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Mindfulness in Plain English

4.23  ·  Rating Details ·  7,457 Ratings  ·  447 Reviews
With over a quarter of a million copies sold, Mindfulness in Plain English is one of the most influential books in the burgeoning field of mindfulness and a timeless classic introduction to meditation. This is a book that people read, love, and share - a book that people talk about, write about, reflect on, and return to over and over again.
Bhante Gunaratana is also the a
ebook, Revised, Expanded, 224 pages
Published September 6th 2011 by Wisdom Publications (first published January 25th 1992)
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Jun 12, 2011 Sean rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I expected an exceptional guide to meditation and was surprised to find the book also contained strong, clearly articulated reasons for cultivating mindfulness. This is the best, most concise book on the subject I've read to date. The directness with which ideas are expressed may be startling for some, but the rationale for practice offered throughout is solid. I think it will appeal to any rational person, whether they subscribe to a particular religion or have no faith at all. This is an ...more
Darryl Knudsen
Dec 26, 2011 Darryl Knudsen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even those who don't plan to engage in Buddhist meditation will benefit from his descriptions of the many distractions (mental and physical) that we create for ourselves and which make it more difficult to lead aware lives full of compassion for those around us.

Excellent overview of Vipassana meditation and why it's worth your time. Also an excellent articulation of the need and benefits of cultivating "loving friendliness" toward yourself, those you love, strangers, and even eventually toward
No review, just quotes. Each of the following paragraphs are direct quotes, in the order they are found in the text. The book is freely available online.

We have taken a flowing vortex of thought, feeling and sensation and we have solidified that into a mental construct. Then we have stuck a label onto it, 'me'. And forever after, we treat it as if it were a static and enduring entity. We view it as a thing separate from all other things. We pinch ourselves off from the rest of that process of et
Aug 16, 2015 kaśyap rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Guide to vipassana meditation for a complete beginner. A clear and readable text. Would recommend to anyone who is looking to begin practicing meditation and don't want to get bogged down by theoretical and ritualistic stuff.
David Katzman
Dec 31, 2010 David Katzman rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those with some experience meditating looking to explore further
I’m an armchair Buddhist. Meaning, I like to think about being Buddhist more than actually practicing. But I certainly have deep appreciation for much of Buddhist thought, and I occasionally meditate, and I want to do so more frequently. I almost joined a Zen Buddhist Temple about a mile away from where I live. Still thinking about doing so. Oddly enough, the Art Director who designed Death by Zamboni with me quit his job to become a monk there. I think I drove him crazy because I was so demandi ...more
Bart Everson
Mar 27, 2012 Bart Everson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in meditation
Hard to evaluate this book, because I've never read anything quite like it.

It is a basic meditation manual. It does not attempt to cover a broad range of approaches. Rather it's focused on one specific type, namely mindfulness meditation, also known as Vipassana or insight meditation. The author is coming from a Theravāda Buddhist tradition. However, as the title implies, the material is given a straightforward presentation with minimal metaphysical baggage.

That might sound dry. It's not. The w
Jan 09, 2013 Andrew rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: buddhism
Probably one of the most practical, nuts-and-bolts guides to meditation practice I've read. The author is writing from the perspective of the vipassana tradition, but what is unique about this book is that it primarily stays away from the spiritual side of Buddhism. It's focus is almost entirely on the technique, problems, and solutions of mindfulness meditation. Of all the books I've read on Buddhism, this is the first I've come across like that. It is valuable information particularly to ...more
May 15, 2014 Tiffany rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
This was a book club pick and I tried my best to approach it with an open mind. I have studied several Buddhist texts in the past and this one is one of the best I've seen at simplifying the idea of Buddhist transcendence or enlightenment for the layman. I can see how this book would be a great resource for people looking to learn the "secrets of meditation", the author himself states there are no secrets all that's required is a willingness to try and focus. In general people are searching for ...more
Despite having and constantly trying to deepen a daily meditation practice for years, I hadn't read this book. Since I'm slowly in the process of trying to reintegrate vipassana into my existing meditation practice—one rooted in the Kundalini yogic tradition—I found this book the be an invaluable resource, not only as a reintroduction of sorts to vipassana (insight meditation), but also perhaps reminding me why I've always preferred vipassana practice to zazen ("just sitting").

