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Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha: An Unusually Hardcore Dharma Book

4.35  ·  Rating Details  ·  299 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
* Author posits that enlightenment is an attainable goal* Argues that meditation is a method for examining reality. The very idea that the teachings of meditation can be mastered will arouse controversy within Buddhist circles. Even so, Ingram insists that enlightenment is an attainable goal, once our fanciful notions of it are stripped away, and we have learned to use med ...more
Paperback, 406 pages
Published December 1st 2008 by Aeon Books (first published April 2007)
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Craig Shoemake
This is not your daddy’s Dharma book! (Your mommy’s neither.)

The differences start with the cover, and no, I’m not talking about the flaming dude with a chakra wheel for his heart. I’m talking about the author’s title: Arahat. Now, Ingram does have a regular title–he’s a medical doctor (M.D.) specializing in emergency medicine–”Everything from hangnails to heart attacks” he told me in a phone conversation. As you ought to know by now (if you read this blog regularly), an arhat (there are variant
Adam Shand
Jan 03, 2013 Adam Shand rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spirit
This book changed everything I thought I knew about meditation and the spiritual path in general. He tackles the taboos and myths around the concept of enlightenment, clearly and succinctly lays out the stages and paths that spiritual progress takes and draws parallels and comparisons between Vipassana (often called Insight Meditation in the west) and other spiritual traditions.

Just when I was about to give up on my meditation practice in despair and disgust, this book reconnected me with my pra
Aug 19, 2010 Sky rated it really liked it
Excellent book.

Although i myself followed a somewhat different path, i recognize a lot of the issues Ingram addresses. He is very open and honest about the whole thing, which can only be applauded and encouraged.
I particularly like the many warnings to not get trapped in the more sophisticated illusions that are out there.
It is a very elaborate, enlightening and accessible work, but i have a few remarks.

It is a lot of text and guidance, from my perspective a little too much, giving people certai
Nov 30, 2010 Bruce rated it it was amazing
I read this in electronic version, which is available FREE from the author's website You can also get a physical copy from the usual places.

As interested as I am in spirituality, I've gone 45 years without knowing the technical (buddhist) meaning of the term enlightenment. Until I read this book. If you are interested in the topic, whether you know nothing about Buddhism or are a practicing Buddhist, then I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK. I would give it 10 stars if
May 10, 2009 Martinxo rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: meditators
This is a key book for clear and precise meditation instruction. Ingram is no half-hearted new-agey Buddhist, he takes you quickly to the point and then it us up to you. Highly recommended.

Worth checking out his site:

and getting involved in the conversation at:
Tord Helsingeng
Jan 12, 2015 Tord Helsingeng rated it really liked it
Well, as the subtitle says, this is a book for serious or even zealous practitioners. "Vast emptiness, nothing holy" seems to fit the bill even though that quote is from the zen lineage. Ingram is quite provocative in his writing and even puts a certain symbol (electric/flash) on many chapters which may be especially provocative to traditional buddhists. It is certainly a book that aims for enlightenment through intense practice of the theravada variety. I especially like Ingram's mapping of the ...more
John Davis
Apr 11, 2016 John Davis rated it really liked it
Shelves: rereadme
This is a hard book to review for me, a non-buddhist non-meditator starting from zero. I tore through the first half of the book if a couple of days; Ingram's discourse on buddhist virtues was great, and his criticism of other sects and western "Jet Set" nihilo-buddhism was informative. I bogged down in the descriptions of the various jhanas and nanas, as these were far from my attainment (I began meditating after reading, and did hit something resembling access concentration, but failed to sust ...more
Mar 16, 2014 Cypherks rated it really liked it
Having read a lot of Buddhist texts over the last few years, and diving into Dzogchen as well, I was always left with more questions and felt that I was chasing a rabbit down a hole than never ended. Never have I read so many books about nothing!

This is the first Buddhist book I've read that makes sense. Stripped away of flowery language and allegory, Daniel Ingram lays it all out for you to follow along with. Sit down, meditate, do this, this and this. Then you'll run into very familiar, very
Aug 13, 2012 Mitchell rated it really liked it
Shelves: spirituality
If you are not on a spiritual path toward enlightenment (awakening), this book is not for you. If you are on such path and hold to a specific tradition, then Daniel Ingram’s arrogant and irreverent tone, as well as some of the spiritual taboos he addresses, is likely to offend you, perhaps profoundly. Lightening-flash symbols for chapters and sections that might be considered controversial, to some, are clearly marked and are also addressed as a warning in the forward.

