In this ground-breaking and seminal work, esteemed Buddhist teacher Rob Burbea lays out an original and comprehensive approach to deepening insight. Starting from simple and easily accessible understandings of emptiness, Burbea presents a unique conception of the path along which he escorts the practitioner gradually, through the careful structure of the work, into ever more mystical levels of insight. Through its precise instructions, illuminating exercises and discussions that address the subtleties of both practice and understanding, Seeing That Frees opens up for the committed meditator all the profundity of the Buddha’s radical teachings on emptiness. This is a book that will take time to digest and will serve as a lifelong companion on the path, leading the reader, as it does, progressively deeper into the territory of liberation.
From the Foreword by Joseph Goldstein: "Rob Burbea, in this remarkable book, proves to be a wonderfully skilled guide in exploring the understanding of emptiness as the key insight in transforming our lives... It is rare to find a book that explores so deeply the philosophical underpinnings of awakening at the same time as offering the practical means to realize it."
I'm reminded of Sir Francis Bacon's quip, "Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." Burbea's work here is beyond even that last category, this is a book that *must* be chewed and digested and, in the process of this digestion, one discovers--to their amazement--that the book was digesting them, methodically demolishing one's sense of self and world. It was reading itself all along!
The book's greatest weakness is that Burbea has packed a lifetime of technique and practice into so few pages. Its barrage of insight can be overwhelming. After finishing a chapter, one is left dizzy, feeling that they ought spend a month or year experimenting and integrating it.
Harvat kirjat ovat avanneet uusia puolia dharmasta ja meditatiivisesta harjoittamisesta kuten tämä. Kirja ankkuroituu suoraa buddhalaisen tyhjyysfilosofian, Nagarjunasta lähtevään Madhyamaka-perinteeseen, ja esitetty lähestymistapa ja harjoitteet juurrutetaan tämän perinteen edustajien ajatuksiin. Kirjassa esitetyt tulkinnat ja harjoitteet tuntuvat näin olevan sekä harmoniassa perinteen kanssa, että täysin ymmärrettäviä ja soveltamiskelpoisia modernille ihmiselle. Teos avasi hyvin paljon ymmärrystä buddhalaisuuteen liittyvistä filosofisista teemoista, jotka ovat aiemmin jääneet melko kysymysmerkeiksi. Teoria ja käytäntö kulkivat läpi kirjan käsi kädessä ja opus sisälsi paljon harjoituksia, jotka jo lyhyellä pohtimisella ja kokeilemisella tuntuivat tuovan uutta syvyyttä meditatiiviseen harjoittamiseen, kuten vaikka analyyttiset meditaatiot itsen tai ajan luonteesta.
Interdependenssi ja tyhjyys ovat kirjan kaksi keskeistä teemaa. Burbean lähestymistapa on hyvin konstruktivistinen. Keskeisenä väitteenä on, että koko kokemuksemme (ei pelkästään karkeat todellisuutta vääristävät ajattelutavat ja tunteet, vaan _koko_ kokemus mukaanlukien aika, nykyhetki ja ulkoinen maailma) on kudottua, fabrikoitua. Kokemukset ja kokemuksen komponentit eivät ole toisistaan irrotettavissa, vaan hyvin elimellisesti linkittyneitä ja keskinäisriippuvaisesti syntyneitä. Kokija, kokemuksen kohteet ja aika esimerkiksi muodostavat tällaisen triadin. Toinen esimerkki voisi olla kokemusten kohteet, niihin liittyvät vedanat (eli tunnesävyt) sekä haluaminen/aversio. Kirjan meditaativissa harjoituksissa lähdetään ikään kuin tökkimään eri kokemuksen komponentteja, tutkien miten tietyn komponentin kiinteyden ja eheyden heikentäminen vaikuttaa koko kokemiseen. Ajatuksena on, että siirryttäessä taitavampiin näkemisen tapoihin ja ylittämällä konventionaaliset tavat nähdä maailma, voidaan kokea tiloja, joissa kokemusta syntyy yhä vähemmän. Tällainen harjoittaminen kuulemma kulminoituu tiloihin, joissa kokemusta syntyy vähemmän ja vähemmän, lopulta niin vähän, että liu'utaan mystiikaan puolelle tiloihin, joissa aika, kokija ja kokemuksen kohteet saattavat tyystin hävitä. Tutkimalla kokemusten keskinäisriippuvaista rakentumista tutkitaan kokemuksen ja sen kohteiden tyhjyyttä. Radikaali väite on, että kaikki kokemus on tyhjää, keskinäisrakentunutta mössöä, jolle ei löydy mitään objektiivista tai ehdotonta tukijalkaa.
