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Swallowing the River Ganges: a practice guide to the path of purification
An invaluable roadmap for anyone who meditates.
Swallowing the River Ganges is a comprehensive practice guide to the "great treatise" of Theravadan Buddhism, the "path of purification" (Visuddhimagga). Written in the fifth century, this encyclopedic manual of Buddhist doctrine and meditation organizes the various teachings of the Buddha into one clear path.
Step by step, this meditation course guides us through the seven stages of purification, explaining the teachings and putting them into context for the modern reader. It describes how to use the breath for practicing both serenity and insight meditation, and helps us realize that no separation exists between ourselves and the truths we seek.
"The author takes the reader through each of the steps of the Eightfold path in clearly expressed, simple terms. His valuable instructions on the posture, place, and time dedicated to sitting meditation will motivate both the beginning and experienced meditator to a more dedicated practice."
—His Lai Journal of Humanistic Buddhism
"The Path of Purification is one of the most penetrating yet practical teachings of the Buddha. Flickstein's commentary on it brings an immediacy and insight that are valuable aids to its study."
"This is a fresh, contemporary presentation of a venerable and ancient teaching. Readers of this book will find that it profoundly deepens their practice."
—from the Foreword by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, author of Mindfulness in Plain English
"With astounding simplicity and clarity, Matthew Flickstein has created a monumental synthesis of the Buddha's teachings…"
—Ginny Morgan, Director, Mid-America Dharma Group
"Matthew Flickstein makes this difficult work wholly accessible to the Western student. In doing so, he reveals his own compassionate, practical approach to Buddhist practice as well as the depth of his own realization. For a complete exposition of Buddhist practice according to the Thervadan tradition, Flickstein's book is a brilliant resource."
—Jim Lassen-Willems, Vipassana teacher
"Given the enormity of the Visudhimagga, Flickstein has managed to select what is essential and clarify this dense and complex material, but without watering it down. The heart of it is all there. I know how valuable this will be to serious practitioners of dhamma."
—Barbara Brodsky, Deep Spring Center for Meditation and Spiritual Inquiry
"Swallowing the River Ganges is a remarkably clear and straightforward exposition of the stages of purification in the Theravada tradition. It provides an authentic and pragmatic framework for understanding this amazing journey of awakening."
—Joseph Goldstein, author of One Dharma
"Swallowing the River Ganges is an inspiring, splendidly detailed, and user-friendly guidebook for navigating the subtle complexities of the Buddha's path to spiritual freedom. At every turn, specific practice exercises offer the committed student an opportunity for direct penetration into the heart of the Buddha's teachings. Matthew Flickstein writes with sharp clarity and contagious enthusiasm which draws one back to the sitting cushion again and again."
—Steve Shealy, Ph.D., meditation teacher and clinical psychologist
"Never have I read a book on spiritual practice more practical or lucid than Swallowing the River Ganges. It takes us step-by-step from beginning meditation to the highest reaches of practice. It belongs in the library of every serious student of the teachings of the Buddha."
—Walter Schwidetzky, co-founder of The Forest Way Insight Meditation Center
"Flickstein lays out a cogent overview of Buddhist teachings about the seven stages of purification to achieve spiritual liberation. The title refers to a question he once asked the Korean Zen master Seung Sahn: "What are you thinking as you twirl those beads in your hands?" The answer was swift but enigmatic, 'You'll understand what I am thinking when you can swallow the River Ganges.'"
—Spirituality and Health
"Fortunately for us all, Flickstein's book has brought into clear and approachable focus the seven stages of purification delineated in this wonderful tome. This is a monumental synthesis from the standpoint of one who has walked the path. Flickstein has stewarded its birth into a more modern form and presentation. A simplicity and clarity come through in a most ordinary and yet remarkable way…. The strength of the book lies in its approachability and usefulness as a resource text. (Its) power comes also from the simple fact that shouts from these pages over and over again, that nibbana is possible."
"Trauma can be a catalyst for change. The Buddha saw the trauma of dissatisfaction everywhere and put together a powerful recipe for life transformation. Matthew Flickstein, once a successful psychotherapist and now a Buddhist monk and meditation teacher, draws on his experience from personal-development workshops, creating a perfect how-to book for transforming life along the Buddhist path."
—Amazon.com Delivers Eastern Religion
"Written 1500 years ago by Buddhagosha, the Visuddhimagga underpins the modern mainstream of the Theravada school of Buddhism. It is a forbidding tome, and its style can be redolent of an ancient scholasticism, yet it is a compendium of meditations and reflections that add up to a 'path of purity' that has much to offer modern practitioners. Flickstein's book is a welcome aid to anyone seeking to mine the Visuddhimagga's treasures. For those already familiar with concepts such as the four foundations of mindfulness or the five hindrances to meditation the value of Swallowing the River Ganges lies in relating these to many other teachings. It may also offer a way in to the Visuddhimagga, and the many jewels - references, quotations, insights - that are hidden within it."