Stephen T. Asma | Barnes & Noble, DePaul Center | Literary Events | Chicago Reader

Stephen T. Asma Recommended Free Critics' Picks

When: Thu., April 15, 6 p.m. 2010

In Why I Am a Buddhist: No-Nonsense Buddhism With Red Meat and Whiskey (Hampton Roads), Columbia College philosophy professor Stephen Asma tackles a complex subject in a straightforward, earthy way that makes it accessible--even, at times, amusing. The author of two previous books on Buddhism, Asma expresses contempt for "humorless brown-rice eaters who look like they wake up every morning and say 'no' to life' and offers himself as a good bad example: "I probably drink too much, and I'm not in the least bit interested in sexual abstinence. I like the White Sox, and I eat meat. If a guy like me can be a Buddhist . . . trust me, there's room for you." Chapter one provides a brief history of Asma's adolescent rebellion, which focused on drugs, rock, and mysticism. Ultimately rejecting other religious constructs, he finds Buddhism to be "a more down-to-earth spiritualism . . . [in which] the solution to suffering is not to run away from, or escape, this world, but to run straight at it even harder." The book goes on to examine several sects of Buddhism and the differences between it and Hinduism, as well as doctrines like reincarnation, karma, the Four Noble Truths, and the Eightfold Path. Asma takes aim at the purveyors of what he calls quantum mysticism--mind-power gurus like Deepak Chopra--providing a whirlwind tour of the latest in neuroscience and theoretical physics as evidence against "a juvenile worldview. . . that my mind can control matter and destiny. . . ." With warmth, wit, and personal anecdotes, Asma offers tips on how to handle the workplace bully with forbearance and compassion, model right speech to your toddler, navigate the turbulent waters of erotic desire, and find a middle path between unrestrained material acquisition and complete self-denial. --Micki Leventhal


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