Burbea R (2015) Seeing That Frees - Meditations on Emptiness and Dependent Arising
Foreword, by Joseph Goldstein Abbreviations Preface
Part I: Orientations
01. The Path of Emptiness is a Journey of Insight • Voidness, the roots of suffering, and the way things seem to be • All phenomena are empty of inherent existence • Realizing voidness dissolves dukkha • Voidness and impermanence • Emptiness is the Middle Way • Seeing emptiness opens compassion • Entering into the mystery…
02. Emptiness, Fabrication, and Dependent Arising • Dependent on the mind • Fabricated, therefore illusory • Challenging assumptions • The mystery of fabrication
03. “All is Void!” – Initial Reactions, and Responses • Disbelief • Worries of meaninglessness • Fear of annihilation • Using dukkha and immediate experience as guides • Doubts about our own capacity • Developing insight gradually
Part II: Tools and Provisions
04. The Cultivation of Insight • What is ‘Insight’? • Insight and the Four Noble Truths • Modes of Insight and ‘Ways of Looking’ • The Inevitability of Fabrication • Insight into Voidness • Seeing the Emptiness of Things: A Range of Means • • 1. A gradually deepening inquiry into fabrication – of the self and of all experience • • 2. Realizing the impossibility of inherent existence • Intuitions and intimations of emptiness
05. Samādhi and its Place in Insight Practice • I. The Blessings of Samādhi • • A Resource for the Whole of the Path • • • The confidence to let go • • • Countless gifts beyond meditation • • The Significance of Samādhi for Insight Practices • • • Preparing the soil – supporting insights to take root • II. A Wise Relationship to Samādhi Practice • • So much is being cultivated: seeing the bigger picture • • Tending to the elements which support samādhi • • Playfulness and experimentation are key • • A wise attitude to the hindrances • III. A Few More Subtle Points about Samādhi Practice • • Common Difficulties • • • Subtle hindrances • • • Feelings of tightness • • Modes of Attention • • • Probing and receiving • • • Playing with the intensity of attention • • • Sensitive to the whole body • • Working with Feelings of Pleasure and with the Subtle Body • • • Encouraging feelings of well-being • • • Towards unification • • • Steadiness of feeling is more important than strength • • • Suffusing and saturating the whole body • • • Unblocking and smoothing out the subtle body energies • IV. The Relation Between Samādhi and Insight • • Insight brings samādhi • • A fluid balance between samādhi and insight • • Samādhi and fabrication • • Risks of Attachment
Part III: Setting Out
06. Emptiness that’s Easy to See • Social Conventions • • The voidness of countries • • Conditioned views of worth • • Including body and emotions in reflective practice • • Practice: Opening to freedom and strength through reflection • Seeing the ‘Holes’ in Things • • Deconstructing differences • • Different ways of looking: discerning what is helpful • • A way of looking is more than a reflection • • Practice: Beginning deconstruction – The elements of experience • “What Was That All About?!” • • Practice: Investigating what is being fabricated through the hindrances • Seeing Spaciousness • • Practice: Beginning to notice space
07. An Understanding of Mindfulness • ‘Staying at Contact’ • • Practice: ‘Staying at contact’ • Abstractions, Concepts, and ‘Bare Attention’ • • Practice: Questioning abstractions and generalizations • • Practice: Bare attention • The Simplification of Attention • • A Wise Attention to the Emotions in the Body • • • Differentiating the emotions present • • • Focusing on just the vedanā in the emotional body • • • Practice: Choosing a simpler object of attention • ‘Dot-to-Dot’ • • Practice: ‘Dot-to-dot’
