Thubten Chodron, one of our Living Spiritual Teachers, is an American-born Tibetan Buddhist nun who has studied and practiced in India and Nepal. She travels worldwide teaching and leading meditation retreats. Chodron is the author of many books including Buddhism for Beginners and Taming the Mind.
The Tibetan sage Je Tsongkhapa wrote the Lamrim Chenmo (or The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path of Enlightenment) to systematize and explain the Buddha's teachings on taming the mind. Chodron used translations of those texts to put together this book and accompanying CD as a teaching tool for beginners, as well as intermediate and advanced practitioners of meditation. She has a knack for getting to the core of a subject and then presenting practical applications of it.
The first chapter covers setting up a daily practice, using an altar, and doing two kinds of meditation stabilizing and analytical. The way we wake up in the morning is very important, so instead of turning on the television or radio or reading the newspaper, she suggests animating the day with positive motivations: to avoid harming others as much as possible, to help others, to practice love and kindness to all living beings. Daily practice benefits both us and those around us since we are able to be calmer and more centered.
The second section of the book presents the lamrim meditations. We were especially impressed with insights on the path of the advanced practitioner pertaining to equanimity, the kindness of others, equalizing self and others, the disadvantages of self-centeredness, the advantages of cherishing others, love, compassion, taking and giving, far-reaching generosity, far-reaching patience, and how to rely on a spiritual mentor.
The third section of the book examines the gradual path to enlightenment, working with distractions, antidotes to the mental afflictions, advice to newcomers to the Dharma, and developing your Dharma practice. In a section on "Transforming Daily Life Actions Into the Path," Chodron writes:
"I travel a lot and make it a point to thank the people who clean the airport bathrooms. I thank the garbage collector, the people laying telephone wire, and those doing road construction. Our lives are dependent upon them and yet we take them for granted and seldom think to thank them. When we use everyday experiences to realize our dependence on others' kindness, the way we act and the way we relate to the people around us changes. We begin to share a smile or some kind words with them, and when we do, all of us feel good."
The CD contains 14 hours of guided meditations and is perfect to use to enrich your practice.