Saturday, January 23, 2016

Anam Thubten's "No Self, No Problem": Book Review

Buddhist teachings are traditionally conveyed in the spoken word. "Getting rid of baby teeth" means that we need to get away from childish expectations of what the spiritual search is all about. Anam Thubten divests us of trappings and veils around the core.

I liked the glimpses of the author as he talked to a very affluent NoCal-Berkeley audience, probably, and tried to steer them away from what Chogyam Trumpa called "spiritual materialism," adding up "points towards perfection." Thubten advises inner direction, grounded in meditation and awareness.

What lingers are the sections when Anam Thubten talked about prayer, not as a petition to a divine entity, but a search for the transcendent truth of prajnaparamitra. This is not found by speculation but by a direct encounter with the ultimate within which we find our being. This firm caution from Thubten steers us from setting up goals to meet, or fulfillment to rush after over and over.

"Spirituality is Not a Teddy Bear." Anam Thubten challenges us to take on a spiritual discipline, not to escape into petitioning a god who denies or accepts our pleas. He reminds us how the quest for truth is full of ego traps, and how difficult it is to stay focused upon it. This book is best read (or heard) by those who have basic knowledge of Buddhism and have been practicing a while, but who might have hit a dry spell or wondered why more "fireworks" have not happened. Thubten cautions us against such hopes.

Frank Stella narrates this audiobook with emphasis and delicacy. He reminds me of Martin Sheen or Peter Coyote, as he seems in tune with the countercultural message. I do have an ego-block as I wonder how letting go aligns with the needs of the poor and the exploited, and how fixing the world is not a mere "illusion"--but social critique is absent from this individualistic, dogged approach. (To Audible + Amazon US 6-25-15; see my review of his other audiobook, The Magic of Awareness)

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