Lazy_eye wrote:"Early Buddhism: a New Approach" looks interesting and I was thinking of ordering it. Has anyone here read it?
I read about half of it and put it on the shelf. I found it to be rather irrelevant and meandering.
I had a similar initial impression when I first began reading it in early 2007. I, too, had to eventually put it down for a while before I returned to finish it.
One thing is for certain: Sue Hamilton is a thinker
. She'll challenge you to think about what she's writing about. I found some of her thoughts to be corroborative of my own views about certain issues. For instance:
"Indeed, there are strong suggestions that theoretical speculation — especially those to do with metaphysics — are both pointless and potentially misleading in the quest for nirvanna." (pg. 5)
And: "The suggestion embodied in such criteria is that what one should seek to understand is the spirit rather than the letter of the teachings: and it follows from this that overall coherence was always to be of central importance." (pg. 8)
Her overall style of writing in this book is less compelling than in her other book (Identity and Experience
) and seems to be stylistically driven. This may be what accounts for Nana's impression that the book is "meandering." I think I understand what he's pointing toward when he says that.
I would concur with this assessment.
Ñāṇa wrote:However, her analysis is still a bit lacking in a few places. The problem is that she's not a practitioner, and it shows in both books. She's standing as a Western academic completely outside of the living tradition.
I agree that one of the main problems with the book is that she is not
a practitioner, and that this shows up in her work. However, one of the reasons I took up reading the book in the first place was to see if I could find some observations that might be worthwhile checking out. I have found that some academics (like Richard Gombrich for instance) are able to uncover (or express in a different way) certain salient points that may have been hidden inside much of the traditional writings on these subjects. And since I enjoyed Dr. Sue's first book, I decided to take up her second to see if there were any further insights that it might offer.
Indeed, there were for me some encouraging indications early on in the book (within the Introduction
) which suggested that there might be some ideas with which I could concur. For example: "I will go on...to establish more fully than hitherto that the central focus of the teachings of early Buddhism is the understanding of human experience." But as the book dragged on, it became increasingly obvious that there was a frustration about exactly "where was she going with all this." While I could agree with many of the main premises she proposed, the way that she was dragging all this out was excruciatingly painful to have to read through, giving it that "meandering" feeling that Nana mentioned.
Even so, there are some hopeful gems of statements sprinkled throughout the book that will back up and perhaps add some dimension to a reader's understanding and appreciation of the Dhamma that Gotama taught. For instance:
"If we want to understand anything about ourselves at all, then, it is with our khandhas
— our experiencing apparatus — that we need to start." (pg. 81)
"In having seen, at Enlightenment, the way the process works, he is aware that affective responses are based on ignorance as to the nature of one's experience and has uprooted this binding continuity tendency." (pg. 164)
But overall, you may wish to pass on this for now until a later time, if ever.
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV