Indian Buddhist Meditation-Theory: History, Development and Systematization
Publication Year: 1983
Place of Publication: United States -- Wisconsin
Source ID: shanti-sources-22411
Abstract: This dissertation examines the development of theories about meditative practices and their soteriological goals in Indian Buddhist thought. It traces this development from the earliest stage accessible to us as far as the systematizations of Asanga and Vasubandhu in the fifth century AD. The first two chapters apply the techniques of form-criticism to the first four Nikayas of the Pali canon in an attempt to isolate the types of meditative technique described in this literature. The preliminary attempts at systematization in the Samannaphalasutta and Mahasatipatthanasutta are subjected to detailed analysis. It is found that a wide variety of techniques are recommended in this literature, that these techniques cannot easily be combined into a coherent system of soteriological practice, and that the attempts to so combine them in the Nikayas are frequently inconsistent with each other. The third chapter analyzes in detail Vasubandhu's contribution to this issue as seen in the path-structure set forth in the Abhidharmakosabhasya. Substantial sections of that work are translated, together with the commentaries of Yasomitra and Sthiramati. The fourth chapter analyzes the margasatya section of Asanga's Abhidharmasamuccaya, and gives a complete edition and translation of this section of the work, together with its bhasya, based on the surviving Sanskrit fragments and the Tibetan translation. It is found that the attempts of Asanga and Vasubandhu to resolve the tensions uncovered in the first two chapters are neither fully successful nor compatible with one another. The fifth chapter relates the findings of the first four chapters to current psychological research on the effects of meditative techniques, and discusses in outline the epistemological implications of these findings. It is found that the tensions apparent in the Buddhist texts are reflected in large part by the empirical findings of psychological studies, and that the epistemological implications of these findings have not been properly understood, either by Buddhist philosophers or contemporary psychological theorists.