The Critical Path to Enlightenment: Concept and Value Proposition
The project is still early in the research, outlining, and drafting stage. It has several times been on hold, moreover, because of the schedule demands of a collaborator. But as plans firm up and execution is further under way, I will reveal more specifics.
The Project Management Concept of Critical Path
The book builds on the Pragmatic Dharma ethos in the sense that it includes a western future-oriented manifesto and a map-driven structure at the top level. It is written in modern, accessible plain English aimed at busy western laypersons. Critical path is a concept borrowed from modern business project management theory. It is the delineation of all the necessary stages and steps toward a project goal, the longest expected duration of each step, and the “dependencies” of the beginning of one step on the completion of some prior step or steps. A critical path yields the shortest possible beginning-to-end representation of the route to a goal. Thus, the book, The Critical Path to Enlightenment: Model, Map, and Method, is a whole-path project management template from zero to Buddhahood.
Value Proposition for the Dhama Book Concept
The concept for this book sprung from a stark lack persisting in the burgeoning western dharma book market: Although countless niche books exist on this or that isolated theory or practice morsel, nothing exists to empower the practitioner to plan the most efficient whole path toward the goal of enlightenment, to document and interpret preliminary results, to diagnose stable attainments, and to confidently navigate the order of stages and levels of meditation practice efficiently.
To illustrate—a friend who is a teacher mentioned to me recently that one of his new students, a beginner, was diving into wrathful deity practice as a first entry to meditation because that student thought a book on the specific practice “sounded cool.” My teacher friend and I laughed, but this situation is the norm rather than specific to this student. The dharma book market is currently a buffet with no defined meal courses governing menus governing, in turn, recipes. Without continuity-of-care whole-path guidance, the practitioner risks misdirection toward the ultimate goal—enlightenment—as well as toward the mastery of the currently alluring practice morsel.
The Critical Path to Enlightenment solves this pervasive problem by delineating in plain modern English a coherent model of enlightenment, a tested syncratic map of the stages and substages of spiritual realization, and diagnostic criteria for the completion of each substage. The practitioner traverses the “critical path” honed for overall efficiency: Model informs map, map drives method, and method drives specific modules of practice and their before-and-after diagnostic criteria.
Unique Contributions to Pragmatic Dharma and Beyond
Although, as summarized, this pragmatism may initially sound dry to meditators who currently labor under the misguided but culturally pervasive notion that meditation is relaxation therapy, its fuller execution departs from other works of Pragmatic Dharma in ways that will inspire all practitioners. Specifically, the pragmatic eclecticism of this book means significant inclusion of Indo-Tibetan-inspired practices, among others, not just Theravadin practices. Additionally, this book addresses psycho-emotional challenges and works with them meditatively as such.
Perhaps most different from other Pragmatic Dharma works is this book’s explicit commentary on the shifting fulcrum between the “masculine principle” and “feminine principle” as ways of conceptualizing practice approaches as a practitioner advances: The beginning of the path emphasizes the masculine, the middle-to-high path emphasizes the feminine, and the highest end of the path reaches a new extent of masculine-feminine integration by reintroducing the masculine. The aim is wholeness. Specifically, The Critical Path brings into relief the ways current hypermasculine modes of practice and concomitantly patriarchal dharma politics must be balanced by the feminine archetypal principle in individual men and women alike if the dharma is to survive, evolve, and thrive in the West. This book drives what is at stake into fertile open ground.
To achieve its aim as a complete workbook for awakening, The Critical Path to Enlightenment includes illustrations, tables, and templates to support concepts and diagnostic comprehension, retention, and reference. It includes sections on logistical questions, such how to choose and interact fruitfully with a teacher, how to instill daily practice as a habit, and how to approach retreats. Audio recordings of guided meditations are planned to follow.