Books: Lama Surya Das’s “Awakening The Buddha Within”, by Pranada Devi

Lama Surya Das, of the same generation of Westerners who made Eastern philosophy available in the West as Sharon Salzberg and Ram Dass, has lived with enlightened beings in Nepal in tough, monastic conditions. In “Awakening The Buddha Within”, he brings back to the West a clear understanding of the teachings of Buddhism that relate to the fast-paced modern Western lifestyle.

The premise of the title is that everyone is, in fact, a Buddha – primordially pure and perfect. We only have to awaken to that Buddha nature. Lama Surya Das begins by welcoming all seekers, acknowledging the various motivations by which we may take up spiritual paths.

“Like many others […] you may have looked or meaning in relationships that failed you, or you may be frustrated by a career that isn’t delivering the rewards you expected. It could be that you’re disturbed by shaky values and rampant materialism. You can’t help asking yourself if this is all there is. […] Perhaps you sometimes feel a homesickness, a sadness, and a sense that something is terribly wrong. You might experience this as a yearning for something that is lost, something that seems so familiar and yet so distant. You might feel hungry and needy and aware that nothing has been able to fully satisfy you – at least not for very long. […] Rejoice! You are living the core issues grappled with by every consciously alive human being.”

After explaining a little of his own journey as well as some of the basic framework of Buddhism (including the difference between Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana and dzogchen schools), he goes on to articulate the eight-fold path in relation to our modern life. He emphasizes the importance of waking up from denial:

“Aren’t we all somewhat unrealistic and even fantasy-driven? Don’t we all spend too much time in foggy mental states? Don’t we mess up our lives because we don’t process reality as it’s objectively taking place? We tell ourselves stories about our lives; we tell ourselves what we want to hear, and in so doing we create and perpetuate fantasies. The first step on the Noble Eight-Fold Path tells seekers to wipe the dust from their eyes, open their inner wisdom eyes, and discover clear vision. It tells us all that the time has come to get real. […] The development of wisdom is greatly facilitated by seeing our little hypocrisies and large illusions and learning to be more forthright and honest with ourselves and others. Wisdom is seeing the true nature of things.”

This work is a solid, clear-eyed, practical companion on the journey of self-inquiry and awakening. Lama Surya Das makes the practice of awakening the Buddha within available to all, without requiring a belief in lifetime-to-lifetime reincarnation or a Buddha statue on your altar. Consider spending time with the wisdom in this book.


Pranada Devi is a communications professional living in Toronto, Canada. She is the Managing Editor of Parvati Magazine, and serves as an advisor on marketing communications for Parvati’s various projects.