By Daniel Moler
When the monks thought that I knew enough about Buddhism to teach it back in the States, I was asked: do you keep the precepts? I admitted that I broke two. Number one, I drink alcohol, but never more than two drinks a day, usually one, and sometimes none.
“Then you are keeping the precept,” the monk said. “In America, that counts as not drinking.” (p.54)
This is just one of several anecdotes found in Gerry Stribling’s book Buddhism for Dudes: A Jarhead’s Field Guide to Mindfulness. Very rarely do I ever laugh out loud at anything I read, but that line did it. In fact, I found myself chuckling quite a bit throughout the entire book.
I am not a self-ascribed Buddhist. At the same time, I have always been fascinated by Buddhist philosophy and history; I honor its precepts. I come from the shamanist class of practice, but surprisingly, Buddhist thought has always fit in well with my own experience and training in shamanism. In terms of code and conduct; they are very similar.
Born into a military family and once a Marine himself (still is, in many respects), Stribling spent quite a bit of time with some of the most accomplished monks of Buddhism in Sri Lanka while teaching there shortly after the terrorist attack on 9-11.
Buddhism for Dudes is his attempt to create a sort of basic training manual for the average guy. And he succeeded.
Of all the books on Buddhism I have read, none of them stand out for me as anything exciting. I am probably not as well-read in Buddhist lore as Stribling himself, but I have a fair share of texts on my bookshelf. Some are dry, some are weighty. Are any of these books good? Yes! Have I read anything that I wouldn’t mind parting with? No…until now.
Gerry Stribling delivers a brass-tax, no-holds-barred approach to a way of life that most people in the world see as abstract, esoteric, or frankly unreachable. It is honest and concise. It’s hilarious. It relays that Buddhism is not some archaic religious mumbo-jumbo. It is a disciplined approach to not only mindfulness, but happiness. Buddhism for Dudes lays out exactly who the Buddha was, what Buddhism is, what it means, and how to do it. It does this in just 123 pages, without any bullshit.
This is, without a doubt, the easiest book I have ever read on the subject of Buddhism.
It is also the most informative. I now fully comprehend the Four Noble Truths, the Five Precepts, and the Noble Eightfold Path. I also understand how to realistically apply them as an average guy living in the Midwest. Hands down, Buddhism for Dudes contains one of the best introductions and set of instructions on meditation I have ever read. And, better yet, I feel like this thing called “enlightenment” is an actual, attainable thing rather than just some hippie wet dream.
I can honestly say that if I ever bump into anyone again inquiring about a good Buddhist read, before referring anything by the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Shantideva, or any of the Sutras, I would send them first to Strib.
Daniel Moler is a writer, artist, educator, alchemist, shamanist, and all-round student of life. With a Master’s in Liberal Arts, he has taught college courses in many areas including art, literature, and philosophy. Daniel has published fiction and nonfiction works around the world in magazines, journals, gaming modules, and online. He is the author of the psychedelic urban fantasy RED Mass, the Terence McKenna guidebook Machine Elves 101, as well as a contributor in Ross Heaven’s book Cactus of Mystery: The Shamanic Powers of the Peruvian San Pedro Cactus. His newest book, Shamanic Qabalah, will be published from Llewellyn Worldwide in 2018. Among being trained in a variety of alternative healing modalities, Daniel is a sanctioned teacher of the Pachakuti Mesa Tradition, a form of Peruvian shamanism brought to the U.S. by respected curandero don Oscar Miro-Quesada. You can read more works by Daniel at http://www.danielmolerweb.com/.
Feature image: Gerald Stribling
Editor: Dana Gornall