Griffiths_IndianBuddhistMeditation.pdf - BUDDHIST SPIRITUALITY Indian Southeast Asian Tibetan and Early Chinese 2 p A UL M J GRIFFITHS EDITATIONAL

Griffiths_IndianBuddhistMeditation.pdf - BUDDHIST...

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BUDDHIST SPIRITUALITY Indian, Southeast Asian, Tibetan, and Early Chinese
2 Indian Buddhist Meditation p A UL J. GRIFFITHS M EDITATIONAL PRACTICE has always been of central importan ~o Buddhist soteriology and Buddhist philosophical theory. T mtellectuals of _the_ tradition, past an~ present, frequently sa, that such practice 1s a necessary cond1t1on both for the att · ment of nirva11a and for reaching correct philosophical conclusions abo ~he nat~e of ~hings. ?_ne c~, it seems, neither attain salvation nor eng I? effective ~hil?soph12mg without practicing meditation. Although medit t10nal practice m Buddhism has always been, in actuality if not in theo a strictly virtuoso affair (that is, not many people actually do it and tho who do are almost all male, celibate, and monastic) the exalted place give it by the tradition means that an enormous amo~nt of energy has bee expended by Buddhists in creating systematic theories about it as well in dev~loping and teac~ing specific meditational techniques. ' In this short study I will set forth some of these theories and describe som of these practices. In doing so I shall draw only on sources from the Indian subcontinent (including Sri Lanka) belonging to the first fifteen hundred years of Buddhist_history (roughly, 500 B.C.E. to 1000 c.E.). Even though the textual s?urces available to us for the reconstruction of the Indian Buddhist tradi- tion are fr~mentary, their quan~ity is overwhelming and nothing approaching a systematic survey of them will be offered here. A millennium and a half · ?f intensive intellectual and spiritual activity cannot be effectively summarized .. m a _sh~rt encyclofedia article. Further, I shall for the most part treat the · med1tauonal 1:ract1ces and ideas of Indian Buddhists synchronically rather than d1achromcally: more attention will be paid to the content of the key concepts and the structure of the systems in which they are embedded than to the historical changes they underwent. Meditational practice-here provisionally understood as a self-conscious attempt to alter, in a systematic and thoroughgoing way, the practitioner's 34 eptual, cognitive, and affective experience-is intimately linked in the · an Buddhist tradition with both ritual and magic. It is probably only : ght exaggeration to say that no Buddhist ever systematically undertook itational practice without placing it in an appropriate ritual context and out considering the techniques employed in that context to have strictly ·cal efficacy. Unfortunately, neither of these important elements of the dhist understanding of what meditation is can be treated here, since to ider them would require a discussion of Buddhist devotionalism, Buddhist al practice, and ( above all) Buddhist tantra, matters beyond the scope is article. Tantra has been defined as "... a technique for magically ing the gates of Buddhahood"; 1 many of the practices to be disc1:1ssed can also be understood in just this way, even though the expos1t1on them here will not stress that aspect. It should not be forgotten that

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