Dzigar Kongtrül. It’s Up To You: The Practice of Self-Reflection on the Buddhist Path. Boston, Mass.: Shambhala Publications, 2005. Paperback, xxiii + 129 pages.
As Socrates is said to have remarked, “the uninspected life is not worth living.” This book treats self-inspection, or self-reflection, as a central virtue of spiritual life. In particular, its author—a highly trained and respected Tibetan lama—answers the question of how we can reconcile the ideal of perfection, or enlightenment, with the apparent imperfection of our present personality, which is experiencing doubt, discomfort, and above all self-cherishing.
In this highly practical book, Dzigar Rimpoche, who is a professor of Buddhist philosophy at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado, seeks to build a bridge between the kind of person we are and what we would like to be. The path to our ideal self, he argues, is self-reflection through which our self-cherishing, or self-important, attitude is undermined. As he puts it, “Looking for ego-mind is very important. This is the only way to know that it can’t be found” (p. 7).
All we can expect to encounter is a constant stream of thoughts and emotions, which is as irrepressible as it is insubstantial. Only when we invest this spontaneous arising of mental activity with a fixed self do we get in real trouble. Instead of seeing thoughts and emotions as our enemy, we simply allow them to occur while witnessing their display and thereby making it transparent rather than compelling.
Dzigar Rimpoche is a master of presenting Buddhism’s most subtle teachings in such a way that one is not even aware of their Buddhist flavor but is drawn straight into the actualities they seek to convey. “If you don’t take your life into your own hands,” he concludes, “not even the buddhas can make a difference. It’s up to you” (p. 129).
Copyright ©2007 by Georg Feuerstein. All rights reserved.
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