The Meditator’s Atlas by Matthew Flickstein is, as its subtitle suggests, ‘a roadmap of the inner world’ which provides an immensely useful overview of the Path of Purification, as originally described in the Visuddhimagga. As those of you who have studied the Visuddhimagga will know, it is a superbly detailed text which systematises the teachings of the Buddha like no other, but it is not the most accessible volume by any means. The Meditator’s Atlas serves as a guide to that same path, but in a way that can be understood and followed by almost anyone.
This remarkable book opens with a Foreword by Bhante Henelopa Gunaratana, author of Mindfulness in Plain English, followed by a Preface from the author. In his opening words, Flickstein starts as he intends to go on, by presenting his aim for the book in a wonderfully direct and succinct manner. ‘The Meditator’s Atlas: A Roadmap of the Inner World clearly describes the Buddha’s path of purification. One of the most profound and practical maps of the spiritual dimension of life.’ He closes the preface by saying, ‘The ultimate goal of this book is to enable you, the reader, to follow this road map of the inner world to the first-hand experience of spiritual freedom.’
With that orientation having been established, the author then presents us with his guide to the path itself. The first chapter provides a broad overview of the path, and identifies the seven stages of purification, as well as the main practices which are used to realise each of them. The following seven chapters then discuss each stage of purification in more detail, from the Purification of Virtue to the Purification by Knowledge and Wisdom.
Each chapter serves as very real guide to its given stage of the path, presenting methods of practice, insights and markers that you will encounter along the way. In clear, straightforward language, the author describes ideas and concepts which have long confused many, so if you are someone who would like more clarity about the jhanas, counterpart signs, the relationship between serenity meditation (samatha) and insight meditation (vipassana), the hindrances and similar topics, this book will provide the information you need in a wonderfully lucid manner.
The final chapter of this book explains that The Path Goes Nowhere, and that ‘the greatest freedom is freedom from the illusion that we are not already free.’ By following the path of purification, as instructed, you will eventually get to where you are right now, but with a very different view of where that is and what it means.
In summary, The Meditator’s Atlas: A Roadmap of the Inner World is a superbly accessible guide to the path of purification which will be of immense value to everyone who is travelling that path. As is the case with any other atlas, this book won’t actually make your journey for you, but it will serve as a reliable reference to help you get to your intended destination as efficiently and comfortably as possible.