Awakening the Buddha Within by Lama Surya Das was a game-changer when it was first published in 1997 and its ability to help people transform their lives hasn’t faded in the slightest. The book brings the wisdom of the Tibetan tradition to Western readers in a way that makes sense even if you are brand new to Buddhism. The fact that Lama Surya Das was born and raised in New York means that he has a down-to-earth style and practical approach that all Western readers will appreciate.
The subtitle of this book is Eight Steps to Enlightenment, and of course that refers to the Noble Eight-Fold Path. Part One of the book provides a broad introduction to Buddhism as the author describes his own journey from the streets of New York to becoming the most highly trained American lama in the Tibetan tradition. Although this part of the book makes up less than a fifth of the whole, Lama Surya Das is careful to make sure that he provides practical instruction from the get-go, and he ends this section with over a dozen snippets of advice on Mingling Dharma with Your Daily Life.
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Part Two of the book largely adopts the Noble Eight-Fold Path as its structure. It begins with a chapter on the Four Noble Truths and then progresses logically with sections on Right View, Right Intentions, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration.
As you might expect, the sections listed a moment ago provide a detailed explanation of each step of the Noble Eight-Fold Path, but they don’t stop there. Instead, Lama Surya Das tells us exactly how we can apply these principles to our lives. Metaphors and anecdotes are employed to illustrate what the teachings mean in practical terms, and every section provides meditations and/or exercises that can help to turn your journey through this book into a personal journey of genuine transformation.
Whether you read this book as a general introduction to Buddhism, as a fascinating autobiography of Lama Surya Das or as detailed instruction on how to personally take the Eight Steps to Enlightenment, Awakening the Buddha Within will be a title you come back to again and again.
Special note: The reviewer would like to personally thank Lama Surya Das for writing this book because it was the one that introduced him to Buddhism in 2001, and if there had been no Awakening the Buddha Within then it is perfectly possible that there wouldn’t have been a Buddhist Book Reviews site either. _/|\_