Thursday, September 18, 2014

Suggested Reading - Pure Land Buddhist Book Reviews

These are all personal book recommendations. 
I, personally, as well as, do not receive funds of any kind for advertising these books. 
I only wish for those reading Mirror of Dharma Blog to explore these titles for the purposes of learning Buddhism.

Please read and share with your family and friends 
some of these very insightful book titles.

1.) Something You Forgot Along the Way 

Available on

                           This is a wondrous book for beginners of Buddhism as well as those who wish to learn Buddhist wisdom without converting from their own religion. 

                         The book is composed of 65 enlightening short stories. Each one reflects one or more of the virtues contained within the Six Paramitas.  (Generosity, Keeping Promises, Patience, Effort, Self-Reflection, and Wisdom)

                           Author Kentetsu Takamori is a Buddhist teacher, lecturer, and author for more than five decades. He is the chair of one of the largest Pure Land Buddhist schools in Japan and the world. 

                          Mr. Takamori's book is filled with wise quotations from philosophers all around the globe that reflect the universal truths taught in Buddhism. 

                         But a picture can be worth a thousand words, so his work also features exceptionally beautiful photographs of nature sprinkled throughout the book.  They are visually appealing to the eyes offering a moment of nature's peace within our often hectic urban lives.

                         This thought-provoking piece of literature is a great addition to have on your coffee table. Reflecting on one story a day will strengthen you as you move forward on your spiritual journey. It will definitely provide you with guidance and insight.

                          Gift this to a family member, significant other or friend.

                          Lastly, here's a sample passage I'd like to share from it:

On Wonderful Fruits

Our struggle is, in the end, a struggle with
 the self a struggle that must be carried
on. Like muscle training, developing the
soul is an extremely painful process.
Endure and persevere.
Tangible things may get stolen,
disintegrate, break, disappear; the
invisible treasure of the soul is
indestructible. Whatever pain you suffer
will be rewarded in full.
Wonderful fruits will be yours.

(Something You Forgot Along the Way, p. 54)

2.) If you plant seeds of happiness, 
flowers of happiness will bloom

Available on

                         This wonderful book came out just last February and is selling strong. Its pages teach us the Law of Cause and Effect in a very practical way. We all can relate to the handy spiritual advice written in here.

                           The author, Kazushi Okamoto, shares his vast experience teaching thousands of Buddhist lectures over the years. He has talked one-on-one with scores of people and has shared all his insight from counseling so many individuals over the years.

                            Likewise, we too can learn how to apply Buddhist wisdom directly to our own challenges. Here is one passage that explores how we deal with blame in our lives:

                          "Generally, there are two types of reactions: The first is to take things out on others. People of this type blame all their failures on other people and criticize those around them. The second type takes things out on themselves, criticizing themselves more than necessary. The type of person who ignores his own responsibility and criticizes others tends to be an object of dislike to those around him, all unawares. But he may not suffer much from the pangs of self-hatred.

                          The overly self-critical person who is quick to take all the blame may very well be regarded as a nice person. But, lacking the self-confidence in himself, he will suffer in silence from emotional distress.

                           If the root of the problem really is in yourself, you must of course reflect on it and amend it. But to assume that everything is 'my fault' or 'my responsibility' is just to hurt oneself without reason, and is not a good thing at all."

(If You Plant Seeds of Happiness, Flowers of happiness will bloom, p. 76)

                          The book goes on to give a real-life example that occurred to a woman who felt overwhelmed with demands at work. Step by step, Mr. Okamoto reveals insights into her story which also provide us with the keys for success in our relationships.

                           Filled with brilliantly inspired cartoons and insightful lessons, this is a wonderful and necessary addition to the library of someone seeking their True Self. It also yields to us a greater understanding of how exactly the universe operates according to the principles of Cause and Effect.

                           I highly encourage this book for beginners to grasp fundamental concepts in Buddhism on a deeper, more heart-to-heart level. You'll find no other self-help book out there is quite like this. You will be pleasantly surprised.

