buddha-fest in New York City’s Central Park. . . . He finds that his family is his sangha (monastery), and while he still feels he is ‘probably a fairly lousy Buddhist,’ he will eclectically combine his various forms of new knowledge to find a path that makes sense to him. Now that may be an authentic American Buddhism.” —Kirkus Reviews
Moore (The Emperor's Virtual Clothes: The Naked Truth About Internet Culture) offers a lighthearted account of how, in 1995, he set out to find out why Buddhism seemed to be taking America by storm. Along the way, he becomes a practicing Buddhist. With good humor and a penchant for not taking life too seriously, Moore travels to a variety of locations in the U.S. where Buddhism has thrived and become a part of the culture. In a chapter titled "Buddha 101: Stumbling Up Monkey Mind Mountain," Moore describes his weekend at a Zen monastery in upstate New York where he and other participants learn the basic lessons of mindfulness and sitting meditation. Other chapters find Moore discovering key principles of Buddhism, such as the struggle to give up attachment to material things ("Why Do Tibetan Buddhists Have Such Trouble with Their Vacuum Cleaners?: They Lack Attachments") and zazen, or sitting meditation ("Eat Your Rice, Wash Your Bowl, and Just Sit: Studying with the Seven-Year-Old Master"). In a final chapter, Moore remarks that his Buddhism, even though he calls himself a "fairly lousy Buddhist," has made him aware that he should "live my life according to the principles of kindness, compassion, and awareness." Moore's hilarious and sometimes irreverent look at Buddhism is a perfect primer for the budding Buddhist. Second serial rights to Tricycle.