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Selected Readings of Buddhist Meditation Literature

Subject Overview

The subject aims to cultivate students’ analytical ability and understanding of Buddhist textual traditions from which the teachings and practices of modern Buddhism have developed.

It focuses on textual representations of Buddhist meditation (mindfulness in particular) which is perceived to be at the heart of Buddhism. The subject explores how different methods of meditative practices are viewed and presented in some of the most influential texts on Buddhist meditation (such as the Satipatthāna-sutta) within major Buddhist traditions.

The selected texts on meditation are read in English translation, critically analysed, and their relevance for contemporary meditation practices discussed and reflected upon. Since the texts read in this course are on meditation, various meditative techniques are explored also in practice.

The subject informs students on different methodological approaches to textual analysis, provides foundations and background for deeper understanding of Buddhist meditation within its historical and cultural framework and its relation to contemporary meditation practices such as mindfulness, applied in a variety of new contexts.

Lecture topics and class activities include

  • Introduction to the history of the compilation of Buddhist scriptures
  • Buddhist schools and their texts
  • Presentation of the text on mindfulness of breathing and related texts
  • Mindfulness of breathing in the ‘Path of Purification’
  • The ‘Path of Purification’ on types of meditator
  • ‘Divine abidings’ in the texts
  • ‘Foundations of mindfulness sutta’
  • ‘Questions of King Milinda’
  • Walking meditation
  • Mahayana sutras and Zen
  • Ten ox-herding pictures

Subject Structure

This subject runs for five weeks, with the following structure:

Week 1: Pre-reading of prescribed texts
Week 2:  Five lecture days on campus (9am – 5pm)
Weeks 3 – 5: Submission of assessments online

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