What Makes You Not a Buddhist

  • by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse
  • Narrated by Tom Pile
  • 4 hrs and 52 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

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.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

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.

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- Relatable1

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.

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- John L Murphy

Book Details

  • Release Date: 12-09-2014
  • Publisher: Audible Studios