- Paperback: 512 pages
- Publisher: Atria Books (January 3, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1501156985
- ISBN-13: 978-1501156984
- Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 1.2 x 9.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 295 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,144 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Mind Illuminated: A Complete Meditation Guide Integrating Buddhist Wisdom and Brain Science for Greater Mindfulness Paperback – January 3, 2017
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“A systematic, hands-on manual, The Mind Illuminated will be a great help to anyone who wants to completely fathom the process of meditative development in all its stages. Culadasa gives us the full conceptual framework together with complete instructions for putting it into play. In largely Western language,with help from wonderful images and diagrams, this book brings the path of meditation to life.” (Sharon Salzberg, author, Real Happiness)
“[Culadasa] takes me through the science of the practice straight to the adventure of sitting, and offers context through sustainable, practical applications and tools. This book is full of wisdom, story, and creativity, and I'll be glad to have it as a reference for many years to come.” (Elena Brower, author, Art of Attention)
“This book is a rare and valuable treasure, providing a detailed, step-by-step account of how meditation practice progresses. Culadasa is the real deal, a living adept with decades of experience.” (Shinzen Young, author, Beginner’s Guide to Meditation)
“Essential reading for anyone interested in meditative development from any tradition. At once comprehensive and also very easy to read and follow in practice, this is the most thorough, straightforward, clear, and practical guide to training the mind that I have ever found. A remarkable achievement.” (Daniel Ingram, M.D., author, Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha)
“In a time where meditation and its twin sister, mindfulness, have become the fads du jour, Culadasa gives us the real deal in this encyclopedic handbook. If you're serious about meditation, The Mind Illuminated should be on your bookshelf.” (Lama Marut, author, A Spiritual Renegade's Guide to the Good Life)
“With wisdom, clarity and grace, Culadasa has written an invaluable manual for awakening. I believe this book will become one of the "Top 10 Must Reads" for anyone on the spiritual path for years to come. Helpful for beginning meditators, and valuable for advanced meditators who are already committed to meditation but have not yet experienced the fruits of consistent practice.” (Stephanie Nash, mindfulness coach and integrative counselor)
“This book does an outstanding job of both constructing a cognitive theory of how the mind works and presenting a detailed handbook for learning and mastering meditation. The result is a beautiful integration of theory and practice, whose parallel strands lead to experientially, and account for conceptually, the radical shift in consciousness we call awakening.” (Richard P. Boyle, author, Realizing Awakened Consciousness)
About the Author
John Yates, PhD (Culadasa) is a meditation master with more than four decades of experience in the Tibetan and Theravadin Buddhist traditions. A former professor, he taught physiology and neuroscience for many years, and later worked in the field of complementary and alternative medicine. He is the author of A Physician’s Guide to Therapeutic Massage, currently in its third edition. He is currently the director of Dharma Treasure Buddhist Sangha in Tucson, AZ.
Matthew Immergut, PhD is an associate professor of sociology. He is a longtime meditator and a dedicated student of Culadasa. He lives in Woodstock, NY.
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I should start out by saying that I'm not a Buddhist, and quite frankly have developed a degree of skepticism and disappointment for all religions of the world. In saying that I'm not an atheist by any means, but really a seeker of the ultimate universal truth. Culadasa (and team) are able to guide the reader through a very thoughtful process of how to understand your own consciousness, where one's actual understanding of truth are compiled. Indeed, I've taken college level classes on neuroscience, and heard more than once that we know where all the components of your mind are located (emotions, memory, anger, happiness, etc.), but consciousness has no actual locus. This book takes you on a journey in the attempt to understand what that means, and ultimately provides one of the best articulations I have ever read on describing the conscious mind.
How can doing something so simple, like paying attention to one thing (i.e. breathing) for an extended period of time be so profound? How can this process cause so much turmoil as your entire belief system is turned upside down? And finally, how does this result in answering some of the deepest questions that have swirled around in your mind from as long as you can remember? As I began a practice of meditation using techniques outlined in the book, there were questions and thoughts that were followed by more questions and thoughts. I was (and still am) amazed at how thoroughly everything is addressed in complete detail. In fact, I went through something quite traumatic that's referred to as "The Dark Night of the Soul". It's ultimately caused when you come to the realization your whole concept of self is something fabricated in the mind. I went through a crisis of sorts, as the ego tried to hang onto its tenuous moorings in consensus reality. In letting go of the ego so to speak, and beginning the process of unifying the many components of the mind into one cohesive process has brought about an inner peace with clarity and focus like I've never had before. I'm convinced that this is just the beginning of something more profound as the journey unfolds.
I originally had just the Kindle version, but now went out and bought a hard copy for my coffee table in the meditation area. It's a book that gets opened just about every day. As mentioned, I'm now almost finished with the second cover-to-cover reading. I've actually created a document to outline the key points of the book. There are a number of lists, levels, and other important points that really need to be committed to memory. The book is organized using side notes, diagrams, and key points in offsets. It's suffice to say that the important points, are indeed *important* to remember.
