Book review The Healthy Mind Interviews

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Book review The Healthy Mind Interviews

Postby Paul » Fri Mar 23, 2012 7:01 pm

The Healthy Mind interviews - volumes 1-4
by Henry M Vyner

Interviewing His Holiness Dalai Lama, Lama Khenpo Nyima Wangyal, Lopon Tenzin Namdak, Khenpo Tsewang Gyatso & Lopon Tegchoke

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http://www.wisdom-books.com/Author.asp?AUTH=Vyner%2C+Henry+Miles

I thought I'd share my views on these four small books. They're are very unassuming, but are among the best "non-traditional" texts I've ever read.

The basic premise behind these books is certainly interesting and surprisingly unique. Thomas Vyner MD has decided to take a scientific approach to meditation in an attempt to answer the question "what is a healthy mind"?. His methodical approach is what makes these books really stand out. To answer these questions he has interviewed several lamas over 14 years about the Dzogchen teachings, avoiding an abstract approach and focussing on their meditational experiences and clarifying terminology.

He has stated his aims as:

1) Developing a descriptive science of the stream of consciousness
2) Using that descriptive science to construct a scientifically valid theory of the defining characteristics of the healthy human mind.

The method of interviewing is almost surgical in its process. Dr Vyner has obviously tried to remove any kind of ambiguities in the answers by asking very, very specific questions. It is quite surprising that the interviewees are as candid as they are. It seems that in my experience the personal meditation of a teacher is out of bounds for open discussion. I think that the combination of Dr Vyner being a practitioner, who displays a clear understanding of the teachings and showing a clear-headed level of logic is something that teachers like HH Dalai Lama really seem to appreciate.

All the interviews appear to result in a single conclusion - the human mind can exist in two states. One has an ego that holds itself as an entity, and as a result its happiness is dependent on circumstance. The other is an egoless state where the mind understands its own nature and is freed from being dependent on things. This latter state is naturally happy and healthy. From a scientific perspective, the results of meditation can actually be used as empirical evidence when they are compared between practitioners who have sufficient technical vocabulary to compare their techniques.

For a meditator, especially one who is a beginner in Dzogchen or Essence Mahamudra, I believe these books are really beneficial. They clearly explain the process of discovering and remaining in rigpa. One conclusion that is especially evident in the interviews is that Dzogchen is not something that is 'done'. It's a discovery that arises based on the teachers instructions of non-meditation. The healthy, happy mind which is the focus of these books is not something that is achieved by actions, but uncovered by the practitioner as something that was there all along. Certainly a very different notion that is found in other cultures where forming a strong self puts one in a situation where one can finally 'achieve' happiness.

Given their low price (due to being printed in Nepal) and the fact they all have really interesting points and will aid practice, I'd recommend getting all of them.


Extract from volume 4:

Henry M Vyner: When the thoughts appear to the mind, how do they appear? As images? As words?
Lopon Tenzin Namdak: They come like waves.
HMV: They appear spontaneously.
LTN: For sure.
HMV: Do you actually experience them? are they pictures in the mind?
LTN: No. This is mind. It comes from the nature and they spontaneously appear.
HMV: When I look at my glasses, I see the glasses there. When you look at a thought, what do you see?
LTN: It depends on the thought. It depends on what you are following.
HMV: Differing thoughts appear in different ways.
LTN: Yes. And you can observe whatever comes up. If you seriously want to control them, then you need to not care about anything. Good things might be coming up. Bad things might be coming up. But if you don't follow them, then soon after they appear, they, themselves, will all be liberated into the nature. Which is also where they are coming from.
HMV: It sounds like you are saying that there is a causal relationship between the actions of the watcher and the thoughts. For example, here is seems like you are saying that if the mind does not follow its thoughts, that it will cause, or allow, those thoughts to dissolve and disappear.
LTN: Yes. And then they go back to where they came from. There is no separation.
HMV: What do you mean there is o separation?
LTN: Well that means that the thoughts are not coming from beyond the nature. They are coming up from the nature, arising into the nature and disappearing into the nature. That means that the thoughts as the neater are not at all separate. The thoughts themselves are nature; the empty nature. If you think that something is there, concretely or materially, the more and more thoughts will develop.
This nature of mind is spontaneously present.
That spontaneity I was told is the dakini aspect.
Recognizing this should help me
Not to be stuck with fear of being sued.

-Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
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Re: Book review The Healthy Mind Interviews

Postby Ekayano » Fri Mar 23, 2012 8:20 pm

Thanks for good info. Seems very interesting. I just ordered all four. :thumbsup:
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Re: Book review The Healthy Mind Interviews

Postby arsent » Fri Mar 23, 2012 8:25 pm

Nice books! Have read all of them recently. :thumbsup:
By the way, the most impressive is VOL 3 and VOL 2 imho.
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Re: Book review The Healthy Mind Interviews

Postby Paul » Fri Mar 23, 2012 9:22 pm

arsent wrote:Nice books! Have read all of them recently. :thumbsup:
By the way, the most impressive is VOL 3 and VOL 2 imho.


