As Dharma teachers go Ethan Nichtern is hot, or at least that’s the impression one gets from the number of his podcasts that people are downloading and the blurbs on the back of his new book One City: A Declaration of Interdependence.
The book attempts to express the fundamental truths of the Dharma using contemporary language and popular culture, and is aimed at a generation for whom iPods and podcasting are as natural as breathing. The great challenge for a book like this is to ensure that the essence of the Buddha’s wisdom isn’t thrown out with the bath water of traditional expression. One City has a good shot at rising to the challenge.
Ethan’s honesty about his own struggles to practice the Buddhist path is compelling, and I’m sure it is this that makes him such a popular Dharma teacher. One City is packed with examples of how his own states of mind fall short of the ideal, but not in a self-deprecating or self-loathing way, rather with a kind awareness that to be human is after all to be imperfect, and that this is okay! In fact avoiding the pitfalls of self-loathing is one of the strongest themes of the book; clearly something that Ethan feels needs to be emphasized again and again in our anxiety-ridden times. The second chapter on the Inadequacy Principle explores this in detail.