Into the Mirror: A Buddhist Journey through Mind, Matter, and the Nature of Reality (Paperback)
Into the Mirror examines the materialism of the modern world through the profound teachings of Mahayana Buddhism and offers an accessible and powerful method for investigating the way our minds construct our worlds.
Into the Mirror combines contemporary Western inquiries into the nature of consciousness, with classical Buddhist investigations into the nature of mind, to offer deep insights into the nature of reality. Andy Karr invites the reader to make this a personal, experiential journey through study, contemplation, and meditation.
The first part of the book presents the Mahayana Buddhist approach to the path of freedom from suffering. It explores foundational teachings, such as the four truths, the notion of enlightenment, and the practice of meditation, from a fresh perspective. The second part deconstructs assumptions about mind and the material world using easily understood tools from contemporary Western philosophy. Part three presents a series of contemplative practices, ethics, and insights, starting with the Middle Way teachings on emptiness and interdependence, through Yogachara’s subtle understanding of non-duality, to the view that buddha nature is already within us to be revealed rather than something external to be acquired.
Into the Mirror concludes with a call to cultivate compassion for beings and the environment right within this world of illusion.
About the Author
Andy Karr is a teacher, author, and photographer whose works explore profound and penetrating insights into dharma and mind. At an early age, he dreamed of becoming a Zen master—as he describes, probably the result of reading Zen in the Art of Archery as a teenager and watching too many samurai movies. His interests led him to read Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind and to train under Shunryu Suzuki Roshi at the San Francisco Zen Center and under Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche in Boulder, Colorado.
Andy attended Trungpa Rinpoche’s three-month seminary in 1976, where intense periods of meditation practice alternated with intense periods of study. The message for him was clear: practice and study go together like the two wings of a bird. This became the guiding principle for his own journey. After moving to Paris in 1979, Andy cofounded the first Shambhala Centre in France.
After Trungpa Rinpoche passed away, Andy and his family moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia. In 1993 he began studying Mahamudra and the progressive stages of view and meditation with Khenpo Tsültrim Gyamtso Rinpoche. He became a senior teacher in Khenpo Rinpoche’s sangha and also taught at Gampo Abbey’s monastic college, including extended courses on Chandrakirti’s Introduction to the Middle Way and Shantarakshita’s Adornment of the Middle Way.
Andy is the author of Into the Mirror and Contemplating Reality and the coauthor of The Practice of Contemplative Photography. He continues to teach meditation, the Mahayana view, and Mahamudra. To learn more about Andy’s work, go to www.andykarrauthor.com
“The Buddha taught that freedom comes from overcoming habitual patterns and confused assumptions about reality. Into the Mirror guides twenty-first century Buddhist practitioners on this great journey. Andy Karr has spent a lifetime studying and practicing under the guidance of great masters like Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. I pray that his clear words will benefit modern people who aspire to follow the Buddha’s path to awakening.”—Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse, author of The Guru Drinks Bourbon?
“Into the Mirror by Andy Karr offers critical insights and reflections that help us deconstruct materialist and reductionist ideas that pervade what we call modernity. He blends this examination with a helpful and cogent summary of key ideas from both the Foundational and Mahayana vehicles about the nature of consciousness. This, in my view, is both timely and important because we suffer unnecessarily from misguided views (that we superimpose upon the world individually and collectively) that engender dissatisfaction and unhappiness. Andy has an engaging and provocative writing style that skillfully interweaves contemporary writings on consciousness with those of ancient sources making our path to a deeper understanding stimulating and potentially transformative.”—Tsoknyi Rinpoche, coauthor of Why We Meditate: The Science and Practice of Clarity and Compassion
“Andy Karr invites us to consider the materialistic benefits of modern times. Have they made us happy? And if not, what then? This is a key issue for our time and Into the Mirror adroitly lays out traditional as well as contemporary insights on how we might tame the materialistic matrix and not let it swallow us. His orientation is blessedly complete—starting with skillful insights into foundations of Buddhist thought, then questioning contemporary framings of consciousness as a problem to solve. These catalyze appreciation for a profound journey toward resolving what most fundamentally ails us. Eminently readable. Eminently nourishing.”—Anne Klein, author of Knowing, Naming, and Negation: A Sourcebook on Tibetan Sautrāntika
