Customer Reviews: The Art of Living: Vipassana Meditation
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on August 26, 2005
This book and the accompanying 10 day course changed my entire life. This happened because my mind actually transformed, completely reinvented itself into a rational, sensible self. I too was a hard sell- a highly educated, argumentative, self-centered business person- and have in no way given up my worldly life because of the program. I have cleaned out my mind of the negativities, so now I can continue to pursue excellence and success with a clean, positive, and radiant mind instead on an insecure, unsure, angry, and frightened mind. Every person in my life has appreciated the change, and not once have I tried to sell this technique to anyone else. It is too special. However, whenever people ask me about how I am able to live my life with the level of clarity, lack of fear, and boundless dreams and goals that I do, I love to share with them my secret, so they too can learn the amazing Vipassana. I am in no way a master, and I know I will need to study for a lifetime to make small steps. However, I will be eternally grateful for the changes I have already seen.
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on October 31, 1999
If you're looking for a book on "how to meditate" you should look elsewhere. This book is not about Vipassana meditation technique, it's more about the philosophy that underlies it. So the title may mislead, depending on what you're looking for. However, having said that I found the discussions that are contained in the book to be extremely good and very useful from the point of view of Vipassana as an approach to life in general. So if you think of LIFE as an extended meditation, then perhaps the book really is about Vipassana meditation. Anyway, as long as you're not expecting a book on meditation technique, I highly recommend this one. Good stuff.
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on January 27, 2006
"The Art of Living" is an excellent introduction to Vipassana meditation. Prepared by William Hart and based on the lectures and writings of S. N. Goenka in the tradition of Sayagyi U Ba Khin, it could easily be considered the textbook for Mr. Goenka's world-famous Vipassana courses.

Although Vipassana is primarily experiential, I consider the intellectual framework provided in this book as key to fully accepting the positive impact of the technique. As the saying goes, success happens when preparation meets opportunity. Here, in my opinion, are two key passages from the book:

"Every thought, every emotion, every mental action is accompanied by a corresponding sensation within the body. Therefore, by observing our physical sensations, we also observe our mind."

"We observe the sensation without reacting, neither liking it nor disliking it. It has no chance to develop into craving or aversion, into powerful emotion that can overwhelm us; it simply arises and passes away. The mind remains balanced and peaceful. We are happy now and we can anticipate happiness in the future, because we have not reacted."

You can access your mind through your body. By viewing and dissolving areas of blocked consciousness in our body we systematically de-condition our mind. The result is increased clarity, happiness, certainty and true self-expression. In a world not overly abundant in these qualities that's an excellent contribution to make. I have completed two 10-Day Vipassana courses as taught by Mr. Goenka and they were the most positive transforming experiences I've ever been a part of.

In The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, Eckhart Tolle says that we can use our inner body as an anchor to the Now. I agree. The menu, however, is not the meal. If you really want to anchor yourself to the "now" I recommend "The Art of Living" and the 10-Day Vipassana course it points to.
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VINE VOICEon March 3, 2004
S.N. Goenka was a businessman who suffered from migraine headaches. He turned to meditation as taught by the Buddhist community in Burma. He relieved his symptoms and embarked on the journey to share the successful technique of Vipassana meditation with others. What a magnaninous gift! Basically, this book, written by one of his students, teaches one how to be "aware" and track the thoughts which arise and ultimately are the root cause of one's negative feelings, i.e. suffering. Since all thoughts arise and diminish, it is a matter of *not* forcing or trying to change things as they are ... but instead to *observe*, witness what is truly happening. In and of itself, sounds simple enough ... but anyone who knows what sitting still and quieting the mind is like ... will tell you ... *not* so simple or as easy as it sounds. The book concerns itself with "ultimate reality" which we all share. It concerns itself with the part we play in this world and where our happiness resides ... To quote the Buddha: "If with a pure heart you speak or act, then happiness follows you as a shadow that never departs." [p. 37, Harper SanFrancisco, c. 1987]
William Hart the author covers basic Buddhist concepts of the cause of suffering, training of moral conduct, right behavior, training of concentration, training of wisdom, training of equanimity, right thought, right understanding, eradicating old conditioning, and penetrating ultimate truth ... He does a superb job of clearly articulating basic principles of the Buddhist viewpoint. He provides techniques for developing awareness and thereby more happiness in one's life. In conclusion, another quote from the Budda (who said it best) ..."When faced with all the ups and downs of life, still the mind remains unshaken, not lamenting, not generating defilements, always feeling secure, that is the greatest happiness". [p. 125, Harper San Francisco, c. 1987 from Sutta Nipata II. Maha-Magala Sutta] This book is highly recommended for anyone seeking a technique to enrich one's life. Erika Borsos {erikab93}
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on May 25, 2004
The author says you should learn meditation only at a Vipassana Center so why buy this book? My understanding was that if we take swimming as an analogy, learning swimming by reading a book might not be a great idea for one who is not familiar with it; and this I felt was what the author meant by emphasizing that its not a Learn To Do It Yourself book.
However the book does give an idea that swimming is a very real possiblity. That it is possible for a man to learn to stay afloat, even in a churning sea with waves throwing him up or pushing him down all the time.
The course itself helped me begin to understand and accept who I really am, not who I appear to be. The book is also useful as a reference guide after taking the course, one that can be reread occasionally to always find some or the other new point every time.
Placing the book under Buddhism is slightly misleading I think; the book and the technique is about Dharma, the foundation of any religion. If we compare it to computer software, Dharma is like the 1s and 0s; while any religion is like a device driver or application software built over the fundamental concepts. I happen to be a Hindu, and can attest that I'm still a Hindu, though I feel I'm a better Hindu then what I used to be. At the same time, Im able to more honestly make an attempt to see the point of view of other religions. In other words, my religion no longer divides me from the rest of humanity.