3.) Unshakable Spirit

Available on

           Unshakable Spirit is another collection of short stories that teach the Buddhist virtues of wisdom and compassion. By examining the heart of Buddhist philosophy and way of life, each story explores the beneficial effects of patience, harmony, and effort and how they directly contribute to our own happiness due to the universal truth contained within the Law of Cause and Effect.

           By looking squarely at ourselves as being responsible for our own destiny, we refrain from blaming others. We endeavor toward keeping peace with one another, because in a cooperative spirit our independent efforts can become doubled. If we consistently and persistently choose to do the right thing, in time it will bring happiness for sure.

           One by one, the diverse tales from cunning strategic moves made in battle to tender insights made from motherhood, we are made to see our own nature and are further encouraged to make the best choices that lead us to our own happiness. Rather than be one who reacts in a rash manner to catastrophe, we become one who knows the wisest steps to take first with an "unshakable spirit."

                 Here's a short excerpt:

On the Solemnity of Truth

Truth has no relation to human thought
or convenience
Whether we accept the truth or not,
whether it amazes us or not,
whether we feel right about it or not,
whether it suits our convenience or not
none of this has any bearing on the truth.
Herein lies its solemnity.

(Unshakable Spirit, p. 102)

          This is an introspective and cultural work that explores the depths of self. Though each story is short in length, its content can be contemplated for much longer than it takes to read. Make sure to pick up this little book of wisdom when you get the chance. It will be worth the read for sure.

4.) The Story of Buddha: A Graphic Biography

Available on

                        Knowledge of Buddhism begins with knowing who was the Buddha. This Buddhist comic book is very unique in that it is an animated look at one of the most revolutionary spiritual figures in history, Shakyamuni Buddha.

                       Learn about Prince Siddhartha Gautama and follow his journey from royal life to ascetic practices to Buddhahood through riveting animations and expository dialogue. This is a must have for those who simply love all things anime as well as those who prefer learning visually.

5.) You Were Born for a Reason: The Real Purpose of Life

Available on

                   You Were Born for a Reason can almost be described as the essential textbook for Pure Land Buddhism. This is for someone very interested in studying Pure Land Buddhism and perhaps wanting to become a more serious follower of the Pure Land path.

                   The first half of the book explores the facets of our lives and reveals to us the Buddha's truth that "having and not having is the same." It beckons us to think deeply on ourselves and our own life. We are then presented with the idea of an attainable absolute form of happiness.

                   The second half of the book teaches us through the experiences of a monk by the name of Master Shinran. Through his journey from self-powered Buddhism to other-powered Buddhism, we understand the root meanings and teachings of the Pure Land School.

                   A sequel to this book is currently in the process of translation.

6.) Unlocking Tannisho: Shinran's Words on the Pure Land Path

Available on

              Unlocking Tannisho is a powerhouse of Pure Land Buddhist study and information. However, this book is not recommended for those who are new to the teachings as there could be a lot of confusion and misunderstanding.

              The original work Tannisho was a very famous piece of Pure Land Buddhist literature published several hundred years ago. The title literally means, "Lamenting the Deviations." It goes on to explain common mistakes and false beliefs that were made by priests who misunderstood the teachings. The book was so controversial that it was kept hidden from the general public's view for centuries.

              The book Unlocking Tannisho is the latest and most authoritative translation and commentary on the Tannisho ever written. This book is aimed at the level of religious scholars and serious students of Pure Land Buddhism. It is a must-read for those seeking the truth and who have all ready built a solid foundation by having read all the other books listed above.

Buy a copy of one or more of these precious books!
Or see if a copy is available at a library near you!

Original Photo by Loughborough University Library available on

Monday, September 8, 2014

Generosity - Sharing the Dharma with Family & Friends

          Up to this point, we've discussed the first paramita of generosity.

          Donating materials or money when it is given deeply from the heart greatly contributes to our overall happiness and well-being as well as to those around us.

