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Book Review

Book Review: by Lang Reid

The Gentle Way of Buddhist Meditation

A very different book this week. One that can perhaps enlighten, ease your path and perhaps change your attitude. And it is free! The Gentle Way of Buddhist Meditation (ISBN 983-3512-31-3, Inward Path Publishing, 2007) was compiled by Jeanne Mynott from transcripts of talks given by Godwin Samararatne in Hong Kong in 1997.
Perhaps those people of strong Buddhist faith may know of Godwin, but for the god-forsaken such as this reviewer, he was unknown. However, Bhante S. Dhammika in the introduction described him as a man who never said anything negative about anybody or showed the slightest trace of anger, annoyance or disapproval. All admirable traits and ones that are espoused in Buddhism itself. He has a section in Wikipedia which said that what was so special about Godwin was that he lived what he taught - his teaching and his life were seamless. He had the marvelous ability to put the teachings of the Buddha concerning suffering and the way out of suffering into his own simple words which were relevant to the everyday lives and experience of the people he was speaking to, both Buddhist and non-Buddhist.
The book is divided into three main sections - an Introduction to Meditation, the Experience of Meditation and Working with Meditation, with many sub-headings in each chapter to cover the whys, the importance, the mindfulness and how to integrate meditation into daily life.
The book, being transcription of talks given by Godwin Samararatne, flows along as a narrative should do, making it easy to follow, even for the non-believers. I enjoyed the down to earth approach and the application to daily life as practiced by Buddhists as opposed to many religions which are worn in public with one’s best suit on Sundays. For example, he said, “In everyday life we have problems like anger, anxiety, fears, sadness and guilt - all of these things create suffering for us. We can find out, we can learn, we can discover, we can explore, we can experiment with such problems. And then when you explore them you’ll realize that you yourself are creating the problem.”
He touches on the four absolute needs of mankind - food, clothing, shelter and medicine and then explores the manipulation of society by the ‘god’ of consumerism, and how there will never be ‘enough’ for people who follow that creed blindly. Bigger, better and more expensive consumerism does not bring happiness. He says, “There is a place for material things, but when they become our goals and when we are confused between greed and need, this is where they can lead to dissatisfaction and suffering.” He describes this as being a “victim of the society we live in.”
Through the book, he emphasizes the practicality in Buddhist meditation and its application in mindfulness, right thoughts and speech to assist the person in every day life.
An interesting book, and one that has an application for all readers, not just those of the Buddhist faith. If you wish to explore meditation and what it can do, it would be worthwhile contacting the Inward Path Publishers through their website