The Accidental Buddhist, by Dinty M. Moore

by Derwood Hunsdale-Talbot on September 8, 2010


One of my favorite sayings is “be where your feet are”, something I find nearly impossible to do and have no real idea how to accomplish. Like most people I know, I am so busy trying to accomplish ten things at once that nothing gets done.

Those thoughts were uppermost in my mind while reading The Accidental Buddhist. Author Dinty M. Moore (yes, that is his real name) started his “American Buddhist Project” planning to investigate how Buddhism is being practiced in America, and found that his research changed his life.

Moore was raised Catholic and went to Catholic school, where he saw God as a “vengeful, mind-reading Santa.” He ended up a lapsed Catholic who felt spiritually empty, had read about Buddhism and wanted to know more: “It is not just the absence of God in my life that made me investigate this new old religion, but an overall sense that something is missing.”

Moore begins his search at a Zen Buddhist weekend retreat, where the head monk tells him to “just sit.” Just sit? How do you get anything done? Well, he finds that he can get more done by sitting still.

It is easier, more efficient to chop onions when you are only chopping onions, not conversing, checking up on the rest of the kitchen, answering the phone…

What seems to be un-American can actually be a smart way to work. You may remember your mother telling you to “work smart.” Or to “do what you’re doing right now, and not do anything else” as you flitted around from chore to chore. She may have had a point. Could you be better at your work? Relationships? Interesting questions to ponder.

The basic tenets of Buddism are presented clearly, at least I think so, coming from almost total ignorance of Buddhism. Like most Americans, I know little about Buddism (Dalai Lama -whom the author meets, no big surprise there.) The list of “Basic Buddhist Terms” at the end of the book was invaluable, as there are many Buddist terms that start with “z” – I kept on getting “zendo”, “zafu” and “zazen” mixed up.

Want to know more about Buddism? This isn’t a big book and can be easily read in a weekend. I almost forgot to mention that it is funny – picture the head monk mentioned above sneaking a smoke at “Change Your Mind Day”!

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