Mar 08, 2006
“One Dharma: The Emerging Western Buddhism,” by Joseph Goldstein
Goldstein has been meditating in the Theravadin tradition since the 1960’s, and is one of the founders of the Insight Meditation Society. So it’s interesting that for the last few years he’s also been practicing in a Tibetan meditation tradition called Dzog-chen.
Although the practices of Insight Meditation and Dzog-chen are quite similar, their theoretical and metaphysical underpinnings are very different indeed, and One Dharma has emerged from the creative tension that comes about from practicing two very different forms of Buddhism.
Goldstein is not alone in following teachings from more than one Buddhist school. In the cultural melting-pot that is the West, more and more people are seeking spiritual advice from more than one teacher. This inevitably brings up important questions such as, what is essential in each tradition? Strip away the cultural accretions, and what are you left with? If traditions differ on important points, is only one of them right? Or could it be that all Buddhist teachings are simply “Skillful Means” — fingers pointing at the truth, where the finger itself is just showing the way? This is the territory that Goldstein explores.
He expounds an approach to the Buddhist path that is nonsectarian, and which is based on the practice of Mindfulness and the cultivation of Wisdom and Compassion. He skillfully outlines the universally applicable practice of Buddhist ethics, gives an explanation of mindfulness and lovingkindness (practices taught on Wildmind), explains various approaches to cultivating Compassion, and elucidates the cultivation of Wisdom through the practice of non-clinging.
This is an ambitious book, and with any ambitious project there is scope for improvement. The meditation instruction is rather thin, for example. But on the whole this is a fascinating book, of interest to anyone who is exploring the Buddhist path and who is trying to make sense of the bewildering array of Buddhist teachings on offer in the West. Goldstein offers a clear outline of the most fundamental Buddhist principles. Having understood those we are in a far better position to reconcile apparently contradictory teachings and approaches.
This book is, as Daniel Goleman says on the dust-jacket, “a brilliant map of the spiritual path.”