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TOPIC: Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book

Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 25 Oct 2015 12:38 #100892

Per Tom's request I am starting a discussion thread on "The Mind Illuminated", by Culadasa John Yates. This book has gotten rave reviews from Shinzen, Daniel and others (the author was on Buddhist Geeks recently). The author uses a 10 stage model derived mainly from Asanga's 9-stage model, as well as being informed by Tibetan models and the progress of insight. Per Daniel: "Essential reading for anyone interested in meditative development from any tradition. At once comprehensive and also very easy to read and follow in practice, this is the most thorough, straightforward, clear, and practical guide to training the mind that I have ever found. A remarkable achievement."

I've just started the book and have read through the introduction and the first chapter, "An Overview of the Ten Stages." I would echo Daniel's observations about clarity and readability -- this text is extremely lucid, and it is clear that the author has a deep knowledge of the subject matter and a gift for imparting it clearly. In any book in this subject area, language and the definition of terms can be a challenge. The author is very much on top of this by using precise definitions, bolded words, and a glossary.

After I read the overview of the ten stages, I found myself wondering how it correlated to other models I was familiar with -- most notably the progress of insight. I quickly decided to let that go, at least for now. The author does state that "For householders who practice properly, it's possible to master the Ten Stages within a few months or years."

The first stages are focused on training the mind to stay -- a very shamatha-heavy model with techniques and language I recognize from Mahamudra. These techniques are augmented with the author's background in neuroscience -- the training is very much rooted in the concept of "habits", and how to reinforce good habits repeatedly to create new default settings. For example, in the simple instructions of returning to the breath when one discovers the mind has wandered, the author instructs to reinforce and really pay attention to the "aha" moment when one realizes the mind has strayed, thus creating the likelihood that such "aha" events will occur more often in the future. This, rather than forcing one's attention to remain stable by sheer willpower. It seems like there will be a lot of this -- modern techniques to reinforce good mental habits melded with more ancient instructions.

I was curious that there didn't seem to be any reference to dark night stages in the author's model, so I looked up "dark night" in the index. There is a relatively short appendix devoted to it, the main idea of which is that the dark night becomes problematic for those who don't have well-developed shamatha skills.

I did notice that at stage seven of his ten stage model one of the obstacles listed was "Knowing when to drop all effort...But making effort has become a habit, so it's hard to stop" -- something I think many of us third pathees can resonate with.

Speaking as someone who has largely blundered their way to mid-to-late third path over the course of the last two decades, this book seems like it will be helpful in filling in numerous spots in the foundation of practice that need to be addressed. Concentration for me, in particular, has always been an outcome that is very much influenced by my state of mind going in. Sometimes it's great, many times it isn't. As such, I'm looking forward to going deep with the techniques described in this book to shore that, as well as other aspects of my practice, up.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 27 Oct 2015 22:24 #100911

When reading last night and checking the glossary, I stumbled onto an answer to one of my questions: In the glossary entry for awakening, the author writes "...The Therevada distinguish four incremental "paths" of Awakening known as sotapatti, sakadagami, anagami, then arahant. The Mahayana distinguish a larger number of incremental stages called bhumis. Readers will hopefully experience multiple levels of Awakening in the course of this practice. However, when we refer to Awakening in the text, we usually mean achieving First Path, commonly referred to as stream-entry or sotapatti."

So, this book covers a 10 stage model from absolute beginner (establishing a practice) to stream entry. That said, I strongly suspect there is a lot here for those further along. The models of the mind (not models of path, but of the way the mind works) are quite insightful and fascinating. I've found my concentration getting better by using some of the simple techniques described. And the book continues to be eminently readable.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 28 Oct 2015 08:19 #100912

Another thing to keep in mind is that not all stream-entries are alike. I have found, in trying to compare approaches to practice, that the criteria for stream-entry is about as varied as for jhanas. Is there any mention of cessation?
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 28 Oct 2015 21:59 #100918

Tom Otvos wrote:
Is there any mention of cessation?

Yes -- there are a few pages devoted to cessation later in the book.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 01 Nov 2015 18:03 #100978

I am committed to reading this book. I have been in a phase of late where reading hasn't much appealed to me. But, I am reading this book and really enjoying it so far.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 02 Nov 2015 08:43 #100989

Picked this up on Kindle for $7.99 over the weekend. I haven't ready very far in the book, but I really like the discussion on attention vs. awareness. This is the most comprehensive discussion on the this that I've read so far, and the analogy he develops to visual focus and peripheral vision is excellent.

