Not for Happiness: A Guide to the So-Called Preliminary Practices Paperback – Oct 16 2012
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Students’ Reactions to Not for Happiness:
“Having a map of the path that shows where each practice is headed helps me to see what each stage is preparing me for. Even the chapters that at first didn’t seem relevant to my current practice contained such great gems of teaching that they turned out to be extremely relevant and very helpful.”—Catherine Fordham
“To me, this book is like the world’s best kind of GPS! I feel that by following its guidance, even though I am not a skilful driver, I will have the confidence to drive through my Ngöndro practice—and may even end up feeling quite good about it!”—Helena Wang
About the Author
<p class="MsoNormal">Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse (Khyentse Norbu) is a Tibetan Buddhist lama who travels and teaches internationally and is also an award-winning filmmaker. He is the abbot of several monasteries in Asia and the spiritual director of meditation centers in Vancouver, San Francisco, Sydney, Hong Kong, and Taipei. He is also head of a Buddhist organization called Siddhartha’s Intent.
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More importantly, the text provides insight and straight-to-the-heart purpose for engaging in the practices themselves. Rinpoche speaks with one foot solidly grounded in the traditional theory and methodology of practice, another in an open and kind understanding of practical challenges modern practitioners face. He is a recognized incarnation of a great Tibetan master, yet is thoroughly modern in his approach and life (he is also well known as the film maker behind "The Cup" and "Travelers and Magicians.") The combination of tradition and modernity provides for a vivid description of the meaning behind the practices, and a lively approach to actively encountering it in our own experience. The English editing is superb--the language is elegant, fluid, and rich without getting in the way of the substance.
As a Kagyu practitioner who remains an active fan after having completed one Mahamudra Ngondro, I found much to carry into my ongoing practice at all levels. As a student and translator of Tibetan Buddhist philosophy in traditional monasteries in Nepal and India, I recognized the scholarly vein of the monastic training in Rinpoche's delivery. Rinpoche peppers the text with seminal and relevant quotes and advice from genuine teachers of Tibetan Buddhism, particularly the Nyingma and Kagyu schools emphasizing the Ngondro as a foundational practice. The result is a text inlaid with nuggets of practical wisdom available for the reader to mine, contemplate, and apply to their practice. Much food for thought on many levels, practical and profound. Rinpoche is particularly effective in demystifying the central role of devotion to all practice.
I would highly recommend this thoroughly engaging book to those who wish to bring their spiritual practice to life. Sound, pragmatic advice that will get you reflecting on your motivation and approach in positive ways throughout the day, and send you to the cushion with fresh and enlivening insight to fuel your practice of awakening. I, for one, foresee returning to its inspiring and grounding blessings again and again. May all beings develop and suffuse their mindstreams with genuine devotion and understanding, bringing it to the complete perfection of buddhahood for the sake of all that lives!
Dzongsar Rinpoche works hard at being provocative, and as young and thoroughly cross-cultural as he is there's really no excuse for some of the inaccuracies about other Buddhist traditions and the basic history of the religion that are repeated here as facts. The historical Buddha did not teach Mahayana let alone Vajrayana Buddhism - those sutras, tantras and commentaries were written centuries later by no doubt highly-realized practitioners, but they are not the words of the Buddha. The Buddha didn't teach "Bodhisattvayana," didn't do or recommend visualization or prostrations or deity worship of any kind, and never talked about guru yoga or devotion. These are simple matters of fact that were certainly not known to the first generation of Tibetan refugee lamas who knew nothing of Buddhism outside of Tibet, but there's really no excuse for a modern dharma teacher not distinguishing between party line and fact.
Other old canards repeated here are the portrayal of what the Buddha actually taught as preliminary teachings ("Shravakayana") and the citing of "lineage" as a means of assessing the authenticity of teachers and texts despite the fact that almost everything taught in the book was written by Indian and Tibetan masters who were at least eight centuries removed from the Buddha and whose teachings and practices, however profound and efficacious they may be, bear little resemblance to those of of the Buddha.
These criticisms notwithstanding there's a great deal of pithy dharma in this book. The quotations, doctrines and practices presented may not be those of the Buddha, but arguably they are those of living Buddhas from many centuries later. Who's to say that their levels of understanding and skillful means don't surpass those of the tradition's founder?
Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche delivers a nicely balanced mix of modern "be creative" instructions and traditional advice from the guru. I'm not going to spoil it here with specifics, but this is one of few books that presents a way to test whether or not a practice actually does anything.
Highly recommended for all practitioners of ngondro!
DISCLAIMER: I'm a translator of Tibetan Buddhist texts who has worked in the Nyingma / Dzokchen traditions, among others, for many years, occasionally making a pretense of actual practice. I am not a student of the author of this book.