In the Lap of the Buddha [NOOK Book]


In this book a teacher of insight meditation offers personal testament, healing words, and wise instruction to help meet the suffering that comes with catastrophic life events. Speaking openly about his own struggles with memories of childhood sexual abuse and with the HIV diagnosis he received in 1989, Gavin
Harrison reveals how compassion ...

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In the Lap of the Buddha

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In this book a teacher of insight meditation offers personal testament, healing words, and wise instruction to help meet the suffering that comes with catastrophic life events. Speaking openly about his own struggles with memories of childhood sexual abuse and with the HIV diagnosis he received in 1989, Gavin
Harrison reveals how compassion offers refuge and help for all who suffer from similar crises of body, heart, and spirit. Among the topics covered are:

  • Dealing with fear, anger, and self-hatred
  • Working with difficult relationships
  • Confronting physical pain and the fear of death
  • Transforming the legacy of sexual abuse
  • The question of karma and "Why me?"
  • Grappling with issues of faith, freedom, hope, and miracles
  • Basic insight meditation instructions, plus guided meditations for forgiveness,
    compassion, and equanimity

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780834828759
  • Publisher: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/26/2013
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • File size: 389 KB

Meet 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.

Gavin Harrison teaches at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Mass.

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Read an Excerpt

1: An Almost Perfect Dream

Two thousand and

five hundred years ago the Shakyan people lived in the foothills of the
Himalayan Mountains in what is now Nepal. The tribe was ruled by its royal family, and the kingdom was prosperous and strong. When the queen became pregnant, there was great rejoicing in the kingdom. Sixty-four holy men gathered at the royal palace and foretold that the infant to be born would grow up to be either a powerful universal monarch or a great spiritual leader. The first possibility delighted the king. The second prophecy disturbed him, for it was the king's dearest wish that this child both succeed him on the throne and be a conqueror of foreign lands.

The infant boy was born and named Siddhartha Gautama. A wandering ascetic named
Asita visited the palace and asked to hold the newborn child. While Siddhartha was in his arms, Asita began weeping.

The king, concerned, asked, "Why are you crying?"

Asita replied. "This child is going to be a great spiritual savior. He will be a
Buddha, a fully enlightened being, and I'm crying because I'll be dead before he delivers his teachings." Asita knew that it was a very rare privilege to live in the time of such a unique person.

The king, perturbed, resolved to prevent the outcome that Asita predicted. He reasoned that if the child knew only the greatest luxury and abundance, and was spared from all difficulty and heartache, the call to a spiritual destiny might remain dormant in him.

Siddhartha grew into a handsome young man. His every whim and desire were addressed with great extravagance and abundance. During each season of the year the boy resided in a different palace best suited to his comfort. He was entertained and served by a vast array of servants and courtiers. He had concubines for his pleasure, royal musicians to entertain him, and beautifully manicured gardens to bring him great delight and joy.

The king was fiercely determined that no harshness, ugliness, discomfort, sadness,
or suffering would touch the life of his son. At night, under cover of darkness, gardeners moved through the flower beds and removed all the dead blossoms, plants, and leaves.

And so, within the palace walls, all was beautiful, delightful, and easy. The young prince never ventured outside.

Siddhartha was twenty-nine years old, he married Yasodhara. She was soon pregnant. Now, for the first time in his life, the prince felt stirred to go beyond the palace walls and visit a neighboring grove to see the spring flowers.

The parallels between the youth of Prince Siddhartha and the society in which we live are poignantly similar. The palace walls that shielded the young prince from the knowledge of suffering have become the many mental, emotional, and behavioral walls within which we try to protect ourselves from the challenging realities of life. Insofar as possible, any discomfort or suffering is kept beyond the threshold of our protected lives. Should something untoward or difficult touch us, this is regarded as wrong and tragic.

The brushstrokes of television, movies, and the print media further embellish our image of the dreamlike life. Youth is sanctified in the beautiful and flawless models that adorn the pages of magazines and television screens. Breathtaking visuals of sleek sailboats in the Caribbean are dangled before us, with picture-perfect couples sipping exotic drinks in balmy, perfect happiness. From our youngest years we are conditioned to aspire to the ideal home, the idyllic vacation, the perfect partner, and the desirable bank account. Like
Siddhartha's father long ago, our society invests much energy and time in creating this palace and fortification against that which lies beyond whatever is acceptable to us. Often there is a feeling of intrusion, denial and aversion toward anything that disturbs the shadowless lives we try to create for ourselves. This rejection and avoidance of what is true can be as solid and separating as the thickest of palace walls.

was born in South Africa in 1950 and grew up in an affluent white suburb in
Johannesburg. Our property was surrounded by a wall that grew higher and higher over the years as the political heat intensified. The windows of the house were protected by grid-iron burglarproofing, and a system of sirens and alarms was activated at night or when the house was unoccupied. Our home was no different from any other in the neighborhood. Vicious-looking dogs and electronic gates often provided further fortification. It seemed as though an entire nation was trying to protect itself from the nightmare of apartheid by building huge walls to keep the suffering safely at bay.

Theft was commonplace in the white suburbs where I lived. Whites were almost universally far more wealthy than blacks. Rather than address the inequities,
the whites made their fortifications more and more elaborate. The flagrant disparity between the races was kept in place by the walls that divided us.

