Living Fully

Bookworm Issue 133 Nov, 2012

In his bestseller book “Living Fully: Finding Joy In Every Breath, Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche offers insights into what might constitute to living a happy and satisfactory life. A compilation of his teachings given in lectures in the United States for over two decades, it prescribes a momentary attitude to life, “finding joy in every breath”. Its beauty lies in a deeper contemplation of its ideas falsifying what might be picked up as a cliché on first impression. A sense of serenity is relayed with a sparse, to the point writing style, lending it a somewhat profound but more importantly unpretentious tone.

The idea of living is so simple here that it can be summarized into the single line that is the book’s tag line. The concept of living on the Buddhist path is built into two-three page long chapters. It provides insights into readying yourself and your attitude, into the actual teachings of the Buddhist tradition and provides signposts for the reader’s personal journey on this path. They can be read randomly or in order, depending on what one might find interesting or how one approaches it. Questions like what is genuine satisfaction (“we fool ourselves when we think that achieving conditional goals will promise us lasting satisfaction…we run around in circles and maneuver in limited and self-serving ways”) are answered with an antidote that is very personalized: “…liberate ourselves from self-centeredness by subduing our pride and arrogance.” In a world of constant information and anxiety, questioning “why do we have to be constantly occupied? Is it because we do not enjoy the fullness of our being in the movements of our breath?” echo much relevance.

There are also ways in which to put the teachings into practice. One needs to meditate, as “most of us cannot embody these teachings overnight”.

A novice cook cannot simply read from a recipe book and expect to cook like a master chef. One must labor in the kitchen and learn how to use the tools and combine the proper ingredients.

One could argue in the end that the ideas have an often repeated vagueness (although there are some very exact and effective metaphors), but we need to be mindful that there are of course no shining pills, no new answers, no different way to phrase them, that in fact phrasing is not really important because to really learn we have to look at it again and try to think of its meaning as a whole. In this aspect the teachings are as divine as they are simple.