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The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving-Kindness Hardcover – March 30, 2010
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“The Wisdom of No Escape offers down-to-earth guidance in cultivating basic sanity and befriending ourselves in the venerable tradition of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche.”—Yoga Journal
“Here’s a woman who embodies her message. She speaks from genuine connection to the source.”—Helen Palmer, author of The Enneagram
About the Author
Pema Chödrön is an American Buddhist nun in the lineage of Chögyam Trungpa. She is resident teacher at Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia, the first Tibetan monastery in North America established for Westerners. She is the author of many books and audiobooks, including the best-selling When Things Fall Apart and Don't Bite the Hook.
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PC's central point is that all of this stuff is about developing genuine compassion/Lovingkindness/Maitri for ourselves, and thereby for the other living beings of our world. Nothing here about floating around under the ceiling, holding your breath for an hour and a half...or finally coming to THE TRUE RELIGION...or THE TRUE BUDDHISM, either. It's about how to live well by incorporating an honest spiritual practice and set of rational beliefs into our life. I would also like to stress the importance of PC being a native English speaker. Sadly many people have a misunderstanding of this tradition because so many of it's early teachers had to rely on literal translations as a result of their not being sufficiently fluent to explain the essentially spiritual concepts that they were trying to put across. Obviously, this commentary is a huge fan letter, and everyone will not come away with the same opinion. Regardless, The Wisdom...is well worth a look..hey, it's really pretty short😇
The fundamental teaching of the Buddha involves the following realizations: 1) Life is suffering; 2) The cause of suffering is selfish desire; 3) To get rid of selfish desire, follow the eightfold path. The essence of the eightfold path is a moral life grounded in a strong loving-kindness practice (A Mahayana emphasis, but true of all schools). This book provides precisely that -- a path of loving-kindness that any person could follow and apply to their life. When asked what religion the Dalai was, he once said... "my religion is loving-kindess." While the Dalai Lama didn't officially endorse the book that I know of, certainly it is written in keeping with this spirit.
This book covers a LOT of ground in short volume of about 108 pages. It looks at the existential situation of not being able to escape our life and the human condition which is characterized by suffering. The Buddha said as his last words, "be a lamp unto yourselves." I believe the intent here was that no super mommy or daddy in the sky is going to come down and save you from the human condition. You must look deeply to see the truth and this will liberate you from samsara or the cycle of suffering. In this book, Pema Chodron describes the Buddha's teachings and more importantly practices to help you to arrive at a place of loving-kindness and equanimity.
What I most like about this book is that she keeps things simple. She also describes Tonglen practice and other forms of meditation and habits of thought that cultivate a mind that is not locked in conditioned thinking. Krishnamurti once said, "seeing the truth deeply is what liberates, not your efforts to be free." A corallary to this might be... yes... but what limits how deeply you can see is your depth of compassion for others, but primarily for yourself. This book is a manual about how to cultivate a loving-kindness that allows you to penetrate the insufficiency of living for things like money, sex, power and status. It is a good read for anyone.
If you are interested in a somewhat different Western perspective or something to contrast these writings with then try A Path with Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life. This book by Jack Kornfield emphasizes an earlier Buddhist tradition namely the Theravada (Way of the Elders). Mahayana Buddhism was an outgrowth of these teachings and Tibetan Buddism (Vajrayana) a further extension and elaboration. Jack Kornfield is a Western psychologist who spent a number of years in Thailand as a Buddhist monk and his perspective is accessible, entertaining, practical and complimentary to this book. If you are looking for a more integrative read that relates to Western Psychology directly try Toward a Psychology of Awakening: Buddhism, Psychotherapy, and the Path of Personal and Spiritual Transformation. This is a more difficult read, but extremely worthwhile. There are other recommendations on my listmania lists of this is your area of interest.