An imaginative approach to spiritual practice in difficult times, through the Buddhist teaching of the six paramitas or "perfections"--qualities that lead to kindness, wisdom, and an awakened life.
In frightening times, we wish the world could be otherwise. With a touch of imagination, it can be. Imagination helps us see what’s hidden, and it shape-shifts reality’s roiling twisting waves. In this inspiring reframe of a classic Buddhist teaching, Zen teacher Norman Fischer writes that the paramitas, or “six perfections”—generosity, ethical conduct, patience, joyful effort, meditation, and understanding—can help us reconfigure the world we live in. Ranging from our everyday concerns about relationships, ethics, and consumption to our artistic inspirations and broadest human yearnings, Fischer depicts imaginative spiritual practice as a necessary resource for our troubled times.
About the Author
Norman Fischer is a Zen priest, poet, translator, and director of the Everyday Zen Foundation. His numerous books include What Is Zen? Plain Talk for a Beginner’s Mind, Training in Compassion: Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong, and Opening to You: Zen-Inspired Translations of the Psalms.
“This book gives me hope. In times like these, when we cannot afford to indulge in hopelessness, Norman Fischer offers us a vision of the human imagination as a spiritual practice and a source of courage and love. Now, more than ever, we need his vision of ourselves and of the world.”—Ruth Ozeki, author of A Tale for the Time Being
“A powerful exploration of the Buddhist practice of the Six Perfections, this extraordinary book points toward the great possibilities of goodness resting at the center of the human heart.”—Joan Halifax, author of Being with Dying and Standing at the Edge
“A gentle, brilliant, and inspiring road map to a life of happiness and integrity for many of us individualistic and subversive thinkers who are weary of dogma and preaching.”—Kazuaki Tanahashi, author of Painting Peace: Art in a Time of Global Crisis
“With poetic gesture and prompts from the Buddha’s teachings, beloved spiritual teacher Norman Fischer leads us on a well-seasoned path toward a kind of imagining of our world that goes far beyond our minds. In fact, we might fall into our own hearts along the way.”—Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, author of The Way of Tenderness: Awakening Through Race, Sexuality, and Gender
“As an accomplished Zen teacher who is also a poet, Norman Fischer understands the power of the imagination. If reality is not fixed, it must be reimagined over and over, and there is no place to see that more clearly than in the history of great Zen masters.
The book shows us the difference between unimaginative religion and the open vision of possibility that authentic religion enables. It teaches us how to develop the imagination—a discipline of imagination—that shows us how to see the world otherwise.
Fischer’s discussion of practice is incredibly skillful, honed through decades of personal engagement. We get a glimpse of the difference between imaginative religious practice and practice that ironically is stultifying. Working through the Buddhist six perfections, he asks not just what each paramita is, but how it can be imagined today and how we might begin to practice it creatively. Every section in the book concludes with practices providing examples of what we might do with these Buddhist teachings in our own time and place.
A unique contribution to a vital dimension of Buddhism, written by someone who has long practiced what he is teaching. Highly recommended.”—Dale S. Wright, author of The Six Perfections: Buddhism and the Cultivation of Character and What Is Buddhist Enlightenment?
“We need to be reminded again and again to stay in touch with our own interior world, where a deeper meaning of life can be found. This book with its fresh approach to the six paramitas is here to do that very job. It gently yet powerfully reminds us to not get lost in the trap of self-centeredness and materialism, but to nourish our spiritual impulse which wants to expand our heart. I’m deeply thankful to Norman for writing this with such deep insight and love.”—Anam Thubten, author of Embracing Each Moment and The Magic of Awareness
“Buddhists are often skeptical of the word imagination, interpreting it to mean a flight into fantasy. But Norman Fischer, in his new book, The World Could Be Otherwise, makes it clear that imagination is the raw potential, the very source of inspiration, creativity, and astonishment that lies at the heart of a fully integrated spiritual life. He leads us with precision and skill through the Six Perfections (paramitas), using imagination as the uplifting force that binds the heart’s calling for perfection to our human frailties. And he couples these inspiring teachings with grounded daily-life practices. This book is a source of renewal for anyone willing to move beyond their complacency and routine to ponder the wondrous possibilities that abound.”—Rodney Smith, author of Touching the Infinite: A New Perspective on the Buddha’s Four Foundation of Mindfulness