Your map to the labyrinth of Buddhism
282 pages, ★★★★★
I never thought I’d read this book. Yet I never thought I’d be a vegan who likes to stay at home, bake bread and read books (especially on Buddhism). But here I am.
The Heart of Buddha’s Teaching is an elementary roadmap to enlightenment. You know you’ve arrived at your destination (happiness, compassion) when you no longer need the map (or this book). Like any map, this book is quite theoretical. It made me hungry for practical Buddhism more than it taught me how to practice. It’s thus a perfect starting point for non-Buddhists to learn about Buddhism.
Buddhism grips you with irresistible numbered lists. Each one opens doors to yet more numbered lists of wisdom. “The Four Noble Truths” leads to “The Eightfold Path”; each of which leads to yet more numbered lists (“The Four Establishments of Mindfulness” and “The Seven Factors of Awakening” to name just two). It’s highly-structured, but, like a labyrinth, could make you feel lost at the same time. Each list solves tiny problems in our lives—ideally, before they even occur.
The Heart of Buddha’s Teaching lends itself very well to being mind-mapped. All the Buddhist theory in this book could be mapped onto a very large, beautiful poster, with “suffering” at the centre, followed by “The Four Noble Truths” as the first-level branches. That’s a project for another day.
The layered structure of The Heart of Buddha’s Teaching also lends itself well to lesson plans. Each lesson would contain one numbered list. The title would intrigue students, and there are enough stories and personal examples in the book to be shared in the class.
The book becomes repetitive after the middle. You’ll start seeing the same metaphors and ideas rearranged in multiple fashions towards the end. In the last few pages, you’ll even read the same sentences over and over with minor modifications in the “discourses” section. The book does this to train your patience and focus. It prepares you for the repetitive, meditative approach used widely throughout the rest of Buddhism, which it leaves me very tempted to read. ★★★★★