- Paperback: 170 pages
- Publisher: Parallax Press; First Edition edition (August 1, 1990)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0938077341
- ISBN-13: 978-0938077343
- Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.4 x 0.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,838,261 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Transformation and Healing: Sutra on the Four Establishments of Mindfulness Paperback – August 1, 1990
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Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Vietnamese
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Top Customer Reviews
This Sutra is on a par with the Diamond Sutra and Heart Sutra, in terms of it's profundity and importance for learning how to follow Buddhism. Thich Nhat Hahn lays this book out in such a way that it is easy to follow, easy to read, and helps you not to be overwhelmed with the vast amount of information and instruction this Sutra discusses.
This is a fine basic introduction to the central issue in Vapassana meditation. Highly recommended.
In this text, as in others, the sutta in its entirety is presented in the Therevada translation. He then follows this with a section by section explanation of what the sutta means and how to apply it. The last sections of the book include other translations of the sutta, which are quite interesting because you see how these translations change sometimes the meaning of the sutta.
This book is very helpful for beginning meditators as well because it gives you the basics of breathing and how to use your breathing for meditation and contemplation. Once you master one step, the sutta provides you with the next step to take. I am so happy I have found this and the other books by Thich Nhat Hanh. My life is already the better for it.
The first section on mindfulness of the body for example, contains some pretty unfounded characterizations of "some practitioners and commentators" which "attach too much importance to the realization of states of concentration of the four form jhanas" (p42). Nhat Hanh quickly goes on to dismiss practitioners of jhana (a large portion of most Theravada Buddhism) because in his words "he [the Buddha] rejected them [jhanas] as not leading to liberation from suffering. These states of concentration probably found their back into the sutras around two hundred years after the Buddha passed into mahaparanirvana" (p44). This statement is baffling, all of the suttas/sutras are full of references to the jhanas, the mahaparinibbana sutta, which recounts the final nirvana of the Buddha, has the Buddha using the jhanas just before entering final nirvana ("And the Blessed One entered the first jhana. Rising from the first jhana, he entered the second jhana...etc etc - Digha Nikaya 16). Not only that, but Nhat Hanh seemingly ignores the fact that the very sections he later quotes which note that the meditator should be mindful on feelings of joy and happiness (piti and sukha) indicate that jhana is present, as both of these are jhanic factors commonly used in the formula for jhanic attainments. If Nhat Hanh has some serious textual evidence backing up this claim that the Buddha rejected jhana, I surely would like to see it, otherwise it is a seriously radical statement with nothing behind it. It only serves to alienate any practitioners who take jhana seriously.
Nhat Hanh also seemingly ignores some aspects of Satipatthana meditation completely. On the section for the "Impure, un-attractive" (asubha) meditations for example, he omits the fact that this type of meditation is supposed to focus on the unattractive nature of parts of the body (to develop un-attachment), and just says we should be mindful of various parts of the body "to be in contact with the body" and to "notice its true nature" which apparently means that "Every hair on your head...contains the entire universe"(53). This is a nice sentiment, but surely not what we are supposed to be doing while recollecting blood, pus, bile, excrement, etc.
The latter parts of this textual commentary or guide is also not very helpful. The section on the five hindrances for example, seems to only focus on a few emotions and ignores others (Nhat Hanh does not give an overview of how we are to deal with the hindrance of sloth-torpor for example). The section on the seven factors of awakening only mentions joy and all the other factors are not so much as enumerated, much less properly defined or dealt with. Thus, the practitioner reading this book has the translated text in the front of the book, but not much (much needed) explication about what to do in regards to these sections of the sutra. My final gripe is that the section on the four noble truths, which is the last contemplation of the dhamma/dharma contemplations is also not dealt with here.
All in all this book is incomplete, it "guides the reader to an understanding of the fundamental basis" of only a part of satipatthana practice, not the whole thing. I therefore recommend Venerable Analayo's masterful "Satipatthana: The direct path to realization" for a full and scholarly overview of all the complex issues and nuances of language of satipatthana practice. If you're really interested in learning about this ancient meditation text, you will do the work required and not settle for less.