First: read my Frequently Asked Questions page, as I tend to get essentially the same few basic categories of emails. While the amount of email traffic I receive is quite small, it seems that often the other things on this website do not quite properly convey the sort of email contact and questions that I appreciate the most. So, if you are thinking of emailing me, please consider the following points:
Seriously consider asking your question on The Dharma Overground, as not only do I pay a lot of attention to what happens there and post fairly often in response to threads there, but you will draw on the greater wisdom and diverse perspectives of a healthy community of practitioners, many of whom have a serious clue. Chances are someone has either already raised the issue you are interested in or that there will be many people who will benefit from the exchange that follows your post, given that people tend to run into the same issues again and again. If that doesn't get you what you want, then consider the following:
My whole interest in Buddhism (and any other spiritual tradition) has to do with how it can be applied in a practical sense today so that people can understand reality in a way that makes a real positive difference. Put another way, I have no interest at all in debating non-practical points of dogma, terminology, philosophy, mythology, history, or religion, but I greatly appreciate thoughtful and applicable questions from dedicated practitioners. On a related note:
Those wishing to debate or inquire about my claims to attainments, which seems to be a popular topic, are welcome to with the single condition that they try to focus the debate or inquiry on how this will help their own practice and promote their own attainments.
Seriously consider looking around in my free online book, Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha, now revised and expanded in a second edition, for the answer to whatever you are curious about, as I spent a lot of time pouring useful information into it. For those who want a print copy, it is available for order from your local independent bookstore or the standard mega-distributors, as well as the publisher, Aeon Books. It has a complete table of contents and index and should be pretty easy to navigate. It also defines many techinical terms in the specific way I use them, so will at least help to get us on the same linguistic page and should add depth, precision, clarity, and focus to any exchange.
If you are asking me a question about practice, include sufficient information about yourself so that I can target my answer to where you are and what you need, specifically:
- information such as total retreat time with longest retreat ever and in what traditions/with what teachers, how many years practicing, daily practice habits, depth of theoretical knowledge, related strengths or weaknesses, etc.
- your best guess about where you are on the path and what you can attain in whatever terms you are comfortable with (e.g. paths, ñanas, jhanas, or some other system, or simply by description etc.) with us both realizing you could easily be wrong and that being OK
- the conceptual system(s) you are comfortable with when discussing meditation (e.g. Theravada, Mahayana, Zen, Hindu, Christian, etc.)
- what specifically you are trying to understand and what you are willing to do to obtain this understanding (e.g. I want to obtain stream entry and am willing to go on a 3-month retreat in Myanmar, or I am trying to figure out how to sit in daily life and I am willing to buy a cushion and try sitting 20 minutes each day.)
- any practical, real-world logistical information that helps me figure out what your resources for practice are (e.g. I am a parent of five children with a full time job and have about 7 days a year to devote to retreats, or I am a 22 year-old trust-fund kid who can easily go off to Asia for a year to do intensive practice)
I work a whole lot and have a very full and complex life. Thus, I may not always respond to emails in a timely fashion, meaning it may be days or possibly even weeks. This is just the way it is. Don't take it personally, as it very likely is all about my schedule and little about whatever you said. Again, post on the Dharma Overground (DhO) if you want a more rapid response from a community of engaged and accomplished practitioners.
Last but probably most important, think your question through carefully so that it is phrased in very practical, specific, goal-oriented terms (e.g. I have a question about how to handle the Dukkha Ñanas and how to focus my attention during my next retreat so as to get to High Equanimity rather than just floundering, or I keep seeing this white light in practice and I have not figured out what to do with it).
Once you have considered the above advice and carefully thought through how best to get something practical and beneficial out of our exchange, here is my email address: daniel_ingram [at] interactivebuddha [dot] com.
Oh, yes, a brief warning. I should mention that I am hardcore, into hardcore practice, into very hard-hitting dharma, and sometimes I let it out with both barrels. This seems to happen more when I talk on the phone with people, which I do on occasion, but it also happens in emails at times. I expect people to be self-reliant to a high degree, and projections both negative and positive tend to piss me off. I probably should be more understanding, but clearly at times am not. If it happens with you and you are sure nothing good came of it, my apologies, but at least you were warned. Particularly, avoid statements such as, "You claim to be enlightened so you must..." and "I really need you to help me through...", as both are very likely some wild distortion of how things actually are. Avoid projections, stay empowered and focused on the practical and how you yourself can attain these insights, and all should go well.