Monday, November 5, 2012

Lives of the Buddha

Old Path White Clouds, by Thich Nhat Hanh
Buddha, by Karen Armstrong

Several years ago Karen Armstrong published Buddha, which was part of the Penguin Lives series. After a quick perusal, it appears to be a concise, academic, and historical biography about the life of Shayamuni Buddha and his teachings. With her previous books such as A History of God as proof of her intellectual prowess, I'm sure it will be an engaging read. Coincidentally , just before the release of her book , I started another biography of the Buddha called Old Path White Clouds written by the Vietnamese Zen monk, Thich Nhat Hanh. It is a longer, more devotional work based on the sutras rather than strictly archaeological evidence. What I liked most about it is that it conveys a feeling of how the Buddha and his community lived on a day-to-day basis. I have confidence in the authenticity of his description, because the author is a highly realized practitioner and teacher with a deep appreciation for the Dharma. Every night I would look forward to the sense of spaciousness, clear awareness, and freedom conveyed by his writing. I should add that Thich Nhat Hahn is a renowned poet, and his use of language is simple, beautiful, and evocative. All of his books are highly recommended.

- Ken

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