If your looking for a treatise on mindfulness, or life changing guidebook to help you with the quest for truth, then I wholeheartedly recommend the knowledge in this book as the means to get you there.
I happen to be a licensed clinical psychologist who has also practiced meditation for the past couple of decades. I decided to put together a seminar on meditation for people in my area, but I wanted to take a neuropsychological perspective in organizing the materials. Like many people, I am hoping that the perspective emerging from empirical investigation into the brain will offer a trans-theoretical and trans-disciplinary
approach to healing. This book appeared to be in line with my intentions, so I bought it expecting to have an enjoyable entrance into someone else's perspective that would also alert me to studies I might not have already found. While I certainly got a taste of Dr. Yates' perspective, and it is a perspective I very much appreciate, I found very little in the way of neuroscience. In fact, there were only a handful of studies referenced, and the
majority of those were out of date. Oddly, this fact does not detract from my overall positive impression of the work, but I do feel compelled to make a point of it given the way the book was marketed. Both the subtitle and the "reviews" included by the publishers emphasized a scientific angle, and this is simply incorrect. I want to warn potential readers of this because, in what I can only assume was a hasty zeal on the part of the publishers to capitalize on the neuroscience zeitgeist, they have succeeded in potentially undermining the true value of the book.
In my honest opinion, this book is best described as a modern synthesis and partial reinterpretation of the Abhidamma Sutta. As a modern synthesis it certainly owes much of its language and perspective to cognitive science, but not in an academically rigorous sense (the Mind and Life Dialogues between the Dalai Lama and various leading scientists might be a better place to start). It is more an attempt to bring a Theravadan perspective on the wisdom of two thousand plus years of phenomenological investigation by advanced meditators to the English speaking public, and in this it is an astounding success. Culadasa shows himself to be a first rate teacher of meditation who has obviously guided a great number of people through the years. His compassion and experience come through from the initial chapter on just establishing a regular time to practice, to the advanced stages where the reader will find a very fine grained description of common experiences and how to best focus one's energies. As a meditation guide, it is certainly the most thorough and clear book I have ever encountered, and I would venture to say buying this book is a no-brainer for anyone seriously interested in taking up a practice. Certainly for those already inclined towards a buddhist perspective this book comes as close to being complete as any non-living guide could be expected to.
For those not commited to a buddhist world view, and even for those that are but are also willing to encounter some contradictory ideas, I would suggest that interested readers consider, "The Path of Liberation," by Adyashanti, the old gem, "Focusing," by Eugene Gendlin, and Judith Blackstone's several books. The first book will offer an interesting counterpoint to The Mind Illuminated that will help counteract the subtle but pervasive goal-orientedness that often leaks in to the types of practices Culadasa emphasizes. The second book offers an exceptionally useful method for working with feelings and emotions that come up in the middle and later stages of meditation. The third author provides a unique perspective that includes the body, feelings, and relationships in meditation. To Culadasa's credit, he clearly names many problems and offers his own suggestions, such as loving-kindness meditation as an adjunctive practice, but I have found over the years that many people are not best served by attempting to counteract negative emotions with positive ones. Rather than finding equanimity, they seem to more often feel guilty about their genuine experience and bypass the possibility of important psychological insight. They languish in the middle stages of their practice, and most eventually give up, discouraged and feeling like failures. I have found the authors above to be better medicine for people finding themselves awash in emotion and/or struggling with relationships. Of course, the best way to handle these kinds of technical questions that arise in the course of a consistent practice is on a case by case basis. No book or combination of books can replace a trusting relationship with a teacher and a community of supportive others, and again to Culadasa's credit, he is clear that there will be instances where people should consider therapeutic support, but I would suggest that later editions delve into the important issue of emotions and relationships more deeply. The basic stance that negative emotions are simple impedimets that should fade over time or be counteracted seems remarkably simplistic in the 21st century. Also, we are inherently relational creatures in many ways, so the experience of feeling angelic on the cushions only to immediately re-engage in old patterns with family and friends is legion. As Ram Dass quppied many years ago, "if you think you are enlightened, go spend a week with your family." I do not doubt that Culadasa has much useful advice on these questions, but there did not seem to be room in this volume.
Finally, there is the question of post-awakening experience and practice. In this area Culadasa is completely silent. Again, not a crticism as his intent is clearly to support the establishment of a solid practice, but his input would be fascinating. Theravadan Buddhism in particular has a clearly articulated map of awakening, so discussion among advanced practitioners and teachers would be tremendously useful in continuing the project of forging a modern and clear language regarding how and why to practice meditation. I hope we will hear more from him in the future on these questions.
I hope these reflections will be of some value to people looking for guidance on meditation, especially those without teachers who are encountering obstacles. I pray you find your way.