A groundbreaking and detailed presentation of the rich system of meditation traditions that have come to us through the Pali tradition of Buddhism.
Meditations of the Pali Tradition, from consummate scholar of Pali Buddhism L. S. Cousins, explores the history of meditation practice in early or Pali Buddhism, which was established in various parts of South and Central Asia from the time of the Buddha and developed until at least the fourteenth century CE. Ranging in discussion of jhana (absorption) meditation in ancient India to the Buddhist practice centers of the Silk Road to the vipassana (insight) practices of our modern world, this rigorous and insightful work of scholarship sheds new light on our understanding of the practices that are today associated with the Theravada school of Buddhism and the insight meditation movement. Cousins demonstrates that there is much more to Buddhist meditation than mindfulness alone—concentration and joy, for example, are equally important.
About the Author
L. S. COUSINS (1942-2015) was one of the world’s foremost experts on Pali Buddhism. He taught at Manchester University and the University of Oxford, and was a founding member of the Samatha Trust, an organization in the UK dedicated to teaching Buddhist samatha meditation.
“An unprecedented exploration of meditation experience as described in the Pali canon, commentaries, and abhidhamma—as well as lesser-known sources—this study reflects Cousins’s nuanced sensitivity as a lifelong practitioner and his wealth of textual expertise. It is brought lovingly to light through Sarah Shaw’s careful curation, additional supporting materials, and account of how it reflects Cousins’s life.”—Kate Crosby, author of Esoteric Theravada
“This is a carefully and comprehensively written work. Cousins’s treatment and defense of traditional calm (jhāna) meditation catches my eye most, as insight (vipassanā) meditations are so much more popular now around the world. This book, by showing the whole historical picture, makes an important addition to the scholarship on meditation.”—Sayadaw Dr. Khammai Dhammasami, president of the International Association of Buddhist Universities
“Meditations of the Pali Tradition shines an incisive light on the multifaceted jewel of the meditation practices of Southern Buddhism across the ages, drawing in sidelights from related material in other early Buddhist schools and their transmissions to China. Cousins writes with deep knowledge of and informed interest in a network of meditative practices as interpreted and developed from the Pali Canon, abhidhamma, and commentaries. He explores the nature and role of the jhānas and formless attainments, their effects on feeling and perception, and how these practices concerning calm (samatha) relate to those of insight (vipassanā). He addresses not only the roots and developments of modern vipassanā meditation, but also the more esoteric visualization practices of the Porāṇa meditative traditions that were sidelined by modern vipassanā but are now being increasingly uncovered and explored. In an impartial and discerning way, he leads us through some of the rich intricacies of these different systems and their emphases. This illuminating work, which broadens and deepens our picture of meditation in the Southern, ‘Theravāda’ tradition, will be of great interest both to scholars and to practitioners of these and other meditations.”—Peter Harvey, cofounder of the UK Association for Buddhist Studies and author of An Introduction to Buddhism: Teachings, History, and Practices (Cambridge University Press)
“Thanks to the tireless efforts of editor Sarah Shaw, a whole new generation of readers can delve deep into the late Lance Cousins’s meticulous research on the history of meditation in Southern Buddhism. In this brilliant new book that Shaw has carefully edited after Cousins’s passing in 2015, readers learn about the history of jhāna, samatha, and vipassanā meditation methods in both Pali literature and in modern practice. This will be a fundamental book for any student of Buddhist history and literature, as well as for practitioners in need of a detailed and comprehensive overview. It is truly a great gift from a scholar we lost too soon.”—Justin Thomas McDaniel, professor of Buddhist studies, University of Pennsylvania
“Cousins’s wide interests inspired him to delve deeply into the core questions of Buddhism, mysticism, and religious studies. His writings are the fruit of a keen and sensitive wisdom tempered by personal experience and an unparalleled knowledge of the original texts in the original languages. They offer fresh and timely insights into Buddhist thought, practice, and history.”—Peter Skilling, author of Questioning the Buddha: A Selection of Twenty-Five Sutras
“Meditations of the Pali Tradition is both calming and insightful. As a forest monk, it can be painful to read the overly convoluted and contentious diatribes which are found too often in academic discourse. Cousins’s book is a welcome relief from such thickets. In addition to his skill in arranging, elucidating, and reconciling disparate texts in multiple languages and from various traditions, two other qualities shine through in this work: his respect for ‘forest specialists’ and his interest in the practical application of his erudition. This book provides fresh perspectives into both much-loved discourses and arcane treatises, all the while presenting them with concern, humility, and the estimable sincerity of someone who was trying to translate the Dharma into their own heart’s vernacular.”—Ajahn Kovilo, senior incumbent, Clear Mountain Monastery