Joseph Goldstein

“Insight Meditation: The Practice of Freedom,” by Joseph Goldstein

Insight Meditation- The Practice of Freedom

Available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

Rereading Goldstein’s classic recently in preparation for a forthcoming interview, I was struck by just how outstanding a teacher of meditation he is compared to many of the other big-hitting Insight Meditation teachers, excellent as they are. This is due in no small part to the depth of his understanding of the Buddhist tradition. Instead of treating meditation as an independent and secularized discipline he sees it as an integral part of a whole system with the aim of living life well.

This understanding of the breadth of Buddhist practice shows in the way he covers the Buddhist path, practicing in everyday life, dealing with distractions, practicing lovingkindness, etc., with clarity, gentleness, and subtlety. The topics covered are those which Goldstein has been most frequently asked by his meditation students over the years, and I recognized in him a practitioner who has dug deep into his experience in order to find ways to help others to grow and develop.

Goldstein’s wisdom and maturity make this a book well worth reading.

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“One Dharma: The Emerging Western Buddhism,” by Joseph Goldstein

one dharma joseph goldstein

Available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

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.”

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