Reading Log: Buddhism for Beginners

An approachable intro to Buddhism using a question and answer format


I’ve been interested in Buddhism since around the time I started meditating last year. I’ve watched some videos and done some reading. I understand the core tenants, but it’s all still quite new to me. A few months ago at the local hippie bookstore in Portland I saw the book Buddhism for Beginners by Thubten Chodron and decided to pick it up. It sat on my bookshelf unread until last week.

My background with religion and spiritually is pretty sparse. I didn’t grow up with religion. I’ve been to church a few times. I don’t believe in God and don’t know much about the core religions of the world. When I was a teenager, I wanted absolutely nothing to do with religion. As I’ve grown older, I’m a bit more open minded and interested in it. Through starting meditation and studying the teachings of the Dalai Lama and Thich Naht Hanh, I’ve become particularly interested in Buddhism.

So I picked up Buddhism for Beginners and read through it pretty darn quickly. I like the format of it. Each chapter is set of questions and answers centering around a specific theme (e.g. “The Buddhist Traditions,” “Working with Emotions”). Thubten Chodron is clear, thoughtful, and wise. I left each reading session thinking a bit more deeply about the topics covered.

Buddhism for Beginners covers the basics of Buddhism and reiterates them throughout each chapter. The aspect I appreciate the most is how pragmatic the questions and answers are. They’re not abstract. They’re rooted in real life. My favorite question and answer pairing is, “How can we integrate Buddhism into our daily lives? How do we balance work and spiritual practice?” from page 98. Thubten Chodron’s answer really resonates with me. The gist of her answer is to start your day with intention and take time throughout your day to stop and be mindful.

The one aspect of Buddhism that I’m not connecting with at all is the concepts of rebirth and karma. I understand them conceptually, but I’m just not quite sold on them. What’s been unbelievable about learning more about Buddhism is that I’m 100% on board with all of it – the mindfulness, the ethics, the core values – until it gets to rebirth and karma. Even if there are aspects of it that don’t resonate with me, I find there to be lots of value in studying and practicing Buddhism.

I really enjoyed reading through Buddhism for Beginners. I’m by no means an expert, so I can’t say how it compares to all the other books out there. It seems like as good a place to start learning as any. I’ve been flipping through it and re-reading certain sections. It’s a great reference. I’m looking forward to continuing to learn more about Buddhism.

Author: Brett Chalupa

day: software developer, night: comic artist

2 thoughts on “Reading Log: Buddhism for Beginners”

  1. I’m a Buddhist originally from Sri Lanka, so it’s interesting for me to see how Westerners perceive Buddhism. I like that most Westerners consider Buddhism a philosophy rather than a religion because that’s how I see it too. Anyway, I can understand why you are not completely sold on rebirth and karma. I have a few questions about the two myself, although I’ve chosen to believe in karma – it keeps me in check! 😀

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