on 13 December 2011
This book focuses less on practical issues on how to meditate, and puts more emphasise on the reasons why people should meditate, what changes meditation can bring into anyone's life, and how it can transform the world. I think anyone who liked 'Wherever You Go, There You are', or the 'Full Catastrophe Living' will probably like this book, too. On the other hand, I would not recommend it for a quick introduction or for people who are completely new to meditation. The reason is that while it is excellent for practising meditators, its length and language may discourage people who have never heard about meditation.
on 22 April 2015
Well, it has some good bits. But I stopped at page 237 out of 609. I couldn’t go on. Jon Kabat-Zinn could, though, apparently. On and on and on. Jeesh, gimme a break. I’d hoped this book might bring me directly to my/its senses, but I’m afraid not. It offers to, here and there, and there is available, practical, useful stuff in it. But, most of the time, it wanders off and maunders on and on in bourgeois platitudes: oh, isn’t it a shame that people are so distracted by their devices, oh I know this executive who extolled devices because they enabled him more home-time to be with his son, but he merely played with a toy plane in one hand while he conducted business in the other, so wasn’t really there for his son even when he was there, and here’s another example of the same, and another, and look at them along the street, the distracted beings, and oh if only people could be aware of what they’re doing then climate change could be addressed and there’d be no war and mental illness would be cured and here’s another example of a man I knew who was distracted while I sat in the sun and looked at the trees… blah blah blah. He goes on with his homely, internal monologue, sharing it with us. Which, okay, I could go with for a while because he is poetic and generous and knowledgeable and experienced [to an extent], and sometimes puts concisely down some Buddhist learning. But then, page 237, I just got frustrated by his incoherence and lazy thinking, on the subject of time:
‘Everything that unfolds unfolds now, so might be said to unfold in the nowscape. We’ve already observed how nature unfolds only and always in the now. The trees are growing now. The birds are flying through the air or sitting in the branches only now…’
He doesn’t seem to have understood the contradiction at the heart of his statements. There can be no present continuous tense in the now. If he has understood this, then he has neglected to formulate for his readers an appreciative discrimination of the ‘nowscape’ as changelessness beyond time, directly perceived, giving relief from apparent vicissitudes. Instead he is fascinated by change. He seems attached to the beauty of growing trees and flying birds in process, and in the construction of time he places on them as a cordon, and he practices the poetry of the seasons as a scopic recommendation. Living in the now cannot be attained while the passage of time is retained, while the now stands out thinly in reference to past and future as a thing passing. My understanding, from Tibetan Buddhism in the Nyingma and Dzogchen traditions, and from logic, is that there can be no real process in now, exactly because now is timeless and has transcended this passing condition: naturally occurring timeless awareness is a constant, motionless state in which everything maintains (there is no arising) as a single state of entirely positive, spontaneous presence. There may be a sense of reiteration and ever renewing, but there is no change; the perception of change is the comparative and categorical delusion. JKZ, as a lot of Western Buddhists, seems to emphasize the passage of things. Such can only be seen from a position of abstraction, and constitutes that abstraction. Where the now is formulated in distinction to the past and future, it remains this thin and ever fleeting moment. Seeing movement and change is to live in time, and not beyond it. In the now where nothing happens, nothing changes because everything is eternal, un-compared to time. There is no coming and no going, but only changelessness and stasis – that would be the Nagarjuna position, JKZ goes on and on. But, perhaps that is the illustration.
This may be a very valuable and consoling book to many people. Jon Kabbat Zinn has made an immense contribution to the well being of innumerable souls, worldwide. But, unfortunately his core philosophy here hasn’t been worked through.
on 22 June 2014
There is some great stuff in this book but, unfortunately, you have to plough through so much drawn out, wordy stuff to get to it that, although I have loved his previous books, I had to give up on this one.