Synopses & Reviews
Insight meditation, which claims to offer practitioners a chance to escape all suffering by perceiving the true nature of reality, is one of the most popular forms of meditation today. The Theravada Buddhist cultures of South and Southeast Asia often see it as the Buddhaand#8217;s most important gift to humanity. In the first book to examine how this practice came to play such a dominantand#8212;and relatively recentand#8212;role in Buddhism, Erik Braun takes readers to Burma, revealing that Burmese Buddhists in the colonial period were pioneers in making insight meditation indispensable to modern Buddhism.
Braun focuses on the Burmese monk Ledi Sayadaw, a pivotal architect of modern insight meditation, and explores Lediand#8217;s popularization of the study of crucial Buddhist philosophical texts in the early twentieth century. By promoting the study of such abstruse texts, Braun shows, Ledi was able to standardize and simplify meditation methods and make them widely accessibleand#8212;in part to protect Buddhism in Burma after the British takeover in 1885. Braun also addresses the question of what really constitutes the and#8220;modernand#8221; in colonial and postcolonial forms of Buddhism, arguing that the emergence of this type of meditation was caused by precolonial factors in Burmese culture as well as the disruptive forces of the colonial era. Offering a readable narrative of the life and legacy of one of modern Buddhismand#8217;s most important figures, The Birth of Insight provides an original account of the development of mass meditation.
"The transformation of fluid space into bounded place, with knife-edged and therefore inevitably bloody borders, has been the work of modernity. In this engaging metageography of southern Asian Buddhism, Toni Huber rediscovers another world-India as a Tibetan place-demonstrating the deep, if sometimes confused and contested, connections that Tibetans have reinvented over ten centuries, whether through travel visions, pilgrimages, or exile. He thereby provides an exquisite demonstration of the fact that the certitudes by which people live their lives are as real and consequential as the hard truths of modern science."-Sheldon Pollock, Columbia University
and#160;andldquo;The Birth of Insight represents an important addition to current scholarship on modern Burmese Buddhism, which has broader implications for our understanding of contemporary Buddhism in South and Southeast Asia and global Buddhism generally. Engaging and challenging, it restores the study of andlsquo;textsandrsquo; to the repertoire of tools at our disposal for the critical examination of Burmese tradition.andrdquo;
and#8220;Insight meditation (vipassana) is increasingly central to the modern practice of Buddhism, worldwide; mindfulness practices (sati) are ever more widely used in contemporary western psychotherapies. Tracing the genealogy of these developments takes us to nineteenth- and twentieth-century Burma, and Erik Braunand#8217;s fascinating and lucid account of Ledi Sayadaw provides a detailed and illuminating historical context, notably in relation to colonialism, for the beginnings of the whole process. A final chapter describes Lediand#8217;s influence on other teachers in Burma, and through them on the American disciples who brought the techniques to the West.and#160; A very fine book.and#8221;
and#8220;Erik Braunand#8217;s superbly researched, elegantly crafted, and eminently accessible book is the most authoritative study to date of Ledi Sayadaw and the origins of the modern Buddhist meditation revival in Burma. But its significance goes well beyond the confines of twentieth-century Burmese history. Ledi Sayadaw and his followers laid the foundation for and#8216;Buddhist modernism,and#8217; and by the last quarter of the twentieth century their innovativeand#8212;if sometimes controversialand#8212;approach to Buddhist doctrine and practice had spread to the rest of Asia, as well as to Europe, America, and beyond. Braunand#8217;s account of their achievements should be required reading for anyone interested in the roots of modern and#8216;insightand#8217; (or and#8216;mindfulnessand#8217;) meditation practice.and#8221;
andldquo;This is an exemplary work within the history of religions with its careful argumentation and substantial evidence for the foundation ofandnbsp;vipassanaandnbsp;
meditation to be located within the ideas of an important nineteenth-century Burmese monk. This book will be important reading for students in the history of religionsandnbsp;and Southeast Asian studies, and those interested in meditation and Buddhism.andrdquo;
andldquo;Masterful. . . . This is an excellent study, one that will deservedly become a classic in the field and make possible many other studies of the history of Burmese Buddhism.andrdquo;
The Dalai Lama has said that Tibetans consider themselves “the child of Indian civilization” and that India is the “holy land” from whose sources the Tibetans have built their own civilization. What explains this powerful allegiance to India? In The Holy Land Reborn
¸ Toni Huber investigates how Tibetans have maintained a ritual relationship to India, particularly by way of pilgrimage, and what it means for them to consider India as their holy land.
Focusing on the Tibetan creation and recreation of India as a destination, a landscape, and a kind of other, in both real and idealized terms, Huber explores how Tibetans have used the idea of India as a religious territory and a sacred geography in the development of their own religion and society. In a timely closing chapter, Huber also takes up the meaning of India for the Tibetans who live in exile in their Buddhist holy land.
A major contribution to the study of Buddhism, The Holy Land Reborn describes changes in Tibetan constructs of India over the centuries, ultimately challenging largely static views of the sacred geography of Buddhism in India.
About the Author
Toni Huber is professor of Tibetan studies at the Institute for Asian and African Studies at Humboldt University, Berlin. He is the author or editor of five books, including most recently Nomads of Eastern Tibet.
Table of Contents
List of Figures Acknowledgments
Note on Transliteration
Part One: Locating and Dislocating the Land of the Buddha
1 The Shifting Terrain of the Buddha
2 Buddhist Knowledge and Anachronism in Tibet
3 Journeying to the Centre of the World
4 Tantric Buddhist India and Its Tibetan Appropriation
Part Two: Reinventing the Holy Land in India
5 Nirvana in Assam
6 Return to the Centre of the World
7 The Allure of the Atsaras
8 The Precious Guru in the Punjab
Part Three: Modern Rebirths of the Holy Land
9 Archaeological and Discursive Rebirths of Buddhist India
10 Encountering the Modern Holy Land 11 Exile in the Land of the Buddha