I liked all of them, but I think I'd agree that those are the most interesting.
This nature of mind is spontaneously present.
That spontaneity I was told is the dakini aspect.
Recognizing this should help me
Not to be stuck with fear of being sued.

-Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
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Re: Book review The Healthy Mind Interviews

Postby Nosta » Sat Mar 24, 2012 1:08 am

So, these books are from a western guy trying to make a science from buddhism. Hmm...dont like the way it sounds.

"Healthy mind" is what Dharma, Buddha and wise buddhist sages can teach us.
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Re: Book review The Healthy Mind Interviews

Postby Paul » Sat Mar 24, 2012 1:26 am

Nosta wrote:So, these books are from a western guy trying to make a science from buddhism. Hmm...dont like the way it sounds.

No, not really. It is more that the descriptions of all meditation practitioners can be correlated with one another. This shows that their descriptions can be classed as empirical evidence - the mind is not some closed off system that is impenetrable.

"Healthy mind" is what Dharma, Buddha and wise buddhist sages can teach us.


Dr Vyner is a Dzogchen practitioner and he clearly would agree with you. He shows exactly that very well.
This nature of mind is spontaneously present.
That spontaneity I was told is the dakini aspect.
Recognizing this should help me
Not to be stuck with fear of being sued.

-Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
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Re: Book review The Healthy Mind Interviews

Postby Dechen Norbu » Sat Mar 24, 2012 2:31 pm

They seem very interesting and a step in the right direction to bring Dharma to wider audiences.
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Re: Book review The Healthy Mind Interviews

Postby padma norbu » Tue Mar 27, 2012 11:43 am

Well, I ordered #1 and #3. Hope they're good. All 4 would have run me almost $50 with international shipping, so I decided to mix it up by getting the first in the series (also a Bon practitioner to "mix it up" a bit) and #3 since someone said 2 and 3 were the best. I kind of wanted #4 since OP quotes from it, but I've actually read essentially what was quoted before elsewhere, so that's why I didn't. Thanks for bringing it to my attention; I'll probably get the other 2 as time and money allows... how pathetic that some people are trying to sell #4 for $200 on Alibris.
"Use what seems like poison as medicine. We can use our personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings." Pema Chodron
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Re: Book review The Healthy Mind Interviews

Postby Paul » Tue Mar 27, 2012 11:49 am

That's crazy money. You can get all four for about £11 (minus p&p) from Wisdom Books in the UK.

$200 is a disgrace.
This nature of mind is spontaneously present.
That spontaneity I was told is the dakini aspect.
Recognizing this should help me
Not to be stuck with fear of being sued.

-Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
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Re: Book review The Healthy Mind Interviews

Postby padma norbu » Tue Mar 27, 2012 11:58 am

I kept looking for a Wisdom Books USA store until I finally realized there wasn't one. The books also ship directly from Nepal for about $5 + $5 shipping (or so) on eBay. Obviously, whoever the people are selling them for $20-$100 are not people we should be patronizing.

EDIT: oh, it's even worse than that!
Current champion of greed:
http://www.alibris.com/booksearch.detai ... rt=&page=1
"Use what seems like poison as medicine. We can use our personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings." Pema Chodron
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Re: Book review The Healthy Mind Interviews

Postby catmoon » Tue Mar 27, 2012 12:06 pm

Holeeee crap...$558?

It better be signed by HHDL himself.
Sergeant Schultz knew everything there was to know.
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Re: Book review The Healthy Mind Interviews

Postby padma norbu » Tue Mar 27, 2012 12:36 pm

Maybe they meant rupees.
"Use what seems like poison as medicine. We can use our personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings." Pema Chodron
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Re: Book review The Healthy Mind Interviews

Postby pensum » Tue Mar 27, 2012 1:06 pm

padma norbu wrote:I kept looking for a Wisdom Books USA store until I finally realized there wasn't one. The books also ship directly from Nepal for about $5 + $5 shipping (or so) on eBay. Obviously, whoever the people are selling them for $20-$100 are not people we should be patronizing.

EDIT: oh, it's even worse than that!
Current champion of greed:
http://www.alibris.com/booksearch.detai ... rt=&page=1


All four volumes appear to be available at listed retail price or below (and with free international shipping) from Book Depository http://www.bookdepository.com/search?searchTerm=healthy+mind+interviews&search=search (they were bought by Amazon). Usually the cheapest place to buy books online, no matter where in the world you are.
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