I'm eager to get to the discussions on gross and subtle dullness and gross and subtle restlessness. Hokai and I spent a fair amount of time on these early on, and I've not seen the issues mentioned anywhere else, let alone techniques for dealing with them.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 14 Nov 2015 14:03 #101200

Really can't recommend this book enough. Whenever people ask me what is a good book to get started with mediation, I typically struggle to answer, instead recommending certain sections of numerous volumes. Now, I would have no reservations about just handing them this.

From my log:

The "Mind Illuminated" book has been quite a boon to my practice. In a broad sense, I've found myself having left a nearly year-long phase focusing on "just sitting" practices and experiences of non-duality, and going back to basics for a bit -- shoring up parts of my practice that have been lacking. The book's discussion of setting intentions and techniques to develop concentration have been inspiring, to say the least. The discussions of willpower and how futile it is to use it as a method to keep practice in line have been liberating.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 03 Jan 2016 12:51 #101925

[Ed. This bit of discussion was moved from another thread. Carry on...]

My copy of "The Mind Illuminated" just arrived. I'm fascinated by what's not mentioned* anywhere in the table of contents and thinking it's intentional. It doesn't appear in the listing of the ten stages of meditative "accomplishment", either. A very quick scan of the first few chapters causes me to se many similarities in approach to those in the book "Waking up to Your Life" by Ken McLeod.

And speaking of Ken McLeod, my copy of "A Trackless Path" is due to arrive any day, too, so the conundrum will be which of these two books to read first.

* By this I'm referring to the "A" word and the "E" word ;)
Last Edit: 05 Jan 2016 22:24 by Tom Otvos.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 03 Jan 2016 12:54 #101926

Is D.O. in the table of contents?
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 03 Jan 2016 13:05 #101928

No, and DO is not even listed in the index, shargrol.

It looks to me like the Culadasa book is aimed at the practice and not the result. The introduction says that the book's objective, more or less, is to get the practitioner to a place where they will see the "culminating insight" that is awakening. Awakening is defined as a "cognitive event" -- seeing the world as it really is, not as we habitually see it to be. The purpose of the book is pretty clearly stated - it is to lay out the process, the steps, not the goal. Follow the process properly and the goal will come along.
Last Edit: 03 Jan 2016 13:08 by Chris Marti.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 03 Jan 2016 17:47 #101933

Chris Marti wrote:
* By this I'm referring to the "A" word and the "E" word ;)

Awakening is mentioned several times and does appear in the glossary. Interestingly, Dark Night merits a separate appendix chapter.

I also remember DO being mentioned at one point but don't remember the context.
Last Edit: 03 Jan 2016 17:48 by Andy.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 03 Jan 2016 18:22 #101934

Hmmm... okay.

So I like to do research on the authors of books I read. I think knowing about them and how they came to write those books is informative and adds to the experience. Thing is, I'm having a lot of trouble finding anything biographical on Culadasa John Yates, Dr, John Yates, or any combination of this name. I mean, the bio on his website and in his book states that he taught neuroscience at several universities in the United States and Canada. Yet there is nothing that Google finds about that. He apparently wrote another book called "A Physician's Guide to Theraputic Massage," and while Amazon.com lists the book in three editions, starting in 1990, there is no publisher listed and there are no reviews. There is no Wikipedia entry for Dr. John Yates (other than a chemist at the Scripps Institute in La Jolla, who is obviously a different person).

I must be missing something obvious. Or... this guy has been seriously under the radar until quite recently.

He also wanted to present at Buddhist Geeks at one point and his topic was something like "Insight Practice Without the Dark Night." Looks like he missed that year's BG because he was ill.
Last Edit: 03 Jan 2016 18:47 by Chris Marti.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 03 Jan 2016 18:44 #101935

Andy --
I also remember DO being mentioned at one point but don't remember the context.

From scanning the book it appears to me that his "mind system model" and his explanation of how the conscious and subconscious minds interact to form experience is actually dependent origination. He's just not calling it that.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 03 Jan 2016 20:22 #101936

Caludasa describes some of his background in the first few minutes of this BG interview (and mentions "dependent arising"). www.buddhistgeeks.com/2015/10/bg-372-the-mind-illuminated/
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 03 Jan 2016 21:19 #101938

Thank you!
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 04 Jan 2016 08:14 #101945

A couple of things. First, I certainly noticed the "A" word a bunch of times, and I am only starting into Stage 3. But I also recall reading somewhere (either in the MI thread here or on DhO) that the culmination of this practice manual is stream-entry.