For those new to m
Viet Hung Nguyen
Must read for beginner meditators

This is more than the 3rd times I re-read this great book, after 3 years practicing meditation. Each time I read it, each time I learn more out of it. Certainly, I will re-read if after more meditation. If there is only one book to suggest for beginner meditators on the practice side, no doubt that I would pick this one.
Daniel Clausen
Sep 04, 2014 Daniel Clausen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One review wrote about this book "An odd mix: kept switching back and forth between pragmatic-sounding approaches to meditation and kinda out-there metaphysical/philosphical tangents. Felt repetitive, but that could have just been the attempt to put this material in "plain English"."

This sums up my impression of the book.

In some ways, the book was a perfection introduction to meditation; but in the end, I was glad once I was done to write my own summary that amounted to three pages.

For me, thre
I don't really want to review this, so this is really just a few brief notes I wanted to share. I liked this well enough and found it useful enough to buy a copy for my physical book library. When I first began reading it, and its description of meditation, I was beginning to think that this may be impossible for me, but reading it further, he shared an old metaphor of meditation as taming a wild elephant, with your mind being the wild elephant, stamping and trying to get away with all its ...more
Apr 05, 2014 Jacopo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Forse il miglior manuale per chi vuole avvicinarsi alla pratica della meditazione, anche se alcuni concetti li si comprende solo con l'esperienza diretta. Il pericolo rimane sempre quello di crearsi uno schema mentale su come svolgere determinate attività, invece di limitarsi a svolgerle e toccare con mano la materia, ma è inevitabile quando si cerca di comunicare a parole un'esperienza.
Catherine Austen
Jun 22, 2011 Catherine Austen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I was feeling overwhelmed and not really present in my life so I thought I'd try this book. I took a mindfulness workshop ages ago, and I've read several other books since, but I've never incorporated the practice into my life for more than a few weeks at a time. I always let it slide, return to old habits, then run back to mindfulness in desperation when I'm overwhelmed. This book might change that pattern for me. I borrowed it from the library a couple of months ago. It's a very good ...more
Dec 12, 2013 K rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
No problems with the message(s) in this book, but the tone was not for me. The use of the second person combined with absolute statements struck me the wrong way, as did the repeated concept that every problem you have can be solved (or at least ameliorated) by meditation -- and that if it isn't, the solution is still meditation.
Jan 01, 2011 Clif rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a beautiful book, both in the message it conveys and in the way it conveys it.

If you stripped away the religious encrustation that has built up around the teachings of the Buddha, you would have a simple plan for life and Gunaratana shows the way by defining the purpose of meditation with a goal of insight.

The concept of the individual as a substantial thing and the endless pursuit of gain and avoidance of loss to the ego sentence us to misery. Through careful use of the mind, it is poss
Daniel Roy
Nov 11, 2012 Daniel Roy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Daniel by: /r/meditation
I'm not experienced at meditation, so I'm not particularly qualified to comment on the quality of the advice given in this book. What I can talk about is my impressions of the book, the clarity of its instructions, and its relevance to my own desire to start meditating.

With that in mind, I found this book excellent. It fully fulfills its promise of clear, straightforward advice on Vipassana meditation. There's no fluff here, no religious flights of fancy. This is a hands-on, practical book on me
Jose Hernandez
May 10, 2014 Jose Hernandez rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Most of us have preconceived notions of what meditation is. When we think of the word meditation we often think of Buddhist monks with shaved heads and flowing robes living in self-inflicted solitude in some far off temple in the middle of a desolate jungle mountain-top, or maybe of long-haired hippies attempting to evoke a transcendental intoxication of oneness with the universe. We may, also, possibly think that meditation is a relaxation technique, a trance like stupor, an escape from ...more
Feb 25, 2014 Kevan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mindfulness has been a topic that has continually appeared in my periphery (Wisdom 2.0 conference, Whil app, Time magazine cover, various web articles) that I wanted to explore its actual meaning and practice, rather than relying on my own assumptions and inference.
So, this book was helpful, interesting, simple.

I've never read a book where the author spends such time defining the scope of what he will and will not cover. If you're wondering: Buddhist Vipassana meditation.

In the end, I don't bel
Sep 17, 2015 Simon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a clear introduction and description of Vipassana mediation. It describes what mediation is, what it is not, how it should be done, what to expect and how mindfulness can be achieved. The book talks about focusing on your breath and allow our mind to clear. The analogy used is a cup of muddy water. When the cup is allowed to rest, the mud settles to the bottom and we can see things more clearly. The ultimate goal is mindfulness that we can apply in our everyday lives and come to the ...more
Feb 10, 2008 Ren rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Possibly one of the more retarded books I've read in some time. Despite what the title would have you believe, rather than simply explaining the Vipaâsyanåa meditation technique the author feels he has to go on and on about suffering, talk about how superior he is (in a humble way), and how much clearer everything will be once you achieve this intangible state of being.