For the relatively small nu
Jan 12, 2014 Juergen rated it liked it
This book's a bit of a slog. I'd offer another star if it was better edited. That said, the collection of information available herein is invaluable to one who has a bit of practice time logged. The treatment given by Ingram to the Progress of Insight, as delineated by the Visuddhimagga and preferred by those in the Mahasi Sayadaw tradition, is golden. If you find yourself in contemplative territories, it would be immensely helpful to have a map to help you circumnavigate the pathways. The Progr ...more
Luv Suneja
One of the most comprehensive and bad-ass books about meditative practice. It gives a clear outline about what it entails to walk the spiritual path. It demystifies deep concepts and makes them accessible to an earnest seeker, who believes in taking action and responsibility for his/her spiritual truth and not merely basking in flowery platitudes and going to meditation class to merely feel "spiritual".

The book starts with the basics concepts of Buddhism, particularly Theravada and ramps up to
Dean P
One of the best contemporary dharma/meditation/spiritual practice books and commentary written in modern times. This book really gets at the core of what Buddhism _should_ be about and focus on with its practices- however, this book could easily apply to any of the major religions or practical spiritual paths aiming at self-transformation and 'enlightenment'. I like the direct advice given, and also the conceptual mappings throughout the book detailing possible stopping places along the spiritua ...more
Susan Tucker
Dec 01, 2013 Susan Tucker rated it really liked it
Not a philosophy book, this book is a how-to guide for the serious meditator. I appreciate the book for describing the territory and aims of insight practice and concentration practice in a way I've never seen before. Many vague notions were cleared up for me.

I've never been a serious meditator, and the chapters quickly got into territory far beyond my experiences and comprehension. I have a feeling I'll be re-reading this one.
Jan 18, 2013 Rick rated it it was amazing
Best book on meditation ever. By far. And one certainly doesn't have to be a Buddhist to appreciate or benefit from.
Oct 05, 2013 Ted rated it it was amazing
Shelves: buddhism
For serious Buddhist meditators, iconoclastic and indispensable.
As the title and subtitle suggest (or warn), the content of this book is meant for, and likely all but exclusively appeals to, the most serious of meditators. If you count yourself among this camp but have not completed at least two 10-day insight retreats and established a solid daily practice, I’d suggest doing so before diving into this particular book. Much of it will seem just too fantastic to even consider if one has not at least glimpsed the actual fantastic through one’s own experience w ...more
Carrie L
Feb 04, 2013 Carrie L rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: serious meditation students
Recommended to Carrie by: Tim
Shelves: gave-up
This is a great book for those practicing Insight Meditation (Vipassana) in the Buddhist tradition, who want a more solid, in-your-face approach than many teachers are willing to share. Ingram is of my generation (30-something) which at times makes him feel a lot more on my level than teachers of the previous generation. Do be aware that this book is not for those new to meditation, or those who are just using meditation to 'chill out.' Ingram is serious that, with the proper effort, we can achi ...more
Lindu Pindu
Apr 02, 2011 Lindu Pindu rated it really liked it
This is one of the most worthwhile books I have read. Not just on Dharma, but in general.
It's fun, cynical and spiritual, and not least of all... ass-kicking! The book does a good job of doing away with all the New Age-y mumbo jumbo about meditation. Honestly, this will save countless people who are trying to meditate and are willing to listen. I just wish the cover was different so you'd actually believe me.

The descriptions of insight and concentration meditations are to the point and presente
Dec 15, 2012 Steve rated it really liked it
What Stephen Batchelor did for debunking a lot of hooey about reincarnation, Ingram has done to debunk the hooey around talking about meditation experience and attainments. He is an American, and I think this book could only be written in America. Victorian Buddhism won't like this book.

I take this book as encouragement to sit, to deepen my practice and to really challenge myself to progress on the path.

I feel like he's answered his critics, and you might even consider the book too obsessed with
Jan 01, 2014 Andrew rated it it was amazing
Shelves: buddhism
This book isn't for everybody, but it certainly was for me.