Because the races were so separated from one another, huge fears and suspicions arose which divided the people. A genuine sense of common humanity and brotherhood between people was lost. Over the years the fear increased, fueled by government propaganda and the media. The walls grew higher and higher as the collective hysteria escalated.

We come to believe that what we choose not to see or acknowledge just does not exist. So, too, we may find that what we are protecting ourselves from is nothing more than a specter born of our fears. In
for the
a classic antiapartheid novel, E. M. Coetzee writes:

. . . last year stories began to reach us from the capital of unrest among the barbarians. Traders travelling safe routes had been attacked and plundered.
Stock thefts had increased in scale and audacity. A party of census officials had disappeared and been found buried in shallow graves. Shots had been fired at a provincial governor during a tour of inspection. There had been clashes with border patrols. The barbarian tribes were arming, the rumour went; the
Empire should take precautionary measures, for there would certainly be war.

Of this unrest I myself saw nothing. In private I observed that once in every generation, without fail, there is an episode of hysteria about the barbarians.
There is no woman living along the frontier who has not dreamed of a dark barbarian hand coming from under the bed to grip her ankle, no man who has not frightened himself with visions of the barbarians carousing in his home,
breaking the plates, setting fire to the curtains, raping his daughters. These dreams are the consequence of too much ease. Show me a barbarian army and I
will believe.

Perhaps the most tragic palace wall we build is the one within ourselves. We carry carefully constructed ideas of who we are and how we should behave and then force ourselves into a prison of our own making. We usually expect nothing less than perfection from ourselves. The walls of this self-construction can be so high that there is no possibility for the great light of our hearts to shine or for our growing spirit to soar beyond its imprisonment.

We are often the victims of self-hatred and inner conflict when we hold up the reality of our lives to the impossible standards we expect of ourselves. There is so little self-forgiveness. Again, we separate ourselves from the truth of life.

when we surround ourselves with walls of any kind, we create a space in which secrets thrive. Families project worldly images of perfect accord and happiness, only to retreat back into patterns of dysfunction and even violence,
played out within the protection of the walls of secrecy. Without genuine connection and relationship with those around us, family life can become unbalanced and unhealthy. Substance abuse, violence, and other expressions of imbalance thrive in a collusion of silence and disconnection.

Some years ago a close friend of mine revealed to his parents, one of his siblings,
and a few close friends that he was HIV positive. Like his homosexuality, his illness now became another family secret. The years of dealing with AIDS were shrouded in secrecy, subterfuge, and withdrawal. After his death, his twin brother asked the doctor how it was possible that his brother had died of pneumonia. It was the doctor who then told him that his brother had AIDS. He had never known. He was angry, heartbroken, and embittered.

In my twenty-ninth year I settled in New York City. I met briefly with a psychologist as part of a job interview process. He asked me about my parents and family life. My response was immediate, certain, and one I've never forgotten: "My family is perfect. My mother and father are perfect."
The psychologist's skeptical and disbelieving smirk infuriated me. I was filled with indignation and resentment toward him. How dare he trespass within my walls! When I reflect now on this interaction, I realize how fully I had perpetrated the family's illusion and how desperate I was to keep the dream intact: Ronald, the perfect, loving, providing father. Adelaide, the beautiful,
dutiful, flawless mother. Craig and Gavin, the obedient, happy, responsible,
successful sons. But there was not much room for humanity in all this perfection!

despite the familiarity and longevity of all the walls that limit and separate us, there sometimes is a call, far stronger than the isolation. The call beckons us to a place beyond what is familiar. The call challenges all delusion and asks that we accept nothing less than the truth.

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Table of Contents

Foreword by Joseph Goldstein
Preface xi


Almost Perfect Dream
Beyond the Walls


Spiritual Journey

Suffering and Compassion 21

Way of Insight Meditation
Instructions for Insight Meditation
Personal Drama and Beyond

Beyond the Grip of Fear
Working with Pain 68

Face to Face with Mortality
Fear of Death 91

Working with Anger 94

Self-Hatred and Self-Love
Transforming the Legacy of
Abuse 119

Divine Abodes
Lovingkindness 145
Compassion 147
Equanimity 149
Forgiveness 151

Doubt, and Self-Acceptance
Karma: "Why
Me?" 184

Healthy Foundation for Meditation
Generosity and Selflessness
Introducing the Precepts
First Precept: Refrain from Harming
Second Precept: Refrain from Stealing
Third Precept: Refrain from False Speech
Fourth Precept: Refrain from Sexual Misconduct
Fifth Precept: Refrain from Needless Use of Intoxicants
Family and Community
Dancing with Life and Death

Notes 269
Information 277
Acknowledgments and Credits
Index 285

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Customer Reviews

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( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2000

    If You're Hurting.....You Need This Book

    In the Lap of the Buddah takes readers on a journey of self awareness and healing. The author masterfully combines lessons taught by the masters with his own personal experience. No matter what your religious preference, you will find help and comfort in this book. This is definately a book to be read over and over again. Many thanks to Gavin Harrsion for sharing this work of art with the world.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 1999

    I adore this book, its what we all look for

    This book is an insight guide and a heartfelt introduction to the practice of buddism. It also is a lovly guide to becoming a compassionate person and a better human. The raw emotion and the love comes through every word. Its as if Gavin were leading your heart on a journey, and you become a little better as a person for having gone along with him. Thank you Gavin Harrison.

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