Mindfulness in Early Buddhism

New Approaches through Psychology and Textual Analysis of Pali, Chinese and Sanskrit Sources

By Tse-fu Kuan

© 2008 – Routledge

238 pages | 6 B/W Illus.

Purchasing Options:
Paperback: 9780415501477
pub: 2011-09-16
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Hardback: 9780415437370
pub: 2007-12-20
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About the Book

This book identifies what is meant by sati (smrti), usually translated as ‘mindfulness’, in early Buddhism, and examines its soteriological functions and its central role in the early Buddhist practice and philosophy. Using textual analysis and criticism, it takes new approaches to the subject through a comparative study of Buddhist texts in Pali, Chinese and Sanskrit. It also furnishes new perspectives on the ancient teaching by applying the findings in modern psychology. In contemporary Buddhism, the practice of mindfulness is zealously advocated by the Theravada tradition, which is the only early Buddhist school that still exists today. Through detailed analysis of Theravada's Pali Canon and the four Chinese Agamas - which correspond to the four main Nikayas in Pali and belong to some early schools that no longer exist - this book shows that mindfulness is not only limited to the role as a method of insight (vipassana) meditation, as presented by many Theravada advocates, but it also has a key role in serenity (samatha) meditation. It elucidates how mindfulness functions in the path to liberation from a psychological perspective, that is, how it helps to achieve an optimal cognitive capability and emotional state, and thereby enables one to attain the ultimate religious goal. Furthermore, the author argues that the well-known formula of ekaayano maggo, which is often interpreted as ‘the only way’, implies that the four satipa.t.thaanas (establishments of mindfulness) constitute a comprehensive path to liberation, and refer to the same as kaayagataa sati, which has long been understood as ‘mindfulness of the body’ by the tradition. The analysis shows that kaayagataa sati and the four satipa.t.thaanas are two different ways of formulating the teaching on mindfulness according to different schemes of classification of phenomena.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1. Mindfulness in Soteriology: Transformation of Cognition and Emotion 2. Types and Functions of Mindfulness 3. Mindfulness in Methodical Meditation 4. Kaayagataa Sati: Mindfulness Directed to the Experiencer 5. The Four Satipatthanas: Mindfulness as a Comprehensive Path. Conclusion. Appendix 1: An Annotated Translation of the Sarvastivada Version of the Satipatthanas Sutta. Appendix 2: An Annotated Translation of the Chinese Version of the Kaayagataasati Sutta. Appendix 3: A Tabular Comparison of the Pali and the Two Chinese Versions of the Satipatthanas Sutta

About the Author

Tse-fu Kuan is an Assistant Professor at the College of General Studies, Yuan Ze University, Taiwan. He is interested in Indian Buddhism and is the author of An Introduction to Samatha and Vipasyana of the Mahayana (co-authored with Ven. Dr Huimin Bhikkhu, Taipei: Dharma Drum Culture, 1997) and several articles in leading journals including the Journal of Indian Philosophy.

About the Series

Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism

Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism is a comprehensive study of the Buddhist tradition. The series explores this complex and extensive tradition from a variety of perspectives, using a range of different methodologies. The series is diverse in its focus, including historical, philological, cultural, and sociological investigations into the manifold features and expressions of Buddhism worldwide. It also presents works of constructive and reflective analysis, including the role of Buddhist thought and scholarship in a contemporary, critical context and in the light of current social issues. The series is expansive and imaginative in scope, spanning more than two and a half millennia of Buddhist history. It is receptive to all research works that are of significance and interest to the broader field of Buddhist Studies.

Some of the titles in the series are published in association with the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, which conducts and promotes rigorous teaching and research into all forms of the Buddhist tradition.

Editorial Advisory Board:
James A. Benn, McMaster University, Canada

Jinhua Chen, The University of British Columbia, Canada

Rupert Gethin, University of Bristol, UK

Peter Harvey, University of Sunderland, UK

Sallie King, James Madison University, USA

Anne Klein, Rice University, USA

Lori Meeks, University of Southern California, USA;

Ulrich Pagel, School of Oriental and African Studies, UK

John Powers, Australian National University, Australia;

Juliane Schober, Arizona State University, USA

Vesna A. Wallace, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA

Michael Zimmermann, University of Hamburg, Germany

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Asia / China
RELIGION / General
RELIGION / Buddhism / History
RELIGION / Buddhism / Sacred Writings
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General