Oh but wait, you can't want to achieve this state. Woops! I get the whole Buddhist thing but you can lay something out with out
A useful read, but a little repetitive in some places (e.g. a definition of “mindfulness” that was thousands of words long but was so abstract that it managed to say very little) and light in content in others (e.g. what to actually do and focus on during a meditation session).

I was also little turned off by how mystical it got in a few places. For example, a passage in the opening chapter instructs the reader not to worry about it too much if they accidentally stumble across images from past li
Jeremy Allan
Aug 29, 2010 Jeremy Allan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Despite my reluctance to admit reading what might seem like "self-help" books to others, I am happy to have read this in public and to post my thoughts on it here. I chose it because I am interested in Buddhist meditation but have wanted to approach it on my own, from a secular perspective. This book provides a solid primer on the practice, both in technique and theory, without overdoing the religious element. There are moments when this book feels slightly redundant and where the organizational ...more
May 09, 2014 Myla rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club-picks
I'm sure for those who want to learn exactly how to meditate this is probably a five star book. I can tell the author is a highly respected, well known expert on the subject and I must admit a bit of what I learned about meditating was interesting-ish, but he lost me quite quick with his talk about how horrible humans are and how you're supposed to think, but don't think, etc. I feel as if he was trying to reap the benefits of the Holy Ghost without actually praying to God and asking for that ...more
Jun 10, 2013 Guilhem rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very down to earth, believable, simple, true to self and devoid of folkloric terms from the Buddhist culture which tend to put me off when it comes to that topic. (Unfortunately). But this book is full of humor, seducing and only downside (which may not be a downside in the long run) is the final part which went a bit overboard about compassion and loving kindness.
Overall, not only recommended but perhaps vital piece of reading in one's life, especially at times when everything seems to go haywi
Charlane Brady
Aug 17, 2014 Charlane Brady rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gunaratana's Mindfulness in Plain English was suggested to me before I went to a 7 day Vipassana retreat a few weeks ago. This was not my first Vipassana retreat, however, it was my first one in a long time. Well, it took only a day to remember what it is like sitting at great lengths and focusing on the breath. The physical and mental distractions were astounding. The words from Gunaratana helped me every day of the retreat and continue to help with mindfulness in ever day life. That is the ...more
Mark Bao
May 13, 2013 Mark Bao rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: beginners to meditation
This is an excellent introduction to mindfulness meditation. I'm impressed by the rational treatment given to meditation and the simple language used; it's mostly about meditation itself and rarely has "spiritual" stuff harm the message. It made me go from kind-of meditating to really starting to meditate the right way (watching thoughts, returning to the breath), how to deal with distractions, meditating in real life, and what mindfulness really means.
Martha Davidson
Learned a great deal from this book, Mindfulness in Plain English, written by Henepola Gunaratana and published originally in 1991. I read the twentieth anniversary edition on Kindle. The book opens a number of horizons for me. It is both a practical guide for beginning meditation techniques and an inspiration to consider more deeply how we live our lives. I have finished a first reading of the book, but I am sure that I will continue to learn from it as a valuable reference.
Aug 24, 2016 Franta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a clear guide to Vipassanā aka the Buddhist meditation of insight into the true nature of reality.

Developed at times when science was done only in monasteries, this is a technique based on an empirical evidence. It is a tool that can be used for all purposes, not necessary connected to religion.

Get the book here:
Jul 01, 2008 Bobby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in insight meditation
Excellent intro to insight meditation -provides a very practical approach. There's very little attempt at Buddhist indoctrination here, which might otherwise overwhelm newcomers that are just curious about meditation, but instead just straight tips on how to begin practicing insight (Vipassana) meditation, as well as solutions to common problems that may crop up.
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Bhante Henepola Gunaratana is the founding abbot of the Bhavana Society. Born in rural Sri Lanka, he has been a monk since age 12 and took full ordination at age 20 in 1947. He came to the United States in 1968. “Bhante G” (as he is fondly called by his students) has written a number of books, including the now-classic meditation manual Mindfulness In Plain English and its companion Eight Mindful ...more
More about Henepola Gunaratana...

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“Deeply buried in the mind, there lies a mechanism that accepts what the mind experiences as beautiful and pleasant and rejects those experiences that are perceived as ugly and painful. This mechanism gives rise to those states of mind that we are training ourselves to avoid-- things like greed, lust, hatred, aversion, and jealousy.” 10 likes
“The irony of it is that real peace comes only when you stop chasing it—another Catch-22.” 8 likes
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