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The Mind Illuminated: A Complete Meditation Guide Integrating Buddhist Wisdom and Brain Science

4.46  ·  Rating details ·  1,912 ratings  ·  179 reviews
Providing step-by-step guidance for every stage of the meditation path, this uniquely comprehensive guide for a Western audience combines the wisdom from the teachings of the Buddha with the latest research in cognitive psychology and neuroscience. Clear and friendly, this in-depth practice manual builds on the nine-stage model of meditation originally articulated by the a ...more
Paperback, 504 pages
Published October 6th 2015 by Dharma Treasure Press
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Daniel Brooks
Mar 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is 450 pages of meditation instruction, and present the most comprehensive introduction to the practice I've ever encountered. Its language is crisp, clear and modern. It seems it took a theravada/vajrayana/neuroscience teacher to make this synthesis of Buddhism with modernity to happen. The book full of insights and distinctions I never made in 6 years of practice with many different teachers. Highly recommended to beginners and experienced meditators alike.

I should note that it's no
Dominic Humphries
Nov 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I've been meditating for twenty years, not making all that much progress and never quite sure what it was I was getting wrong.

This is the book I wish I'd had twenty years ago. I finally *got* it - what meditation is, what it isn't, what I was doing right, what I was doing wrong, all of it.

The author has done a superb job of writing a readable, engaging text; of spelling out exactly what the misconceptions and pitfalls are; of giving useful advice on how to avoid the mistakes; and of what you sho
Jon Bash
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is basically the book I've been looking for for the past 3 years.

Most meditation instructions, even from some of the most lauded teachers with decades of experience, are vague at best, potentially damaging to one's practice at worst. For years my meditation practice essentially went nowhere. Sure, I was marginally more aware and attentive in my day-to-day life, but I had essentially plateaued in terms of my actual practice, and the only advice seemed to be "go to a retreat" (or worse "just
Aug 29, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Useful as I found this book, the author has, sadly, recently been forced to step down from his own meditation centre after revelations that he is at the centre of a significant ethical scandal. For many books, I feel that the content stands quite independently of the character of the author. But this feels very different. Though it is primarily about meditation, it makes clear the connection between contemplative practice and our day to day behaviour. Following this book creates a student-teache ...more
Cian Kenshin
Jul 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is the best mediation manual I've read, and I've been through a lot. It gives a nod to tradition but also dives deep into the psychological transformation that happens during meditation and explains the phenomenon that you will experience. it also gives very detailed and explicit instructions for each stage and warns about some traps that exist.

I found in stage 5 a trap that my father had been in for decades, and is now moving past! It's a great read and even better listen since the narrat
Paulo Henrique
Mar 05, 2020 rated it it was ok
i've mixed fillings about this one. the book gives you a nice overview of the meditative steps and a descripition of the sensations and hindrances your about to face in each one of these steps. On the other hand its too repetitive, it lacks a scientific explanation/description of neural/hormonal processes behind these steps, finally it doesnt talk about metacognition and doesnt psychoeducate you which I think were the two most important components for me to learn how to meditate.I
Vikrant Varma
Nov 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
The clearest explanation I've seen about what meditation is, how to start, and how to improve. Effective in getting me to actually do it. Recommended if textbooks work well for you.
May 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
It's a good meditation manual, but I don't find it as impressive as other reviewers. For one thing, I think that the promise made on the cover about "integrating Buddhist wisdom and brain science" is not really kept to the extent I would have liked. Sometimes I get the feeling that publishers and writers of books on meditation feel the need to use the word "science" often enough to avoid falling into some kind of sappy New Age category of books. In this case in particular, the model of the mind ...more
Kaj Sotala
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Kaj by: Juha
Best book on meditation that I have ever read, by far. Detailed instructions and goals for each level of skill, as well as discussion of obstacles previously encountered on that stage, allowed me to get forward in my practice after I'd hit roadblocks that previous instructions hadn't adequately prepared me for. Also has extensive theoretical models, using language derived from cognitive psychology rather than anything mystic and esoteric, for understanding what is going on in the practice.

