What is Pragmatic Dharma?
In case you didn’t notice it, there’s a dedicated subsection with various Pragmatic Dharma texts on the main page of this website.
What about the “mushroom culture”?
Here’s a short story shared by Kenneth Folk via his twitter account:
…..In fact, Bill (editors note: Hamilton) was himself an unabashed mushroomer, and not only withheld information but advocated doing so. (thread)
When I returned from the IMS 3-month retreat in 1991, Bill told me where he thought I was on the Progress of Insight map. But his policy was to only share mapping information after the fact. In other words, he wouldn’t talk with me about stages I hadn’t yet attained.
When I complained that the IMS teachers hadn’t even been willing to discuss the stages I’d already been through, Bill quipped that they’d treated me like a mushroom, keeping me in the dark and feeding me shit.
While Bill was more forthcoming with information than mainstream American Theravada Buddhist teachers, he was by no means a freedom of information crusader. But to me the presumption, paternalism, and ineffective pedagogy that result from mushrooming were infuriating.
“Mushroom” became my personal shorthand for the culture of secrecy I detested. I raged about it to anyone who would listen, including Daniel Ingram. Daniel hadn’t yet shown much interest in Buddhist meditation, but we were friends and talked often, so he got to hear the rant.
Several years later, when Daniel started sitting retreats, he too got the mushroom treatment, and was as pissed off about it as I was. As he developed his own teaching, he took up the anti-mushroom banner and pushed it further still, going so far as to publicly claim attainments.
Reading Daniel’s book Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha, one could be forgiven for believing the mushroom critique came from Bill, but it didn’t happen that way. No worries, though, I’m still here to set the historical record straight.
Are there any Pragmatic Dharma books to read?
This website has also an e-book section, dedicated to Pragmatic Dharma. There, among others you will find:
Saints & Psychopaths by William (Bill) L. Hamilton
What about the “Progress of Insight” Map?
My other website, MVMR, has a dedicated subsection, where I have collected almost everything I have found about this map:
How do I start meditating?
2 months ago, I created a small set of meditation instructions in pdf, in order to help the beginners of a group I’m a proud member of.
Below you will find a link to a file I shared with them. It includes very basic instructions for:
Mindfulness of Breath (from TMI)
Mahasi Vipassana (Noting) (from this blog)
Shikantaza (Zazen) (from this e-book)
Metta (Loving Kindness) from (this post)
To get this pack, use the following link:
Are you a complete beginner?
If you don’t have any idea what these methods are all about but you ’re curious to try, just start with the “mindfulness of breath” instructions.
In addition to the instructions given in this guide, I suggest that you don’t only focus on the breath but you also do breath counting (from 1 to 10 and back), as Shargrol suggests on the following text:
Awareness and counting of breath is a great practice. For what it’s worth, a good, practical combination is:
- Awareness of breathing as the meditation object
- Counting of breath as the meditation method
- When the count is realized to be lost, “note” what is currently in the mind. What did you wake up to? Sensations, emotions, or thoughts in mind? Note what is currently in mind. e.g. “planning thought”, “discomfort”, “frustration”, “pleasure”, etc.
- Give yourself a mini congratulations that you woke up from distraction. Yea!!
- Find the breathing sensations again
- Count the breath again
The whole point of this method is to learn (over time!) how to gently center the mind around awareness of the breath and to sensitize the mind to “waking up” from distraction. Of course the mind has a mind of its own, so to speak, so you don’t force this to happen. You’re more like a parent watching a toddler learn to walk. The mind “learns to walk” on its own. And if you rush it or get angry or frustrated, you’re just freaking out the baby! Although this sounds like a simple practice, it puts you directly in touch with mindfulness and it greatly increases awareness – don’t underestimate it!
Are you interested in noting?
If you have decided to go with noting (which is Mahasi Sayadaw’s vipassana technique), apart from this nice introductory text included in the above pack, I suggest you to read the following material:
I also suggest you to have a look at this contemporary version of noting by Kenneth Folk:
Keep in mind that you can actually practise by “labeling out loud”, as Folk does in these videos. Sometimes, it really helps!
On the above sections, I referred to “beginners”. Please note that I’m a beginner (to be more specific, I’m pre-1st path) too. I’m not an expert or whatever. I just try to assist fellow meditators that know less than I do.