This book helps us distinguish Tibetan Buddhism from the culture it flourished in, as well its differences with psychotherapy. It provides guidelines to gain inspiration from Asian and Western teachers without unrealistic expectations and idealization. An excerpt from the book:
"In the present day of scandal, controversy, school violence, and AIDS, people tend to distrust everything. Thus, people who involve themselves with a spiritual path are naturally wary of trusting spiritual teachers. On the one hand, critical evaluation of a teacher before establishing a relationship is a healthy precaution and may help to avoid disappointment, harassment, or abuse. On the other hand, morbid skepticism and paranoia prevent gaining the inspiration from a qualified teacher needed to energize and sustain serious practice."
I was a litte hesitant to buy this book, even though Jack Kornfield wrote a nice plug on the back cover ["a precise, thoughtful, and sophisicated book" he says.] Largely because of Kornfield's endorsement, I bought the book and was pleasantly surprised. I was expecting schmalz, and what I found was a series of exercises which ranged from a meditation on loving compassion [a variation on the brahmaviharas], to a brilliant presentation of mahamudhra, to an analysis of emptiness as it relates to emotions and everyday life, and more, and more, and more.
Berzin's presentation is terse, loaded with information, and is structured to address both the rational and intuitive aspects of the mind. The book is written by someone who is a master of his material. I am currently on my second read through the book, taking care to do each of the exercises thoroughly. I have found each of them to be both highly beneficial and true to the Dharma.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wishes to explore the mind, and especially to anyone who is interested in Buddhist psychology and wants to engage in an approach that refreshingly different from the Abhidhamma studies. I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to Dr. Berzin, and all of those who helped to make this material availible to me.