As for "under the radar", I *think* he is well known to Shinzen Young. But also I have seen him on the "jhana-insight" Yahoo group as far back as 2012 when I was hanging out there a bit, where he was certainly speaking with a lot of clarity on things like jhanas, SE, cessation, etc. I know that is not proof of anything, just sayin'. And if you recall the post-Geeks session at the last conference, and there was a guy that was being grilled by Daniel...he had just come off a retreat with Culadasa.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 04 Jan 2016 08:15 #101946

Do we want to move this discussion the the "Mind Illuminated" thread?
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 04 Jan 2016 08:50 #101947

I don't think we need to move this, Tom.

Yes, it appears that stream entry is the focus of the book. I think Teague was the person Daniel was grilling, BTW.

I'm not questioning the veracity of the guy, or his teaching. I just noted that he is impossible to find except as "Culadasa" or Dr. John Yates, and then only with very recent material. I was looking for some history, some biographical material beyond what he says on his website and in the book or on podcasts. If it's just not there then so be it. It's kind of cool that someone can pretty much fly under the radar like that, even if it was just MY radar :)
Last Edit: 04 Jan 2016 08:56 by Chris Marti.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 04 Jan 2016 10:32 #101948

Chris Marti wrote:
Yes, it appears that stream entry is the focus of the book. I think Teague was the person Daniel was grilling, BTW.

It was actually Jon.
Last Edit: 04 Jan 2016 10:32 by Andy.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 04 Jan 2016 12:06 #101949

In the Bist Geeks interview, Calludasa didn't say exactly but it sounded like he finished grad school in physiology and neuroscience and started teaching in Canada during the early 70's.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 04 Jan 2016 14:14 #101950

Tom Otvos wrote:
A couple of things. First, I certainly noticed the "A" word a bunch of times, and I am only starting into Stage 3. But I also recall reading somewhere (either in the MI thread here or on DhO) that the culmination of this practice manual is stream-entry.

I've been reading the book myself, and it seems chock full of some pretty sweet Mahamudra techniques, such as intensifying, and maintaining/adjusting background awareness. These mini adjustments are almost like an overkill for SE, in my opinion. Therefore, I would guess it has hella ramifications for yogis at all stages.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 05 Jan 2016 12:10 #101977

Noah wrote:
I've been reading the book myself, and it seems chock full of some pretty sweet Mahamudra techniques, such as intensifying, and maintaining/adjusting background awareness. These mini adjustments are almost like an overkill for SE, in my opinion. Therefore, I would guess it has hella ramifications for yogis at all stages.

+1

Learning intensifying and easing-up techniques for working with dullness and restlessness was incredibly useful to me. I learned these from my teacher last year, and was pretty surprised that I'd not heard of it before. I'm glad that Culadasa touches on this in the book.

I would probably also agree that, strictly speaking, these techniques are not necessary for stream entry. They can, however, allow you to work with what would be typically unproductive sessions, sessions where dullness or restlessness would normally have prevailed the entire sit. That's highly useful before SE.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 05 Jan 2016 12:37 #101978

Do we want to move this discussion the the "Mind Illuminated" thread?

Yes, we do now. I thought the Culadasa conversation would stop but it hasn't. Please move posts #101925 to present.

Thanks, Tom.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 06 Jan 2016 08:06 #101986

It was actually Jon.

Andy, at first I was confused about who but now I do recall a very extended and somewhat frustrating interrogation of a guy named Jon at the post-Buddhist Geeks get together in Boulder. Jon had been sitting in hallways talking a groups of people during the conference, too, and seemed excited about his experiences. I recall that he said he was an attorney.
Last Edit: 06 Jan 2016 08:42 by Chris Marti.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 06 Jan 2016 09:26 #101988

For what it's worth, I remember the frustrating aspect, but I wouldn't characterize Daniel as interrogating him. My impression is that Jon didn't want to see the crosswalk/coorelation between Daniel's Stages of Insight to stream entry and Culdasa's map. I remember it as frustrating because Culadasa's map seemed to be a different flavor/style but it isn't radically different from the stage map... and what I thought would be a quick conversation went on far too long. >shrug<
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