Through Contemplative Meditation we learn to investigate reality by looking carefully at our own mind and everyday life. We come to know ourselves very well—not only the negative habits we want to change, but our innate potential to find peace, happiness, and wisdom. In this practice we will discover that the secret to success lies in developing the right mental attitude, which is the wish to benefit others.
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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.