What makes Joseph Goldstein's THE EXPERIENCE OF INSIGHT such an excellent book is that it lives up to its subtitle, "A Simple and Direct Guide to Buddhist Meditation." And yet at the same time it is both subtle and profound. The book is organized around a thirty day meditation retreat, and the chapters are each an evening's talk, starting with beginning instruction, moving through Concepts and Reality, through Death and Loving Kindness, all the way to Buddhist Paths and Closing. Goldstein writes well and clearly, and he knows when to throw in a little Zen story,. It is not a talky, chatty book; it has the cool lucidity of Zen instruction. Some of the chapters end with questions from the meditation participants, like "Why does greed arise?" or "How would you describe the happiness of nirvana?" and Goldstein responds with both Buddhist doctrine and real life examples.
Some of his stories may sound quite familiar since his book was first published in 1976 and those very stories are told widely around the meditation circuit. Goldstein is a serious Buddhist, and besides laying down basic principles of the faith, he also goes into more esoteric issues like the three pillars of Dharma, the five hindrances (desire, anger, sloth and torpor, restlessness, and doubt), the meaning of Hesse's SIDDHARTHA, and others.
This book should satisfy both the curious beginner and the serious student of Buddhism. Goldstein is truly a guru, who encourages us: "Do not be discouraged by wandering thoughts or daydreams. Each time there is awareness of the mind wandering, gently bring it back to the breath or sensations. No matter how many times this happens, if each time the wandering mind is brought back, the hour will be well spent. Be gentle with yourself. Be persevering."