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Publisher's Summary

So you think you're a Buddhist? Think again. Tibetan Buddhist master Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse, one of the most creative and innovative lamas teaching today, throws down the gauntlet to the Buddhist world, challenging common misconceptions, stereotypes, and fantasies. With wit and irony, Khysentse urges listeners to move beyond the superficial trappings of Buddhism - beyond the romance with beads, incense, or exotic robes - straight to the heart of what the Buddha taught.

©2007 Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse (P)2014 Audible Inc.

What listeners say about What Makes You Not a Buddhist

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Buddhism with a bite.

If you could sum up What Makes You Not a Buddhist in three words, what would they be?

Edgy. Unflinching. Clear. The premise of the book seems to be that being nice and smiley and a vegetarian, peaceful, passive and serene is not what makes someone a Buddhist. And he is going to prove it. He does not pull punches as he points out the hypocrisies of modern life. And he provides a very straightforward explanation for how Buddhisms view reality and our place in it - which is what makes one a Buddhist based on four concepts known as the Four Seals. They might be simple - but these are challenging concepts, and ones that students of Buddhism contemplate for their lifetimes, so this book is just an introduction. The writing is laced with a glint-in-the-eye, wry, and sometimes edgy sense of humor that is wonderful. All in all the narration is solid, but, unfortunately the narration does not convey the intended sense of humor at times, and at other times makes the author's emperor-has-new-clothes observations of our world seem to have to much of a bite, leaving them sound a bit like angry rants on a few occaisions.

What did you like best about this story?

With Buddhism and aspects of Buddhism and mindfulness becoming an ever growing part of pop culture, Dzongsar Khyentse does a wonderful job of distilling what is actually Buddhism.

What three words best describe Tom Pile’s voice?

Clear, professional, edgy

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No. It's better to contemplate a chapter at a time.

Any additional comments?

One of the things that makes Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche such a great writer and teacher is one of the reasons why Tom Pile's narration doesn't quite work for me. Khyentse's words are oftentimes full of a sharp uncompromising bite, but there is very often a sense of humor there as well. When you hear him speak, you get the humor. Unfortunately the narration was unable to express that subtlety. When the author does cast an unflinching eye on things, not holding his punches, he is doing so without any anger or judgement - simply stating the facts as things we oftentimes would like to bury under the rug or cast a blind eye to. In these cases, again I'm afraid the narration colors the words with a little too much edge and starts to make the author sound like he's on an angry rant in cases where he's actually pointing things out rather impartially. Mr. Pile is an excellent reader and narrator, so it is not a criticism of his talent, rather his approach to the material, something in which the producers could have steered him differently.

24 people found this helpful

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Author is very assuming

Narration is good.
The author is very certain of his preconceived notions and likes to categorize people using offensive stereotypical labels. At one point the author speaks of people using a rattle as a distraction. If the author was aware of other religions the author would know rattles are used in Native religions to calm the mind and invoke a trance state. The writing of this book was premature on the author's part.

5 people found this helpful

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Prickly rather than gentle

What made the experience of listening to What Makes You Not a Buddhist the most enjoyable?

I liked the dogged take of the author as he castigated a lot of our admittedly decadent culture. It's a bracing if a bit tiresome antidote to the usual Buddhist-lite fare Westerners often prefer. Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse also made the films The Cup and Travellers and Magicians under his birth name of Khytense Norbu, as a relevant aside, so he knows how to address a wider audience than most Tibetan-trained dharma teachers.

What other book might you compare What Makes You Not a Buddhist to and why?

The two books "Magic of Awareness" and "No Self, No Problem" by another Tibetan now teaching in the West, Anam Thubten, are gentler in tone but sometimes as insistent on the need to break free of Buddhist conventions. He discusses the traditions but does not stick so much to their conventional titles, much as Khytense does here, to broaden accessibility. (These are also on Audible as well as Amazon US and I reviewed them recently, too.)

What does Tom Pile bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

A curious insistence on a rough-hewn, no-nonsense approach. Rather indignant or cranky. It fits the author, but it's far from the calm tones one associates with a Buddhist teacher. I like the lack of stereotype, but it may jar or annoy some readers who favor gentle platitudes.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

No, but the references to Eminem, Bush jr, and Paris Hilton from a decade ago already feel dated. Similar to the Jesus Freaks books in the early '70s, this may feel more a relic of its time than intended, as the author tries to link his material to then-current culture and trends.

Any additional comments?

It's recommended for those with a prior grounding in dharma and practice. Not to sound snobbish, but like Thubten's books, these seem addressed at those already in the know. This focuses, as an example, not on the 4 Noble Truths but on the four seals, so it's not for beginners who may need rather a primer on the terms, concepts, and practices in dharma.

5 people found this helpful

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Message seems "judgmental"

The story of Buddha is good and enjoyable to listen and learn. But the authors messages outside of the story seemed very harsh and judgmental, opposite of the acting of a true Buddhist, at least I thought. I didn't learn what I'd hoped, Buddhism in this day and age in laymen terms. I felt judged and shamed most of the book. May be good for some, but not for me.

4 people found this helpful

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The worst Buddhist book I have listened to so far

1/3 of the book is great stuff, but the other 2/3 is near the levels of pure drivel. It has a lot of circular logic, shows very clearly that the author does not fact check/critically analyze his claims/examples, or even have a good understanding about how the real world works. I love most Buddhist books but this one is no worth your time unless you like to have a bad example on hand.

