"THE ACCIDENTAL BUDDHIST: Mindfulness, Enlightenment, and Sitting Sail--American Style" by Dinty W. Moore

"THE ACCIDENTAL BUDDHIST: Mindfulness, Enlightenment, and Sitting Sail--American Style"

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A self-absorbed but still instructive trek through the many varieties of American Buddhism. Moore (The Emperor's Virtual Clothes, 1995) claims a predicament with which many Americans are familiar: Life along the information superhighway can seem a hurried, tense affair. Like other seekers, Moore turns to Buddhism to soothe his angst and fill the meaningless void. Thus, another book about yet another Baby Boomer who skeptically embraces an Eastern religion--and who thinks that his spiritual quest is fascinating enough to relate to all the world. The quest is hackneyed, the humor irritating (""Why do Tibetan Buddhists have trouble with their vacuum cleaners? They lack attachments""). That said, Moore's tale is valuable on an entirely different, perhaps unintended, count: as a travelogue detailing the tremendous diversity within American Buddhism. His anecdotes make it clear that the umbrella term ""Buddhist"" encompasses strict Zen monks, laid-back Tibetan politicos, and beatnik holdover Allen Ginsberg. In his travels, Moore attends weekend retreats, chronicles the Dalai Lama's 1996 visit to Indiana, and grooves to Change Your Mind Day, a meditative Buddha-fest in New York City's Central Park. Along the way he asks whether American Buddhism is ""the real thing or just shallow amusement""; his own experiences seem to indicate that it is both. In the end, Moore's wanderings come full circle, as he quite accidentally discovers a group of practicing Buddhists in his own rural town. He finds that his family is his sangha (monastery), and while he still feels he is ""probably a fairly lousy Buddhist,"" he will eclectically combine his various forms of new knowledge to find a path that makes sense to him. Now that may be an authentic American Buddhism.

Pub Date: Oct. 17th, 1997
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Algonquin