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Asian Traditions of Meditation$
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Halvor Eifring

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780824855680

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824855680.001.0001

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Meditation Objects in Pali Buddhist Texts

Meditation Objects in Pali Buddhist Texts

(p.122) 7 Meditation Objects in Pali Buddhist Texts
Asian Traditions of Meditation

Sarah Shaw

University of Hawai'i Press

What makes a meditation object? This essay explores early Pāli accounts of objects still used in modern practice, especially in Southern Buddhism. Their very variety reflects this tradition’s stress on a graduated path, where different stages and individuals require different teaching approaches, at different times. Usually, in practice, objects inducing “calm” and various states known as jhāna, are recommended, before those producing “insight”. Some objects produce both calm and insight; others balance, ensuring health of mind. So, early Pāli literature describes many meditative routes: variety and skillful combinations for individuals are considered key. What is essential, however, is how objects are given and used. Dhammapada narratives in particular, describing a gradual path, a movement between internal and external, “shocks” in chance occurrences in the world, and skilled interventions by friends or teachers, demonstrate a pedagogy striking for its stress on individual need rather than rigid imposition and structure.

Keywords:   insight, calm, samatha, Vipassanā, Dhammapada, narrative, pedagogy, teaching, methods

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