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Going on Being: Buddhism and the Way of Change

by Mark Epstein

Buy the book: Mark Epstein. Going on Being: Buddhism and the Way of Change

Release Date: 12 February, 2002

Edition: Paperback


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Buy the book: Mark Epstein. Going on Being: Buddhism and the Way of Change

Familiar territory, with a more personal touch

This is Epstein's third book on the growing rapprochement between traditional Buddhist thought and western psychology. It's his most personal book, and for me it's his best. His first two -- "Thoughts Without A Thinker" and "Going To Pieces Without Falling Apart" -- are more detailed and thorough, but the personal themes running through "Going On Being" make the subject matter more accessible. Part of the difficulty in writing about the experience of the Buddhist path is that there is an inherently ineffable quality to the knowledge gained. One cannot hit the target by aiming directly at it. By expressing the ideas of his first two books more simply, and by illustrating those ideas with stories from his own life, Epstein facilitates understanding and stimulates thought in a way that more detailed explication might not.

I can see how some readers would not read and evaluate this book as highly as I do. Epstein's personal approach won't resonate with everyone. But when it does it works well, and I suspect it will resonate often and deeply enough with most readers interested in the subject matter to make this book an enjoyable and valuable read.

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Highly personal, but profound too

Epstein's previous two books were focused on the practical application of Buddhist insights to psychology, and specifically to the psychotherapeutic relationship. By contrast, this is a highly personal account of Epstein's own experience as a student of meditation, and of the various teachers he has studied with over the years. The "guru" relationship is more central to Buddhist practices than most Westerners are used to (or comfortable with), but Epstein has been fortunate in his teachers, and this book shows how liberating the guidance of a good teacher can be. I also felt that he did a good job of conveying the joys of a meditation practice: too many guidebooks, I feel, give the impression that it's a constant uphill struggle. Developing mindfulness isn't a snap, of course, but the benefits are genuine and immediate, and that comes across well here. It does help in reading this book to have a basic understanding of Buddhist principles and practices -- he doesn't go into much depth about them -- but you don't have to be an expert to appreciate what he's talking about. This is less a "how to" and more a "how it happened to me," and in those terms I feel it's excellent.

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