Synopses & Reviews
is a next-generation book about meditation, Buddhism, and the contemplative path. It explores how the dharma (the path, the way, the teachings of the Buddha) has evolved in astonishing ways and how dharma practice evolves in one's own life. Instead of approaching the dharma as spirituality, therapy, or self-help, scholar and practicing Buddhist Jay Michaelson presents it as a set of technologies for upgrading the brain, for physically enhancing its capacity for wisdom and compassion.
In the last twenty years, Buddhism has exploded well beyond its former boundaries. Meditation is being taught to prisoners, cancer patients, and children. It is being practiced online--by geeks, hipsters, and punks; by atheists, Christians, and Jews; by people who are not "spiritual." It's not even "Buddhism" anymore, having evolved out of its original religious context and into dozens of new ones. Evolving Dharma is the first book to take stock of these trends, and to speak in real-life terms about how they affect the practice of meditation and the path to upgrading the mind.
Michaelson is fearless, unorthodox, and irreverent, yet his book is also based on his decade of meditation practice and teaching as well as his ten years of work as an LGBT activist. Including forays into neuroscience and cultural criticism as well as the author’s personal stories of his five months spent in silent retreat, life-changing realizations, pain, joy, and insight, this engaging, honest, and often humorous book is a must-read for younger practitioners in any Buddhist or secular tradition, as well as novice or experienced meditators interested in learning about how meditation has evolved in the last several decades.
Chapter titles include "The Dharma Evolves By Disappearing," "The Evolution of Enlightenment," and "When Every Mystical State You've Ever Wanted Isn't Enough."
"Since Buddhism was transplanted to America by counterculture movements in the 20th century, the gulf has widened between those who see the practice as a spiritual/religious endeavor and those who regard it as a secular phenomenon. Michaelson (God vs. Gay?) tackles difficult questions about Buddhism's evolution in Western culture, as mindfulness practice grows slowly but steadily as a popular secular activity. He examines the history of postmodern Buddhism, describes the path of practice and enlightenment through his own personal accounts of bliss and darkness, and considers future directions. Working from the foundational idea that meditation has become a set of tools for the refinement and improvement of the human mind, the author addresses the pitfalls and benefits of the more traditional spiritual/religious approach and its counterpart, the rational and scientific Western worldview. He is fortunately unafraid to come to grips with the darker sides of the tradition (for example, sexual and power abuses by teachers and gurus) in his discussions about Buddhism's future and its ethical obligations to the world and to itself. Serious practitioners secular or religious and curious individuals alike would benefit greatly from reading Michaelson's intelligent and compassionate examination of mindfulness practice." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
JAY MICHAELSON is a writer, activist, Buddhist meditation teacher, and scholar of
Jewish mysticism (Kabbalah) whose work has been featured on CNN, NPR, and in the New York Times. He is vice president of the Arcus Foundation, which supports social justice and conservation worldwide, and writes regularly for the Daily Beast, the Huffington Post, Tricycle, and the Forward. He holds a JD from Yale, a PhD from Hebrew University, and has held teaching positions at Yale University and Boston University Law School. Michaelson’s previous book, God vs. Gay?, was an Amazon.com bestseller and Lambda Literary Award finalist. For more information about his articles and appearances, visit his website.