“Dipa Ma: The Life and Legacy of a Buddhist Master,” by Amy Schmidt
In this highly enjoyable book, we are offered a moving and inspiring account of one woman’s journey from misery and heartache to the calm and steady freedom brought about by learning to let go. The secret to her success? Simple awareness, the core of what the Buddha himself cultivated in his own struggle to gain inner freedom from the cycles of suffering caused by emotional reactivity. As Dipa Ma often reminded her students, “The whole path of mindfulness is this: Whatever you are doing, be aware of it.”
For this remarkable woman, an Indian “householder” with a daughter and young grandson, daily life included all of the mundane tasks we might be tempted to use as excuses for avoiding practice: doing the dishes, washing the laundry, changing diapers (all of which, she assured her students, were perfectly workable contexts for sharpening awareness and increasing one’s patience). In short, Dipa Ma made it very clear, through her own example, that living a “worldly” life need not impinge upon one’s “spiritual” path, and in fact demonstrated the absence of any such distinction in reality.
This book consists of the first-hand accounts of many of Dipa Ma’s students and family members, collected by Schmidt over the course of the 8 years following Ma’s death in 1989. Amongst her students are Insight Meditation Society founders Sharon Salzberg, Joseph Goldstein and Jack Kornfield.
As well-known teacher Sylvia Boorstein says, “Reading these reflections of Dipa Ma rouses the faith that being in her presence always did; a mind at peace and a heart of complete lovingness is a human possibility.” These collected memories shine through with the love that pours forth from a heart released from its own conditioning and fear. As Salzberg states, simply and to the point, “Dipa Ma was the most loving person I ever met.” May this excellent book be a reminder to all of us (busy householders and career holders included!) that such a heart beats (potentially) in all of our chests.
– Josh Nute (Josh was Wildmind’s office manager and has been a practicing Buddhist for about 5 years.)