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Living Beautifully: With Uncertainty and Changeby Pema Chodron
Synopses & Reviews
Is it possible to live well when the very ground we stand on is shaky? Yes, says everyone's favorite Buddhist nun, it's even possible to live beautifully, compassionately, and happily on shaky ground—and the secret is: the ground is always shaky. Pema shows how using a traditional Buddhist practice called the Three Vows or Three Commitments is a way to relax into profound sanity in the midst of whatever non-sanity is happening around us. Just making these simple aspirations can change the way we look at the world and can provide us with a lifetime of material for spiritual practice.
The three commitments are three methods for embracing the chaotic, uncertain, dynamic, challenging nature of our situation as a path to awakening. The first of the commitments, traditionally called the Pratimoksha Vow, is the foundation for personal liberation. This is a commitment to doing our best to not cause harm with our actions or words or thoughts, a commitment to being good to each other. It provides a structure within which we learn to work with our thoughts and emotions, and to refrain from speaking or acting out of confusion. The next step toward being comfortable with groundlessness is a commitment to helping others, traditionally called the Bodhisattva Vow. It is a commitment to dedicate our lives to keeping our hearts and minds open, and nurturing our compassion with the longing to ease the suffering of the world. The last of the three commitments, traditionally known as the Samaya Vow, is a resolve to embrace the world just as it is, without bias; a resolve to see everything we encounter, good and bad, pleasant and painful, as a manifestation of awakened energy. It is a commitment to see everything and anything as a means by which we can awaken further.
"With her characteristic clarity, Buddhist nun ChÃ¶drÃ¶n (When Things Fall Apart) once again explores how Buddhist ideas can help individuals live joyful lives. Her framework is three traditional vows: refrain from harm, take care of others, and accept the world as it is. Commitment to these principles, she argues, can address the 'fundamental ambiguity of being human' which includes fear of change and an unknown future. Drawing in particular from the wisdom of her teacher, the late ChÃ¶gyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the American-born nun and popular writer shows how the 'real cause of suffering is not being able to tolerate uncertainty,' with the resulting struggle to cling to a 'fixed identity.' Strategies to address impermanence and the fear it causes include refraining from acting on negative emotions; practicing compassion; and fully acknowledging the experience of the present moment, however painful. The text, adapted from talks, includes brief practices. ChÃ¶drÃ¶n's strength is her ability to communicate to a general audience that people are essentially good, that they can be free from fear, and that they can always try again when they fail. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
We live in difficult times. Life sometimes seems like a roiling and turbulent river threatening to drown us and destroy the world. Why, then, shouldn’t we cling to the certainty of the shore—to our familiar patterns and habits? Because, Pema Chödrön teaches, that kind of fear-based clinging keeps us from the infinitely more satisfying experience of being fully alive. The teachings she presents here—known as the “Three Commitments”—provide a wealth of wisdom for learning to step right into the river: to be completely, fearlessly present even in the hardest times, the most difficult situations. When we learn to let go of our protective patterns and do that, we begin to see not only how much better it feels to live that way, but, as a wonderful side effect, we find that we begin to naturally and effectively reach out to others in care and support.
About the Author
Pema Chödrön is an American Buddhist nun in the lineage of Chögyam Trungpa. She is resident teacher at Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia, the first Tibetan monastery in North America established for Westerners. She is the author of many books and audiobooks, including the best-selling When Things Fall Apart and Don't Bite the Hook.
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