Daniel is a true Buddhist Geek and his book is an amazing deconstruction of 25 centuries of buddhist thought, revealing the core understandings of buddhism, not as a religion, but as a system for awakening that is as valid today as it was when it was first revealed long ago.

It's also a fully "Gen X" read, less interested in mystic new age nonsense, and far more focused on explaining what there is to find for those of us willing to take
Dana Garrett
Jun 19, 2013 Dana Garrett rated it it was amazing
Shelves: buddhism
By far the best book on Buddhist meditation I've read. The book provides wonderful descriptions on the types of meditation (Vipassana and Jhana), the stages of meditation, practical guidance in how to perform the various types, potential pitfalls of the types and how to work through them, the benefits of the types, experiences characteristic of the types--a literal map through the various types of meditation. Equally helpful is the no nonsense approach Ingram takes to the subject matters he disc ...more
Mar 22, 2015 Jeff rated it it was amazing
If you are into the American version of Buddhism, you will likely find this book helpful. It is very practical. It also raises a lot of important points that need to be worked through as West and East converge in the 21st century.
Mar 10, 2014 Rose rated it it was amazing
Truly unique -- and incredibly valuable.

If you don't have the funds to buy it, you can also download a pdf of it here:
Dan Tasse
Sep 29, 2011 Dan Tasse rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
Wow. Lays out the stages from here to enlightenment in more detail than anything I've ever read. At the same time, it's modern and easy to read, not ancient and Tibetan or something. Also gives some hope that enlightenment can actually be achieved in a matter of years, not decades. (or lifetimes!) Demystifies a lot of Buddhism, which is good.

Assuming he's right about all this stuff (I'll let you know in a few years), this would be probably the #1 or #2 Buddhist book I'd recommend for anyone to r
Jan 06, 2013 Alex rated it liked it
i read this about a yr ago. i liked it & went on to read some of the books he recommended.

i really appreciate mr. ingram's effort & the fact that he distributes it for free. this book is difficult read at times given the weak grammar and daniel's strong opinions and overbearing nature.

i will try to get my hardcopy bk from my sister-in-law to give a second reading. i am facinated by the topic.
Sep 14, 2010 April rated it liked it
What a fascinating book. I knew I didn't know much about Buddhism, but I didn't know just HOW much I didn't know.

What I most liked about this book is that he purposely uses the most clear language that he can as he addresses practical methods and mystical attainments. So often I have no idea what people are really talking about when I read mystical books.
Robb Seaton
The author's focus on goal-oriented practice and technique strikes me as particularly valuable.

Unfortunately, the book is not entirely free of mystical nonsense, including a chapter on "psychic powers" such as mind reading.

Edit: Achieved first jhana not long after reading with little trouble thanks in large part to the book's instruction.
Jared Morgenstern
Apr 17, 2012 Jared Morgenstern rated it it was ok
I think the author sounded arrogant and the book was hard to follow. This could be because it was my first entry to meditation techniques so it may have been too detailed. Nonetheless, I did not like the style it was written in and the author lost credibility with me on some sections involving telekinesis.
Janne Asmala
Jan 18, 2009 Janne Asmala rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, meditation
Simply the most inspiring, down-to-earth, and practical book I've ever read on meditation. A particular highlight were the excellent maps of the path of meditation. Be warned though, the author is serious about the topic and isn't afraid to trash pretty illusions of enlightenment.
Feb 01, 2015 Amy rated it it was amazing
This is the most pragmatic approach to spirituality that I've ever come across. It has reinvigorated my own personal meditation practice and I feel deeply thankful that I've had the privilege of finding it.
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“At the most fundamental level, the level that is the most useful for doing insight practices, we wish desperately that there was some separate, permanent self, and we spend huge amounts of time doing our best to prop up this illusion. In order to do this, we habitually ignore lots of useful information about our reality and give our mental impressions and simplifications of reality much more importance than they are necessarily due. It is this illusion that adds a problematic element to the normal and understandable ways in which we go about trying to be happy. We constantly struggle with reality because we misunderstand it, i.e. because reality misunderstands itself.” 1 likes
“Thus, “let it go” at its best actually means, “don’t give a bunch of transient sensations an excessive sense of solidity.” It does not mean, “stop feeling or caring,” nor does it mean, “pretend that the noise in your mind is not there.” 0 likes
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