cover image Seeing Clearly: A Buddhist Guide to Life

Seeing Clearly: A Buddhist Guide to Life

Nicolas Bommarito. Oxford Univ., $19.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-19088-750-6

In this uncomplicated, thoughtful introduction to Buddhism, Bommarito (Inner Virtue), an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Buffalo, puts a modern twist on a centuries-old religious tradition. Bommarito does not get bogged down in Buddhist terminology, history, or metaphysics; instead, he offers a fresh and relatable interpretation of Buddhist traditions such as karma and enlightenment, as well as Zen koans and altar offerings, by placing them within a modern and often clever context. This is particularly helpful when he uses everyday examples to unpack complex Buddhist principles, such as when he explain concepts like “emptiness”—that nothing exists independently of other related things—using a heap of eggs: “The indeterminate nature of heaps suggests that these are just made-up categories that we project onto the world... these aren’t separate things, but just labels for the sake of convenience.” He suggests that as readers take in the variety and vivacity of Buddhism’s core tenets and key practices—principally that one needs to wake up to reality and adjust one’s life accordingly—they should be able to reduce distraction and anxiety. A corrective to both overly complex presentations of Buddhist traditions and secularized versions that strip away the religion’s supernatural elements, this useful work provides a happy harmony of temporal wisdom and transcendent habits for Buddhist beginners. (July)