The Art of Living Book Summary - The Art of Living Book explained in key points
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The Art of Living summary

William Hart

Vipassana Meditation as Taught by S. N. Goenka

4.7 (399 ratings)
19 mins

Brief summary

"The Art of Living" by William Hart offers insight into the teachings of Vipassana meditation, providing a path to inner peace and self-discovery through self-awareness and mindfulness practices.

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    The Art of Living
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    You can only benefit from Buddhism through practical application.

    There’s a story about a young professor on a ship at sea. Every night, an illiterate old sailor would visit the young professor’s cabin and listen to him talk about many different subjects. 

    Night after night, the professor would ask the old sailor if he’d ever studied subjects like geology, meteorology, and oceanography. The answer would always be “no.” And the professor would tell the poor old sailor that he’d wasted his life. 

    Then, one night, the sailor had a question for the professor. He asked him, “Have you ever studied swimology?” The professor was baffled. “Can you swim?” the old sailor asked. The professor couldn’t swim. And, as the ship had just struck a rock, he drowned, while the old sailor survived.

    The lesson here is that no amount of study can replace practical experience. When it comes to Buddhism, the same is true. Buddhism will only have a positive effect on your life if you apply its lessons on a daily basis.

    The key message here is: You can only benefit from Buddhism through practical application.

    The whole point of the Buddha’s teachings is practical application in the here and now. It’s not just intellectual speculation. Buddhism is something to be used every day, like an instrument or tool. 

    To paraphrase the Buddha himself, being able to recite all the Buddhist texts from memory won’t cut it; if you don’t practice what’s written in them, you’re like a herdsman who counts the cows of others instead of tending his own herd. On the other hand, you may be able to recite only a few of the texts – but if you live your life the way the Buddha proposed, then you’ll reap many rewards. 

    Applying what the Buddha taught chiefly revolves around freeing yourself from suffering. It’s a pressing concern – one that means acting in the present. But following the path of the Buddha and applying his teachings isn’t just about helping yourself. Society’s problems and neuroses begin at the level of the individual, so freeing yourself from suffering has a broader purpose. 

    If you have a troubled mind, then you’re likely to affect others around you in a negative way. If you have a tranquil mind and are at ease with yourself, then you’ll affect others positively. It’s at this level that really deep and meaningful change happens – first in yourself and then far beyond.

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    What is The Art of Living about?

    The Art of Living (1987) details the Vipassanā meditation principles set out by the famed Burmese-Indian teacher S. N. Goenka. As well as describing the techniques of Vipassanā meditation, it delves into the deeper philosophy of Buddhism.

    The Art of Living Review

    The Art of Living (2009) by William Hart presents practical insights into the teachings of Vipassana meditation, offering readers a transformative path to inner peace and harmony. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Explores the core principles and techniques of Vipassana meditation with clarity and depth, providing a roadmap for personal growth and self-discovery.
    • Through real-life examples and personal stories, the book brings the teachings to life, helping readers connect with the concepts and understand their relevance.
    • It sheds light on the profound benefits of Vipassana practice, such as increased awareness, reduced suffering, and improved well-being, offering a compelling invitation to explore this ancient practice.

    Who should read The Art of Living?

    • Anyone interested in meditation
    • Those seeking relief from anxiety, stress, and suffering
    • People curious about Buddhist thinking

    About the Author

    William Hart was one of the first assistant teachers appointed by S. N. Goenka to teach Vipassanā meditation. His book, The Art of Living, has become the definitive work on Vipassanā meditation and philosophy, and has been translated into 25 different languages.

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    The Art of Living FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Art of Living?

    The main message of The Art of Living is to find happiness and peace through mindfulness and meditation.

    How long does it take to read The Art of Living?

    The reading time for The Art of Living varies, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Art of Living a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Art of Living is a worthwhile read for anyone seeking a more fulfilling life. It provides practical guidance and insights for personal growth.

    Who is the author of The Art of Living?

    The author of The Art of Living is William Hart.

    What to read after The Art of Living?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Art of Living, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Mindfulness by Joseph Goldstein
    • The Quiet Mind by John E. Coleman
    • A Monk's Guide to Happiness by Gelong Thubten
    • The Art of Clear Thinking by Hasard Lee
    • Atomic Habits by James Clear
    • Peace Is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh
    • Meditation by Osho
    • Unfu*k Yourself by Gary John Bishop
    • Wabi Sabi by Beth Kempton
    • The Way of Zen by Alan W. Watts