The Accidental Buddhist

The Accidental Buddhist by Dinty W. Moore is one of those Buddhist books that you read in bed at your peril because you really won’t want to put it down once you’ve started it. The subtitle of the book is Mindfulness, Enlightenment, and Sitting Still, American Style and it is a personal account of the author’s journey as he sets out to explore Buddhism in America.

Moore was born and raised in a Catholic environment, and as a child he had thought about becoming a Catholic priest. As things turned out, he lost his faith, and a couple of decades later he found himself standing at the door of a Zen Buddhist monastery. Not because he particularly wanted to become a Buddhist, let alone a Buddhist monk, but because he was curious about Buddhism and had a journalistic desire to figure out why it was suddenly becoming so popular in the USA.

Reading this book is much like being a passenger on Moore’s personal road-trip of discovery, so non-Buddhists will appreciate it just as much as Buddhist readers. The writing is brisk, conversational and packed with observations that are humorous, honest and insightful. By following Moore on his journey, we get to appreciate the diverse ways in which Buddhism has not only taken root in America, but has already started influencing the popular culture.

And what a journey it is. Moore learns to sit and count his breaths whilst wrestling with his Monkey Mind at a Zen retreat, sets up a Buddhist altar in his home, tries meditating in the bathtub, visits a Tibetan Buddhist community, meets a Jesuit priest who teaches Zen, goes hiking with a woman who runs a business that makes meditation cushions, studies a copy of Mindfulness in Plain English at a Theravada retreat led by its author, liberates refrigerated Ladybugs, meets His Holiness the Dalai Lama and learns that baseball can be Buddhist. Those are just a few of the highlights, and along the way Moore gradually experiences something of a personal transformation, coming to embrace Buddhism almost by accident.

1 – Buddha 101: Stumbling Up Monkey Mind Mountain
2 – One Bright Idea: My American Buddhist Project
3 – Just Sitting: I Obsess a Lot, and Then I Get Distracted
4 – Zen Gardening: Me and My Green-Thumbed Monkey
5 – Why Do Tibetans Have Such Trouble with Their Vacuum Cleaners? They Lack Attachments
6 – Catholic Boy Zen: Was Jesus a Bodhisattva?
7 – You Can Change Your Mind: And Your Karma, Too
8 – The Work Koan: Life Without a Cushion
9 – The Plain-spoken Theravadan: A High Seat from a Low Seat
10 – Buddha Bug, Buddha Being: You Are What You Eat
11 – Destroy Your Neighbour, Destroy Yourself: The Dalai Lama and the Action Hero
12 – Trying to Hit the Ball: Fruitless Searching on the Fruited Plan
13 – Eat Your Rice, Wash Your Bowl, and Just Sit: Studying with the Seven-Year-Old Master
14 – What Kind of Buddhist Am I? A Lousy One, Thank You

The Accidental Buddhist is as entertaining as it is informative, and we highly recommend it. Just be prepared to stay awake for a while longer than usual if you decide to read it in bed!

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