Orderly Chaos - The Mandala Principle

Many books on Buddhism are written by people who got into it late in life. With Orderly Chaos - The Mandala Principle we are hearing from a Tibetan, Chogyam Trungpa, born in 1940, who at age 13 months was identified as a reincarnation of a venerable teacher. His tale is told in the book Born in Tibet. So this is a man who was trained from infancy in what it meant to be Buddhist, and who has lived that life with focus. He then moved to the Western world, due to the many political pressures, and brought his message to the US.

Orderly Chaos - The Mandala Principle Orderly Chaos covers two different seminar sets he gave, one in 1972 and the other in 1974. In each he gives 6-7 speeches on an aspect of Buddhism, and then there question-and-answer sessions with the students. So you get both his wisdom in a straight flow, and then also back-and-forth with clarifying questions.

First, let me say that it is amazing to hear directly from a person of this level. Often they can only speak through an interpreter and only in terms that others find baffling. Here we have someone who lived in Western culture, who can speak in terms of blue jeans and "tripping" on drugs and so on. He can try to make things relateable. Also, clearly this man is an expert in his field. He knows all the ins and outs of the various terms and philosophies and can field any question thrown at him. So the book is well worth reading in terms of seeing a look into his thoughts on a variety of topics.

That being said, as much as this book is touted as a great way for beginners to start, I have to highly recommend that you know the basics of Buddhism before you pick this up. There are ALL sorts of terms being used here and the author assumes you know what they mean. A student will ask "why would karma and ratna be more solid than vajra?" They'll launch into cloudy mind and specific levels and so on, and assume everyone knows what they're talking about. This is of course fine if you DO know - but if you don't, it can be unnecessarily confusing. So it's good to read a few other books on Buddhism to get your foundation before you tackle this one.

Much of the talk is about realizing that the world is not about "this and that", about delineations or discriminations. It all simply is. The past is a fiction. The future is just a dream. We live now, on a razor-thin edge, and we should experience this moment. Any comparisons of "better" or "worse" have no real substance. You're not driving to see a clearer sun. Instead, you're looking to remove the clouds.

Chogyam Trungpa has some great ways of expressing ideas. For example, few if any people would complain that there is night and day. Those are simply givens in our world, and we accept them. They just are. What if we could bring this same outlook to other things?

But I also find some of his responses less than ... compassionate, I suppose. He likes needling people that they should be confused so therefore he won't answer. They'll ask something and he'll say "that goes without saying" or "that's not a new discovery" as if their question was silly to have been asked, or he'll just refuse to answer, or he'll imply they were silly for asking. He is there asking for people to give him questions that they have. If someone is brave enough to speak up, he could acknowledge that it is good they have questions and an inquiring mind, and then clarify even a tiny bit. To say to a group "I am here to answer your questions, what questions do you have for me?" and then to respond to one by saying in essence "That's the stupidest thing I've heard" seems counter-productive.

Still, all in all, a great look into the mind of a quite skilled Buddhist. Again my caveats are to first have at least a basic grounding in Buddhism, and to take this as one of many views on the issues. Well worth the read.

I purchased this book with my own funds.

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