This is a book review of the latest book of Charles Genoud, an international Dharma teacher, who lives in Geneva, Switzerland.
Sub-title: Buddhist Meditation in Essay and Verse
Translated from the French by Anna Iatseko and Charles Genoud
Wisdom Publications 2020
Mindfulness and Meditation provide a precious opportunity for calmness, tranquillity and inner peace in daily life.
A growing number of people take steps to join a residential meditation retreat, such as Insight meditation (vipassana) emphasising the importance of insights into the human condition.
These courses and retreats, short and long, enable the deepening of tranquillity with the potential for important insights to arise.
Charles Genoud, a senior Dharma teacher, has written a unique book in terms of style. Many books present chapters of explanations of teachings with supportive practices. In this book, the author has presented the teachings in the form of lucid prose and poetic utterances.
The style mirrors a long tradition of the skilful use of the sparsity of language to reveal deep truths. Beyond Tranquillity recognises the importance of calmness of being but provides meditators and deep thinkers with regular utterances.
Do not read through the book at a gallop but absorb a verse to squeeze out the honey. You can then integrate the truth of what the text revealed.
Such an approaches keeps the practitioner focussed on the priority of liberation or, in other words, the end of suffering. Time to time, Charles refers to important voices, Buddhist and non-Buddhist on the sacred aspect of the teachings and realisations. Tranquillity prepares the ground for the sacred, the profound and the illuminating.
The repetition of the same meditation methods and practices can contribute to tranquility and equanimity but may not the take mind any further.
The book contains occasional references to Joseph Campbell, Meister Eckhart, the Buddha, Nietzsche, Martin Buber and more to illustrate a point without needing to embellish such sages of the past.
Charles has mostly dispensed with capital letters and full stops to enable a free flow of focus on these verses of varying lengths.
Here are five verses for readers to get a sense of Beyond Tranquillity.
just as the dancer is the dance
the meditator is the meditation
when a man plows his field
he becomes a plowman
the field to be plowed becomes what matters
not the one who plows
human beings are conditioned not by reality
but by their beliefs
holds a past
that it cannot let end
if the world is at it appears
an unconditional freedom is impossible
Charles offers a tone of invitation to explore in the text rather than a claim to make absolute statements of truth. For example:
for the meditator it is a matter of openness
to every experience
without imposing a form on it
without judging it.’
The meditator acknowledges not being open to every experience and sees the imposition of form. Wisdom can reveal a judgement.
freed from all notions,
the felt experience is self-awareness
Self is a notion, too.
Practising vipassana means being present
moment by moment
free from confusion
Vipassana means Insight. Insight may arise in a moment by moment practice or outside of it.
A slow, mindful read of the verses contributes to reflection and realisations. Such a response confirms the benefits of the book. A useful reading environment matters as well. A mindful reading, such as in an armchair on a winter’s night or a reading beneath a tree on a summer’s day, will help illuminate the verses.
The text makes plenty of references to daily life including use of the five senses, attitudes of mind and movement of the body.
This is an original book with the potential to offer much benefit to mindfulness practitioners and meditators.
From page 139, the book consists of essays on thought, morality, consciousness etc. Charles quotes the Buddha, the Buddhist tradition and other authorities in these areas. His subject keeps with the theme of exploration beyond tranquility.
The book closes with a beautiful sentence.
It is just freedom – freedom that is not without responsibility.
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