Sunday, November 18, 2012

Cautiously Curious

Daniel M. Ingram is a controversial figure because he claims to be an arhat.  It makes him easy to dismiss because boasting of spiritual attainment goes against the culture of Buddhism.  I wouldn't say you had to read his book to dismiss him, but I'm finding his book intelligent and helpful in places.  Some people think he's too intellectual, but you only transcend reason by going through it.

On the other hand people can get very excited about him, because he is explicit, smart and explains what he has done, and he seems to have put some work in.  You can judge for yourself, or read some of the many discussion boards where he is discussed or participates in, or dismiss him.

I started reading his Mastering The Core Teachings of the Buddha, and found some of his style bombastic.  I have also found some of his writing rather intelligent and apt, as previous quotes in this blog show.  It's like a young Bret Easton Ellis if he became a Buddhist and wrote a book, sometimes.  He can also be irreverent and flippant and call himself a maverick or playful, and it's up to you to see if it's right for you, which one it seems or which percentage of which you get.  The best comment I saw on the boards was basically, if he helps you, then great.  What ever works.

None of the comments on the discussion boards really struck home to me, so I keep reading.  And yet I don't feel like the really excited five star reviews on Amazon.  I'm not done with the book yet.  I tend to feel more positively as a book goes along, if I keep reading.

You can get the book for free.  You can buy a hard copy of the book, if you choose.  But it's a living organism as he keeps working on it.  I'm not sure if that link will work, you have to sign up for the discussion on The Dharma Overground.  That's free too.

So on the one hand you don't feel a movement behind him, and you wonder where he goes, if at all beyond "meditation reform" and whether he can create a movement, though maybe he has fans.  If you google "retreat with Daniel Ingram" today, there's no retreat you can go on, only advice on how to approach a retreat.

On the other hand he seems like he's dipped into the tradition and puts it forward in a forthright manner based in his experience, and isn't afraid to say when he disagrees with tradition.  Time will tell how great of a teacher he is, or even whether he wants to create a movement, or be a teacher beyond his writings and podcasts.  I haven't listened to the Buddhist Geeks podcast with him in them yet.

He's trained in the Vipassana tradition, but doesn't have any formal titles or anything, beyond informal verbal encouragement of one teacher that he should teach.  (Can't find the reference to that statement any more...)  He is compared to Brad Warner in 2 blog postings (1, 2) and this is in 2010, so I'm behind the curve obviously.  Perhaps the published at the same time I don't know.  Warner is a Soto priest, and does retreat, so that's a difference to their supposedly shared hardcore buddhism.

Recently they changed the name of the movement he seems to be involved in, to Pragmatic Dharma.

I find the way I try to be careful writing about him is interesting.  I don't want to be too gung ho, or superficially dismissive.  I'm not even done with the book.  But I thought I should give more background to "Ingram Quote" blogs I've been doing, and probably will do.  I think his book is filled with interesting and sincere experience, mapped over the Vapassana tradition, which he seems to know pretty well.

May you be happy, may you be well!

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