Some disorderly thought...
Theoretically you should (e.g. technical writers and/or publishers do) define the audience (and perhaps implicitly) the purpose of the book -- for example:
- Purpose: explain elementary French vocabulary
- Audience: adult anglophone novice
This will inform the title, subtitle, back cover, and suggest ideas for the table of contents.
I guess that's true for any book with top-down design, commissioned for a purpose. Maybe there are some books built bottom-up: "I have ideas and/or fragments (e.g. existing dhamma talks), lets publish them as a loose anthology or collection of parts."
I infer from a comment that your purpose is to ...
explain the underlying principle, the formula behind Buddhism - and how all of Buddhism and its relevancy in real life comes from the implications of the formula
... however not necessarily to ...
cover some aspects of Buddhism, or even summarize the main ideas and phases of historical development.
If you don't "cover some aspects of Buddhism", nor even some "main ideas" or "phases of historical development", maybe that's good and bad from a marketing perspective:
- Attractive to an audience/public who are predisposed to dislike or feel ambivalent about Buddhism
- Unattractive to an audience/public who are predisposed to like or feel attached to Buddhism
- More or less attractive to people who know Buddhism, depending on how well you connect the dots without overly belabouring what they know already -- to satisfy their prior need/interest in Buddhism, or to build on (reinforce and benefit from) their prior knowledge and practice of Buddhism
I guess a part of me is "worried" (not because I think you're incompetent but only because this is the closest or only word-association that I have on this subject) that your ...
"the underlying principle, the formula behind Buddhism - and how all of Buddhism and its relevancy in real life comes from the implications of the formula"
... reminds of the scene where "Phaedrus" begins to comes apart in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance ...
The quality that can be defined is not the Absolute Quality (and so on)
Phædrus read on through line after line, verse after verse of this, watched them match, fit, slip into place. Exactly. This was what he
meant. This was what he’d been saying all along, only poorly, mechanistically. There was nothing vague or inexact about this book. It
was as precise and definite as it could be. It was what he had been saying, only in a different language with different roots and origins.
He was from another valley seeing what was in this valley, not now as a story told by strangers but as a part of the valley he was from.
He was seeing it all.
He had broken the code.
He read on. Line after line. Page after page. Not a discrepancy. What he had been talking about all the time as Quality was here the
Tao, the great central generating force of all religions, Oriental and Occidental, past and present, all knowledge, everything.
Then his mind’s eye looked up and caught his own image and realized where he was and what he was seeing and—I don’t know what
really happened—but now the slippage that Phædrus had felt earlier, the internal parting of his mind, suddenly gathered momentum, as
do the rocks at the top of a mountain. Before he could stop it, the sudden accumulated mass of awareness began to grow and grow into
in avalanche of thought and awareness out of control; with each additional growth of the downward tearing mass loosening hundreds
of times its volume, and then that mass uprooting hundreds of times its volume more, and then hundreds of times that; on and on,
wider and broader, until there was nothing left to stand.
No more anything.
It all gave way from under him.
He gets around to writing a good book about it afterwards, and yet (remark about sanity).
I don't know what "groundless ground" is at all, but your statements about reification sound more flexible (and grounded, if I can say that) than the "monism" described above, so I trust that's well.
ileostomy warned it might be difficult to communicate though (an old problem, first stated by Mara!). But you seem good at communicating here. But I don't know that a "scribe" could replace you.
Would it focus on accurately explaining and defining Buddhist concepts and technical terminology, step by step, form basic to advanced?
That would be nice. I guess I learned Maths that way, more or less. IIRC each lesson was of the form:
- What: some new technique or topic or problem
- Why: and when that new "what" is useful
- How: the teacher's showing for example how to apply the what
- Q+A: any questions?
- Practice: a sample problem, assigned by the teacher, for all students to solve in class using the new technique (while the teacher stopped talking, wandered around looking over students' shoulders, maybe quietly assisting people one on one)
- Homework: more practice
... (exactly as mentioned in abernard's answer).
Has that (book) been done already? There are already teachers, aren't there, and (I gather) some curriculums/curricula too (e.g. here)?
Would it stay away from the technical jargon and speak about our everyday problems and how we can better overcome them?
That would appeal to some.
I think I only read "technical jargon" when I read about Buddhism (if it's polite to characterise the suttas as technical jargon), so it comes out in my speech if I try to describe Buddhist theory: and my mum doesn't like that (especially "foreign words").
Would it re-tell the Buddha's personal story in a way that would illuminate the Teaching?
I wouldn't know how to do that.
I suspect it might appeal to Buddhists. "The Life of the Buddha" is what passes for a Buddhist Bible, IMO -- analogous to the Gospels, perhaps the first thing anyone (including children) would read or be told about Buddhism.
Would it take one topic (e.g. Anatta) and explore it in depth from all sides
That would do -- especially to the extent that everything is connected to everything else, or fractal, "in depth and from all sides" might mean you cover anything and everything.
