Do you think your book incorporated with the word "idiot" : LUSENET : bodhi : One Thread

I was searching for a 'beginners' buddhism book and came across your book numerously but too prideful to admit to myself that I am an idiot. After searching, it was your book that looked best to me. So my question is - Do you think your book incorporated with the word "idiot" intimidate people from buying the book?

-- Kevin Chanda (, September 20, 2001


Thank you for the candor.

Here's what Lama Surya Das said:< blockquote>This book is not for idiots. It tells us what smart people want and need to know about Buddhist wisdom, history, theory, and its practice today.

Yes, "idiot" has its perjorative connotations which can be off-putting to many readers, I am aware. Nevertheless I chose to use their series as an art form with which to create a dharma vehicle, for people who wish to learn about the Buddha, because the series has its definite merits: reaching a wide audience, enabling illustrations, a one-page reference card, etc.

But to dwell on the negative karma. If you're in the USA you're aware of the phenomena of the "idiots" books and "dummies guides (one are yellow and black covers, the others are orange and blue) created for computers, 'cos user manmuals were from hell, with the marketing tag that "technology makes idiots/dummies of us all." Because they sold so well, they branched out into non-tech fields, and now wear that albatross of "dummies/idiots" around their necks. (Idiots is starting a series of biographies just called "Critical Guides" to step away from that dark shadow of "idiots.")

But enough. You can't judge a book by its cover. I made my peace with "idiots" by recognizing how some branches of the Buddha's way teach a form of not-knowing (not the same as dumbing down); and that the origin of the word "idiot" means private, which I discuss in the book too.

Moreover I've read the reviews of both the Washington Post and the L.A. Times of some early "idiots' guides" in the religious field, but I'll stand by my title, and hope the forthcoming titles on Islam and Hinduism will be good company as well.

I don't mean to offend, demean, dumb down, and I realize the word is not compassionate except in a sense of plain-speaking familiarity.

-- Gary Gach (, September 24, 2001.

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