Yet Another Dharma Book

Posted by on Jul 29, 2014 | 0 comments

Do we really need another Buddhist book? It’s a question I asked myself about 15 years ago when I was working on my first book, Sitting Inside: Buddhist Practice in American Prisons.  The answer then was Yes, since no one I knew had discussed how to practice mindfulness and meditation while in jail or prison. Or how to go inside to help inmates with their practice. So the book was done and—after a good number of reversals—finally came out in 2002. I’ve also contributed articles and book chapters on Buddhist practice in the Gay community. For similar reasons I felt that Queer Dharma, and Queer Dharma II were both worth the effort because of the unique obstacles that lesbian women and gay men face in understanding dharma and interacting within sangha. [I refuse to use the ridiculously inclusive LGTBQ since we might as well just substitute the word “everybody.”]


These days even Oprah and Terry Gross, Karen Armstrong and Richard Geer are writing or recommending Buddhist books. So who needs Heart Open, Mouth Shut?


The short answer is that I do. This is me trying to figure this out. I’ve kept to the core of the Buddha’s teaching: the Four Ennobling Insights and the Eightfold Map of the Path. Eight and Four is Twelve, so here is the Noble One’s 12-Step program for recovering from suffering.


I want to be compassionate and mindful in every detail of my drifty, Boomer life, but I’m always falling short. I lose my temper. I gossip—oh, how I love to gossip. I crave chocolate and cigars and I have a secret Mercedes fantasy that I’m just now admitting to the world. I judge people and reject them and avoid some and chase after others. In other words, my heart will open to you if you offer me some chocolate or a cigar or your virginity.


So even though I’m now a full-on monk, I can’t seem to consistently or perfectly behave myself. Thus this book. I hope it helps me the writer and you the reader to grow up.


Finally, I am grateful to all my teachers and parents and grandparents and brothers and sisters and mentors for their inspiration, patience and guidance along this Old Path.