❴KINDLE❵ ✽ The Gods Drink Whiskey: Stumbling Toward Enlightenment in the Land of the Tattered Buddha (Plus) Author Stephen T. Asma – Lectinshield.co.uk


10 thoughts on “The Gods Drink Whiskey: Stumbling Toward Enlightenment in the Land of the Tattered Buddha (Plus)

  1. says:

    My early impression of the book couldn t have been wronger I feared a new age smug account of the superiority of spirituality over rationality or some such nonsense What I found was a thoughtful, self conscious narrative, interweaving a personal journey with basic tenants of Buddhism and observations of the state of Buddhism in Cambodia, today.I would have liked a little sociological exploration of modern Theravada Buddhism, but that would have been a different book It s part self help, self exploration, and part This is what Buddhism really is, dagnabbit He has some strong digs against the New Age fru fru that I feared he would be embracing And there s a nice healthy core of rational naturalism that jives strongly with me and my own atheism At times I nearly shouted, Holy crap, I m Buddhist But then, there is no me , right I m just an abstract concept formed by the aggregate of my body and perceptions and volition And I m cool with that.


  2. says:

    Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography cclapcenter.com I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP it is not being reprinted illegally Unbeknownst to readers of this blog, I ve been spending this summer tearing through a bunch of books on Buddhism and especially Buddhist meditation I ve started practicing a secular form of meditation in my personal life over the last year, and the insights I ve had about my life because of it was recently referred to by a friend as accidentally Buddhist in nature, so I thought it d be interesting to learn a little about actual Buddhism and to see why my friend made this comment in the first place The books have generally been hit and miss, the natural side effect of just grabbing a bunch of random titles off the shelf of my neighborhood library but one of the best writers on the subject of Buddhism in America has turned out to be a local, Columbia College professor Stephen Asma who takes a decidedly blue collar, rationalist, and no bullshit approach to his interpretations of these ancient texts, and how they can be applied to the practical lives of contemporary Westerners, without needing all the hippie New Age accoutrements that have typically been carried with them into our country And thus have I ended up making my way this summer through nearly the entirety of Asma s oeuvre, from practical guides to meditation to a for dummies style introduction to the philosophy.His latest that I ve read, though, 2005 s The Gods Drink Whiskey, I thought was finally the kind of book that could be justified writing about here at the blog for a general audience and that s because this is not just a hyper specialized guide to Buddhism itself, but a sprawling and fascinating look at a year Asma spent in southeast Asia headquartered in Cambodia but traveling extensively through the rest of the region , where he blends lessons about religion and philosophy with an engaging travelogue, a primer on the politics of these developing nations, and an astute sociological look at how Buddhism has been warped and changed by various local populations in order to fit what they ve needed to get out of it And indeed, by constantly comparing this process to the one Christianity has gone through in the Western world think of prim Mormons in their Sunday finest, snake handlers in Texas, suburban liberals in New England, and Midwestern fundamentalists flailing about and speaking in tongues, all of whom are supposedly worshipping the same Jesus , Asma makes it easy to understand why there s so many different forms of Buddhism in southeast Asia, why they ve been so influenced by the local culture of each area, and why there s so much disagreement between different sects over how to properly practice Just for one example, and probably the biggest surprise to Americans in the entire book, the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhism only comprises six percent of all practicing Buddhists worldwide, and is considered by most Buddhists to be an overly fussy, overly ritualistic form of the philosophy that relies way too heavily on mysticism and supernatural elements All this would be interesting enough but like I said, what makes this book truly spectacular is the way Asma weaves in his personal anecdotes about his travels there, and especially the ironic surrealism of being one of the most experienced veterans at the Cambodian Buddhist Institute where he was hired to teach, which is what brought him over there in the first place Although Cambodia is one of the nations where Buddhism was first cultivated thousands of years ago, the monstrous Pol Pot dictatorship of the 1960s and 70s systematically murdered nearly an entire generation of Buddhist teachers and practitioners, leaving an all consuming gap in expertise after that radical Communist regime was defeated that has forced the nation to do things like hire Americans to come and teach their newest generation of Buddhist youths A funny, moving, eye opening and always informative book, despite this now being a decade old it turned out to be one of the most illuminating and enjoyable travel journals I ve read in years, which is why I wanted to do a writeup of it here for the main blog and not just my usual quick mention at Goodreads.com, like I ve been doing with all the other Buddhism books I ve been reading this summer It comes very strongly recommended, as does Asma s other books, to anyone looking to get a better sense of what Buddhism is all about as a practical, secular philosophy, apart from the spiritual trappings it s picked up along the way from the various regional communities who have adopted it over the centuries.


