Rewrite of 'Meditation the Buddhist Way'...
I am just starting a rewrite of the book for Windhorse, the publisher, to be published Spring 2011. Any feedback on the current edition will be appreciated. I'm currently using Satyapala's review of the first edition which he wrote in 1992:

Meditation - the Buddhist Way of Tranquillity and Insight.

Dharmacarin Kamalasila,
Windhorse, Glasgow 1992 pp 276

It is often said how "first impressions count", which was certainly the cased when, one cold December morning last year the postman delivered me a copy of Kamalasila's new book. It's simple, aesthetically pleasing cover, clear well laid out typography, and a table of contents which promised many pleasurable reading hours, made me want to drop everything and start the book there and then. Instead, with some considerable resistance, I decided to lay it aside for three weeks until the start of a forth-coming solitary retreat.

The appearance of Meditation in the bookshops forms an important landmark in the history of Windhorse Publications who, thus far, have mainly been concerned with publishing the work of Sangharakshita. Indeed, as far as I can recall, only three non-Sangharakshita books have ever been published by them. But clearly things are changing. Another first-book, this time by Dharmacarin Vessantara on the ??? is due to be published in the Spring, and several others by members of the Order are in preparation. So this book seems to be marking a new era.

From what seemed to me to be a bit of a shakey start the text eventually settles down into a style which is both readable and informative. Part One provides an extended introduction to meditation and should be helpful both to inform the beginner, and to remind the established meditator, of the basics of meditation. A very clear (and for me uplifting) description is given in Chapter One of the Mindfulness of Breathing. In Chapter Two, however, Kamalasila's account of the Metta Bhavana seems a bit lack lustre (I was also somewhat irritated by his adding a sixth stage to the Metta practice when as far as I know the rest of us still teach it in five stages). Chapter Three introduces the beginner to several important issues associated with "Establishing a Meditation Practice" including understanding and dealing with the Five Hindrances.

For me the high point of the book was reading the two chapters that formed Part Two. Here in a clear and straightforward manner the theory behind Buddhist meditation is described. Looking first at the relationship between the different levels of consciousness - ordinary, access and dhyana - Kamalasila gives a description of what might be called the "anatomy" of different mental states. With the help of a succession of charts he shows where the five hindrances, the five (or six) dhyana factors, and the six realms of existence relate to the different levels of consciousness and
to each other. Then, on the basis of the development of higher meditative states through samatha, he describes the process of the arising of insight (vipassana) and where this fits into the Buddhist scheme.

Describing the relationship between samatha and vipassana Kamalasila suggests that the former is concerned with developing our mental potency whereas the latter uses that potency in order to "penetrate into the truth of things" (p88). And later, and more poetically, that "samatha refers to a healthy state of consciousness: it is joy, strength and power; it is calmness, tranquillity, receptivity and openness" (p90) whereas insight or vipassana "turns us upside down and inside out - it's impact is shattering" (p99).

Following on from this clear and concise description of the theory of Buddhist meditation, in Part Three the text takes a much more practical turn. In a series of very useful chapters we are offered something akin to a "workshop manual" of meditation. Advice is given on creating the right conditions, on developing good posture, on working in meditation and on developing insight through reflection. Finally, a description is given of several traditional methods of meditation including the Six Element Practice and Meditation on the Cyclic and Spiral Nidanas.

Throughout the book Kamalasila uses refreshingly plain language, free from jargon, and adopts a writing style which is gently affirmative. Guided by his encouraging words the reader may easily begin to believe that they too may experience the bliss of dhyana, that they too might eventually develop insight.

Meditation, the Buddhist Way of Tranquility and Insight, is certain to become a standard within FWBO circles and is likely to sell well for many years to come. If it is to make a significant impact on the wider non-FWBO market however, I think that, for the Second Edition, there is a case for some material to be revised. I certainly formed the impression that the early chapters were less well written (or less worked-out and polished) than much of the later text and, bearing in mind that these chapters are addressed primarily to beginners, not particularly accessible.

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