Rebel Buddha is an important book. We feel it opens a new window onto the current conversation about Buddhism in the West and spiritual life in general.
If you’ve read excerpts of the book, here or over at Tricycle Book Club (register free to join the discussion through November) leave a comment below and tell us what you think. As more of you read Rebel Buddha, we’re looking forward to hearing from you, and making discoveries together.
So we wanted to share with you one of the first stellar reviews of Rebel Buddha, with thanks to True Small Caps blog:
“There are hundreds of introductions to Buddhism, but this one is sure to appeal. The starting point is the “rebel” of the title, the Western individualist who seeks to live free from restrictions. What blocks us from total freedom, says Dzogchen Ponlop, is our lack of awareness as to how our minds work. He then presents Buddhism not as a religion but rather as a program for shining a light on the workings of the mind, and hence liberating ourselves from the unseen restraint of mental ignorance. But this quest for inner freedom, says Dzogchen Ponlop, is not a carte blanche for indulging our whims. He advocates a disciplined life, one lived according to ethical principles, and where we systematically cultivate awareness even in situations where we’d rather not.
The goal of personal liberation might at first appear to be a self-centered agenda, but ultimately, says the author, we benefit others, in that our wise and insightful friendship — without coming from a place of supposed spiritual “superiority” — is the best we can possibly offer.
Dzogchen Ponlop was raised in Asia but came to North America as a teenager, and he is well aware of our world of Starbucks, Facebook, and even the Colbert Report. He questions the value of Westerners’ adopting Asian culture as though it were a prerequisite of liberation. At one point he half-jokingly suggests that Western Buddhists should abandon their icons, their cushions, and their shrines in favor of sitting in empty rooms.
While some presentations of Buddhism for beginners lapse into psychotherapeutic self-help programs, this one remains the real thing. Moreover, Dzogchen Ponlop continues to believe in the traditional relationship where the teacher takes charge of the student — provided that the student requests such a relationship. And if the lineages of Buddhism are to continue, at least some of today’s students will have to think in terms of one day becoming such teachers themselves.
What impressed me most about this book was the sharpness of the author’s analysis and his tell-it-like-it-is honesty. Not only that, but he manages to get through an entire book on Buddhism without using a single term of Sanskrit or Tibetan. The volume concludes with meditation instructions and a selection of the author’s poems.”
Dzogchen Ponlop. Rebel Buddha: On the Road to Freedom. Boston, Mass.: Shambhala, 2010. Hardcover. 224 pages. ISBN 9781590308745. $21.95.