  3. says:

    This book serves a terrific introduction into the different branches of Buddhism while focusing primarily on Theravanda Buddhism and he history of it in Cambodia The most engaging aspect of the book was that it was very approachable without being feeling like you are reading lecture notes I actually renewed it from the library not because I needed time to read it but because I want to be able take notes on all of the resources it offers The only problem that I had with it, and it is a decidedly minor one, was that from time to time the author would take a paragraph or two to hammer home his own personal opinion in a way that bordered on antagonistic, and there were a few, even shorter passages, where it felt like he was going out of his way to explain that he was just another mid 30 s American traveling through South East Asia He s not He s a philosophy professor who was specifically invited to go to the heartland of Buddhism to teach Buddhism to people whose families had been, with the possible exception of the period of Pol Pot s atrocities, Buddhists for hundreds of generations That s not your average American However, I believe his intention in including these asides was to help illustrate that Buddhism is a part of everyday life and not some super mystical world All in all a great read.


  4. says:

    This is a great read that I stumbled upon while frittering time away on several years ago Asma is a professor at Columbia College in Chicago and this book is an account of his year living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia teaching Buddhism to a group of Cambodian students The book, though, is really about Stephen Asma and his take on the world and why he is a Buddhist and his views on some of the politics of SE Asia and the tragic past of Cambodia, along with the exuberance of his students Coming from a less thoughtful person, this book could be a slog, but, fortunately, Asma is well read in many areas and the book is sprinkled with quips and insights and you come away feeling as if you wouldn t mind spending a night shooting the shit with Asma over a few beers and trading stories or just listening to his One of my favorite vignettes in the book is where Asma, who plays blues guitar, is strumming away when his Sri Lankan housemate hears him and recognizes he is playing Skip James and they end up jamming together and having a great talk This is one of those books where the exhortation, Just READ it aptly applies.


  5. says:

    For the majority of people, Buddhism is linked to Tibet and the Dalai Lama In this book, we learn about Buddhism in Cambodia called Theravada Buddhism As it turns out, associating Tibetan Buddhism as the Buddhism is like associating Mormonism as the Christianity Only about 6% of the world s Buddhists are Tibetan Buddhists out of roughly 400 million Buddhists.Asma was invited to teach Buddhism at the Cambodian Buddhist Institute to a select group of students He covers his journey through a new country and new version of Buddhism in this really well written and engaging book Tibetan Buddhism encourages deities when in reality Buddha did not want deities People should be focused on themselves and achieving nibbana enlightenment or cooling having a cool heart Although holy relics are still sacred to Theravadan Buddhists such as Buddha s eyebrow or tooth The title of the book comes from the fact that whiskey is offered up to the spirits to keep the peace Families and businesses have little spirit houses where they make offerings to keep the bad stuff from happening to them And in this case, spirits like whiskey Theravada Buddhism is mixed with a bit of Hinduism and most still worship Vishnu and Shiva, even though Buddha says there are no gods Most religions are a mix of others and one would probably be hard pressed to find a pure religion Theravadan Buddhists meditate on corpses This is to pound in the fact of impermanence I don t think I want to do that Cambodia is a hot mess Politics, assassinations on the streets, Khmer Rouge It s no wonder the peace of Buddhism is practiced Penises aka phallic symbols are worshiped by some.There is a ton information and it s all very interesting and gives a great perspective of religion in Southeast Asia.


