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Insight Meditation

Cover of Insight Meditation

Insight Meditation

A Psychology of Freedom
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The fruit of some twenty years' experience leading Buddhist meditation retreats, this book touches on a wide range of topics raised repeatedly by meditators and includes favorite stories, key Buddhist teachings, and answers to most-asked questions.

The fruit of some twenty years' experience leading Buddhist meditation retreats, this book touches on a wide range of topics raised repeatedly by meditators and includes favorite stories, key Buddhist teachings, and answers to most-asked questions.

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  • From the cover

    From Part One

    Fear of Enlightenment
    Meditators sometimes report that fear of liberation holds them back in their practice; as they proceed into uncharted territory, fear of the unknown becomes an obstacle to surrender. But this is not really fear of enlightenment. It is rather fear of ideas about enlightenment. We all have notions about freedom: dissolving in a great burst of light, or in a great cosmic flash. The mind might invent many different images of the experience of liberation. Sometimes our ego creates images of its own death that frighten us.

    Liberation means letting go of suffering. Do you fear the prospect of being free from greed? Do you fear being free from anger or delusion? Probably not. Liberation means freeing ourselves from those qualities in the mind that torment and limit us. So freedom is not something magical or mysterious. It does not make us weird. Enlightenment means purifying our mind and letting go of those things that cause so much suffering in our lives. It is very down-to-earth.

    Imagine holding on to a hot burning coal. You would not fear letting go of it. In fact, once you noticed that you were holding on, you would probably drop it quickly. But we often do not recognize how we hold on to suffering. It seems to hold on to us. This is our practice: becoming aware of how suffering arises in our mind and of how we become identified with it, and learning to let it go. We learn through simple and direct observation, seeing the process over and over again until we understand.

    When the Buddha described his teaching in the most concise way, he said that he taught one thing and one thing only: suffering and the end of suffering. Understanding this reality for our self frees our mind and opens more fully the possibilities for compassionate action in the world.

    One Taste
    Is enlightenment gradual or is it sudden? Whole schools of Buddhism have grown up around this issue. But it has always seemed to me that liberation is both sudden and gradual, that there is no polarity between the two.

    Enlightenment is always sudden. It is grace; when the conditions are right, it happens. But the path leading up to that moment is gradual. We practice, we create the field, we prepare the ground, and the mind eventually opens suddenly and spontaneously. Then again, after sudden awakening can come a gradual cultivation and ripening of the enlightened mind.

    The Buddha declared straightforwardly that our mind in its natural state is pure but that it is obscured by visiting defilements. In one of his discourses he said, "The mind is radiant, shining, glowing forth; but it is stained by the defilements that visit it. The mind is radiant, shining, glowing forth, and from the uprooting of defilements that visit it, it is freed."

    Techniques may vary, but the essential teachings of the Buddha—on the nature of suffering and the realization of freedom—are found in all the Buddhist traditions. Countless forms have evolved in all the places where the Dharma has flourished: India, Burma, Thailand, Tibet, China, Japan, Korea, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Vietnam, and elsewhere. Munindra-ji told me long ago that he was familiar with over fifty techniques of insight meditation in Burma alone.

    Do not become attached to the idea that there is only one right way or technique of practicing the Dharma. Freedom and compassion are the reference points for all practice. Everything else is skillful means. There are many experiences along the way. As soon as we take a stand any place at all, thinking "this is it," we have already overshot the great jewel of...

About the Author-
  • Joseph Goldstein began exploring meditation as a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand. Following extended meditation retreats with various teachers in India and Burma, including the renowned Buddhist meditation master Anagarika Sri Munindra, he cofounded the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts. He has taught numerous meditation classes, workshops, and retreats in America and abroad over the last eight years and is one of the founders and primary teachers of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts. He is also the author of The Experience of Insight, Insight Meditation, One Dharma and coauthor of Seeking the Heart of Wisdom.

Table of Contents-
  • Preface xiii
    Acknowledgments xv

    1. What Is the Path?
    The Dharma 3
    Fear of Enlightenment 5
    Intelligence and Progress 6
    One Taste 8
    Four Noble Truths 11
    Signposts 16
    Grace, or Help Along the Way 18
    The Role of a Teacher 22
    Roads to Fulfillment 24

    2. How to Practice
    Purpose, Effort, and Surrender 29
    Training the Heart 32
    Meditation Instructions 34
    Nintendo Dharma 37
    Acceptance 39
    Not Seeing Dukkha Is Dukkha 42
    Understanding Pain 44
    Feeling Good, Feeling Bad: Progress in Meditation 47
    Spontaneity and Practice 49
    Coming Home 50
    Energy 51
    Insight 53

    3. Freeing the Mind
    Hindrances: A Dirty Cloth 57
    Relating to Thoughts 59
    Views and Opinions 62
    Judgment 500 64
    Conceit and the Comparing Mind 66
    Liberating Emotions 68
    Emotional Bondage, Emotional Freedom 72
    Use Your Umbrella 75
    Fear Itself 77
    Thank You, Boredom 80
    Unworthiness 82
    Guilt 84
    Jealousy 87
    Desire 88

    4. Psychology and Dharma
    Ego and Self 93
    Personality and Transformation 96
    Psychotherapy and Meditation 100
    Yogi Mind 104

    5. Selflessness
    Big Dipper 109
    Birth of the Ego 114
    No Parachute, No Ground 116
    Coming to Zero 118
    Ecstasy and Emptiness 120

    6. Karma
    The Light of the World 123
    Obvious Karma 125
    Subtleties of Karma 127
    Ignorance, the Root of Harming 130
    Mindfulness, the Root of Happiness 131
    Karma and No-Self 134
    Animals 136

    7. Practice in the World
    Staying Present 139
    Wisdom and Love 141
    Lovingkindness 143
    Compassion 147
    The Art of Communication 150
    Sharing the Dharma 153
    Relationship with Parents 155
    Right Livelihood 159
    On Reading Texts 161
    Humor 163
    Training for Death 165
    Vipassana and Death 166
    Metta and Death 168
    To Benefit All Beings 170

    For More Information 173
    Index 175

  • Los Angeles Times "An intelligent, thorough, startlingly clear description of Western vipassana practice in particular and Buddhism in general."
  • Library Journal "Goldstein's years of experience in leading Buddhist retreats render this a wise and mature book of interest not only to Westerners but also to others open to learning about Buddhist practice and insight into the interconnectedness of all life. Highly recommended."
  • Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Wherever You Go, There You Are "Insight Meditation will be welcomed by all those who wish to extend and deepen their commitment to a life of mindfulness."
  • Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence "Wise and practical guidance for anyone who seeks to free the mind through meditation."
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A Psychology of Freedom
Joseph Goldstein
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