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Daniel Ingram is my homeboy*

Hi Guys.

My “sleep hygiene” has been terrible this week – the equivalent of brushing my teeth with dirt.  The computer is changing colors on me and my head is bobbing like a blind man at a piano.  I can’t even tell if that last simile is PC or not, that’s how tired I am.

So rather than offer my perspective on some Big Human Issue I thought I’d just let you in on what I’ve been into lately.  Or rather – who I’ve been into.

Who, you might ask? Well (smile, look 45 degrees to the left and down, flick eyes up, lift head dramatically) his name is Daniel. 


What does he do?  He’s a doctor.  I know.  But more importantly he’s also a – listen I don’t know how to say this, so I’m just going to say it.  He’s an arahat.  He is one who has attained enlightenment.  But even more important than that – he. is. awesome.

I’m talking about Daniel Ingram (to be clear, I’ve never met him), a Buddhist practitioner who claims to have achieved enlightenment and talks about a goal-based system or map of meditation for people to follow so that they can also wake up.

I don’t care whether Daniel Ingram is enlightened or not.  I don’t care whether he claims to be or not.  That is essentially the least interesting thing (to me) about his teachings, which are extremely down to earth and address, very frankly, many of the issues that I’ve been having in the past six months of my meditation practice.  That seems to be very interesting to certain groups of people, which is fine – I’m just not advanced enough in my practice to really care about the verity of his attainments. 


I first found out about him from interviews with Vince Horn and Buddhist Geeks (who I’m always plugging but that’s just because the podcasts are great and they are so cute.  I mean to look at.  Cute to describe personality I’ve decided is pretty undermining.  Personality-wise, they are smart and serious.)  At Vince’s introduction I was a little wary: A man who claims to be enlightened?  This guy is definitely going to be irritating.  But Daniel Ingram is incredibly cogent, intelligent, down to earth, incisive, big-hearted, principled and inspiring.  Hearing him speak is a delight.  He’s also real active.  Dharma Overground is an excellent discussion forum on the web to visit and get humbled by that he started with Vince Horn and participates on actively.  Then of course there is his book, Mastering The Core Teachings of the Buddha, which is available online for free (!!) or can be bought bound. 


I will resist devaluing his teachings by describing them, but I appreciate how clear and direct they are.  My meditation practice has noticeably improved.  Statements like, “if remorse is really interfering in your concentration practice, then you probably should do some training in morality” (that’s a paraphrase) really hit me where it hurt.  And he has brought to light for me, unlike any teacher, the difference between insight meditation and concentration practices.  Similarly, his warning against interpretation has been very helpful for my practice, as interpretation usually leads me down the rabbit hold of distraction – i.e. Recognize Thought. Let go of thought. Think about how letting go of thoughts is useful. Think about nature of mind. Think about nature. Think about childhood memory of sitting on a log and ripping my pants and how I was so embarrassed. Feel embarrassed.  Recognize Thought. Let go of thought.  Etc.


Anyway, I recommend you check him out.  And for those of you who already have – what are your thoughts?  How do you like his teachings?  We’re studying his book in the ID Project’s Hardcore Dharma class for our summer session and I’m really excited to hear more people’s opinions. 

Writing from New York City, currently auditioning for the role of “underwater metropolis”, I remain, yours, 

Julia May 


*Daniel Ingram did not agree to be my homeboy.  I think of him as my mental homeboy.  But I wouldn’t call him “homeboy”, because I think it would be a little disrespectful.

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posted June 18, 2009 at 8:48 pm

Discovering Daniel Ingram (through the Buddhist Geeks podcast, of course) early on in my practice probably saved me a lot of pain and confusion about what the hell is going on. I recommend his free book to anyone who’s sick of the gooshy, vague, kumbaya tone and style of a lot of dharma books – the whole thing is straight-up “here’s what to do, what not to do, and what to expect” with some unique and memorable examples (like how noting sensations can be like shooting space invaders). My only real problem with it is that it’s pretty slim on practical sitting advice, for which I recommend Ven. Henepola Gunaratana’s Mindfulness in Plain English (which is also online and free – google it).
Dude rules.

