How the Root of Kindness Works

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Byrd's Books

Published by: Karuna Publications
Release Date: June 16, 2012
Pages: 144
ISBN13: 978-1937114046


Follow the river as it winds through the old mill town and you will find Abe in front of the second-hand shop he opened years ago after coming home from the Vietnam War. The sun is warming toward spring and the last of the snow is melting, filling the river with colors of the bare-branched sky. Abe is arranging pieces of furniture when Troy’s pick-up truck turns into the parking lot. Certain that Troy will share her fondness for Abe, his girlfriend, Maggie can’t wait to make the introduction of her two favorite men.

Troy roams through the shop to where he notices an old brown leather guitar case spotted with mold and cobwebs. When he opens the case, he immediately recognizes a vintage Les Paul guitar and knows it’s a rare find. In exchange for two days’ work Abe offers Troy the guitar. He insists the work is strenuous and there will be no doubt Troy has earned the guitar when the job is done.

Working with Abe, Troy learns about his shattering experiences in Vietnam and that most of the men he served with never made it home. It was Eddie who had been Abe’s inspiration through it all. His youthful cockiness was impervious to fear and, armed with the philosophies of the Beat generation, he could just as readily quote Kerouac as he could share teachings from Eastern religions. When Eddie explained The Four Noble Truths taught in Buddhism, their logic resonated with Abe and their essence lingered in his mind. It wasn’t long after his return home that a poignant and tender encounter nudged Abe to pursue the Buddhist teachings. He discovered that its wisdom, rooted in compassion, could bring peace to even the most fearful and angry mind.

Abe teaches Troy the importance of mindfulness. Not in the casual way we often hear the word used but a vigilant mindfulness to actions of thought, speech, and body with a full understanding of the results each action sets in motion. A game of pool becomes Abe’s metaphor for mindfulness. “Just imagine an endless pool table with endless possibilities of balls and pockets. Then, imagine your life as the cue ball and your thoughts as the cue. You want to choose your aim skillfully and carefully.” Replacing guilt with intelligent regret, Abe demonstrates that we can purify the seeds of negativity that disturb our peace and happiness by mindfully engaging in actionsthat bring benefit to others.

Verses from Master Shantideva’s chapters on Conscientiousness and Guarding Alertness inA Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Lifeprovide the backbone of wisdom to the message Abe delivers to Troy. This message is the invaluable guide when another lucky find requires Troy to make an important decision.


“A character driven book that allows the reader to identify with struggles both past and present in the lives of these people…Honest, unforced and luminous.”
—Cathy Gittelson, 

“Once again Ms. Ettele has provided instruction in the Buddhist path with her rich narrative. Never didactic, her delightful visual and emotional descriptions of the settings are subtle and familiar. The heartfelt warmth of her style makes us feel present in the lives of her engaging characters and grateful for having spent time with them.”
—Kurt Records,

About the How Life Works Series

“When the student is ready, the master appears” is the theme of the How Life Works series. A collection of six stories, this series demonstrates how The Six Perfections: Generosity, Ethics, Patience, Effort, Concentration, and Wisdom, taught by the Buddhist monk Master Shantideva,* are every bit as relevant for us today as when Shantideva presented them in the 8thcentury.

Set within the rhythm of changing seasons in a small New England town, it is the heart of a snowy winter when we first meet Troy. During a tumultuous period of his young life, Troy has the good fortune to meet just the right teachers at just the right time. The first such teacher is Grace in How Generosity Works, and thus begins his journey.

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