Review – “Rebel Buddha” by Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche

2011 February 13

Reading Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche’s “Rebel Buddha” was much like meeting a familiar friend for coffee and indulging in a great chat about Buddhism and a wide range of the topics that this vast topic covers (this is less of a short cup and more of a trenta sized coffee chat).

The book left me nourished, fulfilled and with a slight caffeine buzz. So often we don’t ask ourselves the ever-so important question of “Why am I practicing Buddhism anyways?” and this book savours to this eye-opening question much like the first sip of morning brew. It’s time to wake up Rebel Buddha and rather than pouring a bucket of cold water on the reader, Ponlop Rinpoche pours us a cup of joe and sits with us to help us get to know our inner rebel.

Coffee Buddha - Art in my Coffee (Submission by Adam Matthew)

“Rebel Buddha” features solid and clear writings on the practice of meditation, mindfulness, analytical meditation and Buddhism off the cushion and out in the world. Compassion, selflessness, the paramitas and relationships that students have with teachers and spiritual friends are also examined in a manner that is approachable without being dumbed-down.

The theme of freedom resonates throughout the pages and corresponds to the search for truth that both the Buddha and ourselves undertake on our path. Freedom from what? Freedom from habitual patters, from boredom, from apathy, from remaining asleep. The book calls for rebellion, an inner rebellion and familiarization with one’s inner wisdom.

Meditation is seen as a revolutionary activity, where we examine our lives and minds and embark on rebellion against continuing with the status quo. It’s highly rebellious to question authority and our long-standing concepts, but the Rebel Buddha asks “Why are things this way?” and seeks the answers.

Ponlop Rinpoche explores the concept of culture within Buddhism and calls for us to take off the cloaks of the past – the robes, the dancing – the mystical ways of the East and the hippy hedonism of the first wave of Western Buddhism. It’s time to go beyond the spiritual materialism that can seem so sexy and get real. The 5 am wake up call on retreat and the mid-meditation session leg cramps are real regardless of what label we’ve affixed to ourselves or personal affiliation. Breaking through confusion is not the sole domain of any one group.

“If we look like Buddhists and talk like Buddhists and sit on a cushion like all the others Buddhists, then we think we are automatically followers of the Buddha’s teachings. Bull all of these concepts are cutting us off from the utter simplicity of the Buddha’s example and message.”– DPR

Photo of Buddha cookie cutter by Nicriess:

There are several delightful poems featured at the end of the book and I can only hope that Rinpoche considers publishing a book of poetry in the future.

“Rebel Buddha” offers up the teachings in a way that is engaging, personable and without pretense. It is ideal for someone who has had some exposure to Buddhism, but wouldn’t be lost on someone new to Buddhism who wishes to look up some of the lingo and further their studies. I highly recommend it as a work that anyone who has an interest in going beyond our definition of Eastern Buddhism, Western Buddhism and Buddhism of any flavour or variety.

It’s time to get rebellious.