Sanjay Mysoremutt
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on September 19, 1997

For those new to Buddhism, this slim volume is the best concise, non-sectarian, comprehensive introduction I've found in twenty years.
Answers the "basic" questions about such topics as: morality, training the mind in concentration, "what causes unhappiness?", "what is Mindfulness meditation?", "how can it help me?". No history or cultural baggage, just the fundamentals.

- I literally buy this book in volume quantities several times a year so I can give it away to people who are curious about Buddhism!

(For more detailed info on meditation theory and instruction, I highly recommend "Mindfulness in Plain English" by Venerable Henepola Gunaratana).
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on September 17, 2007
Except for the author, I bet I've read and reread The Art of Living more than anyone else alive. Here's why:

Before learning the meditation technique taught by the Indian-Burmese meditation master S. N. Goenka, I'd practiced in other traditions for more than 15 years and completed many long meditation retreats. I only attended a Goenka course because the 10-day retreat was offered for free and I'm a frugal sort of guy. But half way through the first course, I was wowed by this meditation method: my body and mind spontaneously dissolved into energy and then "disappeared," my heart opened, and I felt more peaceful and happier than I had in a long time. Here was truly a better way to meditate! Soon after leaving that course, I was determined to figure out why it works so well, and spent most of the next three years writing and researching a book, which Tuttle published as Beyond the Breath: Extraordinary Mindfulness Through Whole-Body Vipassana Meditation (more on it at the end).

So back to The Art of Living; to talk about this book, you really need to talk about Goenka's 10-day course. But first note that it's a little misleading to call it a "Goenka course" since Goenka didn't invent this type of meditation. He learned it in Burma, where it is believed that over the millennia Burmese monks and meditation teachers have preserved the exact method the Buddha himself used.

Spread almost solely through word of mouth, Goenka's courses have spread across the globe. According to the independent Buddhist magazine Buddhadharma, each year an estimated 100,000 people take a Goenka course. This means he has probably taught more people Buddhist meditation than anyone in history--including the Buddha himself! (Admittedly, this comparison is a bit silly since the Buddha wasn't able to offer retreats via audio and videotape.)

It's worth noting, that although a layman, Mr. Goenka, who is independently wealthy, has never made any money from teaching Buddhism. As already noted, his famous ten-day meditation courses are offered for free. After finishing a course, students may give a donation (to the nonprofit foundation that takes care of the expenses of running a meditation center), but contributions are totally voluntary and there is never any pressure to give.

Goenkaji, as his students call him, has a beautiful voice, a delightful accent, a grandfatherly warmth, and a terrific sense of humor. These qualities work well to balance his passion and seriousness of purpose. During a course, he gives a clear and accessible framework for understanding Buddhism and how to do this type of meditation. Through collaboration with the assistant teacher Bill Hart, The Art of Living faithfully presents Goenka's teachings from his 10-day course--minus the meditation instructions and, naturally, the sound of his lyrical voice.

The book's strength's are those of Mr. Goenka's: clarity and accessibility. Most of his explanations are illustrated with a traditional Buddhist parable or with a story from his extensive teaching experiences. The book's weakness is that Mr. Goenka's charisma is diminished in print. Like any great teacher or storyteller, the book can't recreate his uncanny sense of timing and his animated voices. Perhaps this weakness isn't apparent to those who read the book before taking a course (I took a course before reading the book). Calling this a "weakness," though, is not to dis' The Art of Living, which is a valuable resource in its own right. It is helpful to have Mr. Goenka's presentation written down and the book includes some Q & A not presented during a course (Mr. Goenka, who was born in 1924, and is now in poor health has retired from active teaching).

The Art of Living is generally read by two types: someone who has recently finished a ten-day Goenka retreat or by someone considering taking a course. For the first group or "old students", the book is a great refresher and offers details you may have missed on the video or audio tape. For the total newcomer, the book will give you a sense of what to expect at a course, but it may diminish the impact hearing Goenka "live." Since I took my first course before reading the book and had a powerful experience, that's what I'd recommend. But if you haven't decided to definitely take a course, then by all means read the book first. The important thing is to get yourself to a course (yes, I know 10-days is a long time-except if you try to remember what you did over the last week and a half and it seems to have gone by in a flash).