Antti Värtö
Jan 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I'll join the chorus: this is the greatest book on meditation I've ever found. I wish this book had existed back in the early 2000's when I last seriously tried to practice meditation. Back then, I quit with frustration since the meditation didn't seem to go anywhere. With TMI I was able to make more progress in a month than I had previously managed in a year.

The book is divided into ten "stages", where Culadasa explains the practice goals and describes in detail the various problems the mediato
Rif A. Saurous
Feb 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I've only read about half of this book so far, but I'm going to go ahead and give it five stars since it changed my life. If you're interested in making meditation a serious part of your life, you want to learn things from books, and you want a non-religious approach, this book is far and away the best thing out there.

The book contains very detailed practical instruction on meditation, as well as a succession of progressively more complex mental models that attempt to explain (at the level of an
Aug 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: meditation
This is the single most important western meditation book I have ever read. I wish I had found it 20 years ago. Yes, really, it is that good.

After thrashing around in my practice for a long period of time, it has gotten me back on track and moving forward again. If you are serious about meditation, you simply must read this book.

This is recommended for practitioners who are over the introduction phase (i.e. why should I meditate, what are the benefits, what are the basic instructions, etc) and
Josef H.
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was ok
I don't trust writers or anyone who capitalizes the word truth. Something is either true or not. If it is true, it's simply the truth, and not "the Truth". Once you capitalize it, it's no longer universal, it's a dogma that can only be accepted by indoctrinated people. I'm no longer interested in reading the book after the capitalized word has been used three times in the introduction. I only care about the simple, ordinary truth. The scientific truth. Nothing more, nothing less.
Tasshin Fogleman
Sep 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mysticism, meditation
A sensible, clear, deep guide to the progress of what Culadasa calls samatha-vipassana. Highly recommend for committed practitioners.
Clive F
Aug 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an extraordinary book. Really, it's amazing. I mean, I know I bought it because it had just about the highest rating I'd seen for a meditation book on Goodreads, so maybe I shouldn't have been surprised, but still... it's superb. So yes, it's a gold-standard five star book for me too, no question.

What's so great about it? Basically, The Mind Illuminated (TMI, hereafter) describes in detail a structured, systematic, entirely secular, ten-stage path all the way from your first sit, throug
Michael Gardner
Jun 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Mind Illuminated is a book which achieves exactly what it sets out to do: to be a practical guide to meditation. Culdasa (John Yates Ph.D.) comes at the subject from his unique perspective as a Buddhist and brain scientist, making the subject very accessible for people who might believe the practice is imbued with religion and mysticism. While this may be where meditation has its roots, its simply an exercise that helps to train the mind. Culdasa explains the process clearly and concisely in ...more
Oct 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
The mind is pabhassaram (pali), luminous, reflectively known. This book details 10 stages of meditation, a framework based on Asangas 9 steps of samatha (and other sources). Interludes and appendices include additional content. This is among a handful of books I'd recommend to start practice for dedicated meditators. A strong and detailed introduction to meditation & samatha albeit with some issues. For example, "anatta" is translated as no-self, search for the article "no-self or not-self". The ...more
Nex Juice
Jul 12, 2017 rated it it was ok
Stop over-complicating meditation. We don't need 413 big pages of text to figure it out. Read Soul-Centered by Sarah McLean instead. Much shorter and more practical. This is mainly a theological book - there are a couple meditations at the end. If you've read about meditation before, you probably won't find much new in here.
Moiz R
Aug 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The only book on meditation you need. Truly lives upto its title in being "A Complete Guide".

One of the most important works on meditation ever published. This book is a sleeper smash hit. It is absolutely criminal for it to be so lowly marketted.

