Primary Sources


When studying meditation, it is important to understand where the knowledge of practice is coming from. Just like a scientific paper requires a peer-reviewed process and a highly credentialed research team, the path of meditation and its systematic process also requires an author/ practitioner who has not only studied several steps of meditation but also experienced the knowledge at various levels. For this reason, most of the information that will be in this blog post will not be coming directly from me, as I do not see myself as qualified as some of the experienced monks and meditation practitioners who have spent their entire life devoted to meditation. Therefore, most of the content will be coming from 2 sources: 1. The Mind Illuminated by John Yates and 2. In Buddha's Words by Bhikkhu Bodhi. These two books come from highly experienced monks who have understood meditation at its root of it and have experienced that which liberates all people from their daily suffering. I hope to bring the message of these two books concisely and effectively so that they can help most amount of people. 

What better way to understand meditation than to turn ourselves directly to the Buddha's teachings. The Buddha is not a divine being or an Avatar of God. Instead, he is a simple teacher, who walked on the path of Dharma, righteousness, and taught people how to use meditation and pure insight to cultivate more equanimity, joy, and peace. I also like John Yates' book, Mind Illuminated, because it gives very thorough details on the steps of meditation and allows me to explain the process more concretely with backed up evidence from the psychological and neuroscience literature.   

In the Buddha's Words by Bhikkhu Bodhi is a profound collection of Buddha's discourses from the Sutta-Pitaka. This comes from Theravada Buddhist scriptures, which contain the Pali Canon, which has all the Buddha's teachings. The Pali Canon is divided into three 'baskets': Vinaya Pitaka (rules for monks/ nuns), Sutta Pitaka (Buddha's discourses), and Abhidharma Pitaka (Buddhist philosophy and psychology). 

This book synthesizes all of the Buddha's teachings from the Sutta Pitaka (Buddha's discourses) texts from Pali Canon and presents the most important discourses the Buddha taught. It includes topics such as human suffering, approaching dharma, happiness in the present life, reincarnation, perspectives of the world, path to liberation, the wisdom of reality, planes of reality, and mastering the mind through meditation. This book is the closest to the Pali canon collection, which is the closest thing to Buddha's real words. Therefore this book can be seen as one of the most important reads for people interested in Buddhism as well as Buddha's advice on living a happy life. 

Buddhism is more of a way of life and not a religion. The Buddha always suggested investigating different things and not developing blind faith due to tradition and family history. The Buddha's words are logical, rational, and convincing, but they do not enforce blind faith, instead, they ask the reader to turn inwards and find the answers to questions through introspection and meditation. 

The Mind Illuminated is by John Yates, a neuroscientist, and a Buddhist monk. This book is for individuals who seek a more scientific and rational step-by-step approach to meditation. John Yates does a good job of bringing Buddhist wisdom to daily practice and giving people a very simple, but the encouraging path of meditation. The book goes through ten steps of meditation and gives special techniques for developing different levels of consciousness. 

The two major themes in this book are attention and awareness. Yates's knowledge mainly comes from his practice, his neuroscience background, and the Buddhist scriptures. He suggests that by cultivating Samatha (stable attention) and Sati (mindfulness/ awareness), one can reach equanimity (joy) and vipassana (pure insight) about oneself and the world. Equanimity and insight about the truth then lead to Nirvana or Awakening to true reality. Yates' methodical approach of breaking meditation into steps and giving specific diagnostic tools to assess your progress alongside neat charts and images allows the reader to feel fulfilled as they progress through the meditation steps. There are specific goals, obstacles, skills, and mastery points for each stage and this allows the reader to determine how far they are in the process of meditation and what to do to get better/ overcome obstacles.

This book is one of the best meditation books in western culture as it puts forth concepts of cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and physiology and uses them to support the process of meditation. The book serves as a 'guru' or teacher for someone in seek of a proper way of meditating and attaining higher levels of concentration and awareness. Yates is both a psychologist and a Buddhist monk and this allows him to teach meditation from both a spiritual and a therapeutic perspective.