Now here comes the immodest part (though, honest-promise!), since I'm recommending the book I wrote: Beyond the Breath (Tuttle Publishing). While the book stands on it's own, in many ways it complements The Art of Living. To help explain why this meditation method works so well, Beyond the Breath is much more apt to refer to scientific research than a traditional parable. For instance, Beyond the Breath explains why Goenka and the Buddha's advice to live a moral life makes so much sense based on what we now know about evolutionary psychology; it also explains an essential aspect of Buddhist practice on an easily understood biochemical basis. So while The Art of Living offers wonderful stories and great homespun analogies that make good common sense, Beyond the Breath, will be especially helpful for those who want to know WHY this method (and Buddhist practice in general) works so well. Such insight isn't just an intellectual exercise; greater understanding leads to greater confidence in actually doing the practice. I'm confident anyone who's taken or considering a Goenka course, or just interested in meditation or Buddhism will find it valuable.

But whether or not you read either book, again, I encourage you to take a course. To check out more about Goenka's courses: [...]
Beyond the Breath: Extraordinary Mindfulness Through Whole-Body Vipassana Meditation
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on February 18, 1998
This meditation can free you from migraine, as the teacher S.N. Goenka's own experience proves the happiness one may benefit from the meditation practise. It encourages you to attend a practical 10 day course which is well organised and charges no amount from the student. A spirit motivated by conviction in dhamma and an international academy in bombay establishes itself to be a professional body in offering courses in vipassana and dhamma. If one visits the main centre in bombay, one can meet the principal teacher S.N. Goenka and see that his work is really commentable. One can sense his compassion and sincerity in his efforts to help people, and you can feel immeasurable happiness in seeing how he helps immates , prisoners who suffers so much mental agony by introducing meditation and how they are transformed after the noble dhamma is taught and practised. They return to society to become good people The art of living mindfully, by focusing on one's breathing and comtemplation of feeling are just some of the foundation of mindfulness so much exphasized in ancient buddhist texts. It is not a book written to just impress the general reader of any of its organised theory, but one of direct experience and aim at to encourage practical aspects of meditation. This book has no sectarism and it brings you to realise the nature of your own physical and mental structure, by observing ones bodily sensations. It is said that one can understand the emotional aspects of human and attain wisdom and compassion when one penetrates the true nature of ones aggregates, through mindful introspection . For example, a meditator contemplating of the sensations of his body experiences pain, happy and neutral sensations. In understanding this, he realises all beings by nature experience this and would not cause pain to any beings, such as pouring hot water to a rat or beating animals, hurting people etc. Finally, in the world of today, this book introduces one to its courses which teaches the practise of loving kindness meditation, such more in need of demand in midst of the samsaric conditionings of the world such as war, poverity and disaster, may all beings practise insight meditation and reach to true happiness, true liberation. May you read this book and attend a 10 days course taught by s.n. goenka or his assistants and derive benefit. Your in the truth Asoka lai hoe peng singapore feb 1998
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on December 19, 2012
This book is an excellent resource for those who have taken, or for those who are considering taking, a Vipassana course as taught by S. N. Goenka. Writing and reading are not permitted when you "sit" the meditation courses and so having some of the teachings, techniques and stories written down is beneficial. The author, William Hart, is obviously a masterful practitioner of this Vipassana practice and his writings follow closely what is presented during the courses.

If you are not a student and/or practitioner of this Vipassana practice, or don't plan to be, this book is not likely to be of specific benefit to you. The information in this book is not unique and much of the general content can be found in other books on mediation and Dharma, and if you have never read anything on meditation or never practiced, perhaps this in not the place to start.

May all beings be happy!
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on July 4, 2011
I actually read this book after taking the 10 day course. I was first introduced to this technique through the 10 day discourses on a CD that a monk gave to me; they are available to purchase online in mp3 format as well. The technique is incredibly practical, logical and showed immediate results in my daily life.

Where does this book come in? It explains a lot about the fundamentals of the technique, the reasons behind some of the peculiarities that make it different than many others, the difficulties one may encounter and what to do about them. I found the Q&A sections in the book to be wonderful; full of many questions I myself had, or that many people had asked me.

I found that this book made a strong case for logically explaining the reasoning behind this form of Vipassana and it's goal of destroying the negative habit patterns of the mind and ultimately reaching liberation from suffering (nirvana).

Nothing compares to taking a 10 Vipassana course at one of the hundreds of centers around the world and learning the technique first hand. I practiced on my own for hours daily for months before I took the course, but by taking the course I had progressed perhaps twice as much as those several months in just the first day of being there.

No amount of reading will ever give you the experiential knowledge required for eradicating the habit patterns of the mind which is what will really change one's life for the better. Reading is good for inspiration to practice, and hopefully this book will do that for one who hasn't taken the course, and if they have already taken a course, I know for myself, it can clear up several importation questions or confusions.

This book is not a 'How To' (which is what the course is [necessary] for), but rather an exposition of theory and explanations about the technique. It also goes over the core principles in Buddha's teachings, the Four Noble Truths, The Noble Eight Fold Path, Anapana-sati, Kayagata-sati, and Vipassana-Bhavana as well as some other key issues.
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