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Review of "The Myth of Freedom and the Way of Meditation"

By Chogyam Trungpa
Shambhala Publications, 2002
Review by Prem Dana Takada on Mar 5th 2003
The Myth of Freedom and the Way of Meditation

Chogyam Trungpa, Ripoche  (1939-1987), meditation master, scholar and artist, was the founder and president of Vajrahatu, Naropa University and Shambhala Training. This book is a collection of his original discourses on Tibetan Buddhism given in various parts of the United States between 1971 and 1973. With a foreword by the currently popular Pema Chodron this book provides both an introduction to Buddhist psychology and a clarification of meditative practices of the Tibetan school for those that are already familiar with Buddhist teachings.

The book begins with an original poem by Trungpa in which he writes “The warrior without a sword, Riding on a rainbow, Hears the limitless laughter of transcendental joy. The poisonous snake becomes amrita” In this volume Trungpa takes us through the different psychological types that can interfere with the road to freedom.  Such self-absorption as paranoia, passion, anger and stupidity are outlined. As a Clinical Psychologist myself the categorization seemed somewhat limited as I reflect that there are infinite ways in which sentient beings imprison themselves in their misery. Yet as with most religions, the mystics have outlined psychology and the methods to transcend them. So this would be a helpful study for those interested.

As a long term student of meditation failed to find his explanations of the process very enlightening and I found the tone a little too serious.  (The first joke doesn’t appear until page 51.)  Of most interest was the explication of the various roles of the teacher on the path of Mahayana devotion from spiritual friend to the crazy wisdom guru as the student matures. This can be used as a model for the different roles a therapist might take during the course of treatment.  The type of explanations that he gives to the role of teacher or Guru remind me of the Zen tradition where the master was unpredictable and a great deal is demanded from the student in return for his or her ever-growing enlightenment. It speaks of the path of human development as not being a comforting or easy one but one of risks and dangers—truly the path of insecurity.  In a world where people want quick fixes, easy answers and managed care packages surely this deeper voice deserves to be heard.

Not too difficult to read, this book is suitable for all practitioners in the healing arts and their students and all those that suffer and wish for freedom. The transformation of poisons into blessings could be the outcome.

 

© 2003 Prem Dana Takada

 

 

Prem Dana Takada, B.B.Sc. (Hons) M.A. Clin Psych, originally trained as a Clinical Psychologist in Melbourne, Australia where she also acquired registration as a Family Therapist. After leaving Australia, Prem Dana worked as a Principal Clinical Psychologist in West London where she continued to work with individuals, couples, families, and as a group therapist and received further training as a Hypnotherapist in Oxford. She has traveled widely having also lived and worked in India, and has been in Japan for the last eight  years where she  runs the Psychotherapy and Healing Practice and is current President of International Mental Health Professionals Japan--a professional organization established for International Therapists.

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