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CompleteMartialArts.com - Breath Sweeps Mind (Tricycle Book)


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Our Price: $34.21
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Manufacturer: Riverhead Trade
Average Customer Rating: Average rating of 4.0/5Average rating of 4.0/5Average rating of 4.0/5Average rating of 4.0/5Average rating of 4.0/5

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Binding: Paperback
Dewey Decimal Number: 294.34435
EAN: 9781573226530
ISBN: 157322653X
Label: Riverhead Trade
Manufacturer: Riverhead Trade
Number Of Items: 1
Number Of Pages: 304
Publication Date: 1998-02-01
Publisher: Riverhead Trade
Studio: Riverhead Trade

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Editorial Reviews:

The reasons why we meditate are, paradoxically, both deeply individual and profoundly universal. This is precisely why the collection of essays in Breath Sweeps Mind is such an effective tool for teaching mediation. Each unique voice, from Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh to American poet Gary Snyder, speaks eloquently from personal experience. Yet the collection hangs together by a golden thread of purpose--helping readers obtain their highest spiritual and human capacities. Breath Sweeps Mind is excellently paced and edited, clearly speaking to the nitty-gritty tools and techniques (such as which clothes to wear and what to do with your tongue and hands) as well as the inherent rewards of meditation.


Spotlight customer reviews:

Customer Rating: Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5
Summary: A good beginning
Comment: This collection of short essays drawn from larger works is about Buddhist meditative practice, and as such it stresses what Buddhists call "insight meditation." There is a wide range of authors presented here, from the Buddha himself via excerpts from various sutras, to thirteenth-century Zen Master Dogen, to Tenzin Gyatso (the Fourteenth Dalai Lama), to American teachers like Jack Kornfield and Charlotte Joko Beck. The idea is to teach the beginning student how to meditate and to get that instruction from a variety of sources in the Buddhist world, Tibetan, Zen, Mahayana, and Hinayana.

The book is divided into three parts, "What Is Meditation?," "Why Meditate?," and "How to Meditate." In Buddhism one meditates primarily to gain insight into the human condition and to learn how to alleviate the dissatisfaction therein (The Four Noble Truths). Therefore, meditation is a technique that leads to liberation. Also, as Tibetan master Sogyal Rinpoche puts it on page 7: "It is a practice that at once transcends the dogma of religions and is the essence of religions."

I think the considerable value of this book lies mainly in Part III, "How to Meditate." What is presented by the various authorities is a meditative practice that stresses a singular focus on the breath. It should be emphasized that, unlike yoga meditation, which I practice, one does not attempt to control the breath in any way in Buddhist meditation. One simply and dispassionately observes its rise and fall, and realizes that the individual is just part of a larger, universal phenomenon. In Buddhist meditation one becomes part of the process and aware of the illusionary nature of the individual ego.

However I think it is somewhat disingenuous to leave out the fact that meditation leads to bliss and to that peaceful state of mind that passeth all understanding. Buddhists however seldom point to this aspect of meditation since the goal is to go beyond the thrall of the pair of opposites, "beyond all attachment and aversion to this life" as the Buddha in the Anapanasati Sutta has it. However, Zen Master Man-an lets slip this truth on page 152: (when one meditates) "Body and mind will spontaneously produce great joyfulness." In yoga this is called "bliss" (ananda). It is interesting to note (and insightful) that in neither tradition--indeed in no tradition that I know of save the left-handed path of tantra--is the word "pleasure" used.

One can get the pure essence of the Buddhist meditative practice by turning to the above-mentioned Anapanasati Sutta (or "The Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing") on page 144, and read and study the Buddha's words. However it helps to have commentary and guidance from other practitioners, which is why this book contains them. A fine example of this guidance can be found in the chapter "Taming a Wild Elephant" by the Venerable Sri Lankan, Henepola Gunaratana.

Here we find an approach more in tune with what is taught in yoga with explanations on why certain techniques are used. For example, Gunaratana explains why there is a singular focus on the breath. In part it serves as a "reference point from which the mind wanders and is drawn back. Distraction cannot be seen as distraction unless there is some central focus to be distracted from." (p. 153) He adds that because the breath can be slowed down or sped up by an act of will as well as left to itself, "there are lessons to be learned here on the nature of will and desire." (p. 155)

Gunaratana likens the process of learning to meditate to taming a wild elephant (from the Pali canon, which reminds me of the ox-herding allegory from Zen in which the ox is one's self that needs taming). Gunaratana notes that the "tamed elephant who emerges from this process is a well-trained, concentrated mind that can then be used for the exceedingly tough job of piercing the layers of illusion that obscure reality." (p. 154)

Ah yes, the dust that obscures the image in the mirror, samsara and the dance of illusion, the muddy lotus pond, etc. But it is true, we are so conditioned by our biological nature, by our socialization, by the constant hum of others and the propaganda of the corporations hawking their wares, that we really cannot see the truth about ourselves and our place in the world. Meditation is a process that lifts this worldly veil, that cleans the mirror, and clears the water in the pond so that the truth can be seen.

Of course this takes time, and of course only the buddhas (tradition has it) have really managed to dispel all illusion and see clear to the bottom of the human condition. Still one can achieve enlightenments and with some practice keep some of them, and one may find liberation from the pair, even if only for short periods of time.

It has been said that books are a good beginning, and this is one of them that will help.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5
Summary: A nice compilation.
Comment: This book is a nice intoduction to meditation and various thoughts therein. Jean Smith did a good job integrating various materials into a concise smooth-flowing book concerning meditation for beginners. The book covers various topics such as why meditate, how to meditate, and some of the various problems one may encounter. Read this book if you're interested in meditation or even some the thoughts concerning buddhism. A quick, concise book and good read; I reccommend it.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: A terrific introduction to meditation
Comment: Some of the previous reviews notwithstanding, this book is a GEM! A someone who is new to meditation practice, I have been looking for a book that is both explanatory and encouraging, and this book is exactly that! Drawing from MANY traditions, not just Zen Buddhism, it gives both practical and motivational reasons for taking up some form of meditation, and simply enough, it all starts with the breath! The bibliography and author biographies are easily worth the price of admission! Own this book!

Customer Rating: Average rating of 1/5Average rating of 1/5Average rating of 1/5Average rating of 1/5Average rating of 1/5
Summary: Horrible
Comment: I thought this book was horrible. What a waste of money to buy it, and what a shame that trees had to die to make paper for this to be printed on.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: Why Bother?
Comment: I like the cover, having seen the original statue at S.F. Asian Art Museum. Quite beautiful and striking with an immediate spiritual presence, like the ornate sandstone statue of goddess Prajnaparamita, its opposite in ornamentation, but its complement in spiritual radiance. As for meditation in general, and this book in particular, - Trungpa Rinpoche said at one time - and whether or not he was inebriated at the time is irrelevant imho - 'If you havent started, DONT! If you have started, you better finish.' Remember that in the western psychiatric lexicon, another word for an accomplished meditator is 'victim of Depersonalization Disorder'. Dont think you will 'gain' anything, not even tranquility or self-confidence, it will all be stripped away leaving you naked, raw, and insane, which may be all for the best in God's eye :), but not what you 'wanted'. 'I didnt get nuthin, I had to pay 50$ and pick up the garbage' - Arlo Guthrie. cheers :)


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