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Mindfulness in Plain English: Revised and Expanded Edition Paperback – November 1, 1996

4.7 out of 5 stars 128 customer reviews

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Paperback, November 1, 1996
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About the Author

Bhante Henepola Gunaratana is the author of the best-selling Mindfulness in Plain English, which has sold more than 50,000 copies. He was ordained at the age of 12 as a Buddhist monk in Sri Lanka, earned his Ph.D. in philosophy from The American University, and has led meditation retreats, taught Buddhism, and lectured widely throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and Australia. He lives in High View, West Virginia. Bhante Henepola Gunaratana is the president of the Bhavana Society in West Virginia and the author of the bestseller Mindfulness in Plain English --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Wisdom Publications; Revised & enlarged edition (November 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0861713214
  • ISBN-13: 978-0861713219
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (128 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #105,158 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on January 3, 2004
Format: Paperback
I am a rationalist. I am not a mystic. I do not believe in chakras, yogic flying, psychic visions or tantric orgasm. I have a western scientific mind, and a very short patience for BS.
I loved this book.
Mindfulness in Plain English is a meditation manual that's been brutally stripped of superstitious hokus pokus. It's focused, straight-forward, practical, yet profound. It says what it means and it means what it says. And if you practice, really practice, you'll find the techniques it describes can honestly change your entire outlook on life in a frighteningly short period of time.
If you're a skeptic, and you're interested in meditation as a psychological exercise rather than a mystical mystery, you'll do well with this book. If you need your chakras petted, look at any of its 10,000,000 lesser competitors in your local flaky pseudo-eastern bookshop.
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Nothing I've read comes close to "Mindfulness in Plain English." Besides explaining how to meditate, and why to meditate, Gunaratana lays out a lot of the underlying fundamentals of Buddhist thought. He provides by far the best description of nirvana(nibbana) that I've ever seen. Read this description, and you'll feel you understand the concept for the first time.

He explains a variety of ways to meditate, details the kinds of problems you'll confront, and offers a variety of methods to deal with those problems. Instead of telling you "the" way to meditate, he helps you find your way to meditate.

That's why this book is one you'll use, rather than just read. It's not like all those other trophy books we read once and then leave out for display, for ourselves or others.

His writing style reminds me of the Dalai Lama's; it is eloquent, yet to the point. It's profound, yet practical. His writing is grounded in your immediate experience. It is not abstract, esoteric or grandly philosophical.

I can't agree with the notion that this is a fast read. This isn't because it's a difficult read. There is a lot to absorb in a few pages. I found myself wanting to reread many chapters, just so I could articulate it myself. It is a very thought-full book.
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Format: Paperback
One third of what you will learn about meditation will come from your teachers and your fellow class and retreat meditators; one third from yourself on your own patient journey - and one third from a good book. That book will sometimes seem the least important third, sometimes the most important part. Having read a shelf full, I find, Mindfulness in Plain English, to be the best available how to meditate guide - it is well written, clear, graceful and it covers all the issues tackled elsewhere.
But it leaves out much advice that would have made it much better. 90% of those starting a meditation class drop out - meditation teachers such as Gunaratana rarely seek to find out why and so the small things that get in the way of even the most determined intentions. A good meditation book must tackle them - and Gunaratana like every writer does so only partially.
Here is a list of a few of things that could be added.
A beginner requires equipment to handle the 20, 30 or 40 minute duration of their meditation -- for example, a timer used in cooking (under something to dim its unpleasant alarm sound), or a CD burnt with silent tracks that end with one of bells. After a few months, time can be estimated by looking at a watch but in the initial days such checking just adds an additional and an unnecessary burden.
Ear plugs (motor cyclist shops and internet sites are a good source), or ear muffs (internet sites again check for Bilsom or Peltor brands) might be an idea. Again after a few months, distracting sounds of kids, power tools, TVs in other rooms etc are not a problem, and can even add to the practice, but in the initial stages they add that extra difficulty.
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Okay, I only gave this 4 stars because there were parts of it where I'd have much appreciated even more information and explanation.

That said, I will admit that some of those parts dealt with processes that are hard to explain adequately in a book. But I still sat there at times thinking, "what? how, precisely, do I do that?" For example, in the section on dealing with problems that crop up during meditation, the author advises the reader to deal with physical pain by relaxing tensed muscles one by one, doing so very thoroughly. Now, that may sound simple to you. Perhaps I'm a dolt. I dunno. But I haven't a clue how to relax each muscle one at a time. I'm constantly amazed to find I have muscles where previously I thought I had none. ;-) I'm supposed to accomplish this muscle relaxation strictly through thought processes? Okay, I believe that's possible, but what do I do? Ack. Right after that, the author advises the reader to continue by going after the mental resistance next.

Now, to be fair, the author admits there are no human words to precisely explain this process. And I feel in my gut that he's right, but I'm disgustingly literal and really require precision in explanation in order to think I can get my head around something new and challenging.

Have I turned you off? If so, let me now say that I LOVE this book. I've never read anything that so clearly was written to help someone understand how to meditate for insight. The writer takes great care to explain the process as much as he is able to. The stuff that he doesn't explain--well, it's just not enough of a factor to make me dislike this book.
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