“Meditation: The Buddhist Way of Tranquillity and Insight,” by Kamalashila

Available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

This book is a comprehensive guide to the methods and theory of meditation. Written in an informal and accessible style, it provides a complete introduction to the basic techniques, as well as detailed advice for more experienced meditators.

In 1979 Kamalashila helped to establish a semi-monastic meditation community in North Wales, which has now grown into a public retreat centre. For more than a decade he and his colleagues have been developing approaches to meditation that are readily accessible to people with a modern Western background, but firmly grounded in Buddhist tradition. Their experience – as meditators, as students of the traditional texts. and as teachers – is distilled in this book.

The book introduces mindfulness of breathing, lovingkindness practice (and the rest of the brahmaviharas), visualization, meditation posture, and more. It also covers the hindrances and how to deal with them, and the levels of meditative experience known as the dhyanas, or jhanas. This is not so much a book for reading cover to cover and a manual for learning meditation. And to say this is praise and not disparagement. The book is easy to read, but you’ll probably find that you want to spend quite some time on a given chapter so that you can really put the instructions into practice.

The result is a practical handbook with a wealth of helpful detailed advice, complete with troubleshooting guides and maps of the places our practice might take us. But it is also an inspiring exploration of the principles underlying Buddhist meditation, and of its real aims: heightened awareness, emotional positivity, and – ultimately – liberating insight into the true nature of reality.

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