Your Mind Is Your Teacher: Self-Awakening through Contemplative Meditationby Khenpo Gawang
This concise handbook of Tibetan Buddhist teachings, designed for Western students, is centered on a sitting practice called Contemplative Meditation. This practice can be used as a way to change troublesome habits, even by someone with little knowledge of Buddhism. Although the teachings are based it on a nineteenth-century text by Lama Mipham, they are presented… See more details below
This concise handbook of Tibetan Buddhist teachings, designed for Western students, is centered on a sitting practice called Contemplative Meditation. This practice can be used as a way to change troublesome habits, even by someone with little knowledge of Buddhism. Although the teachings are based it on a nineteenth-century text by Lama Mipham, they are presented in a non-scholarly way, with examples drawn from modern life and everyday experience. In particular, the author addresses the unique attitudes and questions of twenty-first-century Westerners who are exploring Buddhism.
The practice taught in the book consists of a reflection on four subjects, known as the Four Seals of the Buddha's teaching: multiplicity, impermanence, suffering, and emptiness. Khenpo Gawang Rinpoche explains how to investigate each of these topics in a way that helps you recognize your innate wisdom mind, which is your ultimate teacher. Once you learn how to examine your own mind and your life with this method, you will start to look at everything differently. By helping to dissolve negative thoughts and habits, the practice can increase your focus, confidence, self-esteem, and happiness.
Along with exercises and questions, short readings, a glossary, and checklists for study, this book provides a complete handbook, with simple instructions for additional practices:
• the Ninefold Exhalation, a breathing method for expelling stale air before meditation
• visualization of buddhas and great teachers to inspire practice
• the practice of bodhichitta, or generating love and compassion for all beings
• the seven-branch offering, seven devotional thoughts to strengthen efforts
• dedication of merit—the positive energy from the meditationfor the benefit of all beings
Finally, the appendix gives translations of two short readings: The Wheel of Analytical Meditation by Lama Mipham, which is the source of this book's teaching, and the Heart Sutra, a famous brief teaching on emptiness, along with a traditional commentary.
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For those who have approached Buddhist analytical concepts with a yearning to understand reality, Your Mind is Your Teacher, by Khenpo Gawang Rinpoche, will be an unparalleled guide toward clarity. Many students, myself included, have struggled with the essential concept of the Four Seals of the Dharma, particularly emptiness. From previous books, even when a glimpse of emptiness is gained through a useful analogy or pointing out, many have found it difficult to assimilate this glimpse with the lists of skandhas - and their sub-lists of mental formations (virtuous and non-virtuous), kleshas, and consiousnesses - found to be apparently self-explanatory in predecessors's treatment of the same topic. Not so with Your Mind is Your Teacher. Khenpo Gawang does include the details of the components of the Four Seals. But what is fresh and new in this book is how he presents them: he interweaves the components and illustrates their relatedness - and distinctions - in a manner that makes them accessible for even beginning students. Moreover, two of the book's greatest strengths are its organizational structure and its summary checklists. For Western students used to a presentation of materials in a step-wise fashion, this approach closes the gap between Eastern and Western educational styles, making concepts seem more accessible and easier to grasp. Elements that will be welcomed by beginning students are the step-by-step approach to preparing for and executing contemplative meditation, including instructions for the contemplations themselves, and the examples of experiencing emptiness from Khenpo's own life, which are at once authentic teachings and show students how to relate their similar experiences to the dharma. Whether Khenpo is recalling his childhood in Tibet, a springtime walk around Memphis, a discussion with an emotionally-ravaged neighbor, or a traumatic natural disaster, his teaching in this book engages because it is highly illustrative of and appropriate to the topic he is treating. For more advanced students, other elements of the work will be especially helpful. First, the readings and commentary in the back matter, particularly the Heart Sutra, have given me the clearest understanding I have yet achieved on the matter of prajnaparamita, especially how it relates to the Four Seals. Moreover, the commentary hints at next readings, such as the Ketaka Jewel, as a bridge to more in-depth study. Finally, Khenpo Gawang discusses, throughout the book, how a continued, diligent effort at contemplating the Four Seals is necessary for sustained and clear understanding; one must make the experience very personal and one must repeat the (contemplative) experience regularly. For me, I suspect, this means that I will immediately re-read Your Mind is Your Teacher from cover to cover.
I agree with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in saying that Khenpo Gawang is a true spiritual friend. Rich with modern examples, Khenpo Gawang brings the richness of ancient Tibetan Buddhist wisdom and philosophy to modern American culture. There are no words to capture the many healing and liberating techniques offered in this beautiful work of art.