Traditions of Meditation in Chinese Buddhism

Traditions of Meditation in Chinese Buddhism

Traditions of Meditation in Chinese Buddhism

Traditions of Meditation in Chinese Buddhism

Excerpt

During the past two decades there has been a steady profileration of books in the West on Buddhist meditation. This trend reflects a growing interest in Buddhism both as a viable religious alternative and as an academic field of study. But this broader interest in Buddhism is also very much an outgrowth of our fascination with Buddhist meditation. For it is on the theory and practice of meditation that Buddhism may have the most to offer us, whether we are interested in it for personal reasons (as a vehicle for our own spiritual growth) or for more academic ones (for gaining a broader understanding of the nature of religion). In the course of its long and varied development, Buddhism has produced a veritable treasury of reflection on meditation, one whose extensiveness and subtlety cannot be matched by any of the other great religions. Whether it is practiced or not, meditation remains central to the tradition as a whole, and without appreciating its importance one simply cannot begin to understand Buddhism.

The wealth of English language books on Buddhist meditation ranges from translations of classical texts, academic studies, and personal accounts by Westerners to expositions by modern masters. Many are excellent, and some have even achieved the status of classics in their own right, contributing not just to our deeper understanding of Buddhism but also, in many instances, to our personal insight as well. Most, however, deal with either the Theravada or Tibetan Buddhist tradition, whether in classical or contemporary guise. Very few deal with the kinds of meditation typical of the East Asian Buddhist traditions. The outstanding exception, of course, is Zen; most bookstores that trade in Buddhism even have a separate section reserved exclusively for Zen. Yet the majority of books written about Zen meditation tend to treat it in isolation from the larger Buddhist historical and cultural context of which it is a part. Zen meditation, zazen, is often discussed or recommended as a . . .

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