Doing so helps to solve the problem of "how do I structure this book?", i.e. that decision gives the book form (in a non-Buddhist "form is liberating" kind of sense).
It risks being less appealing on the face of it -- e.g., "(sarcastically) Oh good: only the 180th description of anatta I've been given!"
It might also put you (or me) into a " Buddhist concepts and technical terminology" mode, rather than e.g. "everyday practical" or e.g. "suitable even for children".
Would it focus on practice more than on theory? On daily life practice? Or on meditation?
Yes I hope so. :-)
Which particulars topics would you like to see in the book's Table of Contents.
May be too early to say: i.e. depends on (or follows from) the "form" (perhaps a.k.a. architecture or design pattern) which you haven't chosen yet.
One of the first question I asked on this site was about rebirth, see e.g. this comment. Not that I was inclined to reject Buddhism in its entirety, but there are some points of doctrine that might it seem difficult for some people to accept it in its entirety -- hence "secular" Buddhists, or "lay sanghas", or married priests ... and so on, variations.
Anyway, one of my personal preconceived biases was that I'm willing to tolerate, try to understand or the learn the view that "this is enlightened" -- the doctrine that "Only this is true; anything else is wrong" may be less easy to approve.
Other answers mention various difficulties or preconceptions to overcome, e.g.:
it's a depressing religion that shuns the material world and relationships, and exhorts people to become monks who meditate all day to become stoic and unemotional.
The degree of unverifiable ideas like Heaven and hell realms etc that you want to put in.
people are afraid of concept of non-Self as if they were to become mindless, emotionless robots
Theoretically that's an idea for a entire book: Not Buddhism
Further to my mistrust of "Only this is true; anything else is wrong" I am kind of interested in a survey of the whole of Buddhism. If someone writes "This is Buddhism" then I'm thinking "Yes but there's more to it than that".
That's a reason for my being grateful for being given contact with the suttas: at least they're something, more than just one modern author's opinion.
And a book like In the Buddha's Words is clear about what it (the book) is ... and it isn't saying "anything else is wrong", but it is saying "this is what this is".
Still, having surveyed or been introduced to the suttas, I find it daunting to try to introduce myself to Mahayana literature. Some of it is a very different style. And I don't know what's important or why, if anything. So a book like (maybe there is such a book already, I don't know):
- Purpose: introduce/survey Mahayana literature/doctrine
- Audience: practitioners of the foundational vehicle, familiar with the Pali canon
On the topic of surveying exacting literature, there's a lot of it, which takes a lot of paper in a printed book.
Will the book be print-only, online-only, or a mixture?
Can you afford to use hyperlinks as references, rather than quoting big blocks? Will you even reference anything (you wanted to avoid being obliged to supply references on this site, I don't know whether you'll do the same in a book of yours)?
An online book is a whole different ballgame, look at SuttaCentral as an example: online; somewhat collaborative (I guess Ven. Sujato is a chief author of the sutta translations, with other people who are writing tools etc.). It's interactive -- because there are multiple authors, and some people backing it financially, they have presumably talked and have some shared vision -- and because of the discourse discussion platform which opens it to readers and anyone else. Its being interactive in that way might make it "agile" too (to the extent that there's continuous feedback or input from the "customers").
You might perhaps use this platform (Buddhism.SE) somehow:
- Reuse your own content (without attribution)
- Quote, reference, or alter other people's posts (with attribution)
- Even perhaps "support" your book (invite people to ask questions) here -- Can I support my product on this site? -- or maybe not, I don't know, I'm not recommending that you do, only that something might be possible ... perhaps you'd prefer to do that privately by email
ruben2020's answer mentioned:
Managing relationships, finances, career etc. should also be covered in this book
... but I'm not sure about making it too practical -- that's the only function/form of this book (albeit based only on the Pali canon), and maybe there are other "Buddhism applied to wordly/practical life" books. The first noble truth includes illness and death too, fwiw.
Addiction could be a big topic (a whole book) -- many forms of addiction (alcohol and other substances, social media and other diversions and entertainments, various forms of sensuality, social kicks ranging from self-righteous outrage through to having someone else tell you what to do -- and addiction affects the addict and the people around them (e.g. their family), maybe they could both use some advice (and maybe or maybe not the same advice)
Also I see ruben2020 mentioned:
cultivating short term, medium term and long term happiness
... and hyperlinked it as if that's a theme. I guess everyone picks different themes, to especially appeal to or resonate with them.
I for example like "Both formerly and now, it is only stress that I describe, and the cessation of stress", but that (starting from stress, a desire for cessation) doesn't appeal to my mum at all.
Perhaps you have a different motto or summary that has been helping you: "Good in the beginning", or the concept of "sat-dhamma", or I don't know -- meditations -- something you might have a lot to say about, if it were up to you and unconstrained by this Q+A format.