           We also learned about seven special ways that we can give for free on a daily basis. Here's a little recap:

Seven Good Deeds that Don't Cost Anything

1.) Having a kind, warm look in our eyes

2.) Smiling as best we can authentically

3.) Speaking with compassion & using the gentlest wordings

4.) Lending a hand & using our physical efforts to help people

5.) Expressing our gratitude with feeling & showing respect to others

6.) Giving up our seat or letting someone else go first

7.) Sharing a meal or opening up our home for someone who is in distress

          And lastly, we found out that we get the most of our donations and kind acts when we give them wisely in each of the Three Fields: Those We Respect, Those We're Grateful Toward, and Those in Desperate Need of Compassion.

          Now moving forward, the second category of generosity is Sharing the Teachings of Buddhism. This means to share what you've learned from the Dharma with the people of your life. 

          Giving the gift of Buddhism is in itself the very best way we can practice and give kindness. And now thanks to modern technology, we can even conveniently share it with anyone online!

          As we ourselves continue to listen to Buddhism, we learn more and more about who we really are gradually. Often times what we find out about ourselves can be very difficult to come to accept.

          But if we endeavor to push forward and keep seeking, we can and will attain absolute happiness -- all at once in just one split-second moment -- and, simultaneously discover our True Self at the same time.

Original Graphic by Paul Inkles available on

          Our purpose in life is to successfully obtain this once-in-a-lifetime experience of "WOW!" for ourselves and to then live on in gratitude and celebration of achieving eternal happiness. 

          We were born as human beings for the sole purpose of experiencing this blissful feeling like none other. In, Buddhism, it is also known as the Path of No Hindrance

          We guide others toward obtaining this spiritual liberation by sharing the Buddha's teachings with kindly words and comforting smiles. Our personal opinions and objections get placed aside when we share. We hold back our own desires to make quick value judgements or to share personal opinions. Priority is given to the guidance that is found within the teachings in order to help others find the right way. 

          To share Buddhism with others effectively, we must first learn how to truly listen to others deeply. We have to carefully understand and examine the other person's state of mind and condition before we begin sharing the Dharma. 

          By listening to others fully, we gain wisdom and learn about situations that we ourselves might face in the future. 

Original Comic by James Clayton available on

           Sharing Buddhism also develops our own capacity to have patience and compassion.

          Now the importance behind why we seek after the teachings is that we are facing a grave problem... literally. 

           There is only a limited amount of time for us here on Earth, and precious time is constantly ticking away night and day. All of us have this very crucial matter of mortality to face and solve, all while we're still alive.

         The teachings of Buddhism reveal to us a truth that is very difficult to hear or find anywhere else addressed in this same way. One Buddhist master by the name of Shinran used these words, "This world is as fleeting and unstable as a burning house." This doesn't paint a pretty picture for where we live.

          Though there is something we can all do about it, many of us choose to ignore the problem and put it off to some other time. Yet the thing we procrastinate the most about is our own impending death.

           Even when we hear about death occurring on the news, we all keep trying to live life to the fullest despite what we hear. We want to remain ignorant that death is coming up for us too. We sweep that problem under the rug for as long as we can, out of sight and out of mind. 

            But the more we try to run and hide, the more we come to find that all those worldly pursuits of happiness we fight so hard for every single day... keep letting us down again and again.  

             It's because all those worldly pleasures aren't capable of lasting in the first place.

             If we just pursue the good times relentlessly and do achieve fame and fortune, we are still inching closer and closer to the final moment of death. Ignorance is not bliss in the long run. Death happens suddenly and without notice to every person on the planet.

            We never know when that last moment will strike for us. But it's really coming for me one day, and it's really coming one day for you too. It is scary. I know.

             That's exactly why sharing Dharma is thus the most precious gift we can offer ourselves or others while our life force still remains strong. Being born a human being gives us this tremendous opportunity to uncover our True Self. Knowing who we are is a kind of bliss that we've never known for uncountable aeons past. Now, finally, we can obtain it.

But with more than 7,000 sutras to study, this is no easy task.

