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Living Dharma: Teachings and Meditation Instructions from Twelve Theravada Masters

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In this book, Jack Kornfield presents the heart of Buddhist practice as taught by twelve highly respected masters from Southeast Asia. These renowned teachers offer a rich variety of meditation techniques: the practices include traditional instructions for dissolving the solid sense of self, for awakening insight, for realizing Nirvana, and for cultivating compassion for a In this book, Jack Kornfield presents the heart of Buddhist practice as taught by twelve highly respected masters from Southeast Asia. These renowned teachers offer a rich variety of meditation techniques: the practices include traditional instructions for dissolving the solid sense of self, for awakening insight, for realizing Nirvana, and for cultivating compassion for all beings. Jack Kornfield’s first three chapters give an overview of Buddhist philosophy and, specifically, the meditation practices of Burma, Thailand, and Laos. The teachings in this volume are from Achaan Chaa, Mahasi Sayadaw, Sunlun Sayadaw, Achaan Buddhadasa, Achaan Naeb, Achaan Maha Boowa, Tuangpulu Sayadaw, Mohnyin Sayadaw, Mogok Sayadaw, U Ba Khin, Achaan Dhammadaro, and Achaan Jumnien.


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In this book, Jack Kornfield presents the heart of Buddhist practice as taught by twelve highly respected masters from Southeast Asia. These renowned teachers offer a rich variety of meditation techniques: the practices include traditional instructions for dissolving the solid sense of self, for awakening insight, for realizing Nirvana, and for cultivating compassion for a In this book, Jack Kornfield presents the heart of Buddhist practice as taught by twelve highly respected masters from Southeast Asia. These renowned teachers offer a rich variety of meditation techniques: the practices include traditional instructions for dissolving the solid sense of self, for awakening insight, for realizing Nirvana, and for cultivating compassion for all beings. Jack Kornfield’s first three chapters give an overview of Buddhist philosophy and, specifically, the meditation practices of Burma, Thailand, and Laos. The teachings in this volume are from Achaan Chaa, Mahasi Sayadaw, Sunlun Sayadaw, Achaan Buddhadasa, Achaan Naeb, Achaan Maha Boowa, Tuangpulu Sayadaw, Mohnyin Sayadaw, Mogok Sayadaw, U Ba Khin, Achaan Dhammadaro, and Achaan Jumnien.

30 review for Living Dharma: Teachings and Meditation Instructions from Twelve Theravada Masters

