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The union of samatha (tranquility meditation) and vipasyana (insight meditation) is the unique Buddhist path to deliverance. This dissertation explores various schemes of samatha developed in distinct meditation systems, so as to analyze the different degrees of sam adhi which affect the power of insight in eradication of defilements. The nature of dhyana/jhana is explained quite different in the canonical and commentarial materials of Buddhist schools. How a meditator practices mindfulness of breathing is based on how a meditator interprets what the dhyana/jh ana is. This dissertation provides various possible explanations for the diverse dispositions of meditators in meditation practice. In insight meditation, when consciousness acts with skillful mental qualities, one is able to penetrate the true nature of all physical and mental phenomena; in the cycle of rebirth, consciousness links the present existence and the next. The different roles of consciousness in rebirth, and deliverance are investigated. This dissertation is mainly based on the Chinese Canon to examine key issues in meditation practice, revolving around the significance of tranquility meditation and insight meditation.

This thesis is composed of two parts, one a translation, the other a commentary on the material that has been translated--a set of three well known identically entitled works by the famous Indian Buddhist scholar, Kamalasila (c. 740-795 C.E.). The Bhavanakramas are here translated from both Sanskrit and Tibetan sources. The commentary takes the form of an extended critical Prologue to the texts and is centred around an examination of the notions of meditation and insight as found therein. The first chapter of the commentary examines the various terms for meditation found in the texts and argues for a specific way of translating them that regards as normative only one of these, that is, bhavana . The argument is made that if one is to take the basic Buddhist distinction between intellectual and experiential wisdom seriously, no other concept of meditation will prove satisfactory. The concept of bhavana is contrasted with that of dhyana , and explained in light of other important terms, notably samadhi, samatha and vipasyana . Two different conceptions of samadhi are identified as existing within the texts, one corresponding with dhyana and one with bhavana . The latter is identified as predominant. This conception holds that meditation is not to be principally identified as non-conceptual in nature, but rather encompasses both nonconceptual states and conceptual processes. These latter, however, are not to be identified with ordinary reasoning processes ( cintamayi prajña ) but rather with a form of experiential knowing (bhavanamayi prajña, vipasyana ) that is conceptual in nature. It is in accordance with this conception that the actual translation of the texts has been undertaken.

Mindfulness training has had salutary effects with adult populations and it is seen as a potentially helpful to children’s development. How to implement mindfulness practices with young children is not yet clear; some meditation practices, like sitting still for long periods with internally-self-regulated focused attention, seem developmentally inappropriate. Montessori schooling is a 100-year-old system that naturally incorporates practices that align with mindfulness and are suited to very young children. Here I describe how several aspects of Montessori education, including privileging concentrated attention, attending to sensory experience, and engaging in practical work, parallel mindfulness practices. These aspects might be responsible for some of the socio-emotional and executive function benefits that have been associated with Montessori education, and they could be adapted to conventional classroom methods.
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The scientific study of Buddhist meditation has proceeded without much attention to Buddhist literature that details the range of psychological and physiological changes thought to occur during meditation. This paper presents reports of various meditation-induced light experiences derived from American Buddhist practitioners. The reports of light experiences are classified into two main types: discrete lightforms and patterned or diffuse lights. Similar phenomena are well documented in traditional Buddhist texts but are virtually undocumented in scientific literature on meditation. Within Buddhist traditions, these phenomena are attributed a range of interpretations. However, because it is insufficient and problematic to rely solely upon the textual sources as a means of investigating the cause or significance of these phenomena, these qualitative reports are also considered in relation to scientific research on light-related experiences in the context of sensory deprivation, perceptual isolation, and clinical disorders of the visual system. The typologies derived from these studies also rely upon reports of experiences and closely match typologies derived from the qualitative study of contemporary practitioners and typologies found in Buddhist literary traditions. Taken together, these studies also provide evidence in support of the hypothesis that certain meditative practices – especially those that deliberately decrease social, kinesthetic, and sensory stimulation and emphasize focused attention – have perceptual and cognitive outcomes similar to sensory deprivation. Given that sensory deprivation increases neuroplasticity, meditation may also have an enhanced neuroplastic potential beyond ordinary experience-dependent changes. By providing and contextualizing these reports of meditation-induced light experiences, scientists, clinicians, and meditators gain a more informed view of the range of experiences that can be elicited by contemplative practices.
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