In the oldest scriptures of Theravada Buddhism much attention is given to the Jhanas, high levels of meditative attainment distinguished by powerful concentration and purity of mind. Ven. Dr. Gunaratana examines these jhanas within the context of Buddhist teaching as a whole and particularly within the meditation disciplines taught by the Buddha. Beginning with the ethical foundation for meditation, the role of the teacher, the classical subjects of meditation, and the appropriateness of these subjects to individual practitioners, the author traces the practice of meditation to the higher reaches of realization. The eight stages of jhana are individually analyzed and explained in terms of their relation to one another and to the ultimate goal of the teaching.
The author makes the critical distinction between the mundane jhanas and supermundane jhanas, pointing out that the lower four, while leading to various mental powers and psychic attainments, are not necessary to full enlightenment and may be developed or bypassed as the meditator wishes. The author goes on to explain the place of the Jhanas among the accomplishments of the arahat and to elucidate their usefulness for the dedicated meditator.
About the Author:
VENERABLE HENEPOLA GUNARATANA served as Hon. General Secretary of the Buddhist Vihara Society of Washington, DC. and later became President of the Society. He has taught courses in Buddhism, conducted meditation retreats, and lectured widely throughout the United States and Canada and pursued his scholarly interests as well. His books and articles have been published in Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka and the U.S.A.
In 1973 Venerable Gunaratana occupied the position of Buddhist Chaplain at the American University. His basic aim was to diffuse Buddhist teachings throughout North America.
Experts from Reviews:
... This is a work which combine sound scholarship with considerable practical experience.
... The author's approach successfully combines a time-honoured methodology with a clear and businesslike form of exposition well adapted to the present times. The interested modern reader finds here a systematic, thorough introduction to the whole field of Buddhist mental culture and the progress of insight structured in the traditional way to take account of the three main divisions of the Noble Eightfold Path - morality, concentration and wisdom.Buddhist Studies Review5.1 (1988)
... The quality of the author's exposition is doubled as he consults the Burmese Buddha Sasana Samiti editions and Sinhalese and Devanagari editions of the commentaries and sub-commentaries besides, without solely relying on the PTS edition.
Vol. 7 Nos. 7-9.
Review Projector (India)
... For a long time in my experience new-comers to Buddhism have been confused about the position of the jhanas (absorptions) in Buddhist meditation practice. This is the first book... which deals clearly and exhaustively with the subject.Middle Way
Philip M. Eden
... (The) book will help to elucidate the nature of the experience to a large number of earnest people who are endeavouring to find lasting peace of mind through the use of Buddhist meditation practice. The path of Serenity and Insight is one through which a meditator may attain the various levels of Jhanas.
... (It) is highly recommended to those who are interested in proper meditation techniques for their mental development, tranquillity and purity.Vol. 22, No. 2, December 1985.
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