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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Living the Simple Life: Stories and Teachings of Munindra.

Anagarika Munindra was a Bengali Buddhist master who many (certainly in the west) might not of heard about, and there's a reason for it. He was a very simple yet profound man who didn't seek attention or recognition for his presence of being. Yet the energy that he radiated made him a magnet that seekers of awakening couldn't help but be attracted to. Whenever he went; people followed.

His teaching was not complicated, which in my mind that is the true nature of Buddhadharma. Recently some students of his compiled a book ("Living this Life Fully: Stories and teachings of Munindra") of what it was like to learn from his side and the end result is a true example in living the Dharma. He doesn't just teach you--he shows you.

I get a lot of Dharma books from publishers and there are a fair number that rarely grab my attention immediately. A lot of times I find myself laboriously hacking my way through a dull and scattered book as if I was making my way through the maze-like Ituri rain forest in Congo, Africa. I was pleased, however, to crack open this book to the first page and be greeted with this breath of Dharmic fresh air.

Everything is meditation in this practice, even while eating, drinking, dressing, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, thinking. Whatever you are doing, everything should be done mindfully, dynamically, with totality, completeness, thoroughness, Then it becomes meditation, meaningful, purposeful. It is not thinking but experiencing from moment to moment, living from moment to moment, without clinging, without condemnation, without judging, without evaluating, without comparing, without selecting, without criticizing--choiceless awareness. Meditation is not only sitting; it is a way of living. It should be integrated with your whole life. It is actually an education in how to see, how to hear, how to smell, how to eat, how to drink, how to walk with full awareness. To develop mindfulness is the most important factor in the process of awakening.
James: What else needs to be said of the Dharma? Indeed it is simple if one can be totally absorbed in each moment; whatever that moment might find us doing. This teaching reminds me so much my Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh addresses Dharma practice. A lot of this book mirrors what Nhat Hanh speaks of, so if you like his style then you'll really get a lot out of this book. Another section that resonated with me was Munindra's approach to sectarianism, which is so silly. Sectarianism is like two school boys having a contest to see who can pee the furthest. The Buddha taught one Dharma and that's the approach Munindra takes. As one student said of him, "awareness was awareness, and it was open to anyone." Student Eric Kupers noticed: I didn't notice any sectarianism from him at all, or "you gotta sign up for something" or "you shouldn't sign up for something." It was just very much about living truth of the teachings in the moment in a very down-to-earth way.

James: Such wisdom resonates deeply within my essence because when we are truly absorbed with the present moment, all lines of demarcation between "us and them" fall apart like an structureless cloud revealing a clarity of mind that is as crisp and clear as the blue sky. Munindra understood firmly that no sect, tradition or teacher has a copyright on the present moment. It belongs to none of us, yet is apart of us. As student Robert Sharf remembers, "Basically, it doesn't matter style of practice you're doing. Either you're doing it mindfully or you're not."

This is an excellent book on showing the way to being at one with the freedom of the present moment. So, while formal meditation is very valuable we must learn how to make our meditation mobile. Thus, it infuses our every moment and we can practice anywhere and at anytime. You'll find powerful insights packed into just the first few chapters more than the entire length of a lot of books. It's a must have for a serious Dharma practitioner.

~Peace to all beings~

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BD said...

Thank you for the review, it is now on my list to read. I agree with the view on sectarianism. Where I live not all branches are readily available for study and I have tried to visit a few to get a feel for them and had come away from a few with that very same attitude of who is better etc.
Thanks again for the review,

Anonymous said...

James Ure mobile mind.

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