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I have two questions.

First, I grew up roman catholic, but now in my mid twenties, I am beginning to notice that a lot of my beliefs and actions don't align with Christianity so I started reading other religious and way of life books and for some reason, Buddhism or the way of life of the Buddha was calling my name. First question, if I am beginning on this path, which books would you recommend I read? That is, a book which has all the teachings of the Buddha/ philosophies. Does Buddhism mean being aware of our conciousness, is life only present in our minds, is it a way for us to be truly happy by being one with the universe, or just be at peace with oneself.

Secondly, I recently picked up a book called "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle and I am getting confused. By asking us to observe our thoughts or be ever present in order to achieve consciousness. Is that even possible? Can our minds ever be so still to the point where no thought will arise for blocks at a time in order to be fully present? I mean I am always thinking even when I try to meditate which makes it hard for me to see that happening. How do you watch your thoughts by not thinking? Also by saying the power of now, does it mean when I go out, I should marvel at all the trees, smell the leaves, I don't know maybe talk to people as opposed to what? What does it mean to be truly present?

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    Many books say what worked for that person. Buddhism is a system that should work for most everyone, if you stick to the essentials. – user2341 Apr 19 '17 at 21:32
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    @nocomprende true that. I notice a lot of teachers teach their own methods once they get delusional that a momentary samadhi or jhäna is true Buddhism. I noticed in Tipitaka that Buddha does not always say anäpänä sathi meditation is the way. He teaches so many different techniques! – Ravindranath Akila Apr 23 '17 at 14:40
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First question, if I am beginning on this path, which books would you recommend I read? That is, a book which has all the teachings of the Buddha/ philosophies.

There's more than one school of Buddhism (see e.g. "Theravada" and "Mahayana") so that's slightly difficult to answer.

I recommend the answers to these topics (which are asking about the Pali suttas):

See also:

Or, because you're interested in a book which explains a "way of life", I recommend, The Buddha's Teachings on Prosperity: At Home, At Work, in the World (which also introduces the suttas, but categorizes them and picks the ones which are especially intended for people in lay society).

There is also a list of "Useful resources" online, recommended by various users of this site.

Secondly, I recently picked up a book called "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle and I am getting confused. What does it mean to be truly present?

I do not recommend Eckhart Tolle's book as Buddhist, nor as a lucid introduction to Buddhism.

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As for books for a beginer see: Recommendation - Book for beginner

With regard to thoughts and meditation see this answer.

Can our minds ever be so still to the point where no thought will arise for blocks at a time in order to be fully present?

This is also possible but not a recommended Buddhist practice. You have to increase wholesome thoughts and decrease unwholesome thoughts.

Bhikshus, the arising of thought, is of two kinds,

I say, to be resorted to or not to be resorted to

And this arising of thought is either the one or the other.

Sevitabbâsevitabba Sutta

Also beyond the 1st Jhana thoughts do not arise. Jhanas are wholesome hence can be practiced.

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You should have at least a copy of the Dhammapada. I would also recommend "In the Buddha's Words" (978-0-86171-491-9).

I'd also recommend subscribing to BSWA (Buddhist Society of Western Australia) on Youtube. They broadcast all their dhamma talks and sutta classes, as well as guided meditations. A brilliant resource for the beginner and more advanced alike (as long as you don't mind Ajahn Brahm's corny jokes).

  • Hi @Majenko , thanks for suggesting the BSWA. I added them to my podcasts and yesterday when i went for a run, i was listening to one of the podcast rather than music which actually helped a lot. I was so engrossed in it i forgot i was running and ended up running further than usual. – Nadege Apr 20 '17 at 12:53
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This is my standard recommendation:

  1. Read Buddhism Course by Chan Khoon San (takes about 12 hours to read and give you a good idea about the teaching)

  2. Print a copy of this Dhamma Chart and refer to it while studding Buddhism.

  3. Read The Buddha and His Teachings by Ven. Narada Mahathera. Start from chapter 15.

  4. While you reading above texts please listen to Joseph Goldstein's Dharma Talks

  5. Start reading Suttas. A good starting point would be to read Bikkhu Bodhi’s “In the Buddha’s Word” Then read Sutta Central, starting from Majjhima Nikaya

You are ready to (let) go!

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Can our minds ever be so still to the point where no thought will arise for blocks at a time in order to be fully present?

A great many of the “Buddhist meditation programs” that are being taught and practiced today are not compatible with Buddha Dhamma, the original teachings of the Buddha. For example, one of the dangerous techniques is to try remove all thoughts that comes to one’s mind. One could lose memory and perception if this is done for a long time. The Buddha said to stop immoral thoughts, not all thoughts. There is a big difference between the two.

From the very beginning if you learn the Dhamma properly, and learn to meditate as per the Dhamma, you will come to experience “joy in the mind (from absorbing Dhamma). This will lead to lightness in the body. Lightness in the body leads to happiness (niramisa sukha), and that leads to samädhi (enhanced concentration and a relaxed mind)”.

  • Thanks for the reply @Saptha Visuddhi. I am just now learning the validity of your answer after reading different books and seeing different perspective . – Nadege Apr 27 '17 at 10:25
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  1. First, you should stand a Buddhist by taking refuge in the Triple Gems Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. If you find it hard to be-humble yourself without extensive exploration, I invite you to do so. Following that, take refuge in Buddha Dhamma and Sangha. Any Buddhist practice short of this is basically useless.
  2. Next, maintain discipline in pancha seelaya. That is, avoid killing, avoid stealing, avoid adultery, avoid lying, avoid intoxication.
  3. Next, find out what the Four Noble Truths are.
  4. Next, find out what the Noble Eightfold Path is.

How to protect yourself from following wrong views and finding the truth; then becoming a Buddhist step by step

MN 95: Canki Sutta — With Canki {M ii 164} A pompous brahman teenager questions the Buddha about safeguarding, awakening to, and attaining the truth. In the course of his answer, the Buddha describes the criteria for choosing a reliable teacher and how best to learn from such a person.

Do note that there are alot of false practices like ridding the mind of thoughts which have stemmed out wrong views (Miccä Ditti). It is easy to differentiate them if a person knows and even partially understands the above.

You will not reap any benefits of proper Buddhism if you don't follow the above.

  • Oh wow, thanks a lot for your answer. There is so much mixed/false information out there that people claim is Buddhism that for a beginner like me would be difficult to discern what is what. But i will definitely start from your recommendation and go from there. – Nadege Apr 18 '17 at 14:58
  • You're welcome. May you soon realize the Four Noble Truths. – Ravindranath Akila Apr 18 '17 at 15:28
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First, I grew up roman catholic

You may find the topic of buddhism and Catholism interesting. An interesting source is at http://urbandharma.org/buca/index.html

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I recommend the book, "What the Buddha Taught", by venerable Walpola Rahula Thero. This is a great book. You can get very good approach to Buddhism.

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