2 people found this helpful

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Excellent book. Ok narration

This is just a comment on the narration. I appreciated his dynamic way of speaking, but his breathy quality of voice made it a bit harder to understand than other books while commuting and listening on headphones.

2 people found this helpful

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a bitter old man professes to be buddhist

whining, complaining, ranting steeped in deep negativity, bitterness and extreme social conservativism. not normally considered the taos of a buddhist but those are the overriding traits of the "author" who actually claims to be a "trained buddhist". he's trained at something, but whatever it is, it is not good. makes one wish for time and money as non transient things so I could get them back, change them into monkey poop and throw it at the author.

2 people found this helpful

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Disappointing

This book is one part exposition (of the four seals), one part sophistry, and two parts scolding. It would have been better to simply explain the seals and their implications for understanding reality and for engaging that reality in our own lives. But no, we are continually expected to share the author’s distain for things like face creams. Although he asserts that Buddhists do not proselytize, this volume seems dedicated to showing us the error of our ways. It would have been better to explain Buddhism.

10 people found this helpful

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if interested in buddhism. not the way to go.

not really about buddhism. uses buddhism as launching platform to go on rants as a comparison to buddha or buddhism.
the Prince Charles part ended it for me.
this supposed buddhist needs to spend more time studying the Dhamma. Really.
and less time with the news or television.


J

4 people found this helpful

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Scolding sermons

I made it about an hour into this before giving up. It had way too many scolding sermons about what’s wrong with modern society. Instead of quoting the Buddha, he prefers to add strange embellishments to the legends about the Buddha’s early life. (Young Siddhartha’s courtesans were “well-endowed” and “slack-jawed”? Really?) Maybe the scolding tone is partly the fault of the audiobook’s reader. I had heard a lot more about the Four Noble Truths than the Four Seals before, so I will be studying up on the Four Seals, but by researching on my own instead of listening to this.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Marcos
  • 05-20-15

Elixir of truth

The essential buddhist introductory book in my opinion. Rinpoche words is like a razor, cutting trough all misconceptions.

3 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Kindle Customer
  • 12-03-16

Wow, it's like having a psychopath whispering in your ear.

I got this because there's supposed to be wit in here somewhere. However, the narrator sounds angry all the time, and he talks in a loud whisper. So, all the jokes actually sound like threats, and most of the book seems to be an insult.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-10-17

Amazing - mind-expanding

Every Buddhist should read or hear this gem from Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche. Goes straight to the essence

1 person found this helpful

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  • S. Nanra
  • 05-08-16

Scoop - The Truth about Buddhism

Sharp and incisive dissection of the reality of Buddihism in the modern world. What it is, and importantly, what it isn't. The clarity is astounding, and is put forward with such simplicity - no words are wasted.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Scott
  • 10-25-15

Good Stuff

Probably the best introduction to buddhism i've came across so far. An informative source and entertaining listen.

1 person found this helpful

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  • neil steal
  • 03-02-21

a good book for Buddhist and non Buddhist alike

really gets to the heart of the view of what buddhism is about. Narrators voice makes my foot itch a bit bit that's mainly due to me being a grumpy old sod.

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  • 🌟Jen🌟
  • 08-22-20

Comprehensive information, however...

Very American in narrative and outlook. Though a comprehensive look at aspects of Buddhism, the actual overall impression of the book is that of unkindness by the author. Though dated by 13 years, the inclusion of some real world 'examples' of topics are irrelevant and in some instances uncomfortable. What is the reason for mentioning HRH Prince Charles of the UK and a wire tapped transcript between him and his then mistress?? Not needed, and in fact flagrantly biased. This is just one example of the sometimes accusing and angry narrative. Very un compassionate and loving, despite giving much information and insight into this spiritual path.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 11-12-18

a must read for Buddhists!

beautifully written. so easy to understand such profound truth. i would strongly recommend every Buddhists and those who are interested in Buddhism read it.

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  • Nomad
  • 03-17-17

Extremely dissapointing

If this book wasn’t for you, who do you think might enjoy it more?

There are lots of 5 star reviews so people actually liked the book but I'm definitely not one of them.

What could Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

If the author stopped being so critical and harsh of everything and everyone which in itself is not what Buddhism is about!

Which scene did you most enjoy?

Nothing. I had to stop after about an hour and planning on returning it as I refuse to let it to ruin my beliefs. I tried to persevere and finish the book but it just made me angry and constant criticisms of people, cultures and everything else in between (even facial creams, toasters, dishwashers, cars, plastic bags etc!) sounded like a rant, rather than an educational, enriching audiobook.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Davie
  • 01-05-17

This was a really good book!

Loved it. LOVED IT. Not only was it very informative, but it was also entertaining. A must buy!

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  • Sam
  • 10-12-20

Best Intro to Buddhism

This is a fantastic introduction that clearly explains what Buddhism is and isn't. It's refreshing to have this so clearly explained and is a book worth returning to again and again.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Vera Gu
  • 02-13-19

Thanks so much! I love it.

The narrator sounds very passionate. I love his voice! The author tries to clarify some Buddhist princples. Very true and interesting.

1 person found this helpful