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posted June 18, 2009 at 9:29 pm

yes, Daniel Ingram is my homeboy*, too :)
his book had a profound influence on my daily practice. allow me to share my review of his book:
i look at Ingram as a dharma big brother who would kick my ass if i slack at practice and get dogmatic with Buddhist beliefs :)

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posted June 18, 2009 at 10:02 pm

i dig him. very interesting and provocative. worth checking out.

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posted June 19, 2009 at 10:55 am

I really like Daniel Ingram too. I devoured his book. Someone declaring themselves an arhat raises all kinds of red flags, but I was reassured by the fact that he defines it reasonably and he isn’t selling anything or trying to set himself up somehow.
There is so much common sense practical advice in the book that you just somehow don’t see in any of the reams of other dharma books that have been published.
One of the points I particularly like about his book is how he discusses the odd state of affairs with regard to how dharma teachers are advertised and credentialed (on pages 356-357) and his balanced discussion of “Jet Set Dharma Teachers.” Also his discussion of how to make use of different teachers who specialize in different things on pgs 81-82 is great.
Last night I read that book Ingram references a lot, Saints and Psychopaths by his mentor, Bill Hamilton. It was interesting, short and nowhere near as good as Ingram’s. The thematic organization seems to have derived from the fact that he feels his ex-wife is a psychopath and the whole “pyschopaths” half of the book is basically devoted to her.

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posted June 19, 2009 at 12:02 pm

Yes I completely agree! Buddist Geeks and Daniel Ingram have been pivotal to my practice, and because I stumbled across those sources early on in my practice it saved me a lot of confusion, disorientation, wasted efforts and helped me with a much more sane, reality based approach to what spiritual practice can and cannot achieve. It’s very down-to-earth, grounding and normalizing. And yet if you wish to actually start following some of the extensive practical advice, well get prepared for lift-off.

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posted June 19, 2009 at 7:19 pm

If your cart doesn’t move, is it better to prod the horse or the cart? This is Dogen’s question, to which Ingram, mistakenly I would argue, answers “the horse.”

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posted June 23, 2009 at 11:03 am

“ex-wife is a psychopath and the whole “pyschopaths” half of the book is basically devoted to her.”
I love the character of a spiritual teacher who is always working out thier issues with their ex during spiritual talks…

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posted January 11, 2010 at 2:00 am

About the red flags…to be honest, I was also suspicious at first, when I came upon his website and read his claims to attainment, but then I read his book and made some friends at the Dharma Overground, and have since found the broad online community of practitioners fantastic. And, after all, the Pali canon is chock full of individuals proclaiming themselves to be enlightened. Most notably, of course, the Buddha! Awakening: It’s not just for dead guys anymore.
@ Julia
I must say I wholeheartedly disagree that enlightenment is the least interesting part of Daniel’s story. I certainly concur with you that the ‘rest’ of the book is valuable – whether or not its author is fully awakened. But if one considers the path to enlightenment valuable, then to encounter another who has actually attained it is just about the greatest gift possible….the greatest of all of course being attaining it oneself.
What does this Dogen reference mean? Please explain the cart & horse metaphor. Also, I would love to hear your argument for why Daniel gets the answer wrong.

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posted January 31, 2010 at 9:28 pm

tis guy’s not fully enlightened,he’s deluded,but since it’s a subtler kind of delusion,he’s blind to it.
may he find is way through them soon

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posted September 17, 2010 at 3:13 am

Had it not been for Daniel Ingram, I would still be in the Dark Night that I have been in for about six years. I have progressed more in my practice since finding MCTB (which becomes clearer and clearer to me as my sitting increases and becomes refined, it seemes so dry at first but it is really poetry) than I have in the 8 or so years that I have been meandering my way around Buddhist teachings and meditation. Very thankful.

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posted September 23, 2011 at 9:15 pm

The guy is a charlatan.

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posted May 30, 2012 at 2:11 pm

This guy is amazing.

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posted November 21, 2012 at 1:55 am

thanks for the post! Glad to hear about your great experience. I’ve been having similar dark night experiences – will delve more into his book.

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