Community Learning instructor reaches out to Westerners with new book on Buddhism
By the time he had reached third grade, Michael Stevens, community learning instructor at Central Oregon Community College, was writing papers on theology. Now he’s published his second book on Buddhism, “Being An Ordinary Buddha.”
“I popped out of the womb really interested in how we see things,” said Stevens, who received his bachelor’s degree in Comparative Religions at Oregon State University.
Stevens himself was raised Methodist, but went to church “just on holidays.” After his school sent him to the World Council of Churches in Africa, Stevens took a sabbatical during which he met two Tibetan Buddhist practitioners in Portland.
“I felt like I was at home,” said Stevens. “Everything they said was inscribed on my heart.”
Stevens began to follow the teachings of Vajrayana Buddhism, a school of Tibetan Buddhism.
Stevens still considers himself a Buddhist second and a “dharma teacher” first. Stevens started one of the first yoga centers in Bend and now runs the Dharma Center.
Stevens teaches the community learning class Foundations of Buddhism at COCC. He believes that Tibetan Buddhism “seems complicated” to Westerners.
“There’s a steep learning curve,” said Stevens.
To address this issue, Stevens has written and self-published “Being An Ordinary Buddha,” a 120-page book “demystifying” Tibetan Buddhism.
“I wrote this book for Western people who are new to this tradition,” said Stevens. “Or people interested in Buddhism. A lot of people are interested in Buddhism but have no support.”
Stevens also said that practicing Buddhism is not about the belief, but about the experience. Newcomers wanting to approach this life philosophy must have an open mind.
“Buddha said ‘don’t accept this because I tell you,” said Stevens. “‘Try it on, see if it fits.’”