08. Eyes Wide Open: Seeing Causes and Conditions • Beginning to Understand Self-Construction • Blame as a Constriction of View – Opening the Vision • • Conditions are inner, outer, past, and present • • Guilt, remorse, and responsibility • • A web of inter-dependence • • The way of looking is always a significant condition • • Practice: Ending blame through recognizing the confluence of conditions
09. Stories, Personalities, Liberations • Respecting the self • Something about stories • Questioning self-construction • Imprisoned in self-definitions • • Practice: Examining, and loosening, self-definitions • Freeing the expressions of self
10. Dependent Origination (1) • Of sub-loops and manifold connections • A Map for Relieving Dukkha • • Recognizing saṅkhārā • • Attending to craving and to vedanā: Two strategies • • Practice: A skilful tolerating of craving • • Practice: Focusing on vedanā to temper the force of craving • • Some other possibilities – Softening the view • Self and Phenomena: A Mutual Construction • The Need to Probe Deeper
Part IV: On Deepening Roads
11. The Experience of Self Beyond Personality • The Sense of Self • • A spectrum… • • There is always some kind of self-sense • • We need to comprehend states of less self-construction • • Practice: Noticing the sense of self • The Conception of Self • • The teaching of the aggregates • • Possible conceptions of self
12. Three More Liberating Ways of Looking: (1) – Anicca • Noticing Anicca at a Relatively Gross Level • • Practice: Awareness of change at an everyday level • Perceiving Moment-to-Moment Impermanence • • An example: The patterning of sound • • Including the distracted mind • • Attention can be both narrow and broad • • Other objects: The sensations of the body and the other physical senses • • Vedanā • • Thoughts • • Intentions • • The totality of objects • • Consciousness • More to Mention About Seeing Moment-to-moment Anicca • • An invigorating practice • • The possibility of noting • • No need to press for a perception of more rapidity • • Anicca and the ultimate truth • • Practice: Attending to anicca moment to moment • The Heart’s Responses to Impermanence • Of Death and Vast Time • • Practice: Viewing experience from the perspective of death and vast time
13. Three More Liberating Ways of Looking: (2) – Dukkha • Dukkha (Method 1) • • ‘Holy discontent’ and ‘holy disinterest’ • • ‘Letting go’ means ‘letting be’ • • Practice: Viewing phenomena as ‘dukkha’ moment to moment • Dukkha (Method 2) • • Recognizing Craving • • Ways of Relaxing the Craving • • • Relaxing the body • • • Using other ways of looking • • • An alternative approach: Fully allowing, welcoming • • More About the Second Dukkha Method • • • Settling the citta • • • Releasing craving is actually ‘doing’ less • • • Both wider and more specifically directed attention are necessary • Insights Emerging • • Dukkha depends on craving • • Deepening into subtlety • • Craving and the emptiness of self • • Practice: Relaxing the relationship with phenomena
14. Three More Liberating Ways of Looking: (3) – Anattā • Developing the Anattā Practice • • External possessions • • The material body • • Gradually expanding the range of the practice • • Consciousness • • Even more subtle phenomena • Some Tips and Reflections about Anattā Meditation • • Two possible perceptions • • Skilful responses to aversion and grasping • • The curious problem of the ‘kink in the carpet’ • • Engendering the perception of not-self • • Strengthening the not-self view • Working with the Sense of Release in Insight Practice • • Practice: Seeing what is external as ‘not mine’ • • Practice: Regarding the aggregates as anattā, moment to moment • Of Fear and Loathing in Emptiness Practices • Three Characteristics: Three Avenues of Insight Unfolding