  6. says:

    You can labor hard for immortality and fame and recognition, but even if you make a big splash on the global consciousness with your role in a movie, with your bangin CD release, with your political victory, with your best seller book success , in the end you will eventually become just a footnote, and after that you will slip from the record of history and time altogether, finally evaporating like billions and billions of our predecessors While this realization may seem deflationary at first, it proves to be rather inspiring after the ego bruises fade away Because now all motivation and purpose and rationale have to go to the work itself rather than to the success to the journey rather than the destination Since only the now really exists and obscurity awaits on either side of it, I resolved that I should try to live deeply in the life I had not the life I craved.


  7. says:

    An enjoyable book Part memoir, part history I really enjoyed the historical aspect of the book in regards to the spread of Theravada Buddhism in Southeast Asia and the gumbo of spirituality and culture I knew of the pre Buddhist influence of Hinduism, but did not know of the pre Theravada establishing of Mahayana Buddhism in Cambodia While I enjoyed Professor Asma s expounding and quoting verses of beautiful Pali suttas, I was a little put off by moments in the book of his Mahayana bashing Thank goodness they were brief, nevertheless a little disappointing In the end, I would find myself giggling anyways.


  8. says:

    I started to read this book because I m planning a trip to Cambodia and I really wanted to learn about the country.I think that this book gave me lots of info on the culture and also a lot I ve been living in Asia for quite some time now, and Buddisim has always intrigued me I ve lots of temples and even some festivities, but I ve never really understood the docterin I ve asked English speaking Buddists about the religion, but never felt very satisfied with the answers This book has definitely cleared up a lot of my questions.So, I would recomend this book to anyone who is interested in the Cambodian culture there is also some stuff about Thailand and Vietnam and people who want to learn about the history and practices of Buddisim I am not a big non fiction reader, but this book kept me interested the whole way.


  9. says:

