Self-Liberation: Through Seeing with Naked Awareness
Self-Liberation is a new translation of a Buddhist text said to have been hidden for generations by its creator, Guru Padmasambhava, in order to ensure that it was not uncovered until such time as Tibetans were mentally prepared for it. This is one of many such texts, but is revered to be the epitome of all Buddhist teachings by many scholars.
The book itself begins with a foreword that establishes the historical context for the teachings as well as explaining the difficulty in translation. John Myrdhin Reynolds is a particularly appropriate translator of this material since he is a Buddhist scholar as well as someone who is able to read Tibetan. After the translator’s introduction, the translation itself is written, followed by an outline of the text, the translator’s comments on the meaning of the text, and several appendices. The original Tibetan text is included as well.
The material is very academic and philosophical in nature, although if the reader is knowledgeable of Buddhist teachings, much of it will be familiar. The ultimate meaning of the term self-liberation is to free one’s self from identifying with his or her own thoughts and to realize that what we have come to know as reality is simply a construct of our mind itself. To simply contemplate the world around you, the author writes, is the act of being purely aware and transcending “mind.”
Throughout, the text repeats its lessons in the format of explaining a principle (View), how to think about the principle (Meditation), how to act on the principle (Conduct), and what one can expect to come of this (Fruit). The ideas are laid out in logical arguments and continually reinforce the importance of continued practice of contemplation of these notions. The author urges the reader not to confuse the nature of the mind with what the mind does: “Meditation involves the activities of the mind and the erecting of mental constructions, but is itself limited by the mind.”
Overall, Self-Liberation is an accessible text that will provide much food for thought to anyone who is interested in and familiar with Buddhist teachings. It is not, however, light reading.