15. Emptiness and Awareness (1) • A Vastness of Awareness • • Supporting this kind of openness • • Practice: A vastness of awareness • Beginning to Inquire into Experiences • • ‘This vastness of awareness is still an object in awareness’ • • Openings of perception as skilful ways of looking • An Alternative Approach: ‘No Difference in Substance’ • • A few points about practising this second method • • Questioning conclusions • • Practice: ‘No difference in substance’ • A Skilful Use of Views • • Two opposite views – but both powerful, both helpful • • Maturing through practice
Part V: Of Highways and Byways
16. The Relationship with Concepts in Meditation • Bare attention, suchness, and ‘things as they are’ • Attachment to ‘not knowing’ • Attachment to simplicity • Questioning predilections • The demands of decisiveness • The Transcending of Concepts • Practice/Inquiry: Attitudes to using thought and concepts in meditation
17. The Impossible Self • The Argument of the Sevenfold Reasoning • Developing a Personal Understanding and Conviction • Working in Meditation • • Creativity and fluidity in the practice • • Practice: The sevenfold reasoning in meditation
18. The Dependent Arising of Dualities • ‘No Preferences’ • • Practice: ‘No preferences’ • Seeing the Emptiness of Duality • 1. Recognizing How Dualities are Fabricated • • Exaggerating through clinging • • Artificially separating continua • • Solidifying what is not solid • • Developing a Liberating Way of Looking • • Practice: Seeing dualities as empty because fabricated • • The need for sensitivity in practice: a reminder • 2. Understanding the Mutual Dependence of Dualities • • Practice: Seeing dualities as empty because mutually dependent
Part VI: Radical Discoveries
19. The Fading of Perception • Cessation and ‘reality’ • A fuller understanding of dependent origination • Insight into Fading Brings the Possibility of a More Powerful Way of Looking • Emptiness and the Jhānas • • Understanding the jhānas as stages of progressively less fabrication • • Insights from the formless realms • • Using insight to access the formless jhānas • Fading Opens Choices • • Of insight ways of looking and samādhi • • The malleability of perceptions • Seeing Dependent Fading Opens Up Emptiness as the Middle Way • The Freedom of Different Ways of Looking • • Practice: Viewing phenomena as ‘empty’ because they fade dependently
20. Love, Emptiness, and the Healing of the Heart • The Colouring and Shaping of Experiences • • Of others • • Of the world • • Karma and the malleability of perception • • Emptiness and ethical care • Deeper Insights From Love: Seeing Fading Through Mettā and Compassion • • Practice: Directing love towards phenomena • Fading, Fabrication, and Healing the Past • • A question of catharsis • • The power of views and beliefs • • Shapeable pasts • • Open-mindedness, and levels of view
21. Buildings and their Building Blocks, Deconstructed • The Illusion of ‘Just Being’ • The Emptiness of Clinging, and of Mind States • The Voidness of the Aggregates • Mutual Dependency and the Emptiness of Cause and Effect • Practice: Contemplating the emptiness of clinging
Part VII: Further Adventures, Further Findings
22. No Thing • Different Tracks to a Conviction in Emptiness • An Inquiry into Parts and Wholes • • Practice: The emptiness of parts and wholes • The Emptiness of the Body and of Material Forms • The Neither-One-Nor-Many Reasoning • • Practice: ‘Neither one nor many’
23. The Nature of Walking • The Unfindability of Beginnings and Endings • The Unfindability of Walking • • Resting in, enjoying, and consolidating the view • • Practice: Analysing walking and finding it empty • • Subtle dukkha, and sweet relief • Beyond Motion, Process, and Change
