Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche (1904-1989) compares human life to a fork in the road: "one route ascends to higher realms and freedom; the other descends to lower realms. We have the choice of taking the high road or the low road. To use this precious human life as a support to Dharma practice and liberation is to give it its true meaning" (p. 86). In the Foreward to this 318-page compilation of essential oral and written teachings delivered between 1968 and 1989, The Dalai Lama calls Kalu Rinpoche "a beacon of inspiration" (p. xiii). After becoming an ordained Tibetan Buddhist monk at age thirteen, Kalu Rinpoche completed a three-year lama retreat when he was sixteen (p. xv). He then became a wandering yogi when he was twenty-five, and practiced meditation in Himalayan retreats as a solitary hermit for twelve years (p. xv) before delivering his teachings to the Western world. "We must firmly resolve to use this life well," he observes, "by practicing Dharma enthusiastically during the time that remains in this life, this quick, bright moment, like the sun piercing through the clouds" (p. 88).
What HEART OF THE BUDDHA is to Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, LUMINOUS MIND is to Kalu Rinpoche. That is, LUMINIOUS MIND may be read not only as the essential teachings of Kalu Rinpoche, but as a comprehensive, yet practical introduction to Tibetan Buddhism. Kalu Rinpoche demonstrates that "it is experiential knowledge that teaches us to recognize our fundamental nature and liberates us from falling prey to illusions, passions, and thoughts. This awareness grants real happiness in this life, at the time of death, and in future lives up to spiritual enlightenment" (p. 7). He not only encourages us to understand our mind through daily meditation practice, but he teaches us how, because "mind is what we are. It is what experiences happiness and suffering. Mind is what experiences different thoughts and sensations; it is what is subject to pleasant and unpleasant emotions, what experiences desire, aversion, and so forth. A real understanding of the nature of mind is liberating because it disengages us from all illusions and consequently from the source of the suffering, fears and difficulties that make up our daily life" (p. 17).
This book is a wonderful, authoritative and comprehensive account of the path of Vajrayana Buddhism, as expounded by one of the greatest teachers of the last (20th) century.
I would only add that this book is perhaps not ideal for the complete novice. The teachings are presented in a rather dry, traditional style. People without some previous exposure to Tibetan Buddhist teachings might find the material somewhat confusing. Those interested in a more easily readable introduction to this topic might first try Sogyal Rinpoche's "The Tibetan Book Of Living And Dying" or Lama Surya Das' "Awakening The Buddha Within" before returning to this volume.