The Buddhist technical term was first translated as ‘mindfulness’ by T.W. Rhys Davids in 1881. Since then various authors, including Rhys Davids, have attempted definitions of what precisely is meant by mindfulness. Initially these were based on readings and interpretations of ancient Buddhist texts. Beginning in the 1950s some definitions of mindfulness became more informed by the actual practice of meditation. In particular, Nyanaponika's definition appears to have had significant influence on the definition of mindfulness adopted by those who developed (...) MBSR and MBCT. Turning to the various aspects of mindfulness brought out in traditional Theravāda definitions, several of those highlighted are not initially apparent in the definitions current in the context of MBSR and MBCT. Moreover, the MBSR and MBCT notion of mindfulness as ‘non-judgmental’ needs careful consideration from a traditional Buddhist perspective. Nevertheless, the difference in emphasis apparent in the theoretical definitions of mindfulness may not be so significant in the actual clinical application of mindfulness techniques. (shrink)
To explain the khandhas as the Buddhist analysis of man, as has been the tendency of contemporary scholars, may not be incorrect as far as it goes, yet it is to fix upon one facet of the treatment of the khandhas at the expense of others. Thus A. B. Keith could write, “By a division which ... has certainly no merit, logical or psychological, the individual is divided into five aggregates or groups.” However, the five khandhas, as treated in the (...) nikāyas and early abhidhamma, do not exactly take on the character of a formal theory of the nature of man. The concern is not so much the presentation of an analysis of man as object, but rather the understanding of the nature of conditioned existence from the point of view of the experiencing subject. Thus at the most general level rūpa, vedanā, sañña, and are presented as five aspects of an individual being's experience of the world; each khandha is seen as representing a complex class of phenomena that is continuously arising and falling away in response to processes of consciousness based on the six spheres of sense. They thus become the five upādānakkhandhas, encompassing both grasping and all that is grasped. As the upādānakkhandhas these five classes of states acquire a momentum, and continue to manifest and come together at the level of individual being from one existence to the next. For any given individual there are, then, only these five upādānakkhandhas — they define the limits of his world, they are his world. This subjective orientation of the khandhas seems to arise out of the simple fact that, for the nikāyas, this is how the world is experienced; that is to say, it is not seen primarily as having metaphysical significance.Accounts of experience and the phenomena of existence are complex in the early Buddhist texts; the subject is one that is tackled from different angles and perspectives. The treatment of rūpa, vedanā, saññā, and represents one perspective, the treatment of the six spheres of sense is another. As we have seen, in the nikāya formulae the two merge, complementing each other in the task of exposing the complex network of conditions that is, for the nikāyas, existence. In the early abhidhamma texts khandha, āyatana and dhātu equally become complementary methods of analysing, in detail, the nature of conditioned existence.The approach adopted above has been to consider the treatment of the five khandhas in the nikāyas and early abhidhamma texts as a more or less coherent whole. This has incidentally revealed something of the underlying structure and dynamic of early Buddhist teaching — an aspect of the texts that has not, it seems, either been clearly appreciated or properly understood, and one that warrants further consideration. (shrink)
Over the last fifty years the study of mysticism has been shaped by the debate between ‘perennialists’, who claim that mystical experiences are the same across different cultures, and ‘constructivists’, who claim that mystical experiences are shaped by, and hence specific to, particular religious traditions. The constructivist view is associated with the ‘discursive turn’ that has dominated the humanities for the last half century, emphasising cultural relativism. Nonetheless, the constructivist position is not without problems. Inspired in part by Lance Cousins’ (...) 1989 comparison of Buddhaghosa’s Path of Purification and Teresa of Ávila’s Interior Castle, the present article seeks to bring out parallels in the contemplative exercises and the progress of the ‘spiritual life’ found in Buddhist accounts of meditation and Christian apophaticism. The article seeks to establish specific parallels in the techniques of and approaches to contemplative practice in both traditions, as well as in the phenomenology of the experiences of the meditator or contemplative at different stages in the work of meditation and contemplation. (shrink)
Samyuktabhidharmahrdaya: Heart of Scholasticism with Miscellaneous Additions. Bart Dessein. Part 1, Introduction, Translation, lxxxv, 779 pp. Part 2, Notes 568 pp. Part 3, Indices, Concordance, Bibliography, Chinese Text, 583 pp. Buddhist Traditions Series 33-35, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi 1999.