  1. 5 out of 5

    Craig Shoemake

    First published in 1983 under the unfortunate title Living Buddhist Masters, the law of impermanence inevitably asserted itself and the masters died. The title was then of necessity changed to something more "permanent." (I'm sorry, I can never miss the grim, yet oddly appropriate humor that applies here!) Titular changes notwithstanding, the book is still in print, and deservedly so-it should be on every Buddhist practitioner's list of "must read" books. Why this is so becomes abundantly clear First published in 1983 under the unfortunate title Living Buddhist Masters, the law of impermanence inevitably asserted itself and the masters died. The title was then of necessity changed to something more "permanent." (I'm sorry, I can never miss the grim, yet oddly appropriate humor that applies here!) Titular changes notwithstanding, the book is still in print, and deservedly so-it should be on every Buddhist practitioner's list of "must read" books. Why this is so becomes abundantly clear upon glancing at the table of contents. What Jack Kornfield has done is allow the Dharma (or, more correctly, "Dhamma") experts to speak for themselves. His contribution has merely been to supply an introduction on the Theravadan Buddhist meditation tradition and then brief bios of the individual teachers. The chapters therefore consist almost entirely of essays or talks from the featured "masters." The result is a rich, diverse cornucopia of insights, attitudes, practical instructions and advice matched by few other books in the field. While Kornfield's contribution is relatively small, it is not insignificant. Chapter one, "Essential Buddhism," covers basic elements of meditation practice-the meditation setting, the three trainings of morality, concentration and insight, the role of mindfulness, an interesting blurb on differing opinions concerning "goals/no goals" in practice, the factors of enlightenment and another interesting blurb on why anyone should even bother reading dharma books. Chapter two is more specific, looking at these topics as they apply in the traditions of southeast Asian Buddhism (i.e. Thai and Burmese). Chapter three is a gem-all of half a page, and that mostly empty space. Kornfield writes: "I have reserved a whole chapter to make a simple statement. The entire teaching of Buddhism can be summed up in this way: Nothing is worth holding on to" (p. 31). I think everyone should stand up at this point and applaud, because I've yet to come across a more condensed, accurate and well put statement of what the Buddha taught than this. In other words, if you learn this much-really learn it-you've done what had to be done and there is nothing more of this to come. But, thankfully, there is more to the book! The profiled teachers include such famous sorts as Achaan Chaa, Mahasi Sayadaw, Sunlun Sayadaw, Achaan Buddhadasa, Achaan Maha Boowa, and U Ba Khin, as well as lesser known teachers like Achaans Jumnien and Dhammadaro, Mogok Sayadaw and Taugpulu Sayadaw. Notably absent are Webu Sayadaw-a reputed arhant bikkhu-Dipa Ma and Goenka. It would have been nice if when the book was reissued chapters on these people had been added, but I guess you can't have everything. My personal favorite chapters are those on Chaa, Sunlun, Mahasi and Jumnien. Certain tensions in teaching and practice emerge from these profiles. There are those who clearly emphasize practice over theory (Chaa, Sunlun, Boowa, and Jumnien, for example), theory as preliminary to practice (e.g. Mogok and Mohnyin) and those that seem somewhere in between (e.g. Mahasi). Then there is (as noted by Kornfield in his introduction) the tension between a goal directed practice, or a more natural, goal-less "way of living." Respective represenatives of these contrasting approaches would be Sunlun and Chaa. Some teachers work within the contexts of monasteries, others meditation centers. The impression one comes away with is that there is something here for everyone, no matter their calling in life (monk vs. lay), their personality type (intellectual vs. practical), or their particular needs (long-term living vs. short-term, intensive retreats). Most importantly, it becomes clear that the Buddha's teaching, both as it exists now and as it certainly was in the founder's day, is not so much an ideology as a highly sophisticated technology one uses to cultivate and master the mind. In other words, the Dhamma is something one does as opposed to believes.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tarasova

    lifechanging

  3. 4 out of 5

    Juergen

    Great overview of a panoply of 20th century Buddhist teachers/masters. Mostly from Burma and Thailand, the teachings are reflective of the Theravadan philosophies and methodologies. There is much to be gleaned and understood here. I found the chapters on/by Mahasi Sayadaw, Achaan Naeb, Mogok Sayadaw and Achaan Dhammadaro particularly instructive and of great merit. The sole complaint I have is that most of these wonderful teachers are no longer alive, so the title and part of the content, which d Great overview of a panoply of 20th century Buddhist teachers/masters. Mostly from Burma and Thailand, the teachings are reflective of the Theravadan philosophies and methodologies. There is much to be gleaned and understood here. I found the chapters on/by Mahasi Sayadaw, Achaan Naeb, Mogok Sayadaw and Achaan Dhammadaro particularly instructive and of great merit. The sole complaint I have is that most of these wonderful teachers are no longer alive, so the title and part of the content, which describes the teachers' respective temples or centers, is quite outdated.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    This was an interesting book, a much more serious, stricter, and in some ways harsher Buddhism than what you typically hear about in the US. But I read thru the whole thing b/c it was cool to hear about these really intense monks and the life that they live. However, I think there are likely limitations to the applicability of the practice of a monk who lives in a forest, eats once a day, sleeps 4 hours a night, and meditates for hours on end...not really anything like my life. All in all, some This was an interesting book, a much more serious, stricter, and in some ways harsher Buddhism than what you typically hear about in the US. But I read thru the whole thing b/c it was cool to hear about these really intense monks and the life that they live. However, I think there are likely limitations to the applicability of the practice of a monk who lives in a forest, eats once a day, sleeps 4 hours a night, and meditates for hours on end...not really anything like my life. All in all, some good pointers though.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Alison Ruth

