B. Alan Wallace’s new book Minding Closely: The Four Applications of Mindfulness, is bound to stir up a little controversy. Despite the free-wheeling way mindfulness is used to mean, well, just about anything that involves living a deliberate or contemplative life in today’s popular culture, Wallace describes a firmer grounding for the practice:
Mindfulness practices do not exist in isolation but are embedded within a matrix of diverse techniques with various purposes and prerequisites. These can be grouped into five primary categories: (1) refining attention [shamatha], (2) achieving insight through mindfulness [vipashyana], (3) cultivating a good heart [the Brahmaviharas], (4) exploring the ultimate nature of reality [Prajnaparamita], and (5) realizing the Great Perfection—the culmination of the path to enlightenment.
While practitioners in the Theravada tradition might stop at number 3 above, all Buddhists can certainly appreciate mindulness not as mainstream pablum but as an actual component of legitimate practice that is part of a living tradition. Wallace is to be commended for insisting on a grounded, contextualized understanding of mindfulness. This echoes the sentiment of Robert Aitken, who wrote, “The Buddha Dharma with its integration of wisdom and compassion must be taught in its fullness. Otherwise its parts can be poison when they are misused.”
During the month of September, in partnership with Snow Lion Publications, all Tricycle Community Members can get B. Alan Wallace’s new book, Minding Closely, at a 20% discount with free shipping in the US, plus free e-book for instant download. Then, discuss the book with the author in the Tricycle Book Club!
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