               That's why it's so important for us to find a good teacher who can guide our understanding of the Buddha's words. By observing and listening to true Buddhist teachers directly at a Buddhist center, you can learn about the Dharma in the best way.

          Then when you decide to share Buddhism on your own, you can invite the people closest to you over to your home for a spiritual chat. Here and there, you can bring up Buddhism in conversation whenever and wherever you feel that it is comfortable to do so. If you want to form a study group, you can hold a talk at a library, cafe, or public space that is suitable for study.

           When Buddhism becomes a big part of your life, it is because you are moved deeply to discover your purpose of life. You realize that there is this very grand endeavor we all have in our lives. We are all born for this reason. 

          And then when you attain it and feel that true happiness inside yourself, you can't just keep such a profound feeling of peacefulness all to your lonesome. If you actually find the meaning of life, you must of course share that wisdom with all your family, friends, and loved ones. And the world even!

          Imagine for a moment that you go to a very delicious and famous Italian restaurant. You order a pizza there, but up until your first bite, you couldn't believe all those rave reviews you read online. "No pizza can taste that delicious," you think to yourself. But everyone kept going on and on about how wonderful the pizza tastes there. It makes you start to wonder. But you can't really know whether that pizza is delicious or not until you actually go there, order it, and take a bite.

Original Photo by Ragdoll available on
         That first mouthful represents that split-second moment that reveals to you just how great the flavor really is! Wow!

           The first thing you'd do is spread the word to all your friends, "Hey, you gotta go to this pizza place and try it! I'm serious. I thought all the people were exaggerating, but now I know better. You won't believe how good it is until you try it."

           You'd want everybody to share in the same wonderful experience you just had. Likewise, when we experience a real sense of contentment from the wisdom of the Buddha's teachings, we also can't wait to share that joy we found with those closest to us.

            Sharing Buddhism begins with finding one person -- YOURSELF!

           Once you begin to discover more about your True Self, you will develop a stronger karmic connection with Buddhism. Over time, you will then naturally develop a wish to share with others. But it's totally up to you and your own discretion.

           If you do talk to your family and friends about the Dharma, you will find out all the little gaps in your own understanding. (I'm still learning every day even as I try to write this blog.)

           Sharing Buddhism with others begins by talking wholeheartedly with just one person at a time. Even though there are so many people in the world in desperate need of the truth, the spread of truth begins patiently and accurately with one person. We give our all to them and share as best we can in each lesson. By focusing on teaching to this one individual, gradually our knowledge base and experience will expand, and we can be able to share with larger groups.

            It's very important to have empathy for the feelings of those who follow a different sect of Buddhism or a different religion altogether. Learn from them as well as teach them. But keep in mind that every religion or spiritual group has its own different idea about where our path in life leads. Sometimes, putting it all together and finding the right one can be confusing. But this is an important task you must decide for yourself.

Original Photo by EnKayTee available on

          At the beginning, we are still making up our minds, and we may need time to find our exact spiritual direction. But when we know that we wish to dedicate ourselves and follow the Pure Land path, we then become mindful of continuing on the course that is taught so we can reach the finish line as soon as possible.

           We want in our hearts to bring everyone toward happiness, but ultimately the choice is up to every person to make. Teach with the most energy to those open-minded persons who express a real thirst for the teachings.

           Remember, the Dharma is not something that can be forced or pushed onto someone. Each person must find the truth at their pace. We can only wish in our hearts that everyone obtain absolute happiness quickly.

            And when teaching, it's better to find a person's question accurately from a Buddhist teacher than to answer incompletely or in a round-about kind of way. You may be answering incorrectly if you do so. We must guide people in the right direction, first and foremost.

            That's why we make our best effort to encourage others to visit a Pure Land Buddhist center. This is the best place for us to directly learn the teachings. Once there, we can learn in the best way how to share the teachings. By visiting a Buddhist center or meeting with Buddhist friends, we can all find the answers to our innermost questions together.