    This book is not a light read. It's so densely packed with wisdom that you might have to re-read the same paragraph innumerable times. The book has many insights and if you pick it up and read it in intervals throughout your life you'll find new things to relate to and learn from. I really appreciate that this book does not read like a self-help book on meditation instead it is a non-dumbed down, intense and in-depth look at the art of meditation. This book is not a light read. It's so densely packed with wisdom that you might have to re-read the same paragraph innumerable times. The book has many insights and if you pick it up and read it in intervals throughout your life you'll find new things to relate to and learn from. I really appreciate that this book does not read like a self-help book on meditation instead it is a non-dumbed down, intense and in-depth look at the art of meditation.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Phillip Moffitt

    This book contains the stories of 12 highly respected Southeast Asian meditation masters of the last century and how they taught meditation. It reveals wide differences among these teachers as to what they emphasized. Somewhere in all these teachings you’ll find something that matches your meditation experience. Some of the teachers Kornfield writes about are Mahasi Sayadaw, Ajahn Buddhadasa, and Ajhan Chah.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mikaela Myers

    it was really neat to begin reading this before Thailand & continue reading while in Thailand.. I learned so much!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Vadim

    Автор много лет путешествовал по Азии, практиковал медитацию и встречался с выдающимися мастерами, достигшими просветленности ума. В книге представлены лекции и ответы на вопросы, в которых описываются различные виды медитативных практик.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    Great to learn the foundations of Theravada Buddhism

  10. 4 out of 5

    Shinta

    There are many methods of insight meditation as well as samatha (concentration) meditation. Many teachers who can show you the way(s). Sometimes the teachers may 'trick' you by saying that his/her method is the quickest way to reach liberation, so that you may put sincere effort right here right now. I think it's plausible that you may meet different teachers according to your need and progress of that moment. There are many methods of insight meditation as well as samatha (concentration) meditation. Many teachers who can show you the way(s). Sometimes the teachers may 'trick' you by saying that his/her method is the quickest way to reach liberation, so that you may put sincere effort right here right now. I think it's plausible that you may meet different teachers according to your need and progress of that moment.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Matt Hiebert

    I've read about half of Kornfield's books and this is my favorite, largely because it an unstructured, straight-forward commentary on meditation by people of the forest tradition who have very divergent approaches. I've read about half of Kornfield's books and this is my favorite, largely because it an unstructured, straight-forward commentary on meditation by people of the forest tradition who have very divergent approaches.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Cherie

    Although Kornfield is technically the author, this book is a lot more dense than his usual books. He features lectures and interviews from 12 dharma maters; good tips, but not the usual Kornfield, if you were expecting that.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Oh Teik

    A most beneficial book for meditators. Clear accounts of the various Buddhist meditation techniques as taught by great Buddhist Meditation Teachers in S.E. Asia.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Yixuan

    Reliable information, wide range of traditions, a little bit outdated.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Alexis

    Excellent book, with a particularly helpful chapter on mindfulness in everyday life. A lot of different concepts were explained clearly with good examples or metaphors.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

  17. 4 out of 5

    Marie

  18. 5 out of 5

    Chuck

  19. 5 out of 5

    Robert E

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ahmed Logan

  21. 4 out of 5

    Byron

  22. 5 out of 5

    David

  23. 4 out of 5

    Gordon Maybury

  24. 4 out of 5

    John Wall

  25. 5 out of 5

    David Schiffer

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nika

  27. 4 out of 5

    John

  28. 4 out of 5

    Alexander M.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Gonçalo Menezes

  30. 5 out of 5

    Edward-Yemil Rosario

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