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Understanding Our Mind: 50 Verses on Buddhist Psychology Paperback – February 9, 2002

4.7 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Thich Nhat Hanh is one of the most revered Zen teachers in the world today. His best-selling books include Happiness and Peace Is Every Step. He lives in Plum Village in southwest France, where he teaches the art of mindful living.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

The present moment contains the past and the future.

The secret of transformation at the base lies in our handling of this very moment --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Parallax Press; Reprint edition (February 9, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1888375302
  • ISBN-13: 978-1888375305
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #203,937 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By S. Svenson on November 7, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While I agree with the other reviewers that the subject matter of this book is complex, my experience has been that upon completion, all the pieces fall into place with incredible grace. In a nutshell, we need to practice nourishing the seeds (content) of our consciousness--and unconsciousness--with mindfulness. Mindfullness is the sunshine that nourishes 'wholesome' seeds and enables the transformation of 'unwholesome' seeds, such as anger, envy and desire into peace, love and compassion. What then is mindfulness? Mindfulness is a continuous practice that includes meditation and an effort to live healthily and happily in the present moment, as opposed to regretfully in the past or fearfully in the non-existent future. Suffering occurs because our mind distorts our perceptions and we mistake perception for reality, arriving at erroneous conclusions about the people, places and events that surround us. Once we realize this and begin to achieve greater levels of mindfulness through practice and meditation, we can begin to transform suffering into joy. So, yes, while some of the ideas in this book are complex (such as the concept of interbeing) its essences is elegant in its simplicity.

Incidentally, my father was a Freudian Psychoanalyst and over the course of my life (45) I have spent many hours with him discussing the role of the unconscious in relation to our everyday impulses and actions. I also went through 5 years of intensive psychoanalysis as a young adult. The conceptual base presented in Understanding Our Mind is not altogether different from Freud's treatment of the unconscious. As the author himself points out, the main difference is that Freud emphasizes examining past events rather than transforming their manifestations as mental formations in the present (p.232). I am just now embarking on the path of practicing mindfulness, yet I have little doubt that it will surpass the results achieved through traditional psychoanalytic therapy.
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Format: Paperback
This was a very unexpected book from a very practical teacher like Thich Nhat Hanh, whose books on mindful living continued to inspire me for the past more than ten years. Why, indeed, would he delve into complexities of one of the most elaborate and, dare I say, abstruse philosophies that Buddhism has produced - Yogacara, or the Mind Only school? Having an undue penchant for philosophical discourse, however, I readily grasped at the book, looking in it for an excuse for my passion for abstractions. And I found so much more than what I was looking for.

The key phrase for this book is given in the introduction: "When we understand how our mind works, the practice becomes easier". I was always fascinated by the way the mind works, especially after having read Schopenhauer's "On the fourfould foundation of the law of sufficient reason" (sorry, that's how terrible it sounds), which first revealed to me to what a great extent that which we consider to be 'objective reality' is actually shaped by our mind. Later on, I became interested in Zen/Chan, which doesn't really emphasize philosophical discourse on surface (although some of the most profound philosophical works have also been produced by Chan masters - for instance, Dongshan Liangjie). In this book by Thich Nhat Hanh, Chan meets philosophy again for me (philosophy in the Kantian sense - not as a metaphysical discourse, but as an investigation of the nature and limits of our perception and knowledge). For me, unfortunately, Zen practice continuously has to be supported by intellectual conviction that it is the right thing to do, or after some time I lose it. For those as unfortunate as I am, this is the right book.
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As noted by another reviewer, this is not an easy book to read and it's not something to be tackled in large segments. Each of the fifty chapters should be closely examined and considered before moving on to the next. Sometimes, in the context of books on Eastern Philosopy, this is a result of translation or editing problems, however, with this book, it is simply a matter of an incredibly complex subject.

If you are curious about your mind and its ability to transform your world, you will really enjoy this book. If you want to understand meditative techniques, this book is an excellent resource as well. If you are contemplating the purchase of your first book on Buddhism, I would suggest another path, perhaps "Turning the Mind into an Ally," by Sakyong Mipham, which is by no means simple, but well-adapted to communicating with the Western Mind. I would also suggest Thich Nhat Hahn's book "The Miracle of Mindfulness," as a good starting point.
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Format: Paperback
I read this book closely last year. It was one of those life-changing encounters with a book, the kind of encounter in which the words and images stay with you, unforgettable, for a long time afterward. Before reading this book, my encounters with Buddhism had been of the Zen variety. I knew nothing about the Manifestation Only school, or about any other schools of Buddhism, in fact. Zen had never particularly been my cup of tea. That is because I had never found any books on Zen that provided me with what I needed. I needed something that really went deeply into the psychology and phenomenology of Buddhist thought. This is that kind of book. This book is deep!

You will never regret the time you spend struggling to understand it. I can honestly tell you that the struggling will pay you back with amazing insights into this life. Inter-Being and Impermanence, No Birth, and No Death: These are truths that cannot be scoffed away by the casual cynic or self-righteous bamboozler. You will NOT come away from this book an enlightened being. But you WILL come away from it like you do when you've looked directly into the sun for a few seconds, and are forced to turn away, overwhelmed by the brightness. This is a book that will change your way of seeing the world, permanently, and for the better, if you let it!
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