    Talk about your feeble excuses for reading a book I was getting my computer worked on when I noticed this book on a nearby work desk I picked it up and flipped through it, had a vague memory of somebody or other recommending it I was especially attracted to the subtitle of the final chapter, Transcendental Everydayness In a way that seems to me what Zen is all about So I ordered and read the book, and it was a great antidote to the dour bitterness of Sabbath s Theater.Asma is the opposite of bitter, even in the face of some difficult experiences He teaches classes in Buddhism at Columbia College in Chicago which I admit I ve never heard of and somehow got an opportunity to teach Buddhism for a year in Cambodia He jumped at it, despite the fact that he was leaving behind a pregnant wife, and made the most of his yearlong experience I have a longtime interest in Cambodia, because my wife s program at Duke sent a number of students there and I responded to their writing about the place I also, to say the least, have a strong interest in Buddhism So I dived right in.Though he says he also loves Zen, Asma considers himself a Theravada Buddhist, and asserts that, in contrast to other forms of Buddhism, Theravada is the whole enchilada He s scornful of what he calls California Buddhism I was never clear on what he means by that There s a major Theravada center, Spirit Rock, in California and dumps all over Tibetan Buddhism in particular, saying it s far from the original teaching of the Buddha he makes that argument persuasively, though I think Tibetan Buddhism is a deep practice 1 I wasn t sure what he meant by whole enchilada we do seem to be mixing our cultural metaphors You could argue that, because Theravada monks sometimes live in the forest, are celibate, do not handle money, and live in poverty, they are the most authentic Buddhists I figured that was the argument he might make.In what sense Asma is then a Theravada Buddhist I do not know He s not a monk, leads a very secular lifestyle, eats plenty of meat, drinks copiously long evenings of drinking where he winds up drunk on one occasion uses marijuana eating it on a pizza , and though he does meditate sometimes at the local temples, doesn t seem to have a daily practice maybe, in his defense, he just didn t mention it I know a lot of Zen Buddhists, and Tibetans for that matter, who practice a stricter form of Buddhism than he I do think it s possible to argue that the Pali Canon is the only authentic teaching of the Buddha, and that anything else is bogus But I myself happen to think that the broad tradition of Buddhism is beautiful, and that subsequent teachings including some Tibetan teachings have vastly deepened the tradition The original teachers in all religions have had their commentators Paul s letters are as much a part of Christianity as the Gospels.Nevertheless, this is a wonderful book about a year in Cambodia, and he covers various aspects of the country well Cambodia is officially a Buddhist country, and Asma suggests that Buddhist philosophy is deeply embedded in Cambodian culture 2 That may be true, though the prevailing Buddhism is a very secular kind, and Cambodia is a country where life is cheap, and which has a violent and heartbreaking recent past.Asma doesn t avoid that, has a whole chapter on Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge He visits a museum about that period and tours the Killing Fields themselves That chapter is heartbreaking and difficult to read The weird situation in Cambodia today is that people who participated in the murder of many of the country s best citizens are still living there, and some may be involved in the government That part of Cambodia s history is hardly Buddhist though every government has its horrors No country lives up to its spiritual ideals.Asma does seem to have been changed by his year in Cambodia, and hoped to take those changes back to Chicago with him I must say the Transcendental Everydayness that the book advertised doesn t amount to much Slow down Pay attention to what you re doing Who can argue with those things A California Buddhist named Shunryu Suzuki advocated them as well Asma says that many Cambodians could sit for hours at a time doing absolutely nothing, just taking in the world around them, and I m sure that s true, but it was just as true of the Mexico I visited some years ago Poor people everywhere lead a simpler and mindful life, including those who sell pork skins in the Zocolo all day I understand what it s like to want to bring the lessons of another culture into a place where you live And I think it s possible to do that.I don t think this is a great book about Buddhism, though I appreciate Asma s honesty, and enjoyed arguing with him as I read The man is full of himself and full of ideas about Buddhism as a professor should be , many of which seem peculiar to him But it is a great book about living in another culture I don t think it was really a quest for enlightenment But the man definitely did stumble 1 Despite the problems it s been having lately 2 I must admit I hate to keep sniping at Asma, but he s a first rate sniper himself that I don t think Buddhism is primarily a philosophy I understand that the Pali Canon is vast, and Asma seems to have read at least parts of the Abidharma, which is vast as well But I feel strongly and Asma seems to agree with this that the heart of Buddhism is in the simple though startling and profound teachings of the Four Noble Truths, and that Buddhism is primarily a practice It s a way of living your life The ideas are secondary.www.davidguy.org


  10. says:

    This is an incredible book that gives you a practical view of Buddhism through one American Buddhist s journey in Cambodia Stephen Asma, the author and star of this nonfiction memoir, mixes phlosophy with entertaining anecdotes of all of the people he encountered on the way In the end you learn that humans are not perfect, and neither is Buddhism, with its multitude of forms As the subtitle indicates, a tattered Buddha is the only way to enlightenment Without being assailed by life s hard times, one cannot fully become enlightened.If you are not one for dabbling in religions that you do not believe, pick this one up anyway, if only for the amusing and often stark descriptions of everyday life in Cambodia


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  • Paperback
  • 288 pages
  • The Gods Drink Whiskey: Stumbling Toward Enlightenment in the Land of the Tattered Buddha (Plus)
  • Stephen T. Asma
  • English
  • 14 June 2018
  • 9780060834500

About the Author: Stephen T. Asma

Stephen T Asma is Professor of Philosophy at Columbia College Chicago, where he holds the title of Distinguished Scholar He is the author of Why We Need Religion Oxford and Against Fairness University of Chicago Press , among others.In 2003, he was Visiting Professor at the Buddhist Institute in Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia There he taught Buddhist Philosophy as part of their pilot