24. Emptiness Views and the Sustenance of Love • Opening Love Through Loosening the Self-view • • Practice: Deepening mettā and compassion by fabricating less self • The View of the Other • • Practice: Searching for the object of negative feeling • • Practice: Using the aggregates to recognize commonality • • Ways of looking at the other in mettā and compassion practices • • Practice: Viewing the object of love and compassion in different ways • Voidness and the Spectrum of Love • Giving and the Emptiness of What Is Given • • Dedicating merit • • Exchanging self and other • • Creative play in practice • • Practice: Exchanging self and other • Emptiness and Equanimity
Part VIII: No Traveller, No Journey – The Nature of Mind, and of Time
25. Emptiness and Awareness (2) • Mind as mirror • Vast Awareness as Source of all things • Stepping-stones to Deeper Insight • • ‘Mind Only’ and the unfindability of mind • • Awareness is void, for it is dependent on what is empty • • Mutual dependency – a mystical groundlessness • • Practice: Meditating on the mutual emptiness of consciousness and perception
26. About Time • Two Analytical Meditations • • This moment is neither one nor many • • Diamond slivers • • Practice: This moment is neither one nor many • • Practice: Diamond Slivers – this moment does not truly arise • Time and Mutual Dependency • • Interdependent notions • • Clinging and concoction • • Self, things, time • • Time is dependent on what is empty • • Beyond ‘Permanent’ and ‘Impermanent’ – The True Nature of Things • • Practice: Approaches to the emptiness of time
27. Dependent Origination (2) • The illusion of elements of mind • Saṅkhārā and avijjā • Subtle dependent origination • No ground, no centre • Practice: Meditating on the voidness of attention and of the elements of mind • Practice: Meditating on the mutual emptiness of subject, object, and time • Practice: Contemplating the dependencies of saṅkhārā and consciousness • Entering the Mystery of Dependent Co-Arising
28. Dependent Cessation – The Unfabricated, The Deathless • Conceptions of the Unfabricated: Words Pointing Beyond Words… • Skilful Conceiving • Cessation and Insight • Insight Is Empty Too • Practice: Meditating on the emptiness of insight
Part IX: Like a Dream, Like a Magician’s Illusion...
29. Beyond the Beyond… • Beyond all duality • The nature of nirvāṇa • Skill in view • Practice: Viewing appearances, knowing that avijjā is void • Practice: Meditating on the emptiness of fabricating
30. Notions of the Ultimate • Beyond ‘emptiness’ • The coalescence of emptiness and appearances
31. An Empowerment of Views • The fullness of emptiness • A radical opening
It took four months for my mind to slowly digest the content of this book without doing the proposed accompanying meditations. Before grasping the entire content and intentions of the author, I was a little sceptical. I wanted to get an idea of the whole, before attempting any serious endeavour toward this kind of meditation. I have familiarized myself with fundamental concepts of buddhism, gained tremendous insights, cleared the way, raffined my understanding of the meditation path, took roughly eleven pages of notes on key concepts and articulations. Although at times it felt like the author was repaeting himself, on careful re-reading, he was always adding something new to ponder. Now that my analytical mind is satisfied, I need to let the teachings touch my heart by doing the proposed meditations. This is more than a book, a friendly companion for the years to come. Great work, glad it found me.
This is THE book for the modern, secular dharma practitioner to practically modify their perceptions of reality and liberate their mind. Unlike many other books which merely "talk about" emptiness or liberation, this book provides many practices, with detailed instructions on "what to do" to realize emptiness (sunyata) for yourself. Leaving no stone unturned, Rob Burbea addresses all the nuances of contemplative practice, and the many subtle traps along the way. This is for the serious student of the path.
