Buddhism Is Not What You Think [NOOK Book]


Bestselling author and renowned Zen teacher Steve Hagen penetrates the most essential and enduring questions at the heart of the Buddha's teachings: How can we see the world in each moment, rather than merely as what we think, hope, or fear it is? How can we base our actions on reality, rather than on the longing and loathing of our hearts and minds? How can we live lives that are wise, compassionate, and in tune with reality? And how can we separate the wisdom of Buddhism from the cultural trappings and ...

See more details below
Buddhism Is Not What You Think

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
BN.com price


Bestselling author and renowned Zen teacher Steve Hagen penetrates the most essential and enduring questions at the heart of the Buddha's teachings: How can we see the world in each moment, rather than merely as what we think, hope, or fear it is? How can we base our actions on reality, rather than on the longing and loathing of our hearts and minds? How can we live lives that are wise, compassionate, and in tune with reality? And how can we separate the wisdom of Buddhism from the cultural trappings and misconceptions that have come to be associated with it?

Drawing on down-to-earth examples from everyday life and stories from Buddhist teachers past and present, Hagen tackles these fundamental inquiries with his trademark lucid, straightforward prose. The newcomer to Buddhism will be inspired by this accessible and provocative introduction, and those more familiar with Buddhism will welcome this much needed hands-on guide to understanding what it truly means to be awake. By being challenged to question what we take for granted, we come to see the world as it truly is. Buddhism Is Not What You Think offers a profound and clear path to a life of joy and freedom.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
If you think of Buddhism as an esoteric discipline of Eastern thought, think again. That's the clear, precise message of Steve Hagen's Buddhism Is Not What You Think. Hagen, a practicing Zen Buddhist priest, maintains that Buddhism is about being awake, about becoming fully human by breaking obstructive patterns and behavior and moving toward compassion and wisdom.
Publishers Weekly
Zen Buddhist priest and longtime teacher Hagen makes his central point emphatically and repeatedly throughout this book: Buddhism is about direct experience, not about the thoughts people habitually entertain about experience. A student of Japanese Zen master Dainin Katagiri authorized by his master to teach, Hagen cites the Buddha's one-word summary of the goal of Buddhist teachings: awareness-awareness of whatever is taking place in the ever-changing present moment. Hagen's Buddhism is oriented toward big questions, strongly ontological and epistemological, and concerned with reality and how reality is ordinarily perceived (or, as he argues, habitually misperceived, because it is overlain with hopes, desires, concepts and other delusions). So the author is not given to a lot of specific examples or stories from present life, though the book is peppered with the ancient-master stories that Zen teachers always draw on. The tone of the book is strongly didactic and abstract. Unlike Zen writers given to simplicity or poetry or startling paradox, Hagen relies on typographical conventions-italics and capital letters-to articulate and underscore his central point about Buddhist awareness ("to see Reality"), which contributes to a ponderous tone. His Zen exegesis of Emily Dickinson is provocative, and the book would have benefited from more such surprises and re-readings of the lessons of everyday experience. That Hagen isn't a poet of prose doesn't detract from the worth of his content, but it does make his book harder to read. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Zen teacher at the Dharma Field Meditation and Learning Center in Minneapolis, Hagen (Buddhism Plain and Simple) here presents 43 short chapters dealing with various aspects of Buddhist practice in a way that cuts to the heart of the matter. In the prolog we're told that this is "not a feel-good self-improvement book about how to become more spiritual," and indeed it is not. The double-edged title sets the tone, and throughout Hagen reminds us that whenever we're grasping, aspiring, analyzing, judging, or in any way adding to the simple experience of the present moment, we are missing the point. In fact, he'd be likely to say that even thinking there's a point to be missed misses the point. The book is clearly based in Hagen's own experience of Soto Zen and will appeal to readers interested in what true Zen practice is supposed to be about beyond all of the popular images and colorful stories. For practitioners it is also a book that will reward multiple readings over time. Recommended for any library with an interest in Eastern thought and modern Buddhist practice.-Mark Woodhouse, Elmira Coll. Lib., NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061739750
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/17/2009
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 221,553
  • File size: 877 KB

Meet the Author

Steve Hagen is a Zen priest, a longtime teacher of Buddhism, and the author of the bestselling Buddhism Plain and Simple and Buddhism Is Not What You Think. Hagen began studying Buddhism in 1967. In 1975 he became a student of Dainin Katagiri Roshi, and in 1979 he was ordained a Zen priest. Steve lives in Minneapolis, where he lectures, teaches meditation, and writes. He is currently head teacher at Dharma Field Meditation and Learning Center in Minneapolis.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Prologue: See for Yourself
1 Paradox and Confusion 3
2 Stepping on Reality 7
3 The Problem with Eradicating Evil 12
4 We've Got It All Backward 17
5 The Itch in Your Mind 24
6 A Mind of Winter 28
7 No Mystery 37
8 Rebirth, Not Reincarnation 42
9 The Deep Secret in Plain View 47
10 The Warp and Woof of Reality 50
11 Neither Sacred nor Profane 52
12 Canyons in a Cup 56
13 Just Seeing 60
14 The Revelation of the World 71
15 Liberation, Not Resignation 80
16 The Host Within the Host 86
17 Before Ideas Sprout 91
18 True Freedom 95
19 Misguided Meditation 99
20 Turning Things Around 104
21 It's Enough to Be Awake 110
22 Life Without Measure 117
23 The Most Valuable Thing in the World 122
24 Before We Say 127
25 Needle in the Water 133
26 Why Seek Liberation? 140
27 Pure Mind 147
28 The Thing Well Made 151
29 Transforming Heart and Mind 158
30 Truth Is Nothing in Particular 164
31 Without Religious Egotism 168
32 Getting Out of Your Mind 174
33 Forsaking Understanding 179
34 How Do We Know? 185
35 Nothing Else 192
36 It's Not a Matter of Belief 196
37 How to Be Liberated on the Spot 203
38 This Will Never Come Again 208
39 The Elixir of Immortality 214
40 Ice Forming in Fire 222
41 Purely Mind 227
42 Time and Now 235
43 Enlightenment 243
Epilogue: Reality Is Not What You Think 251
Acknowledgments 253
About the Author 255
Read More Show Less

