Customer Review

17 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good start but there are better books on this topic, 1 Feb 2009
This review is from: Understanding the Mind: The Nature and Power of the Mind (Paperback)
This book offers an understanding about what is known in Tibetan Buddhism as Lorig - the teachings on the mind and its function.

The author in general follows the classic Tibetan Buddhist teachings on this subject although in some points he differs, and it is not clear who is the author - what is the origin Buddhist source - of the given definitions or if the definitions were made by the author himself. Especially the definition on 'faith' or 'non-faith' are rather fuzzy and not very practical. Therefore other texts should be consulted to deepen one's understanding, to verify or to refine what the author states.

The book is - like all of the author's books are - highly self-referential. This means the author suggests always his own books for further English readings and there is no bibliography of works by other authors than himself nor is there any suggestion or reference to a translated origin Buddhist text on this subject of mind and its function.

The author offers also some of his personal views which form the basis of the religious and study approach within his own organisation the New Kadampa Tradition - IKBU (also advertised nowadays by him as 'Kadampa Buddhism'). Kelsang Gyatso states on page 162:

"The practices taught by one Teacher will differ from those taught by another, and if we try to combine them we shall become confused, develop doubts, and lose direction. If we try to create a synthesis of different traditions we shall destroy the special power of each and be left only with a mishmash of our own making that will be a source of confusion and doubt. Having chosen our tradition and our daily practices we should rely upon them single-pointedly, never allowing dissatisfaction to arise. At the same time as cherishing our own tradition we should respect all other traditions and the right of each individual to follow the tradition of their choosing. This approach leads to harmony and tolerance. It is mixing different religious traditions that causes sectarianism. This is why it is said that studying non-religious subjects is less of an obstacle to our spiritual progress than studying religions of different traditions."

That "mixing different religious traditions causes sectarianism" is not tenable and the complete passage should be understood with respect to what he urges his followers to do: not to read books by other authors than him and to keep his personal school of thought 'pure' by not 'mixing' it with views or practices by other authors, not even from his own school the Gelugpas.

Books I can recommend without hesitation on that subject of mind and its function (Lorig) include:

- Mind in Buddhist Psycology: Neklace of Clear Understanding by Yeshe Gyaltsen (Tibetan Translation Series) by Yeshe Gyaltsen (Tibetan Translation Series), translated by Herbert V. Guenther
- Cutting Through Appearances by Geshe Lhundup Sopa
- Mind in Tibetan Buddhism by Lati Rinbochay
- The Mind and Its Functions by Geshe Rabten, translated by Stephen Batchelor

Although I use all of them my favourite is Mind in Buddhist Psycology: Neklace of Clear Understanding by Yeshe Gyaltsen (Ye-shes rgyal-mtshan') because it is one of the most clear and precise presentation I read and it is based on the Abhidharma, the teachings of Asanga, and Je Tsongkhapa and includes proper referenced citations, as well as charts, tables of reference, terms, index to sources cited, and general index. This book is also much used at different universities.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 23 Mar 2009 22:32:26 GMT
Alex Mclaren says:
regarding this reviewer's difficulties with the author, it should be noted that M. Jaeckel is a disaffected ex-student of the author who now maintains several websites and blogs, as well as writing on many and various forums, all with the singular purpose of discrediting his former teacher.

people should know this when reading his reviews of any of the author's books. these books have been generally well-received and have been reviewed very favourably by Buddhist periodicals such as The Middle Way. M. Jaeckel is entitled to his personal views on the author, but it would be a shame to take them too seriously and miss out on a remarkable and fascinating book.

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Mar 2009 16:29:11 GMT
'these books have been generally well-received...'

At the time of this writing, this particular book only garnered a 3-star rating (as is the case with many of Gyatso's titles). You question M. Jaeckel's motivation/credentials, but do not state your own. You are entitled to your personal views on the author, but it would be a shame to take them too seriously and miss out on a remarkable and fascinating books by mainstream and genuine authors on the subject, which routinely garner 4 to 5-star ratings.

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Apr 2009 23:37:57 BDT
Last edited by the author on 10 Apr 2009 14:38:30 BDT
M. Jaeckel says:
Dear Alex, thanks for your points. I addressed my points with respect to the content of the book, and I gave reasons.
As I have said, the definition of faith is unclear and his definition of what sectarianism would be is not tenable. A dictionary's definition of sectarian is "bigoted or narrow-minded in following the doctrines of one's sect" guess why the author may have created an own definition?

---Since you have raised this issue----
With respect to my background, I am a former teacher of the author's organisation, the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) - IKBU aka as "Kadampa Buddhism", and I am a student of him. I was drawn into the organisation mainly by his books and the clever advertisement of the NKT and his exclusive publisher Tharpa. I am very critical with him and his organisations, including the front group "Western Shugden Society". Generally, I think, Kelsang Gyatso and his followers will understand this, since he and his followers are much more critical with outstanding Buddhist authorities, e.g. HH the Dalai Lama or the Prime Minister of TGIE, Samdhong Rinpoche, and "maintain many websites and blogs, as well as writing very engaged on many and various forums, all with the singular purpose of discrediting them." ;-)

My three websites (one in English, two in German) focus on controversial developments in Buddhism, including Buddhist cults, and its true, his organisation is seen quite critical by many, and my websites deal with NKT a lot. However I try to focus on facts and to give reasons for what I say. So maybe in the context of this book we could follow this: focus on facts and giving reasons.

So now with respect to my criticism of the unclarity or fuzziness of his definition of faith, do you have any reasonable points to reject this?
With respect to sectarianism that his definition is not tenable can be checked just by using a dictionary where you can find: sectarian is "bigoted or narrow-minded in following the doctrines of one's sect", this is very different from what the author defines, isn't it?

The books of the author may have a good reviews here and there, however almost no bibliography or further readings of scholars list or recommend them nor are they quoted by Buddhist authorities - some very rare exceptions to this fact may exist.
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