Buddhism Plain and Simple by Steve Hagen
  • Title: Buddhism Plain and Simple
  • Subtitle: The Practice of Being Aware Right Now, Every Day
  • Author(s): Steve Hagen
  • Publisher: Tuttle Publishing
  • Year: 2011-06-21
  • ISBN-10: 1462901905
  • ISBN-13: 9781462901906


Buddhism Plain and Simple” by Steve Hagen is a concise and accessible guide that introduces readers to the fundamental concepts and teachings of Buddhism in a relatable manner. Hagen, a Zen Buddhist teacher, presents the essence of Buddhist philosophy without overwhelming readers with complex terminology or religious dogma. Drawing from his own experiences and insights, he explores topics such as suffering, mindfulness, and the nature of reality, offering practical advice for applying Buddhist principles to everyday life. Through clear and concise language, Hagen provides a refreshing perspective on Buddhism, making it a book suitable for both beginners seeking an introduction to the teachings and experienced practitioners looking for a fresh approach.

One of the strengths of “Buddhism Plain and Simple” lies in Hagen’s ability to distill complex concepts into digestible nuggets of wisdom. He focuses on the practical aspect of Buddhism, emphasizing the importance of direct experience and personal exploration rather than blind adherence to rituals or beliefs. Hagen’s writing style is engaging and straightforward, making it easy for readers to grasp the key ideas and engage with the material. With its accessible approach, this book serves as an excellent starting point for those who want to embark on a journey of self-discovery through the lens of Buddhism, shedding light on universal truths that can bring clarity and purpose to one’s life.

Book Review

Buddhism Plain and Simple - Unlocking the Essence of Buddhist Wisdom

In “Buddhism Plain and Simple,” Steve Hagen offers readers a remarkable gateway into the profound teachings of Buddhism through a refreshing and accessible approach. Hagen, an experienced Zen Buddhist teacher, distills the essence of Buddhist philosophy into a concise and easily digestible guide. This book is a valuable resource for individuals seeking a practical understanding of Buddhism and its application in daily life.

One of the standout qualities of Hagen’s writing is his ability to present complex concepts in a straightforward manner. By stripping away unnecessary jargon and dogma, he brings the teachings of Buddhism within reach of everyone, regardless of their prior knowledge or religious background. Hagen emphasizes the practical aspect of Buddhism, highlighting the importance of direct experience and self-inquiry rather than relying solely on belief systems.

Hagen’s exploration of suffering forms a central theme in the book. He elucidates the Buddhist concept of suffering or “dukkha,” explaining how it is not confined to exceptional circumstances like pain or loss but is an inherent aspect of life itself. With clarity and empathy, Hagen demonstrates how our habitual attempts to avoid or control suffering perpetuates its presence in our lives. He guides readers towards a deeper understanding of suffering as a natural part of the human condition and offers practical tools to transform our relationship with it.

Furthermore, Hagen introduces the concept of mindfulness as a powerful practice for developing insight and liberation from suffering. He clarifies that mindfulness is not limited to formal meditation sessions but extends into all aspects of life. Hagen emphasizes the importance of being fully present in each moment, cultivating a clear and non-judgmental awareness of our experiences. Through mindfulness, he suggests that we can uncover a profound sense of interconnectedness and gain insight into the true nature of reality.

One of the most compelling aspects of “Buddhism Plain and Simple” is Hagen’s personal anecdotes and reflections, which breathe life into the teachings. Drawing from his own experiences as a practitioner, Hagen shares stories that illustrate the transformative power of Buddhist wisdom. For instance, he recounts an encounter with a student who initially felt that meditative practice was a waste of time, but eventually realized the depth of insight that can arise from simply observing one’s own mind. These anecdotes provide valuable real-life examples of how the principles of Buddhism can positively impact our lives.

Hagen’s writing style is engaging and approachable. He adopts a conversational tone that feels like a compassionate and knowledgeable friend guiding readers through the intricacies of Buddhist philosophy. The clarity of his explanations and the flow of his ideas enable readers to grasp complex concepts effortlessly. Hagen also encourages readers to question, explore, and experiment with the teachings for themselves, inviting them to develop their own understanding rather than passively accepting his words.

In conclusion, “Buddhism Plain and Simple” by Steve Hagen is an invaluable book that presents the teachings of Buddhism in an accessible and practical manner. Hagen’s ability to distill complex concepts, his emphasis on personal experience, and his skillful use of anecdotes make this book a reliable guide for both beginners and experienced practitioners of Buddhism. By illuminating the path of mindfulness, self-inquiry, and liberation from suffering, Hagen equips readers with the tools needed to explore the profound wisdom of Buddhism and apply it in their everyday lives. This book is a must-read for anyone seeking a clear and straightforward introduction to the core teachings of Buddhism.

