I am always looking for books on the Buddhist view on emptiness and that I can give to my non-buddhist friends, or people who are just starting on the path, whenever they asked about the Buddhist view.
Years ago, one of my friends at work, an incredibly intelligent, intellectual former professor, asked me for two books. I based on what I knew about him, I gave him Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind and a translation of a traditional book on reasoning and philosophy. He liked Suzuki Roshi and couldn’t get past the first few pages of Chandrakirti. The problem is that traditional texts on emptiness are written for people who are already Buddhist and often assume quite a scholarly education. Even most of the contemporary ones are too.
So I really wanted to read Elizabeth Mattis-Namgyal’s book, "The Power of an Open Question: The Buddha's Path to Freedom". I asked her for a copy, offering to review it here. She agreed. Then I panicked. She’s a friend, what if I hate the book? I don’t know if that is an open question, but that is the one I had when I started to read the book.
But after reading her “personal koan”, I started to forget about my question and ponder hers. Most of us try to ignore the inevitable and spend our lives trying to grasp what cannot be grasped and then suffer the discontentment that follows or worse.
There’s so much information available to us on how to meditate, when to meditate, even with whom to meditate. With what we have available, you’d think that we’d all be able to master meditation with ease. Nope!
Since first learning to meditate, after years of meditation, I’ve come to realize that there’s something that is definitely opposed to my peace of mind and finding my “meditative mind,” and that is…the soap opera mind!
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In less then ten minutes, Sogyal Rinpoche explains the connection between the mind, meditation and contentment.
In this video, from April 2005, Sogyal Rinpoche explains about how we can discover the source of true contentment. In less then ten minutes, Rinpoche explains the connection between the mind, meditation and contentment. This video is from the WhatMeditationReallyIs.com course.
I met someone the other night who criticized one of the most popular and successful secular meditation programs out there. His point was that while it is wonderful that people are meditating and through mindfulness leading healthier lives, BUT, there is nothing in that system that promotes any kind of ethical behavior. In other words, you can meditate in the morning and then lie, cheat and steal all day long. My new acquaintance’s position was that ethical behavior is a necessary component for true spiritual discovery.
Just the other day I found myself in the all-too-familiar situation of trying to explain what I do when I meditate to a curious and inquiring stranger. I’m sure this has happened to you before…You know, you’re sitting on the bus or in a coffee shop and you strike up a friendly conversation with someone next to you. One thing leads to another, and before you know it you’ve let it slip that you meditate. Then comes that slightly tense moment as you wait to find out whether or not the other person thinks you’re a total wacko and if you need to try and change the subject to something safer…like sports or IKEA.
This time it was a little bit different though…
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Approximately forty-five people attended my talk, which took place in a conference room at the bank. I was really impressed by the people I met. They have very stressful jobs and not a whole lot of spare time and yet they made time to come and meditate and learn more about meditation. These folks were sincerely interested in learning how to uncover the inherent wisdom, love and compassion that we all possess. The fact that we could discuss the relationship between contentment, mind and meditation in a corporate environment is actually very cool.