“There are two common assumptions about consciousness in modern thinking: that the mind can be reduced to something material and non-experiential and that it is forever destined to remain a mystery. Both these assumptions distance us from actually exploring the nature of knowing. Karr exposes the frailty and blind spots of Western scientific materialism and guides our attention toward ancient Buddhist methods of exploring mind through ‘first-person science,’ uncovering consciousness as the source of human agency, creative potential and insight. A thoughtful, engaging, and timely book.”—Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel, author of The Logic of Faith: A Buddhist Approach to Finding Certainty Beyond Belief and Doubt
“Andy Karr’s Into the Mirror is a brilliant companion volume to his Contemplating Reality, contrasting the Buddhist view of mind as the sole foundation of all experiences and phenomena with a number of materialistic and reductionist views on consciousness. Contrary to such views popular in today’s world that consider matter to be primary and consciousness to be a mere epiphenomenon of matter, Mahāyāna Buddhists see it the other way round: matter is an epiphenomenon of mind. At the same time, neither matter nor mind can be pinpointed as an intrinsically existent or reified entity. In the mirror of our mind, all kinds of inner and outer phenomena appear like reflections, but when we really look deeply into that mirror, all we see is our own true face, which is neither the mirror nor anything that appears in it. Whether this is called ‘pure awareness,’ ‘buddha nature,’ or ‘awakening,’ it is the basic ground of our experience. If not recognized, it is delusion; if recognized, it is primordial nonreferential wakefulness full of wisdom and compassion. Andy’s book is a significant and very accessible contribution to the ongoing dialogue between ‘modern’ philosophy, psychology, cognitive science, and neuroscience and the ‘ancient’ Buddhist inner science of introspection and contemplation.”—Karl Brunnhölzl, author of Luminous Heart: Essential Writings of Rangjung Dorje, the Third Karmapa
“With no lab other than meditation, Buddhist natural philosophers have developed sophisticated theories of mind and reality. Andy Karr’s Into the Mirror is a lucid survey of this tradition from a Tibetan Buddhist perspective, which he then holds next to modern neuroscientific and philosophical theories of consciousness. From that conversation arise beautifully subversive questions like whether the point is not the relationship between immaterial mind and material brain but how they might both be manifestations of something else, and conundrums like how you can have subjective experience without a self. A thoughtful and thought-provoking book.”—Joan Sutherland, author of Through Forests of Every Color: Awakening with Koans
“Warning: This accessible invitation to Buddhist philosophy may unravel your ordinary conceptions about the mind and world. It may tie threads together from different theories about mind and matter. It may do both. Proceed with caution (and love—as always) and emerge with wisdom.”—Douglas Duckworth, author of Jamgon Mipam: His Life and Teachings
“A wonderful antidote to today’s materialism, Andy Karr’s Into the Mirror interweaves consciousness studies, Buddhist principles, and ordinary human psychology, thus offering the reader access to an authentic opportunity for self-inquiry. Profound, at times funny, and always intimate, this book reveals how to manage living in a materialistic world with a heart to relieve suffering. I recommend this book as an antidote to the clamor of this grasping world!”—Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara, author of Most Intimate: A Zen Approach to Life’s Challenges
“It is rare to find a book on Buddhist wisdom teachings that shows us how actually to put them into practice. So it is delightful to see how Karr walks the reader through these teachings step by step, with clarity and humor. Although it can be daunting to study ancient Buddhist texts on the nature of mind, Karr brings this material to life through his clear commentary and helpful vignettes. He mixes his presentation with insights from Western science and philosophy and he incorporates examples from ordinary life. Karr warmly invites us into this stream of wisdom and encourages us to jump in.”—Judith Lief, author of Making Friends with Death: A Buddhist Guide to Encountering Mortality
“A clever companion for navigating the age of materialism without losing sight of deeper truths.”—Buddhadharma
“When Karr writes in his own voice, he makes good on his claim in the introduction to present ideas in clear simple English. For instance, he writes: “The way to find freedom from difficult emotions is to find it right within the feelings themselves.” Only someone who has experienced the emptiness of difficult emotions could write such a sentence. It expresses the very essence of Buddhist practice. . . . Of special interest was his condensation of approximately 1,000 years of Buddhist philosophy and practice methods into a few short chapters. Like time-lapse photography, the gradual evolution of practices beginning with Nāgārjuna’s Great Middle Way and climaxing in Chekawa Yeshe Dorje’s Mind Training in Seven Points unfolds before one’s eyes. . . . This book provides food for thought and reflection, and it may also open a way to cross [the ocean of materialistic thinking] and arrive at another shore.”—Los Angeles Review of Books