Rating: ★★★★☆ 

A Beginner’s Guide to Tibetan Buddism: Notes from a Practitioner’s Journey, by Bruce Newman.  Snow Lion Publications (2004), 212 pages.

This is the must-have manual for any Westerner trying to understand the Vajrayana path.  In the introduction, Newman says he wanted to call this book “Tantra for Dummies” because he hoped to write that kind of straightforward guide that “leads you through everything you have to do, step by step.  It doesn’t assume you know anything and it leaves nothing out.”  He has definitely succeeded in creating that kind of book.

If you have struggled and failed to make your way through Reginald Ray’s enormous two-volume work on Tibetan Buddhism (Indestructible Truth and Secret of the Vajra World—which, despite its dense, sometimes incomprehensible text, remains the unrivaled source for those compelled to know every detail), Newman’s book is the antidote.  He summarizes the basic ideas, goes into detail where necessary, gives a lot of “insider” information beginning practitioners don’t usually run across, and makes a compelling case for why this most complicated of Buddhist practices is worth the effort.  The fact that he does all of this in an eminently manageable 212 pages makes the book something of a miracle.  I can’t recommend A Beginner’s Guide to Tibetan Buddhism highly enough.

Reviewed by Cindy Blackett