Arinna Weisman and Jean Smith combine clear explanations of the Buddha's teachings on freedom and happiness with their personal stories highlighting some of the challenges and insights of practice. The Beginner's Guide to Insight Meditation offers advice about going on retreat and help in choosing a teacher and a sangha (practice community), as well as suggestions for further reading and information on various Insight Meditation or Vipassana centers and resources. Here is an enormously practical book that covers every aspect of the teachings a beginner needs to get started.
It's hard to imagine that Buddha envisioned different schools to disseminate his teachings, but two great traditions have emerged: Mahayana (encompassing Tibetan and Zen Buddhism), growing north out of India, and Theravada or Vipassana, known in the West as Insight Meditation, which developed south and east of India. This good-hearted primer is a true beginner's guide to what it claims is "the fastest growing school of Buddhism in this country." The authors are well-qualified: Weisman taught at Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Mass. (the first and largest U.S. Vipassana retreat center), and Smith authored The Beginner's Guide to Zen Buddhism. The tone of the book matches the spirit of Insight Meditation in that it is less formal than Zen or Tibetan Buddhism and also more autocratic ("individual practice is founded on each person's self-inquiry into what works for them"). The first-person stories nicely support the more instructional, but not doctrinaire, how-to bulk of the text. Complete with a biography of the Buddha, a list of U.S. Insight Meditation centers, some core sacred texts and a glossary, this volume is the perfect starter kit for people curious about Buddhism, who may or may not adhere to another faith. For those who may not even know how to put their hands together in a pose of dedication to take the Three Refuges vows, this gentle manual provides loose soil where tender roots might take hold.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
-- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
May 07, 2001
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from The Beginner's Guide to Insight Meditation by Arinna Weisman
1. The Possibility of Change: A Cinderella Story
When I was a child, the Cinderella story made me distinctly uncomfortable. So did Anne of Green Gables. Here were these images of people who were just too good to be true: They were generous, they were sweet, they were diligent, they worked hard, they were compassionate, they never seemed angry or judgmental or shaming or hating. At some level, I longed to be like them, but I felt that I was more like Cinderella's ugly sisters: They were jealous of each other, they were nasty, they were competitive, and they were social climbers. They thought that they were not good enough, and yet they were self-consciously proud. Not until many years later did I learn that within the practice of Insight Meditation I could embrace such seemingly contradictory feelings with peace and even affection. - AW
Many people experience this rift within themselves. Sometimes we feel anger, jealousy, envy, and desire like Cinderella's ugly sisters, who will eventually be relegated to the dim kitchen in the Prince's palace or to a dark place in our hearts. At the same time, we yearn to have the qualities of Cinderella and the Prince-beauty, virtue, generosity-and to live happily ever after. The good news is that no matter how powerfully we may feel torn between such conflicting feelings, the Buddhist tradition known as Insight Meditation, or Vipassana, invites us to heal that division.
Insight Meditation teachings do not demand that we live life as an eternal bliss trip by judging or cutting off what feels difficult or negative. That is simply not a realistic expectation for any human being. Instead, when energies such as anger, hatred, doubt, and anxiety-traditionally called the hindrances in this practice (chapter 3)-arise, we can learn to hold them in our hearts with kindness and with acceptance. We acknowledge them and even honor them, saying, "Aha, here are these energies inside me. May I hold them with kindness. May I hold them with softness." That conscious relationship-it is like Cinderella and the ugly sisters merged-is where transformation happens.
If we could not envision how we would like to live and if we did not have the perseverance to make that vision a reality, we could not change. One of our greatest advantages as human beings is that as long as we are alive, we can change.
This capacity feels to me like such a critical piece because when I was growing up I was not very happy. I was quite shut down and judgmental. I'm not saying this out of any sense of shame -- it is just a pure acknowledgment of how I was, of how unhappy I was. If it were not for the possibility of change, I would still be caught in those negative energies. - AW
Even though we sometimes feel as if we are being clutched by hurtful energies, the fundamentally good part of our nature is always there and can be awakened. The heart of Insight Meditation calls upon our inner potential for wisdom, kindness, illumination, and a deep sense of connection to the beauty of all life. When this potential unfurls without obstruction, we are free-free of suffering, living with happiness that is not dependent on any particular thing, experience, or circumstance. This is our possibility. It is not just theoretical or something we are asked to accept on blind faith. Proof of it exists in the lives of our spiritual teachers and people such as the Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi, Hildegard of Bingen, Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, and the Dalai Lama.
Nelson Mandela elegantly invited us to express our possibility in his 1994 inaugural speech as president of South Africa.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deep fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?
Actually who are you not to be?
You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you.
We were born to manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to be the same.
As we are liberated from our own fears, our presence automatically liberates others.
The Nature of Suffering in Our Lives
Insight Meditation teachings recognize the challenges we face in living as human beings and the reality that we often experience pain and sometimes tremendous suffering. Suffering does not mean we are failures or awful persons or should feel ashamed about what is happening to us. The process of healing begins when we acknowledge our suffering and explore it, when we admit what is happening-and accept it.