This was a tough read for me but worth every page. And, like Rob Burbea says in the very beginning, understanding emptiness- the concept of Śūnyatā- is a journey that takes time. I won't pretend for a second that I have a good grasp of the subject; I don't. The book is primarily about meditation and using gradually more advanced emptiness techniques (lenses) to progress further along the Buddhist path. Topically the book covers subjects such as sensation/perception, epistemology and Buddhist philosophy and spirituality. It describes 'who we are' and 'how we are' through the process of paticcasamuppada or dependent co-arising. I appreciated Rob Burbea's territorial stakes in the ground forcing the reader to become aware of Buddhist terms like papañca, avijjā, vedanā and many more. I feel this has made me more aware of how far back these teachings go and how impactful they have been to generations of learners. Mr Burbea wraps up the book by describing why you want to take this journey in the first place. You will understand better how you are inseparably part of a beautiful, divine and magical world and that everything you want and hope for, you already have you just don't know it yet because of ignorance (avijjā). We live in a world of conventional truth that we skillfully use to climb the steps leading us to see ultimate truth. We have to use conventional truth because that is where we start on the path. With practice the conventional fades and with insight we see how the conventional is empty of real existence in itself. This again is a tough concept to grasp and I feel like I fall flat on my face when I try to explain it to myself. We are lucky here because Mr Burbea includes practice boxes that guide us on this journey, starting with easy meditation tools and working to the most difficult. Prepare yourself for a deeply enriching, challenging and fruitful trip. For me I'll be holding onto this book. There is tons of information and guidance in here. It will serve for a very long time as an indispensable reference.
This book sat unread on my shelf for well over a year. Occasionally, I'd open and briefly dip into it, only to put it back because I wasn't ready for it. After having worked on my attentional skills and also practicing a lot of metta to weather any unease or discomfort during meditation (and reading Nagarjuna's pivotal work, Muladmadyamakakarika on emptiness/shunyata to get a better conceptual handle on the topic), I finally delved into it.
It's by far one of the most profound works I've (very slowly) read and applied to my life. As Burbea says in one of his recorded talks, many people apparently have had quite visceral reactions to the notion of "emptiness," even feeling nauseated and very deeply unsettled. The author gradually and very carefully guides the practitioner to an understanding that emptiness isn't some utter voidness or harrowing descent into nihilism. On the contrary, realization of emptiness (be it as short glimpses or for longer periods) profoundly opens the heart, revealing the world to be alive, mysterious, and benevolent.
This is of course only a conceptual and therefore incomplete description. As others have noted and as I mentioned in the beginning, this book is probably not the right one for novice meditators. But its clarity and many guided exercises--along with many very carefully selected quotes from a wide range of Buddhist philosophers and practitioners--are invaluable for a dedicated practice exploring emptiness and dependent origination (another key understanding to the appearance of the world). My deep gratitude and appreciation to Rob Burbea, who sadly is no longer with us, for his exemplary care in composing this remarkable work.
This is an exhaustive insight meditation manual and set of philosophical reflections/exercises.
To explain the conventional meaning of sunyata (emptiness) to someone is not so hard. But, to understand emptiness and begin to understand how it affects our entire experience of phenomena is another. Burbea starts at the beginning and works his way through phenomena until there is literally nothing left. The book assumes the reader has some level of samadhi.
This book could be read in order, front to back, but the proper place would be on the side of the cushion to use as reference for practice. This book gave me a lot of gifts, but the primary one is the ability to be more creative and experimental as one learns to drop the script.
The amount of logic used in this book is exhausting. But it's okay, between the details and sheer length of it all is the guidepost:
"insight (is)...any realization, understanding, or way of seeing things that brings, to any degree, a dissolution of, or a decrease in, dukkha."
If you're ready to give up stress, to give up the stories you tell about your Life, your self, and especially if you're ready to give up the idea of What It All Means so you can sort out What It All Means, then read this book.
Recommended for: daily sitters, people who dabble in non-dual reasoning.
This is an extremely detailed meditation manual on emptiness practices that really moves from material accessible to any beginning meditator to the most advanced practitioners. Burbea, who has over a decade of experience guiding meditation students in these practices, has a knack for presenting instructions with clarity and precision so that they are easy to follow on the cushion -- and he's similarly helpful in presenting possible pitfalls along the way. He's also well-versed in Western philosophy as well as the Buddhist tradition, so he writes with an awareness of how these concepts need to be presented to the Western mind.
