Excerpt from the Preface
The goal of the Buddhist path is to transform ourselves into what we have always been. Rather than strive to become something better, which is ego’s game, we learn to remove the mask of ego to reveal our true nature. The method for doing this is to listen to the dharma, to reflect on its meaning, and to meditate within the inquisitiveness and understanding that these produce.
This process of transformation does not occur through acquiring lots of knowledge or perfecting sophisticated meditation techniques. It occurs through seeing through delusion and letting go of fixation. Contemplation and investigation play an essential role in this process, one that is easily overlooked. Today, there is much written about the teachings of Buddhism and much written about the practice of meditation. This book focuses on contemplation, which makes a link between these two. I have written it because after years of practicing the dharma, contemplation brought out my own inquisitiveness and refreshed my attitude toward the journey, and I have seen it do the same for many dharma friends.
Some people are attracted to Buddhism because of teachings that clarify the nature of reality. Others are attracted by the practices of meditation that transform the mind. Still others by Buddhism’s ideal of universal compassion and its systems of ethics that help navigate the challenges of life and death. Human beings have both minds and hearts—intellect and insight. Liberation is quite a difficult undertaking, and one of the greatest challenges of the spiritual journey is to bring intellect and insight together to travel the path. Buddhism is blessed with extremely rich scholarly traditions for developing intellect, and extremely rich practice traditions for developing experience and insight, but it is often difficult for practitioners to bring them together. Sometimes practice and study seem to speak different languages. Our own deep-rooted tendencies may also draw us toward one and repel us from the other.
It is said that studying the dharma without meditating is like trying to scale a rock face with no arms, while practicing meditation without studying is like trying to make a long journey without eyes. Contemplation is the bridge between intellect and insight, study and meditation. To bring all our resources to bear on the journey, we need to join the practices of study, contemplation, and meditation together like three strong locomotives pulling the train of our delusion to the destination of realization.
Praise for Contemplating Reality
“I can’t emphasize enough during this transitional time as Buddhism is being established in the West that at least some of us focus on the Buddhist view. I welcome this book as a sign of the dawn of appreciation of Buddhist wisdom, not just for its exotic aspects but as a philosophy that is up-to-date and even more relevant now than ever.”
—Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse, author of What Makes You Not a Buddhist
“This book clearly introduces the main points of Buddhist philosophical inquiry and the key methods for how to contemplate them and gain certainty in them.”
—Dzogchen Ponlop, author of Wild Awakening
“This book will be tremendously helpful for anyone who encounters it.”
—Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, author of In Love with the World
“A jewel of a book, introducing contemplative meditation in a way that's both close to Tibetan tradition and accessible to a Western meditator. This guide provides the missing link that allows us to deeply personalize the Buddhist teachings.”
—Judith Simmer-Brown, author of Dakini's Warm Breath
“Karr is a friendly teacher of difficult material: exercises offer ways of helping students reach conclusions; demanding chapters of philosophical explication are relieved by quirky ‘interludes’ of poetry and comedy; and appendixes contain helpful biographies of historical Buddhist teachers and a chart of philosophical systems...
Contemplating Reality will challenge the advanced student of Buddhism interested in the historical and intellectual richness of this wisdom tradition.”