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Posted on September 18, by Scott Alexander I. I always wanted to meditate more, but never really got around to it.
And I thought I had an unimpeachable excuse. The demands of a medical career are incompatible with such a time-consuming practice. Enter Daniel Ingram MD, an emergency physician who claims to have achieved enlightenment just after graduating medical school.
ER docs are famous for being practical, working fast, and thinking everyone else is an idiot. MCTB delivers on all three counts.
The result is a sort of perfect antidote to the vague hippie-ism you get from a lot of spirituality.
For example, from page I feel the need to address, which is to say shoot down with every bit of rhetorical force I have, the notion promoted by some teachers and even traditions that there is nothing to do, nothing to accomplish, no goal to obtain, no enlightenment other than the ordinary state of being…which, if it were true, would have been very nice of them, except that it is complete bullshit.
The Nothing To Do School and the You Are Already There School are both basically vile extremes on the same basic notion that all effort to attain to mastery is already missing the point, an error of craving and grasping.
They both contradict the fundamental premise of this book, namely that there is something amazing to attain and understand and that there are specific, reproducible methods that can help you do that. MCTB is very happy to discuss mysticism and the transcendent. If you read the sutras with an open mind, the Buddha sounds a lot more like an ER doctor than a hippie.
MCTB has a very Protestant fundamentalist feeling of digging through the exterior trappings of a religion to try to return to the purity of its origins.
Ingram follows the Buddha in dividing the essence of Buddhism into three teachings: Morality seems like the odd one out here. MCTB gives the traditional answer: The same things that make you able to sleep at night with a clear mind make you able to meditate with a clear mind: One more great thing about the first training [morality] is that it really helps with the next training: It will be time well spent.
That leaves concentration samatha and wisdom vipassana. You do samatha to get a powerful mind; you get a powerful mind in order do to vipassana.
MCTB gives two reasons: Second, it prepares you for vipassana. Jhanas are unusual mental states you can get into with enough concentration. Some of them are super blissful. Others are super tranquil.
MCTB says, understatedly, that they can be a good encouragement to continue your meditation practice. It gives a taxonomy of eight jhanas, and suggests that a few months of training in samatha meditation can get you to the point where you can reach at least the first.
But the main point of samatha meditation is to improve your concentration ability so you can direct it to ordinary experience. Become so good at concentrating that you can attain various jhanas — but then, instead of focusing on infinite bliss or whatever other cool things you can do with your new talent, look at a wall or listen to the breeze or just try to understand the experience of existing in time.
Ingram notes that every sensation vibrates in and out of consciousness at a rate of between five and forty vibrations per second, sometimes speeding up or slowing down depending on your mental state.Pearson Prentice Hall and our other respected imprints provide educational materials, technologies, assessments and related services across the secondary curriculum.
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