By John Lee Pendall
The suffering optimist is someone who is naturally sensitive, caring, upbeat and hopeful, but who is going through a rough patch.
It’s a patch so rough that they feel like they’re about to lose themselves to it. Deep Hope, by Diane Eshin Rizzetto, is a great book for suffering optimists. Rizzetto’s book acknowledges all of the suffering we run into in daily life, but it also gives a clear path to finding clarity within it. That path is the Six Perfections of Mahayana Buddhism.
This is a book of our times—an engaged work that brings issues like social inequality and climate change into the Buddhaverse. Rizzetto knows how to turn a phrase without sacrificing clarity, and she keeps things well away from armchair philosophy. This is a book that prompts you to do things, not accumulate knowledge for knowledge’s sake.
If you’re not into Engaged Buddhism, then you probably won’t enjoy the book.
The entire work is filled with Rizzetto’s gentle, but practical and at times passionate, tone. That said, Deep Hope doesn’t really offer anything new to Buddhist wisdom or practice. She covers the same ground that hundreds of other Buddhist writers have, while switching out the common translations of the Perfections for more descriptive—but unfaithful to the Sanskrit—terms.
There are a few neat features in Deep Hope. Diane has practice tips at the end of each chapter. There are also several personal stories and discussions she’s had with students. Each chapter also starts with a relevant quote to get the reader in the mood.
All in all, I’d say that if you have a decidedly humanist or liberal worldview, and you’re just getting acquainted with the Six Perfections, then you might get a lot out of Deep Hope.
The work doesn’t really speak to me personally because I’m not a suffering optimist—I’m basically a hopeful pessimist—and I’ve never resonated with a gentle touch when it comes to Buddhism. I like works that kick me like a shot of whiskey. I’m also not an Engaged Buddhist. In general, people weird me out, and I tend to keep my circle small.
So, if you’re like me, you may not vibe with the work. But if you’re naturally open and moved by the beautiful aspects of humanity, then it’ll probably vibe with you. Deep Hope is tender and warm, yet authentic. You can tell that Rizzetto tries to live her teachings; she isn’t pretending. And instead of taking an academic approach to Mahayana Buddhism, she really tries to show what it looks like in action, and in the modern world.
Photo: Shambhala Publications
Editor: Dana Gornall
Did you like this post? You might also like: