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Book Passage Conversation with Derek Fagerstrom and Scott Snibbe

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Derek Fagerstrom interviews Scott Snibbe about his new book, How to Train a Happy Mind, at the San Francisco’s Book Passage. Derek is the co-founder of Pop-up Magazine, and has worked at Esquire, Interview, and Francis Ford Coppola’s literary journal Zoetrope: All-Story. How to Train a Happy Mind is out now in paperback, e-book, and audiobook. You can find it anywhere you buy books.

Introduction to Scott and Derek

[00:00:50] Cheryl Bronstein: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to Book Passage. Thanks for joining us for an in-person event. My name’s Cheryl Bronstein, I’m one of the event coordinators here, and I’m just thrilled to welcome you tonight. If you are a skeptic about enlightenment and its benefits, like me, you are in for an education.

Eager to share the life-enhancing benefits he found in Buddhism, Scott Snibbe presents this eight-step program that allows everyone to build positive mental habits. It’s inspired by the ancient Buddhist path to enlightenment, yet, firmly grounded in modern science. How to Train a Happy Mind is the first mainstream book to show how you can achieve happiness using this analytical meditation.

Scott is joined this evening by Derek Fagerstrom. Derek is a producer, he’s a curator and editor based in Sonoma. He was the co-founder, executive editor, and director of special projects of Pop-Up Magazine, the popular live journalist event featuring writers, filmmakers, audio producers, and many artists telling true stories, on stage.

We have two extremely talented writers, artists, and teachers with us this evening, and we are so honored to present their thoughts and their work. Let’s give a very warm welcome to Scott and Derek.

[00:02:26] Scott Snibbe: That’s very kind of you. Thank you.

[00:02:29] Derek Fagerstrom: That was great. Thank you. I’m glad for that intro, Scott, because I’m a big fan of you, obviously, but also of your podcast. Anybody here listen to Scott’s podcast, Skeptic’s Path? It’s brilliant. If you don’t, you should. It’s one of the few podcasts I listened to religiously.

But I don’t know that you would know as a listener that, what an amazing artist you are. You’re one of these people that are so frustrating to me because you’re kind of good at everything you do, at a level that is a little bit irresponsible and annoying. Because I knew you first as an amazing artist at the top of everybody’s game.

You introduced me to Bjork, which was amazing. You made an app for her and that was incredible. When I found out that you’re also a very accomplished teacher of Buddhism and everything else, I was a little bit like, Oh, Scott, how much more can we take from you?

I am very honored to be here with you, to be next to you on the stage, as an artist, and as a writer and as an entrepreneur, you’ve kind of done it all. I’m very humbled and honored to be here with you. Also, congratulations, today is Pub Day. This is the first day of Scott as a published author of this book, and it’s amazing. I’m happy to be here for that, too. It’s like witnessing a life event, so congratulations.

[00:03:46] Scott Snibbe: That’s very kind of you, thank you. That’s amazing. I think of you in a very similar way of your accomplishments and qualities.

Scott’s introduction to Buddhism

tibetan prayer flags and mountain

[00:03:53] Derek Fagerstrom: Well, I love it. I’m so glad, any excuse to hang out with you is a great one. We talked a little bit about your bio. We could just start at the very beginning, with how you got interested in Buddhism. I know you’ve told this story many times, so you can be brief if you want, but I’m curious how people come to Buddhism in this day and age.

[00:04:11] Scott Snibbe: My brother became a Buddhist, he married a Chinese woman, and they visited China and Tibet during their honeymoon. During that time he got very sick. I think he said it was some bad yak butter tea. He couldn’t even drink for three days. He was sick enough that he was worried he was going to die. He promised himself if he got better he would get some religion. He’s a skate punk photojournalist.

And he did get better. So, when he came back he started studying religion at Harvard. Then, like a lot of people when they study religion, got kind of stuck on Buddhism. And he wanted to practice it as he studied it, and he found a teacher there. For four years he was sending me books about Buddhism, including ones from His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, which frankly I didn’t understand. I thought they were very difficult to understand.

I was worried he was going to lose his personality. I had this idea about Buddhism that you get rid of the self. I thought, What’s left if you get rid of yourself? After four years I saw that didn’t happen. He still had his sense of humor. But his, kindness, love, openness, increased. After four years—I didn’t want to become a Buddhist myself—but I saw the Dalai Lama was coming to Los Angeles. So I invited him; I said, Hey, listen, this will be fun for us, five days of teachings with Dalai Lama. I can sit through anything.

I had this idea about Buddhism that you get rid of the self. I thought, What’s left if you get rid of yourself?

The instant we were in that room. I thought, I want what he’s having. I could just see those qualities in His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. And I knew what he went through. He went through a genocide on the level of what the Jews went through in the Holocaust, like a million out of six million Tibetans died. Yet, he was so joyful and compassionate.

He said something that really stuck with me. He said, If we kill one Chinese person, we make a hundred Chinese enemies. We have to have a nonviolent solution. All of those things that I found attractive, and I wanted to practice authentically what he was doing, despite not really understanding about karma, rebirth, and so on.

[00:06:06] Derek Fagerstrom: You got over your initial problems with Buddhism. You started going to a center and meditating. What was the initial experience like when you got there? Did you find it heavy or was it welcoming? Because seeing the Dalai Lama, you’re like, Oh, that’s great; but he’s like a rock star. Then you go into the real world. How was that transition?

[00:06:26] Scott Snibbe: In general, heavy is a pretty good word for it when you start out with Tibetan Buddhism, because it’s taught in Tibetan, in general. It was often translated quite—I hate to use the word badly, but that’s probably the right word for it. I was a little scared of our Tibetan teacher. He’s a little stern, wise, and so on. But the nuns were so welcoming and opening, and they led the meditations.

The first time I really meditated was led by a Buddhist nun, Venerable Chosang, a wonderful nun who recently died. I had a very powerful experience, her leading the Heart Sutra, which is an important Buddhist text. That was the way in, but my teacher was very gentle in saying, Just start out with five minutes a day of meditation. I did that for three years, just five minutes. Despite it being kind of a heavy amount of information and very big cultural difference; it was quite a gentle welcoming into the practice itself.

Why start the Skeptic’s Path podcast?

monk talking on podcast anime drawing

[00:07:25] Derek Fagerstrom: Then you studied and you started teaching, how did you decide the world’s full of podcasts? Why make a podcast?

[00:07:33] Scott Snibbe: I’ll tell a story that’s not in the book; there was a moment when I was studying with Geshe Dakpa, our Tibetan teacher, and he was teaching about attachment—a better word for that is craving, like when you just really want something and you’re sure if you get it, it’s going to make you happy, and in general it doesn’t.

He was saying, You know those times when you feel a huge amount of attachment? Then he paused, and I was thinking, Oh, an attractive woman, fancy car, new iPhone, something like that. He said, Like, when you see a giant piece of butter. It was that moment that I thought, Okay, this could potentially be adapted slightly more appropriately to a Western audience.

I got invited to start teaching meditation about 18 years ago, and I wasn’t quite sure I was the right person to do that job. But I asked my teachers, and they said, No, it’s good for people to learn from someone who’s a peer. I still don’t consider myself a teacher. I like to think of myself more like the teaching assistant, like the person who kind of helps on the side, who has a slightly more experience.

I like to think of myself more like the teaching assistant, like the person who kind of helps on the side, who has a slightly more experience.

As I was leading these meditations, I got invited to teach this sequence, which is called the lamrim. It’s a thousand-year-old sequence of meditations, that orders the Buddhist teaching in a way that is particularly effective. So I was leading those topics one by one. But the very first ones start with things that a lot of us would consider supernatural, like belief in karma, rebirth, other realms of existence, including like hell and god realms. I didn’t think that was me. Also, I saw people come in and then go out; maybe this was the first and last time a person meditated.

That made me my heart really hurt; maybe there’s a better way to approach this for people, not that these things aren’t necessarily true. I actually personally do, in general, believe in those ideas, karma, rebirth, even other realms; but it took a very long time. With the permission of my teachers and particularly with His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, who wrote a book called Beyond Religion, I felt like there was not only permission, but an invitation to struggle through this topic, get some good advice, and try it out for a really long time.

That’s why I started the podcast; it was to get out of the Buddhist center where there’s a massive abundance of great teachers and material and into the regular world. A podcast is particularly nice because guess what the amount of time is that a person will spend with a podcast before giving it up?

[00:10:14] Derek Fagerstrom: 30 seconds?

[00:10:15] Scott Snibbe: It’s 15 minutes, which is amazing. People have so much patience and your voice is right in their ear. So I thought it was very appropriate for meditation and this material.

Getting a foreword by the Dalai Lama for Scott’s book

dalai lama

[00:10:28] Derek Fagerstrom: I also just want to say, having a foreword by the Dalai Lama—I’m just curious about that process, it’s got to be intimidating. Can you just quickly describe what happened there?

[00:10:40] Scott Snibbe: Well, that’s one of the best stories of my life, I think. My brother and I are both practicing Tibetan Buddhists, which is another very interesting story. But he said to me—I think he was more scolding me—You should ask the Dalai Lama for some advice if you’re writing a book. I was like, Okay, maybe you’re right about that. He said, What you do is you email him and I’ve had friends who did it, my brother works at Harvard and he has friends who’ve done this.

So I got all the information, how to do it, and I gave it to my editor. You’re really supposed to go through your editor and send the final version of the book, and my editor did that. We didn’t hear anything for six months, ghosted by the Dalai Lama. Then two days before publication, we got an email back from his translator. The translator wrote, We think this book is very beneficial, His Holiness would like to write a forward; and we have a few corrections for you.

The last part I was particularly grateful for, because that was my biggest worry about the book, there’s actually an ethical transgression called, polluting the dharma. So I felt like, Okay, if they looked over it, they can give me the last corrections. They made some very, very precise and important corrections to the book. Then His Holiness wrote a little forward, which was nice because His Holiness wrote about how Tibetan culture has things to offer, people are familiar with the religion, but it also has a psychological and scientific aspects.

It’s your mind, not the external circumstances

[00:12:11] Derek Fagerstrom: I love it. You do such a great job incorporating those things in this book. There are books about the psychology of Buddhism, and there are books about these other things, but you’ve done such a great job of inserting just enough of that information to keep the reader engaged and surprised.

You get to a certain point, you read all those books, or you meditate for a long time, and you’re kind of like, What is next, or what is the purpose of this? What’s the goal here? Why am I doing this? The podcast and the book answer that question so wonderfully to actually help you train a happy mind. It is a path that you can go down, that you don’t need to know every single thing about Buddhism. Just so full of aha moments. There’s one that struck me: driving in your car and listening to the radio.

[00:12:56] Scott Snibbe: I would just want to give an aside that when we learn Buddhism, it’s often given in a very kind of moralistic, maybe even paternalistic way. That makes sense when it’s coming from a great patriarch, a wonderful, compassionate, male leader. That does not make sense for me writing a book.

Whenever I found in the book that something was moralistic, I tried to either turn it into a joke or a story. This one was about how your mind colors experience. We all tend to externalize our feelings, especially if you have a partner. You’re like, You’re driving me crazy. It’s like, Well, no, you’re actually driving yourself crazy.

This story is about that. I noticed how some days when I was in the car every single song would sound bad on the radio, no matter what station I went to, it’s like every song’s terrible, none of them sound good. Then the next day all of a sudden every song sounds terrific. After a while I realize, Okay, it’s not the songs, it’s my mind, it’s my attitude. When you’re in a bad mood, even a meal at a wonderful restaurant will taste terrible if you’re fighting with your partner.

That’s a lesson from Buddhism. It’s that your mind is the greatest determining factor of how you experience reality. It’s not the external circumstances. They are a contributing factor, but in general, they’re not the biggest one, especially in the kind of comfort we enjoy.

It’s that your mind is the greatest determining factor of how you experience reality. It’s not the external circumstances.

Appreciating those who test your patience

annoyed teenager rolling her eyes and on phone

[00:14:33] Derek Fagerstrom: I would never want to reduce your book or Buddhism to something that is full of pro tips and hacks and things like that. But I do find that, especially your book and the podcast, there are certain things that you point out that almost feel that way. Just looking at something differently, changing your perspective on something, and it works.

We have a stupid thing with our kids where, if they’re doing something annoying, I say to them—maybe I got this from you—thank you for giving me the opportunity to practice patience. At first they looked at me like, What the hell are you talking about? It stops them in their tracks because like, what are you saying? What are you talking about? Why are you thanking me? That works there on one end.

Then the other way, it’s like, I kind of feel grateful, and I certainly am not feeling annoyed or angry or whatever, and so little things like that I found so fascinating. Just examining your mind and the moment and all those things have been so helpful.

[00:15:29] Scott Snibbe: It’s very disconcerting the attitude from Mahayana Buddhism, because you actually treasure the people that annoy you more—or at least you’re supposed to—than the ones that are nice to you. Like our teacher, Lama Zopa Rinpoche, who also recently died, used to complain that everyone was too nice to him. He’d say, Everyone is so nice around me. They give me everything I want before I even think about it. But I’m trying to develop patience.

It’s very disconcerting the attitude from Mahayana Buddhism, because you actually treasure the people that annoy you more—or at least you’re supposed to—than the ones that are nice to you.

There’s this great text, The Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life by Shantideva. They say, You can only practice patience if somebody tries it. It’s very genuine, you actually want to seek out people who try your patience, so that you can tell whether you’ve overcome it, and if you haven’t, it gives you the chance to try. But you have to really mean it, it can’t be a passive aggressive insult.

[00:16:30] Derek Fagerstrom: I don’t know, passive aggressive kind of worked for me.

I’m not a fan of coming to one of these things and watching the people on stage just blabber at each other, especially if people have questions. We could do also do a quick little meditation because it is what the book is about. I kind of want to do the preciousness of life. This is like a karaoke jam now. Then we can do questions.

Preciousness of life guided meditation

[00:16:57] Scott Snibbe: This was, in some ways, the reason why I wrote the book was that this is the very first topic in the lamrim. The way you normally lead it, the very first sentence in the first topic mentions all three of those things that are not part of our culture. It normally says, Life is really precious because for infinite past lives, I’ve been propelled through different realms as a god, a ghost, a turtle, and so on.

Finally, I’m human, but I’m burning up my positive karma and creating so much negative karma, and I’ve got to watch out and do something beneficial with this life. I’m not saying any of those things aren’t even true in reality. We just weren’t raised with them and they’re not part of our culture and they’re not scientifically verifiable yet. It was hard to adopt this topic. See what you think, as I lead you through it, if it works for you.

[00:17:51] Derek Fagerstrom: Just to say, that I wanted to do this, because this is the structure of the book. There are stages of the path of the lamrim, the book is structured in a way where Scott gives a beautiful introduction to it, a little bit of a dharma talk and some stories from his life and things like that to kind of contextualize it. And give you a lot of the information on why these stages matter. Then each chapter ends with a meditation. I just wanted to give a taste of the book.

[00:18:17] Scott Snibbe: If I did this slowly, it would be about 15 minutes, but I don’t think I’ll make it more than five minutes. It’ll be more like the quick car or bench version. Here’s the quick summary of it.

Meditating on the precious life helps us feel all toward our place in the universe, urgency in the face of our short life and enthusiasm for the opportunities we find in every new day. There’s a number of preliminaries when you start out with a meditation, and I’ll just say very briefly, try to straighten your spine in your seat and feet flat on the floor.

Hands on your lap if you like, relax all the muscles in your shoulders, your face, your jaw, you can half-close your eyes. That helps you go inward, but keeps you awake. Then, you have a motivation that this meditation might help you to create a more stable, happy mind, deepen your relationships, and even help to make a better world, however slightly.

This is a meditation that you can do right when you wake up in the morning. But since we’re not, just imagine that you are and think to yourself, as you wake up opening your eyes, I’m so grateful to have another day of life, to have this body, a safe place to sleep, a modest amount of comfort and security, safety, family, and friends.

Maybe I have everything I need to be happy. There’s nothing better I could be doing with these few minutes right now than going inward to understand who I am beneath stimulation, stress, entertainment, and thoughts. Getting to know the deep core of my awareness, to explore the mystery of being alive and aware right now.

In meditating on the precious life, you reflect on your good fortune. Of course, you face many hardships, too. But for a moment, practice gratitude for whatever you have.

For simply being alive and aware. For your body and its senses, through which you can appreciate the beauty of the world for whatever resources you have: food, shelter, safety, security, health, education, work, family, and friends.

Then feel gratitude that you found an interest in going beyond striving. Beyond competitiveness, beyond entertainment.

There’s a place for all these things in life, but there’s also something more.

Feel grateful that you’ve been exposed to ideas, teachers, and friends who value inner happiness, who contemplate the worth of an existence that rises above material accumulation.

Feel grateful that you’re not only curious and interested in finding the deepest sources of life’s meaning, but also have made an effort to pursue self awareness, to read books, listen to teachers, and go on an inner adventure through meditation.

To probe in an honest way what’s inside your mind and discover how to be happy. And how to be of genuine benefit to others.

Feel gratitude if you have the basics of life that many can’t take for granted. Those people experiencing poverty, illness, war, natural disasters, political, racial, or gender oppression. And those afflicted by unquenchable addictions to food, sex, drugs, power, fame, or wealth.

Maybe you have everything you need to be happy and all you need is to make the effort to live this day aware of your precious life, remembering everything that you’re grateful for.

Maybe you have everything you need to be happy and all you need is to make the effort to live this day aware of your precious life, remembering everything that you’re grateful for.

Now contemplate your connection to the universe.

You sit in the center of a universe 13.8 billion years old, with a hundred billion galaxies. There are at least a hundred billion planets in our own galaxy, the Milky Way, an estimated 100 billion of them with rocky planets like ours, circling their own burning star.

One of them is our own sun, 4.5 billion years old, where life on its third planet, the Earth, has existed for at least 3 billion years. Over that time, the scientific magic of evolution transformed simple chemicals into cells, worms, fish, snakes, dinosaurs, mammals, and monkeys.

Humanity arrives at the tip of history only 200,000 years ago. Some 10,000 generations of humans pass by. So many of them struggling, dying at birth, hungry, violent, afraid.

And then you are born.

Now.

cute baby sleeping

Despite its drawbacks, discomforts, and injustices, you’re lucky enough to live in a world that is safer and more abundant for humans than it has ever been before.

There’s no evidence yet for any other life in the universe. What if humanity is the pinnacle of cosmic evolution, the sole way for the universe to know itself?

If being intelligent and self-aware is unfathomably rare and precious, how should you spend your day? What’s the best way to achieve a happy mind and to live with dignity, meaning, and connection?

It may be nothing more than what you’re doing right now, going inward, probing your mind, cultivating the true causes of happiness in the present moment through gratitude and self awareness.

Soon, you’ll go out into your day to deepen your connections with others and make our fragile, beautiful world a little bit better for everyone else who shares it.

Rest in these thoughts for a minute.

Your profound connection to all the universe and all of history. Your gratefulness for being alive. How will you make the most of this day?

Then you can come out of the meditation.

[00:28:38] Derek Fagerstrom: I love that, Scott. Thank you so much.

[00:28:40] Scott Snibbe: Tibetans have an even stronger version of that. You wake up and you just think, I’m so glad I didn’t die last night. It sets a good baseline instead of being cranky or reaching for Facebook.

Audience questions

[00:28:57] Derek Fagerstrom: Right. Any questions? Let’s see if we have questions or comments or anything.

Is there an audiobook?