Do not go for popularity's sake to other books. This simple english guide has helped me more than any other book on meditation.
Nick Imrie
Feb 16, 2018 marked it as currently-referencing
This book is great and will probably sit on my 'currently-reading' shelf forever, since I am always coming back to review the current chapter and may take a long time to finally progress to the end.
Lucinda Hannah
Dec 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Superb! Culadasa describes in clear, succinct terms what you're actually striving for when you sit down to meditate. I was kind of floundering before, going around in circles, getting distracted by the mildly esoteric sensations with no clear idea what thread I should be pulling to develop. This took me a while to read; I wanted to let each stage with its attendant nuances and difficulties sink in. I loved the neuroscience and the cool pragmatism of his approach, both reassuring and productive f ...more
Nov 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Really good guide on how to meditate and why it works. It outlines ten stages of meditative proficiency. Each stage has a specific recognizable achievement (so you know when you've completed it), points to focus on, obstacles you'll face in that stage and techniques to overcome them. It really is a great guide to the specifics of "how do I meditate". It's so much more than just "quiet your mind" - it explains exactly what you'll experience and what to do.

Of course, yknow, many paths up the mount
Michael Gallagher
Oct 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
I found this book helpful with starting a practice but now I find looking at a spiritual practice with a “levels and stages” perspective to be limiting. I am no longer interested in systematizing meditation. Zen has been helpful
Jan 29, 2018 rated it liked it
It’s an instruction manual, and as such can be quite awkward to read all at once. Imagine someone writing an IKEA manual for the mental processes of enlightenment. Hugely useful as a framework to organize your meditation practice though, with clear benchmarks and advice.
Apr 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Best book on meditation I've ever read. Extremely in-depth and packed with lots of detail from both traditional and scientific perspectives.
Teo 2050


Yates J (Culadasa), Immergut M, & Graves J (2015) (13:34) Mind Illuminated, The - A Complete Meditation Guide Integrating Buddhist Wisdom and Brain Science

Praise for the Mind Illuminated
About the Authors

• Meditation: The Science and Art of Living
• A Modern Roadmap for Meditation
• Putting This Practice into Context
• How to Use This Book

01. An Overview of the Ten Stages
• How the Process Unfolds
• The Rate of Pro
Feb 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The Mind Illuminated is exactly what it says it is - a complete meditation guide. The book delivers an introduction to Culadasa, the numerous benefits practicing meditation has on one, along with his perspective on it, drawing knowledge from the worlds of neuroscience and Buddhism.

Culadasa establishes 10 stages of meditative development, going through and describing their characteristics and challenges in detail. It takes time to learn the fundamentals, but once one progresses through the first
Stephen Chyau
Apr 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
I use apps to meditate, but none seem to fit the bill.

There's Andy from Headspace, I like his simple instructions and British accent. But I never end a session feeling like I've made any progress.

Then there's Sam from The Waking Up App. He's a lot more credible than fictional Andy, but he's confusing with his teachings. "Gaze into your mind. Look for the one who's looking". ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

That's why I prefer Culadasa in The Mind Illuminated. Prior to reading this book, I didn't know what there is to
May 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is great to understand the step by step progression of meditation and what specifically to focus on during each stage. I think it's more aimed at someone who has been meditating for a while but feeling stuck in their progress (like me) rather than someone entirely new to meditation. I found the guide and info very clear and I will likely be using this as my guidebook for a while.

"Keep in mind that all these source teachings were intended for monastics living in supportive communities o
B Conatus
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a path book—a meditation manual that’s is designed to help you calm the mind. It is focused on śamatha, and discusses vipaśyanā only in passing. And it’s written for those of us who can only dedicate short periods of time to meditating each day (short is relative: Culadasa recommends about an hour per day if you want to progress along the path).

There’s a lot that feels familiar in this book. The method builds on the Yogācāra approach (as it is articulated by Asaṅga), but Culadasa also d
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Culadasa (John Yates, Ph.D.) is the director of Dharma Treasure Buddhist Sangha in Tucson, Arizona and author of The Mind Illuminated: A Complete Meditation Guide Using Buddhist Wisdom and Brain Science (Dharma Treasure Press, October 6, 2015). A meditation master with over four decades of experience in the Tibetan and Theravadin Buddhist traditions, Culadasa was ordained as an Upasaka (dedicated ...more

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