Word Count: 604

Key Ideas

Here are the key ideas from the book “Buddhism Plain and Simple” by Steve Hagen:

  1. Seeing Things as They Are Steve Hagen emphasizes the core Buddhist teaching of seeing reality as it truly is, without attaching labels, judgments, or preconceived notions. He encourages readers to look beyond concepts and ideas and directly experience the present moment.

  2. Impermanence The book delves into the Buddhist concept of impermanence, highlighting that all things are subject to change and nothing remains the same. Hagen explains how recognizing impermanence can lead to a more accepting and open attitude toward life’s ups and downs.

  3. Suffering and the End of Suffering Hagen discusses the Four Noble Truths, a fundamental teaching in Buddhism. He explores the nature of suffering (dukkha) and how it arises from attachment and clinging. The book emphasizes that suffering can be ended by letting go of attachments and desires.

  4. No-Self (Anatta) “Buddhism Plain and Simple” introduces the concept of no-self, which challenges the idea of a fixed and independent self. Hagen explains how the self is a collection of ever-changing elements and that recognizing this can lead to greater freedom and liberation.

  5. Mindfulness and Meditation The book emphasizes the importance of mindfulness and meditation in Buddhist practice. Hagen provides practical guidance on meditation techniques and how they can help individuals develop greater awareness and insight.

  6. Awareness and Attention Hagen highlights the significance of awareness and attention in everyday life. He encourages readers to be fully present in each moment and to observe their thoughts, emotions, and experiences without getting caught up in them.

  7. The Middle Way The author discusses the Middle Way, a central concept in Buddhism that advocates finding balance and avoiding extremes. Hagen applies this idea to various aspects of life, suggesting that moderation and balance can lead to greater well-being.

  8. Compassion and Kindness The book emphasizes the importance of compassion and kindness in Buddhist practice. Hagen discusses the interconnectedness of all beings and how cultivating compassion can lead to a more harmonious and compassionate world.

  9. Non-Attachment Hagen explores the concept of non-attachment, which involves letting go of attachments to outcomes, possessions, and desires. He explains how practicing non-attachment can lead to a greater sense of freedom and inner peace.

  10. Living in the Moment The book encourages readers to fully engage with the present moment and let go of worries about the past and future. Hagen explains how embracing the present moment can lead to a more fulfilling and meaningful life.

Buddhism Plain and Simple” offers readers a clear and accessible introduction to key Buddhist teachings and concepts. Through straightforward language and practical examples, Steve Hagen conveys the essence of Buddhism and its relevance to modern life. The book emphasizes the importance of direct experience, mindfulness, and self-inquiry in understanding the nature of reality and finding a path to greater clarity, compassion, and well-being.

Target Audience

The book “Buddhism Plain and Simple” by Steve Hagen is targeted at a diverse audience interested in exploring the teachings and philosophy of Buddhism. While it serves as an excellent introduction for newcomers, it also offers valuable insights for experienced practitioners. This book is recommended reading for the following audiences:

  • Beginners in Buddhism Hagen presents the concepts of Buddhism in a clear and accessible manner, making it an ideal starting point for those who are new to the practice. By avoiding complex terminology and religious dogma, he provides a solid foundation for understanding the core principles and practical applications of Buddhism.

  • Seekers of Practical Wisdom The book is relevant for individuals seeking practical guidance on how to apply Buddhist concepts to their daily lives. Through his personal anecdotes and examples, Hagen offers readers practical tools for developing mindfulness, cultivating compassion, and finding peace in the midst of modern challenges.

  • Mindfulness Practitioners “Buddhism Plain and Simple” is particularly recommended for those interested in mindfulness practices. Hagen explores the transformative power of mindfulness and its ability to help individuals gain insight into the nature of reality and liberate themselves from the cycle of suffering. His teachings provide a solid foundation for those who wish to deepen their mindfulness practice.

  • Philosophy Enthusiasts The book offers a philosophical exploration of the fundamental principles of Buddhism, making it appealing to readers interested in philosophy and spirituality. Hagen delves into topics such as the nature of existence, the illusion of the self, and the impermanence of all things, providing thought-provoking insights for those who enjoy contemplative and intellectual engagement.

  • Individuals Seeking Clarity and Inner Peace “Buddhism Plain and Simple” is recommended for anyone who is looking for guidance and wisdom in navigating the challenges of life. By offering a fresh perspective on suffering, attachment, and the nature of reality, Hagen provides tools and insights that can help individuals find clarity, inner peace, and a deeper sense of purpose.

In conclusion, “Buddhism Plain and Simple” is recommended reading for a range of audiences, from beginners in Buddhism to mindfulness practitioners, philosophy enthusiasts, and individuals seeking clarity and inner peace. The book’s accessibility, clarity, and practical approach make it a valuable resource for those interested in exploring and applying the teachings of Buddhism in their lives.