First Chapter

Buddhism Is Not What You Think
Finding Freedom Beyond Beliefs

Chapter One

Paradox and Confusion

If you visit a Buddhist temple in Japan, you'll likely encounter two gigantic, fierce, demonlike figures standing at either side of the entrance. These are called the guardians of Truth, and their names are Paradox and Confusion.

When I first encountered these figures, it had never occurred to me that Truth had guards -- or, indeed, that it needed guarding. But if the notion had arisen in my mind, I suspect I would have pictured very pleasing, angelic figures.

Why were these creatures so terrifying and menacing? And why were the guardians of Truth represented rather than Truth itself?

Gradually, I began to see the implication. There can be no image of Truth. Truth can't be captured in an image or a phrase or a word. It can't be laid out in a theory, a diagram, or a book. Whatever notions we might have about Truth are incapable of bringing us to it. Thus, in trying to take hold of Truth, we naturally encounter paradox and confusion.

It works like this: though we experience Reality directly, we ignore it. Instead, we try to explain it or take hold of it through ideas, models, beliefs, and stories. But precisely because these things aren't Reality, our explanations naturally never match actual experience. In the disjoint between Reality and our explanations of it, paradox and confusion naturally arise.

Furthermore, any accurate statement we would make about Truth must contain within itself its own demise. Thus such a statement inevitably will appear paradoxical and contradictory. In other words, statements about Truth and Reality are not like ordinary statements.

Usually we make a statement to single something out, to pin something down and make it unambiguous. Not so if our business is Truth. In this case we must be willing to encounter, rather than try to evade, paradox and confusion.

Our problem with paradox and confusion is that we insist on putting our direct experience into a conceptual box. We try to encapsulate our experience in frozen, changeless form: "this means that."

Ordinary statements don't permit paradox. Rather, they try to pin down their subjects and make them appear as real and solid as possible. Ordinary statements are presented in the spirit of "This is the Truth; believe it." Then we 're handed something, often in the form of a book or a pamphlet.

But all statements that present themselves in this way -- whether they're about politics, morality, economics, psychology, religion, science, philosophy, mathematics, or auto mechanics -- are just ordinary stuff. They're not Truth; they're merely the attempt to preserve what necessarily passes away.

When we claim to describe what's Really going on by our words, no matter how beautiful, such words are already in error. Truth simply can't be represented.

We want Truth badly. We want to hold it tightly in our hand. We want to give it to others in a word or a phrase. We want something we can jot down. Something we can impress upon others -- and impress others with.

We act as though Truth were something we could stuff in our pockets, something we could take out every once in a while to show people, saying, "Here, this is it!" We forget that they will show us their slips of paper, with other ostensible Truths written upon them.

But Truth is not like this. Indeed, how could it be?

We need only see that it's beyond the spin of paradox that Truth and Reality are glimpsed. If we would simply not try to pin Reality down, confusion would no longer turn us away.

What we can do is carefully attend to what's actually going on around us -- and notice that our formulated beliefs, concepts, and stories never fully explain what's going on.

Our eyes must remain open long enough that we may be suddenly overwhelmed by a new experience -- a new awareness -- that shatters our habitual thought and our old familiar stories.

We can free ourselves from paradox and confusion only when we set ourselves in an open and inquiring frame of mind while ever on guard that we do not insist upon some particular belief, no matter how seemingly well justified.

If it 's Truth we're after, we 'll find that we cannot start with any assumptions or concepts whatsoever. Instead, we must approach the world with bare, naked attention, seeing it without any mental bias -- without concepts, beliefs, preconceptions, presumptions, or expectations.

Doing this is the subject of this book.

Buddhism Is Not What You Think
Finding Freedom Beyond Beliefs
. Copyright © by Steve Hagen. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 6 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 – 8 of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2005

    this book is not what you think

    I have read many books on Buddhism and this is my first disappointment. His messages are redundant and sometimes he still doesn't seem to get to the point. Buddhism is not rocket science, but he struggles to explain the plain and simple. Other things seem like complete misrepresentations, such as when he says Buddhist believe that you could be reincarnated as a plant or a mineral. I would not recommend this book to a beginner, and the only way to understand what he's trying to say is if you have already read a bit on Buddhism, which makes reading this book obsolete.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2012


    Had to write something after reading the review here. He did not state buddhas believe in coming back as mineral. He said some Hindus do. I have reread this book many times,understanding the concept of we make our own hell more and more. The first read is like a seed. After experiencing life a little more,I come back and understand what the author is trying to say. Then go experience life more. This and his other book has changed the way I see the world,and how I interact with it. I wish he had 20 more books but then,if ever awaken,I wouldn't need them. I am finding a piece with myself and the world around me like I have never before. Not a religion ,a path to be awaken is what he tries to describe. It has changed my life. People around me has noticed and even had some say they wish they could be more like me. They can. They just need to start on the path to cold mountain.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 17, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing 1 – 8 of 6 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)