           It's been said that, "Material weath may be treasure for a lifetime, but the Dharma is a treasure for all eternity." Money and possessions can only bring us temporary pleasure while we're alive in this world. Once we die, we must leave behind all our treasures, our possessions, and... even our loved ones. We must go it all alone.

        This sad fact is what makes death so very difficult and painful for all of us. This world is the only home we've come to know. At death, we must leave with nothing.

        For all these reasons, death is our most crucial matter to solve. It's also why a sensitivity to the nature of how all things are impermanent is essential in Buddhism.

         Without this inclination, people remain focused only on the pleasures of life until they get old, sick, or die. People worry a great deal about having enough money for their retirements, but that's only an issue if you live that long. Old age is not guaranteed. Death is what's certain.

Original Photo by ~C4Chaos ~C4無秩序 available at

          Having a keen sense of impermanence drives us to make continual efforts toward studying the teachings. It pushes us to listen more carefully so that we can find out once and for all who we really are on this journey... BEFORE it's too late and death comes knocking for us.

          Even if we forget all about our own death and become overly consumed with worldly desires, we will still lose those closest to us sooner or later. And so we are reminded again but in a way that hits us so deeply we can't deny it any longer.

         It has been said that we cry the most at funerals because we're crying two times -- once for the person who has left us, and once for ourselves because we too must go one day. 

"Ties in this world last only for a time.

We are husband and wife,
parent and child

for a short period only.

Once this reality sinks in,

we cannot help treasuring

each moment

of our brief association."

-Takamori Kentetsu

          Listening to Buddhism leads us toward finally attaining our one and only purpose in this life, to attain that everlasting, constant, thriving joy inside us. It's not something we get after we die. We must discover it in this lifetime while we're still alive. 

         Once we have finished this momentous accomplishment of life, we simultaneously discover our eternal self at long last. For it is only when we know ourselves that we can be truly happy.

          The gift of Buddhist truth is the most precious gift of all because it has the power to dispel the darkness of our anxious minds surrounding the issue of where go in the afterlife. It clearly illuminates once and for all -- while still living -- what happens to us after this life fades away. Imagine the peace of mind knowing that.

          Once this wisdom is known to us with 100% certainty, we experience what's known in Buddhism as the level of true settlement. This level of true settlement is the 51st level of enlightenment. We live the remaining course of our natural lives still full of all the worldly passions that come with being human. But when one who has attained the level of true settlement dies, they are then granted Nirvana, or what known as the 52nd level of enlightenment. This is the highest level of enlightenment. 

          That's when we are reborn as a Buddha in a blissful world known as the Pure Land of Amida Buddha. Once there, we become a buddha. Then in our own time, we choose to leave the Pure Land and return to this suffering world and other worlds like it as buddhas in order to guide others to absolute happiness. Unlike humans, however, buddhas possess the faculties of perfect wisdom and compassion.

          It is through the Buddha's great wisdom that we are guided to understand, once and for all, the meaning of this unique, precious, often turbulent journey as a human being. We realize the true wonder behind being human. It's a blissful, shimmering experience that makes us want to yell from a mountaintop, "WOW! How wonderful and blessed I am to have been born human! I am the happiest person in the universe!"

            And even with this joyous expression, the fulfillment of such an absolute form of happiness cannot be fully described, for it is an experience which is beyond words and even human understanding.

            Once absolute truth is finally realized within us, the preciousness of Buddhist wisdom becomes completely crystal clear. That's when we know where we are going in the afterlife without a shadow of a doubt, and we know ourselves completely, through and through. 

Original Word Art by Celestine Chua available on

              Of all the wisdom out there, the teachings of Pure Land Buddhism are the very best gift we can provide to anyone, because these teachings contain within them the supreme truth that guides all humanity equally to absolute happiness without any discrimination whatsoever.

             So I wish to share with you now all the links and resources that have guided me thus far on my own quest. By learning deeply from this knowledge yourself, you will then be able to advise others freely as you wish.



Of course, don't forget to promote this website,

                             This concludes the paramita of generosity. Check in next time when we move on to learn more about the rest of the Six Paramitas.