An Ode and a Farewell to "The Mind Illuminated"

I credit the brilliant book "The Mind Illuminated" (TMI) with much of the progress I've made along the spiritual path in the past year. After a life-altering silent meditation retreat in May 2019, I resolved to devote a great deal of my free time to pursuing meditation. As I worked hard to further deepen my practice, I stumbled upon Daniel Ingram's groundbreaking "Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha" (MCTB). I'll forever be indebted to Ingram for having the courage to write about his meditative experiences in an uncensored and unvarnished manner. MCTB showed me that significant progress along the meditative path was within my grasp if I practiced with diligence and resolve.

A month or so after I found MCTB, I discovered Culadasa's "The Mind Illuminated". The breadth and structure of TMI was breathtaking. The clarity of the meditation instructions offered in TMI were unparalleled. Thanks to TMI, I quickly made progress along the meditative path, reaching meditative states that I thought were unattainable by laypeople. For this, and many other things, I will be eternally grateful to Culadasa for having authored the book, to the members of the TMI reddit for their wise counsel and support, and to TMI-based teachers such as Upali and Tucker Peck for devoting their lives to the spread of the Dharma and the to the teaching of the proven meditative techniques and methods described in TMI.

Given the immense benefits that I have reaped as a result of TMI, I was overcome by sadness when I realized that I could no longer claim to be practicing in the style of TMI with a straight face. As my practice has evolved and matured, I find myself straying farther and farther away from the TMI-based approach to meditation that I was so fond of just a few months ago. After achieving single-pointed attention on the breath (Stage 8 of TMI), my practice started gravitating towards Jhana on the shamatha (i.e. tranquility and concentration) side of the meditative equation and towards Shinzen-style noting and "Do Nothing" practices on the vipassana (i.e. insight) side of the equation. Furthermore, I no longer use anapanasati (mindfulness of breath) as my main vehicle for reaching access concentration, preferring instead to use "Do Nothing" or "Metta" meditation for reaching access and then Jhana. This is a considerable departure from the classic TMI approach, which focuses heavily on mindfulness of the breath as the preferred vehicle for reaching access. In sum, my practice no longer resembles TMI-based practice. It took me some time to come to that realization, but it now seems inescapable to me, even if it pains me to acknowledge it. 

While my practice has now taken a turn away from TMI, I remain deeply grateful for all of the ways, both known and unknown, in which TMI helped me progress along this beautiful path. In a sense, the best way I can find of honoring TMI is to leave it behind. I'd like to think that an important goal of TMI is to equip meditators with the skills and confidence that are needed to continue to make strides along the spiritual path without the need of crutches or aids, rites or rituals. That is exactly what TMI has equipped me to do. And for that I will be forever thankful.