The Mind’s Power

When I first received a copy of The Power of Mind: A Tibetan Monk’s Guide to Finding Freedom in Every Challenge by Khentrul Rinpoche, I was excited to see what was in store. I’ve always been interested in spiritualism and philosophy, and more recently, I began my own meditation practice and completed my yoga teacher training.

So there were some concepts—like purity of our actions to do no harm—that were familiar to me already. Similarly, Rinpoche’s recurring topic of the power of language spoke to my academic soul, having studied rhetoric and communication in college.

Challenges also speak to my love of academia and this book is just that. It’s not for the faint of heart, or mind. If you’re the kind of person who is tangentially familiar with some Buddhist teachings and have mulled over whether or not you believe in reincarnation, you’re likely to relate to Rinpoche’s teachings. But you may also question your own stances, especially if you like to explore different philosophies and schools of spirituality.

For example, I took a Native American Spirituality class last year and we talked a great deal about the deep, intrinsic relationship to the land. Not just the plants and animals, but to the dirt, the mountains, everything. This concept spoke to me. So when Rinpoche says, “An object without mind, such as a rock, is merely inanimate matter and has no sensations,” (p. 6) that struck a cord of confusion in me, perhaps even some mild dissonance.

Somewhat similarly, during discussions of impermanence and karma, I stepped away from the book (for now) with more questions than answers.

With regard to impermanence, Rinpoche comments, “The closer our perception is to how things actually are, the less we suffer because we no longer have the expectation that things should be lasting,” (p. 25). On one hand, this makes sense to me, especially intellectually; but I could also see how this statement could be misinterpreted and lead down a slippery slope to nihilism.

He later says that it’s important to have a “healthy expectation of change,” and I think it would have been nice to have this caveat earlier in the chapter.

Additionally, with respect to karma, he says that karmic results “ripen when the action’s habitual imprints in our consciousness become our future experience” (p. 34). He reminds us that, “No action goes unaccounted for,” (p. 36) and that, “We need to look at the nature of each action, but we also need to look at the endlessness of cyclic existence” (p. 37).

While I’ve personally been previously unsure upon my stance on something like reincarnation (as it relates to karma), I felt as though this chapter has only inspired further mullings and fewer conclusions. That’s why this book is so challenging: not only are some of the concepts fairly high level, the book also challenges you. It challenges your beliefs and your biases, and for that reason, I’ve really enjoyed it.

I loved how Rinpoche approaches mind training with grace, patience and even, at times, humor. In a segment where he speaks about a thing’s true essence—which inspired questions around social constructionism—he gave an example of seeing what you think is a snake, but really it’s a rope. But at that moment, he made a quip about how many Himalayan natives are afraid of snakes. Later, when giving tips on how to practice selflessness and loving-kindness, he encourages practitioners to be creative, and even funny, when saying their hopes for others and the world.

There’s just so much joy in Rinpoche’s writing that even when you may have moments where you say to yourself, “Now, I don’t know about that,” you still feel joy because there’s a sense of gratitude that Rinpoche is sharing with you.

In addition to his literary voice, I also liked the way the book is structured. It’s divided into seven sections that provide a framework to work your way up to training your mind. But I also liked how in the last part, he says that this book is dense and there’s a lot of tips and instructions, so take your time and come back to it again and again.

This is definitely a book that I’d recommend annotating, as there are so many good lines, good sections and thought-provoking moments that I think taking notes, and even writing your own commentary, will make the reading that much more fulfilling.

Happy Reading!


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