About the Book
"Of all the forms of Buddhist practice none offers a better insight into the nature of Buddhism than meditation."
In January 1969 an unusual workshop was held at Oberlin College in Ohio-an experimental project in Buddhist meditation. It brought together a Thai Buddhist meditation teacher, the Venerable Chao Khun Sobhana Dhammasudhi, and a Zen priest, the Reverend Eshin Nishimura, to share with Professor Donald K. Swearer in instructing a group of students in the theory and practice of satipatthana and zazen, two forms of Buddhist meditation.
Secrets of the Lotus prepared by Professor Swearer, the Venerable Dhammasudhi, and the Reverend Nishimuragrew out of this successful venture, and is designed to meet a special need. While recent books dealing with Buddhist meditation have focused on either the Zen or the Theravada tradition, this volume discusses meditation within both traditions, employing classical texts with explanatory commentary and contemporary exposition. The reader also learns exactly what happened at the experimental workshop and how the participants responded.
About the Author
Donald K. Swearer, author of Buddhism in Transition, is associate professor in the Department of Religion at Swarthmore College. He taught previously at Oberlin College and at Bangkok Christian College in Thailand.
Buddhism is one of the world's most ubiquitous religions. Originating in northern India in the sixth century B.C., by the beginning of the Christian era it had already found its way to parts of Southeast Asia and across Central Asia to China. It eventually spread to Japan by way of Korea, and much earlier, at the western borders of the country of its origin, may have had a more profound impact on Greek thought than historical sources have so far revealed. Nor is Buddhism only important historically. Some claim that Buddhism now offers the most viable spiritual option of all the great world religions.
This option is not one characterized primarily by a set of rituals or elaborate dogma but by a unique world view and a distinctive way or path. Buddhism offers, on the one hand, a radical critique of the human situation; on the other, it optimistically affirms that a man can find a solution to the human problem by his own efforts. It promises no easy panaceas, however. The way is well charted but it demands effort and self-discipline. Central to this way is the practice of meditation. It is this focal aspect of the Buddhist way to which this book addresses itself.
Of all the forms of Buddhist practice none offers a better insight into the nature of the teachings of Buddhism than meditation. True, there are Buddhist sects for which meditation is not crucial. There is no country touched by Buddhism, however, where a meditation tradition did not take root: Buddhism developed at a time when Yogic forms of physical and mental discipline were originating in northern India; the Buddhist traditions nurtured in Ceylon and Southeast Asia have extolled meditation as the primary means to realize the goal of Buddhism; and, throughout East Asia Zen Buddhism, which always prized the practice of meditation, has been one of the major Buddhist sects. To understand Buddhist meditation, consequently, is to know much that is essential to the Buddhist tradition at large. It is our hope that Secrets of the Lotus will make a significant contribution to that knowledge.
The idea for Secrets of the Lotus originated in January 1969. At that time an unusual workshop was held at Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio-an experimental project in Buddhist meditation. The workshop brought together a Thai Buddhist meditation teacher, the Venerable Chao Khun Sobhana Dharnmasudhi, and a Zen priest, the Reverend Eshin Nishimura, to share in instructing a group of twenty-eight students in the theory and practice of satipaffhiina and zazen, two forms of Buddhist meditation. The workshop proved to be so successful a means of introducing students to the study of Buddhism that plans for this book grew out of it. As originally envisaged, the book would contain classical as well as contemporary interpretations of Buddhist meditation and a description of the meditation project itself. In this way it was hoped that the book would be an interweaving of method 'with interpretation, history with the existential Now.
Secrets of the Lotus is designed to meet a variety of needs. Within its covers are classical meditation texts such as the Zazen-gi, a brief instruction manual in Zen meditation, and selections from the Vimuttimagga, an important but often overlooked treatise on meditation techniques in the Theravada Buddhist tradition. It also contains modem commentaries on enduring meditation manuals such as the chapter in exposition of the Foundation of Mindfulness Sutta and Mumon Yamada Hoshi's lectures on the Zazen-gi. The book, furthermore, offers interpretations of the nature of Zen training and the practice of mindful awareness by two young priests, accomplished in the Buddhist traditions of Southeast and East Asia.
The materials contained in the volume were prepared by the Venerable Dhammasudhi, the Reverend Nishimura, and the editor. The Venerable Dhammasudhi wrote Chapters 1 and 2 and the Reverend Nishimura wrote Chapter 5. The latter also translated the materials in Chapters 6 and 7. Chapter 3, the Prologue and chapter introductions were contributed by the editor. Chapter 4 was excerpted from a recent translation of the Vimuttimagga published in Colombo, Ceylon. The editor is responsible for numerous stylistic changes in the contributed materials, but at no point was the substance intentionally altered. Although much of the technical terminology has been eliminated, some words in Pali, Sanskrit and Japanese have been employed. The meaning of these terms is usually apparent in the text, but a glossary has been added for clarity and coherence. In general, it should be pointed out, Pali terms (e.g. dhamma) have been used in the Theravada section and Sanskrit (e.g. dharma) in the Zen section. Diacritical marks have been retained throughout.
Secrets of the Lotus makes a unique contribution to the growing field of materials dealing with Buddhism and Buddhist meditation appearing in English. In recent years a number of books on Buddhist meditation have appeared in print, but they have focused on either the Zen tradition (e.g. Philip Kapleau, Three Pillars of Zen) or the Theravada tradition (e.g. Nyanaponika Thera, The Heart of Buddhist Meditation), or have been primarily a compilation of texts (e.g. Edward Conze, Buddhist Meditation). This volume, by way of contrast, discusses Buddhist meditation within both Zen and Theravada traditions by employing classical meditation texts and commentaries, contemporary interpretations and a description of a Buddhist meditation experiment. Hopefully the book will prove to be of value for those whose interest in Buddhism is just beginning as well as those well-versed in the field.
Prologue: An Encounter With Buddhist Meditation
Prolegomena to Buddhist Meditation
Discourses on Mindfulness
The Foundation of Mindfulness
The Path of Freedom
Rules for Contemplation in Sitting
Perfection of Wisdom
Epilogue: Responses to Buddhist Meditation
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