by Andy Karr
Review by Jim Lowrey
Unlike some other Buddhist books that I have read on the profound Mahayana teachings, Andy Karr’s latest work, Into the Mirror, speaks to me in a language that I can understand. As he leads us from the getting to know our minds to the “Hard Problem of Consciousness,” the journey becomes personal and experiential rather than philosophical. The hard problem may be hard, but it’s not complicated – all our models of a physical world and a substantial self are mental models. How can such objects be more fundamental than the mind that experiences them?
Starting with simple meditation instructions, Karr walks us through increasingly sophisticated understanding of nonego and the arguments against materialism. He notes and challenges the various theories of reductive materialism through logic and direct experience. He then offers contemplations to allow us to investigate our own assumptions.
Karr’s guidance through the progression of Mahayana teachings is simple and profound at the same time, including the experience and analysis of mere cognisance. The displays of the senses are imagined to be a physical world “out there” and a mental world “in here.” All of these displays are falsely imagined.
In the last part of the book, Karr explores the depths of the compassionate Mahayana view. He explains that our inherent buddha nature is the true nature of mind. It is discovered by removing incidental stains. Karr offers traditional practices to help us overcome our self-deception. Finally, he summarizes various views on death and describes the Buddhist approach to the opportunities present in the death process, where we can directly experience the mind’s basic luminosity.
The book’s title – Into the Mirror – as Karr explained at his book launch party in Halifax, refers to our escaping the trap of solidifying the reflections we are continually chasing and running away from, and settling into the nondual reality of the mirror itself: awareness-emptiness.