Those of you who have read Karma Yeshe Rabgye’s previous book, The Best Way to Catch a Snake, will know that he is a monk in the Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism who has a desire to make the Buddha’s teaching as accessible and practical as possible. To that end, the author’s latest title, Life’s Meandering Path, sets aside the superfluous bells and whistles of religious tradition and is described instead as A Secular Approach to Gautama Buddha’s Guide to Living.
Based on the thirty-eight principles of the Mangala Sutra, this book is not one that should be read straight through in the shortest time possible, but studied carefully, and the first two chapters of Life’s Meandering Path will help you to adopt the proper attitude to it.
In the first chapter it is explained how you need to read, understand, reflect on and implement the teachings of the Mangala Sutra in order to benefit from them, and the author provides plenty of practical instruction on how to do that. Then, in the second chapter, the author explains how the teachings of Gautama Buddha have little to do with the superstitions that people commonly associate with religious tradition. Let there be no doubt, the Mangala Sutra is practical, not theoretical, and its down-to-earth principles will benefit everyone regardless of religious belief or background. As the author points out, this sutra can be followed by anyone, and you don’t even need to call yourself a Buddhist.
With that important foundation in place, we get to the meat of the book. Chapter Three presents the author’s interpretation of the Mangala Sutra. This is a short sutra, but it is extremely rich in applicable teaching, and it provides us with thirty-eight principles that we can all live by in order to find happiness and ease suffering.
The author has broadly divided the thirty-eight principles of the Mangala Sutra into five categories, and those provide the framework for the next five chapters, which discuss Foundation Principles, Supporting Principles, Social Principles, Individual Principles and Refining Principles. Each principle is discussed in turn, and is then followed by a Reflection that should be used as detailed in the first chapter.
The final chapter of this title serves to remind us that getting to the end of the book isn’t the point, and that the principles that have been studied and applied are ones that should remain with us for a lifetime. The author recommends the adoption of a short daily review habit because, as he says, ‘It is extremely important that your life becomes your practice, and your practice becomes your life.’
In our opinion, Life’s Meandering Path is best viewed as a workbook and companion that you will want to keep by your side over a period of weeks and months. Its secular approach also makes it perfectly suitable as a gift even for those who do not consider themselves to be Buddhists or religious in any way. We recommend it highly.