[00:29:02] Audience member: Is there a way to hear the meditations instead of reading?

[00:29:10] Scott Snibbe: In general for, almost everybody, it’s better to listen to someone guiding it. Well, there is an audiobook, and in the audiobook, I guided all the meditations. By the way, when I encourage people to buy this, I do donate all the proceeds to the Skeptic’s Path nonprofit. So the money’s not going to buy a piece of furniture or something.

What motivated you to write this book?

Audience member: What motivated you to write this book when there are great texts by great masters already, on this topic that have been written over the centuries?

Scott Snibbe: These meditations, which are called analytical meditations, are rarely taught. Mindfulness meditation is the main form of meditation that’s popular in the West. But mindfulness meditation generally only stabilizes your mind, allows you to concentrate. It doesn’t even necessarily have an ethical dimension to it.

Mindfulness meditation generally only stabilizes your mind, allows you to concentrate. It doesn’t even necessarily have an ethical dimension to it.

The U. S. military, for example, uses mindfulness meditation. One, to help people get over PTSD, very beneficial. Two, to train soldiers so they don’t shake when they’re killing somebody. Okay, maybe a bit more harmful. The ethical dimension in Buddhism in many ways is missing. From the way meditation is taught in more secular forms, it’s taught in a more therapeutic form, like to start out with meditation to help you deal with anxiety or sleep better, which are very good reasons to meditate.

So this is for people when they want to take that next step and see the definition of meditation from a Buddhist perspective is bringing out your best qualities, right? That’s a surprise to a lot of people; many think of it more therapeutically, like to get over problems, but really it’s meant to bring out kindness, generosity, patience, joy, love, and so on.

That’s the reason, to give people a way to practice the lamrim as authentically as possible. Those analytical meditations are for people who don’t believe or come from a culture that accepts karma, rebirth, other realms, things that science today can’t prove.

What is the difference between mindfulness meditation versus analytical meditation?

meditation art anime style

[00:31:17] Derek Fagerstrom: We didn’t really go into the mindfulness meditation versus analytical meditation, and that’s such an important distinction and the way they go together. You do cover that in the intro to the book, it’s all in there.

[00:31:28] Scott Snibbe: There’s two forms of meditation: stabilizing meditation and analytical meditation. Stabilizing meditation, a lot of people would call mindfulness meditation today. Typically the thing you focus on most is the breath because it’s always with you and it’s also a reflection of your mental state.

You can’t actually practice analytical meditation without a stable mind. If you only have stability, but don’t know what to focus on, then that’s an incomplete path too, in general, you need both things. There’s Sanskrit terms and Tibetan terms for these two types of meditation too.

[00:32:05] Derek Fagerstrom: That is addressed in the book about the stabilizing of the mind as part of the process every time you go into that.

[00:32:11] Scott Snibbe: That also gets a little heavy. That one I changed to a joke also. In that movie, I noticed when I was an 11-year-old kid seeing that movie, Darth Vader’s always meditating. When he’s not killing someone, he’s meditating. He spends most of his time in that kind of evil black lotus, being at one with the force. I thought that was actually a very good metaphor for the fact that you can meditate for the wrong reason.

You can have quite strong, stable concentration and use it for not such great things. When I was working really hard, I felt like I used meditation this way sometimes to just sort of spiritual bypass, my meditation practice was more of a way to compartmentalize and to allow me to keep doing things I probably shouldn’t be doing. By having a way to process them every night, then go back to work and do things you don’t believe in or you don’t think are ethical.

When I was working really hard, I felt like I used meditation this way sometimes to just sort of spiritual bypass, my meditation practice was more of a way to compartmentalize and to allow me to keep doing things I probably shouldn’t be doing.

I think that is why meditating on compassion, love, or cause and effect. Like how your tiniest action has a consequence in your life. Every single thought you have starts to reinforces that thought coming again and again. There’s a three-part sequence recommended for laypeople in Tibetan Buddhism and they say first comes ethics, then concentration, then wisdom.