If taken seriously, the teachings set forth in Seeing That Frees will have a major impact on how you view everything. If you are looking to reduce the Dukkha in your life this book will help you in a big way. It offers a clear explanation of the concepts needed to be more free from Dukkha and also lays out many simple practices so that the teachings can be experienced directly by the reader rather than remaining ideas. There are only a couple of other books that have transformed me as much as this one. I can't recommend it highly enough.
I think a good way to live one's life might be to exist in a constant state of reading/re-reading this book. I'll make it a goal to have my thoughts alight on it, at least a little, every day, as often as I can.
There is only a limit to how many times I can read that everything is empty or that X is reified. The book says all it has to say in the first 50% and then goes on and on and on about how everything is empty. I understand that Rob means well, and the repetition might bring the point home, but as someone fresh from "Mastering the Core Teachings of Buddha", this was too repetitive and boring.
A great in-depth introduction to emptiness and dependent arising in a format that is not too traditional or academic, but with plenty of quotes from lineage masters. It seems to strike a fine balance between theory and practice, and also between the views of the Pali Tradition and Mahayana Vehicle. Highly recommended.
Other good in-depth theory and practice based introductions to similar topics (emptiness and no-self) may perhaps be: - Andy Karr's Contemplating Reality - Guy Armstrong's Emptiness.
More traditional introductions may be found at: - Guy Newland's Emptiness (as taught by Je Tsongkhapa) - Gen Lamrimpa's How to realize Emptiness - Jampa Tegchok's Insight into Emptiness.
For a full-blown exposition on emptiness and dependent arising, consider: - Jay Garlfield's commentarty to Nagarjuna's Fundamental Verses. - the 9th Karmapa's commentary to Chandrakirti's Madhyamakavatara called Feast for the Fortunate - Karl Brunnholzl's Center of the Sunlit Sky (which includes a major commentary by Pawo Rinpoche to Shantideva's chapter on wisdom, which is preceded by an incredible 600pg exposition on the Middle-Way teachings) - Mipham Rimpoche's Wisdom Chapter (which also includes another text by Mipham ellucidating subtle topics on emptiness, and also includes a great introduction by the translators) - Mipham's Beacon of Certainty, an advanced Middle-Way text (by John W. Pettit, also awesomely introduced) - Mipham's commentary to Shantarakshita's Adornment of the Middle Way (with a great introductory exposition on the Mahayana view by Mipham himself, followed by an intricate commentary to the root text).
Before reading this book I some intellectual understanding of emptiness/dependent arising, the inherent interrelatedness/interbeing of all that is. But I was much like someone that had learned the rules of chess but had never actually played seriously. This book got me playing playing quite seriously, gradually increasing the difficulty as it went along. Much like how yin yoga improves physical flexibility, this book has you gently flex your mind into seeing reality from many different perspectives, all of which helps illustrate how our usual perspectives are deficient. Gradually flexibility is increased.
Especially worthy of mention is that my assumption, subconscious, incorrect and harmful, that one perspective can be entirely correct and thus all others are without value was shattered. No doubt I will need to keep reminding myself of that for the rest of my life though.
Having taken the time to read this book carefully I feel that it is no exaggeration to say that it has changed how I see everything for the better. It has gradually helped replace habits of seeing simplistic permanence and separation with seeing complexity, change and interrelatedness. Replaced a search for absolute truths with exploration of many complementary perspectives having differing advantages and disadvantages.
I highly recommend this book to anyone that wants to see the world more accurately and thus be able to relate to everything in life more realistically and constructively.
This book is a gem for sure, especially the logical approach to emptiness is relatively new for me. It may entice people with certain inclinations to intellectual reasoning to start the journey toward understanding emptiness. I appreciate that Rob put effort to put into words meditative experiences that I understand intuitively but didn't think much about. I notice more towards the later part of the book though that he practiced in different tradition (Tibetan), which explains some of his approach and view, such as that emptiness practice opens the door toward tantric and imaginal practice, which is not really my cup of tea. Take the book and its teaching as it suits your practice and inclination, it doesn't really matter which methods/ ways/ tradition you do as long as it leads to less clinging, less dukkha.