February 24, 2011

At the Book Club: A discussion of Living This Life Fully: Stories and Teachings of Munindra

“Munindra’s message is that we can go the distance,” writes Mirka Knaster in Living This Life Fully: Stories and Teachings of Munindra (Shambhala, 2010, $21.95 paper, 274 pp.), the first book about the highly revered and influential Bengali Vipassana teacher. It’s a testament to Anagarika Munindra’s character that this message comes across so effortlessly on the written page. Though the book includes previously unpublished material from his formal teachings, it’s the stories and memories shared by his devoted students that fully bring Munindra and his dharma to life. Knaster, a scholar, writer, and Vipassana practitioner, skillfully weaves these teachings and personal stories into 16 chapters, each assigned a specific quality of an enlightened being—from mindfulness to equanimity—that Munindra embodied. For Western Vipassana practitioners unfamiliar with Munindra, Living This Life Fully will serve as a wonderful introduction to a teacher whose students are now household names, for example: Sharon Salzberg, Daniel Goleman, Jack Kornfield, and Joseph Goldstein, who wrote the book’s foreword. This deeply felt, loving portrait of a modern Buddhist master will also inspire those on their own journeys toward actualizing abstract ideals. You can go the distance.

Beginning next week, on Tuesday March 1, the Tricycle Book Club will be discussing Mirka Knaster's Living This Life Fully: Stories and Teachings of Munindra. Knaster will provide guidelines for reading the book as well as participating in the discussion by posing questions and responding to comments. Hopefully some of Munindra's other students will be dropping by as well.

Have something to say? Join us here.

Taken from the Winter 2010 issue of Tricycle's "Books in Brief."

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metta's picture

As I re-read each story in the book, I loved being reminded by the stories of everyone’s experience with him, even my own life’s stories with Munindra-ji, because they are down-to-earth reminders of how to live my life fully. Munindra-ji was like that--very down-to-earth and practical but profound--reminding you in his own inimitable way to wake up and live your life fully with the Dhamma in your heart. I also didn’t want the book to end. Even as Munindra was in his last months of life, he was sharing the Dhamma with those who came to visit him. When I was with him in Kolkata during that time, he was weak and mostly rested in his bed, yet he couldn’t help himself and was still teaching me. I asked him, “How are you Munindra-ji? How is your body, how is your mind?” He said, “This is how it is, this is how the life is. The mind is strong, but the body is not cooperating.” He said it with complete and utter acceptance, reminding me that birth brings life; it brings with it change, pain and pleasure, joy and sorrow, and eventually there is death. It was his clear Dhamma presence that I took in more than his words, though I remember those words often. And so, at that very moment, my heart gently accepted that he would leave this plane of existence soon. Months later, his family called to let me know that he had passed away just a few hours before, and I remembered that teaching moment with him in his room in Kolkata. It helped me immensely to allow the strong feelings of my heart to pass through like a river. Though his physical presence is gone now, the Dhamma that he so beautifully shared is still going strong. This is how it is.