They say you really can’t focus until you live a more ethical life. Actually, it’s the ethical behavior that comes before concentration and you’ll notice that if we’ve all done something we regret during the day, like getting angry at someone or worse. You’ll notice it’s hard to concentrate at night, it’s hard to go to sleep. It’s not necessarily the first thing actually, in the Buddhist path.

The first thing is ethics, and then there’s all these numbered lists in Buddhism. I tried to sprinkle them in measure. But ethics in Buddhism breaks down to a very simple list that very few people would come up with naturally. The first principle of Buddhist ethics is nonviolence. It’s the very first principle, which kind of makes us all pause, with what’s going on in the world.

Second one is kindness, that one kind of makes you want to cry. Then the last one is to understand your mind. I think very few people not coming from a Buddhist worldview would list those three things as like the preliminaries of ethics. There’s a lot to say for the ancient wisdom that comes from the Buddhist path and particularly the way it’s been distilled in the lamrim.

So no, mindfulness isn’t necessarily the first stage on the path, but you absolutely need concentration. You can’t even do your job, like your work as a professor. You can’t do that without concentration.

How did you come up with the order of these meditations?

Audience member: How did you come up with the order of these meditations as represented in this book?

[00:35:30] Scott Snibbe: It’s a sequence that I didn’t come up with. There was a teacher named Atisha a thousand years ago, who was one of the first Indians to come to Tibet. He actually helped to correct some misunderstandings about some of these similar questions about what do you practice first and in what order.

He said, This is a really good order. This is a good order to do it in. It’s not the order the Buddha taught. The Buddha’s first teaching was suffering. Life is suffering, which is a big turnoff to a lot of Westerners when they hear that’s the first topic. The lamrim doesn’t begin with that. That’s a much later topic; the order is very skillful, and I didn’t come up with it.

Buddhism’s bad branding

[00:36:13] Derek Fagerstrom: Yeah, Buddhism has bad branding. We all know that. And all of the paradoxes and everything, because you know the first right noble truth, life is suffering, but then you see the Dalai Lama and he’s having a great time. He’s laughing and joking, and seems so joyous, so it’s fascinating. But I do think, if you are interested in Buddhism and you open up a book and it’s like Chapter One life is suffering it’s like, Yeah, I don’t know I’m ready for that.

But that’s another thing I love. I recommend everybody reads the book, the way you handle suffering and the way you define suffering is so relatable and easy to understand. Even just the descriptions of what are the things that cause us to suffer. It’s so useful, and I know this is not a book full of bulleted lists and things like that. I think the one chart in the whole book is about suffering and the different types of suffering.

I actually dog-eared it because I was like, This is very useful. Because we all suffer a lot and acknowledging that and seeing that these are the reasons why we’re suffering. But it’s really easy to understand and really applicable to life. That’s why I’m so excited about this analytical meditation because, I think probably everybody in this room is, has a mindfulness practice, or has meditated once or twice or more. But a lot of people reach that thing like, Oh, okay, I’m calm or whatever, but . . . really bringing in the lamrim and defining it this way and laying it out this way, in these terms, I just think is such a gift to everybody.

I really do hope a lot of people find this book and the podcast, because it really is a gift. It’s not something that you would read in an airport and leave on the seat behind. It’s something that really will change the way people feel about themselves and the world and each other. I have so much gratitude to you for writing this book and for the podcast and everything. And gratitude for everybody here for coming. I think it’s just an amazing achievement. And again, congratulations on this being your first book of I hope many.

[00:38:14] Scott Snibbe: Thank you. Well, it’s really just filled with my own teacher’s wisdom, put into a slightly entertaining and readable form.

[00:38:22] Derek Fagerstrom: Well, that’s huge, that’s not to be dismissed. That’s how these things perpetuate, right? You enlighten people on certain things, or you key them into certain things in a way that is understandable, and then they take them and run with them as well.

[00:38:35] Scott Snibbe: Well, thank you. You’re very kind.

Credits

Hosted by Scott Snibbe

Produced by Annie Ngyen

Marketing by Isabela Acebal

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