Evolving Dharma: Meditation, Buddhism, and the Next Generation of Enlightenment
Evolving Dharma is a “next generation” book on meditation, Buddhism, and the path of awakening, to be published by North Atlantic Books in October, 2013.
The latest book by bestselling author Jay Michaelson, author ofÂ Everything is GodÂ and Another Word for Sky, Evolving DharmaÂ tells two parallel stories: first, howÂ Buddhism and Dharma practice have been transformed by a new generation of explorers, rebels, hackers, and scientists; and second, how the Dharma evolves in one’s own personal practice, drawing heavily on Jay Michaelson’s decade of practice and teaching in the Theravadan Buddhist tradition.
Fearless, unorthodox, and irreverent, scholar and activist Jay Michaelson shows how meditation has moved from ashrams and self-help groups to classrooms, prisons, and corporate boardrooms.Â Michaelson introduces the reader to maverick brainhackers, postmodern Buddhist monks, and cutting-edge neuroscientists while also sharing his own stories of months-long silent retreats, powerful mystical experiences, and many pitfalls along the way.
Combining a rigorous, even skeptical perspective with the sincerity of a longtime Buddhist practitioner, this engaging, honest, and often humorous book is a must-read for the next-generation meditator, the spiritually cynical, and the curious adventurer in all of us.
Evolving Dharma comes at an exciting, even historic, moment in the spiritual life of the West. Meditation is becoming widely practiced in the United States, in new contexts, new forms, and with new understandings of what this “technology of awakening” is meant to do. And yet, most (though not all!) books about mindfulness and meditation practice come from a specific socio-cultural-economic background, and often seem to be about âspirituality,â or, in some cases, a very class- and culture-specific lifestyle. There is a hunger for a more cutting-edge, younger, and plugged-in âdharma bookâ, which comes from a newer generation and is informed by its values.
Evolving Dharma is that book. It is a serious book for people interested in getting serious about meditation practice; it is not an attempt to make meditation seem cool, or hip, but is from a cultural context that tends to efface boundaries and orthodoxies and points to intersections between contemplative practice and politics, gender, social justice, and power (to name a few).
Some of the questions this book asks include: How is a new generation, post-hippie, postmodern, and possibly even post-Buddhist, reshaping meditation in the West? How is the practice of happiness informed by cognitive neuroscience? How are newer, Occupy- and Web 2.0-influenced participant communities creating new forms of contemplative communities and perhaps avoiding the scandals that plagued the authority- and guru-based ones of a previous generation?
And more generally: What is the point of meditation practice? How is it practiced not just in formal sits on the cushion, but as part of a âdharma practice,â a way of life that contributes to individual and communal well-being? How can its highest goals be attained?Â Is meditation just another form of (potentially narcissistic) spirituality? Is it Buddhism, and is Buddhism a religion? How does an individualâs dharma practice evolve over time, and how is the dharma itself evolving in the West?Â How does it intersect with other interests, whether spiritual in nature (such as shamanism) or otherwise (such as political engagement)? What is the role of technology in the evolving practice of the dharma? Where do we go from here?
Praise for Evolving Dharma
âI highly recommend this book. Its scholarship on the past is solid, its review of the present is revealing, and its sense of possibility grounded in both kindness and vision.â ~ Daniel Ingram, author of Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha
âWhat a fantastic book! Smart, tender, incisive, and visionary. If you only read one dharma book this year, read Evolving Dharma.â ~ Kenneth Folk, teacher, Kenneth Folk Dharma and Buddhist Geeks
About the Author
Dr. Jay Michaelson is a writer, scholar and activist with ten years of experience practicing and teaching meditation. He has written four books and two hundred articles; Jayâs most recent book, God vs. Gay? The Religious Case for Equality (Beacon, 2011) was an Amazon.com bestseller and a Lambda Literary Award Finalist. Other books are God in Your Body: Kabbalah, Mindfulness, and Embodied Spiritual Practice (2006), Another Word for Sky: Poems (2007), and Everything is God: The Radical Path of Nondual Judaism (2009). Associate editor of Religion Dispatches magazine and contributing editor to the Forward newspaper, Jay is also a frequent contributor to the Daily Beast, the Huffington Post, Reality Sandwich, Salon, and Tikkun.
Jay holds a J.D. from Yale, a Ph.D. in Jewish Thought from Hebrew University, an MFA in Writing from Sarah Lawrence, an MA in Religious Studies from Hebrew University, and B.A. magna cum laude from Columbia. He has held teaching positions at Boston University Law School, City College of New York, and Yale University, and in the past twelve months, he has presented scholarly papers at the American Academy of Religion, the Van Leer Institute, the CUNY Graduate Center, and the Pacific School of Religion, among other institutions.
Outside the academy, Jay has taught at centers such as Kripalu, the New York Open Center, and Easton Mountain, as well as at dozens of churches, synagogues, dharma centers, and similar institutions. In 2009, Jay was included on the Forward 50 list of prominent American Jews, and in 2010 he won a New York Society of Professional Journalistsâ award for feature writing. Jay’s work has been featured on CNN, NPR, and in the New York Times.
By profession, Jay is an LGBT activist who teaches regularly for organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD, and at synagogues, universities, LGBT centers, and churches around the country. His communities include Nehirim, a national LGBT organization which he founded, as well as families of choice at Burning Man, the Radical Faeries, Evolver, and other subcultures.
A practicing Buddhist in the Theravadan tradition as well as a teacher of Jewish mysticism (Kabbalah) for fifteen years, Jay has lived in Jerusalem for three years, studied in Orthodox yeshiva, participated in numerous interfaith dialogue groups, and sat several long-term retreats, including a five month retreat in 2008-09. Having attained the first (and easiest) of the four traditional levels of awakening, Jay is qualified to teach in the lineage of Mahasi Sayadaw in the Burmese Theravadan Buddhist tradition.