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Awakening to the Sacred: Creating a Spiritual Life from Scratch

Awakening to the Sacred: Creating a Spiritual Life from Scratch

by Lama Surya Das
A beautifully written, simple guide to creating a spiritual life from scratch and connecting with the sacred in everyday life.

All of us long to connect with something greater than ourselves, to experience the sacred in our daily lives, and to enhance our sense of spiritual enlightenment—yet often we don't know where to begin. Awakening to the


A beautifully written, simple guide to creating a spiritual life from scratch and connecting with the sacred in everyday life.

All of us long to connect with something greater than ourselves, to experience the sacred in our daily lives, and to enhance our sense of spiritual enlightenment—yet often we don't know where to begin. Awakening to the Sacred is an extraordinary new book that provides seekers of all faiths with the tools and practices they need to build a spiritual life from the ground up and to cultivate a divine presence in everyday life.

In this elegant, inspiring book, Lama Surya Das—the most highly trained American lama in the Tibetan tradition and author of the bestselling Awakening the Buddha Within—integrates essential Buddhist practices with a variety of other spiritual philosophies and wisdom traditions to show you how to create a personalized spiritual practice based on your own individual beliefs, aspirations, and needs. Through reflections on his own life quest, thoughtful essays, and entertaining stories, Surya Das examines the common themes at the heart of any spiritual path, including faith, doubt, love, compassion, creativity, self-inquiry, and transformation. He then explores prayer, yoga, chanting, guided meditations, breathing exercises, and myriad other rituals, providing practical examples of each that we can use day-to-day to nurture our inner spirit.

Surya Das's unique and accessible approach emphasizes that we are all, by nature, spiritual beings and that our lives are naturally filled with sacred moments. Awakening to the Sacred illuminates the natural meditations already present in dailylife and shows how we can use them to awaken our hearts and minds and progress toward inner peace, happiness, and enlightenment.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The truth is that I feel as though I learn as much from my students as they do from me, writes Surya Das, an American lama in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and the author of the popular Awakening the Buddha. Here in the West, he adds, it seems appropriate that student and teacher should share Dharma in this way, finding their way together. In this affable, conversational tour of spiritual ideas and practices, the author, calling himself a spiritual player-coach, reaches out to the broad audience in this country who experience spiritual longing yet arent harnessed to a particular teacher or tradition. Dividing his book into three sections, Surya Das moves from a discussion of such major themes as rebirth and faith to spiritual practices, giving clear, simple instructions in meditation and the cultivation of the moment-by-moment awareness that Buddhists call mindfulness. With a disarming lack of pretension or reticence, the author explains his personal take on fasting, psychotherapy and prayer. Some of the prayers that I use include the concept of God or Divine Source or spirit, he writes. As a Buddhist and a Westerner, I am completely comfortable doing this. Others may feel differently. The book concludes with Surya Dass description of his own Buddhist tradition of Dzogchen: Dzogchen is about recognizing and realizing who we are. The author emphasizes that Dzogchen is grounded in principles of naturalness, openness and authenticity, and he demonstrates these qualities throughout. Offering the reader fresh, authentic impressions that are clearly the result of his own spiritual work and reflection, Surya Das emerges here as a genial post-denominational spiritual teacher, one whose straightforward approach to the esoteric deserves to reach a wide readership. (May)
Library Journal
Lama Surya Das (Awakening the Buddha Within, LJ 8/97) was once a Jew named Jeffry Miller, and though his central perspective as a monk is Tibetan Buddhist, he speaks well to the spiritual concerns of Americans and ably brings the views of several religious traditions to his topic. In his understanding, humans are essentially good, and the sacred is our own deeply spiritual nature. He breaks down his discussion to cover "Matters of the Spirit" and "Approaches to Spiritual Practice," respectively, introducing Tibetan Buddhism and helping the reader understand its fundamental spiritual concerns and then offering simple yet profound and practical suggestions on how to practice it. In the final part, he explains Innate Great Perfection and how seemingly nonspiritual activities (gardening, writing haiku) can be deeply spiritual. Surya Das's ability to meet readers where they are while explaining how Tibetan Buddhist or spiritual practice can meet their needs is highly effective. Recommended as a gem among the plethora of books on spirituality.--David Bourquin, California State Univ., San Bernardino Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

Random House, Incorporated
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.62(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.15(d)

Read an Excerpt

There seems to be so much hate, anger, and violence around us; how can we learn to find love, compassion, and forgiveness in our hearts? The world we live in is often filled with injustice and unkindness. Some of this seems to be directed at us personally. Even when the unkindness is minor and petty, it feels unfair, and we frequently respond by asking, "What did I do to deserve this?" We may wonder, "Why me?" or "Why those innocent people?"

Much of the injustice around us, of course, is large-scale and so horrific that it is difficult to imagine or deal with. Whenever I talk in public about love and forgiveness, someone almost inevitably raises a hand to ask about the Holocaust and Hitler, and, more recently, killings in places like Cambodia, Rwanda, Kosovo, or even the high school in Littleton, Colorado. Some events are so unbearable and indescribably awful that, as the expression goes, "even God hides his face."

Forgiveness and patience in the face of evil seems like an impossible task, even for the most loving and saintly among us. Yet when we fail to forgive, we are left with the price that bitterness and anger exacts on our physical and emotional health. When we view the world with cynicism and hate, not only do we risk headaches, indigestion, tension, we do violence to ourselves. Personal anger increases violence in the world; we become part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

I think it is important for all of us to realize that it is possible to forgive without forgetting the injustice that has occurred. Thomas Szasz once wrote, "The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naïve forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget." If we are hurt by a person or a situation, wisdom and common sense remind us to avoid similar situations. Wisdom and love are always connected.

It may seem impossible to forgive an Adolf Hitler, a Pol Pot, an Idi Amin, and even a Milosevic, but we can work at forgiving a human race that has allowed the hate that is found in Nazism, racism, or any other form of hatred to flourish. We have to forgive our own part in this, even as we vow to resist hatred in the future. If we can't do this, then there's little hope for this planet. On a more personal level, many of us need to work at learning to feel greater forgiveness for the "adversaries" in our own lives -- from our acrimonious in-laws to our difficult bosses.

Recognizing the many cruelties of this world helps us become more conscious of our own behavior and thoughts. If we really revile and detest man's inhumanity to man, as we say we do, then we have to painstakingly root hate and prejudice out of our own hearts and minds. Perhaps we ourselves could learn to be more gentle, compassionate, and loving. This is absolutely necessary for our own peace and well-being.

Sometimes the best place to start the practice of forgiveness is with ourselves. We need to be able to make peace with our own lives. Every one of us has done things that in retrospect cause us to flinch. Can we begin to learn to become more gentle and forgiving of ourselves? How can we learn to forgive others, if we continue to be intolerant of our own shortcomings and mistakes? Something to keep in mind is that even the IRS has a statute of limitations.

Spiritual work is inner work. Every time we work at becoming more aware and more conscious in our own lives, we are almost by definition growing spiritually.

Meet the Author

Lama Surya Das has spent thirty years studying with the great spiritual masters of Asia, including the Dalai Lama, and is a leading spokesperson for the emerging American Buddhism and contemporary spirituality. He is a poet, translator, and full-time spiritual teacher who leads lectures, workshops, and meditation retreats worldwide. He is the author of three books, including the national bestseller Awakening the Buddha Within, is active in interfaith dialogue, and has been featured in numerous publications including New Age Journal, the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, and Tricycle. He lives outside Boston, Massachusetts.

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