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Some selections from Pema Chödrön

JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matterNetherlands Veteran
edited August 2022 in Arts & Writings

I’ve been reading her book When Things Fall Apart over the past few days, and was wanting to write a little about some of the things I’ve read which have struck me. Maybe you will find it helpful.

First, in the chapter about hopelessness and death, she talks about how hope and fear are a pair, connected opposites which in Tibetan are described by a single word. I thought it was interesting because hope and fear are both things we place in the future, projections of what we think may happen, and so are a function of the imagination.

Pema says that hopelessness is where you arrive at once you give up hope, a state more akin to equanimity than despair.

I’ll post some more stuff when I get deeper into the book.



  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    I’m just reading the chapter on the three marks, impermanence, suffering and egolessness (as they are translated in my Dutch version of the book). Its one of a succession of chapters which are about coming to terms with the negative aspects of living as a human being. It’s not really a book for those looking for positivity, and in that way it goes counter to a lot of books in the self-help area.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    At roughly the halfway point, the book changes from discussing acceptance of negative aspects to discussing more active, hopeful things such as tonglen, the paramita’s and bodhichitta.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran

    I was listening to an interview with a now grown child actress who is now active in Buddhism (I think it was on Dan Harris' podcast). Anyway, she talked about another well know actress, can't remember the name, who was also a Buddhist back in the day. This older actress didn't evangelize but when asked for some guidance gave her some books to read and made sure to have them read in a specific order. The first was Stephen Batchelor's Buddhism Without Beliefs and the second was When Things Fall Apart, can't remember the third.

    I think I'm just saying its a pretty foundational book in western Buddhism.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    Yes thats certainly true, it touches on a lot of the basic topics, in a way that is quite readable and understandable. I’m not sure if I would back it as a beginners book against something like Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching but it’s certainly useful.

    I was certainly very struck by what she said about hope and fear, as for me those touch largely on where I spend a lot of time in the life of my mind. The idea of living in hopelessness (equanimity more than despair) was a big pill to swallow.

  • I introduced my daughter to Pema Chodron through "When things fall apart"...I think she's read most of her books now...She really likes her style of writing...really down to earth and very practical...

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran
    edited August 2022

    The last four chapters are for me the most worthwhile in the book. They are a more personal teaching than the strictly buddhist approach of the middle chapters or the accepting the bad things of the early chapters. They provide a fitting conclusion and a good end. More than worth the price of admission.

    Chapters such as ‘turning around the wheel of samsara’, which is focussed on overcoming habit energies to allow you to not get stuck doing what you usually do, and ‘the path is the goal’, which looks at overcoming goal orientation by saying the beginning, middle and end are all the path, provide some valuable insights.

    I may see if the library has any other books by Pema.

  • ah ha!

    We haz plan …

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