Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Being Upright by Reb Anderson

Being Upright:  Zen Meditation and the Bodhisattva Precepts by Reb Anderson is a discussion of the precepts taught when a Buddhist takes the Bodhisattva vows.  The author’s voice is familiar and his talent as a teacher is evident throughout.  Anderson manages to take concepts that are typically explained in ways that keep the truths too esoteric for the average reader and breaks them down into comprehensible and applicable concepts.

Infusing each chapter with personal stories and quoting from literature brings even the most lofty ideas down to earth.  Anderson is not hesitant to share his own faults and is honest about the failings of other leaders within the Zen Center, all the while never faltering in his own esteeming of his teacher.  This book is not written for the person who is unfamiliar with Buddhism and its precepts, however, so anyone interested in learning some basic truths regarding Buddhism should probably look elsewhere.  For the person who is familiar with Buddhism and is already practiced in meditation, who may be pondering how to take their spiritual practice to a new and deeper level, this book will be  welcome.

But like even the best guest, a welcome can turn cold if the guest stays too long and when Anderson shares the failings of himself and his teacher’s replacement the reader is reminded that there are no perfect answers.  If even the leaders are flawed does this make it easier for the follower?  I don’t know.  But I seem to be reading so many books in which the author shares about a leadership that is sexually irresponsible and, while I appreciate the candor, I am getting weary of the reality.  Of course, these men (and women, I suppose) are the exception and not the rule.  For every priest or monk caught in sexual indiscretion there are tens and hundreds who do nothing to violate their own morality.

I would have liked to read this book along with someone else to discuss the concepts more fully.  This isn’t a book that I will buy but it is one that I would recommend.  

PS:  I would recommend, if you are not familiar with the scandal(s) that surround the San Francisco Zen Center, that you avoid learning about them until after you have finished reading this book.  I think that if I had known about these things more fully (and a few clicks through a google search turned up a lot!), I might have been less gracious throughout my reading.

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