Mahasi Sayadaw (1904-1982)

mahasi

  • Influential Burmese Theravada monk in vipassana style.
  • Notable Western students: Jack Kornfield, Sharon Salzberg, Joseph Goldstein.
  • Some publications:
    • Practical Vipasana Exercises: mahasi (pdf)
    • Satipatthana Vipassana Meditation: Satipatthana_Vipassana (pdf)
    • The Progress of Insight can be found here. It outlines experiences meditators could be expected to have along the way — something the first wave of vipassana practitioners (read: notable Western students above) chose to leave out of their version of vipassana to the West, out of concern people would become fixated on their levels of progress, and engage in endless comparison.
  • Piece at Buddhist Geeks: The Practical Dharma of Mahasi Sayadaw. which highlights one of the gulfs between Western and Eastern Vipassana practice, approach, outlook.

Grab Bag of Guided Meditations

Truly this an impressive How to Meditate: Links for Guided Meditation Practice from Contemplative Mind in Life. The meditations are led by a few different groups, many loosely affiliated with the Vipassana tradition that spawned today’s mindfulness movement (as one critique put it, “Mindfulness Lite”) First, the meditators that came back from Asia in the 60s. These are the current popularizers of mindfulness you are likely aware of (Sharon Salzburg, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Joseph Goldstein, etc.) and also some of their instructors (S. N. Goenka, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, etc.). There are also meditations by those more aligned with academic research and health and wellness concerns (UC San Diego Center for Integrative Medicine, Diana Winston at Mindfulness Awareness Research Center, Secular Humanist Contemplative Group at Harvard, Zindel Siegel of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy). There are one or two that don’t really fit into these camps (Shinzen Young is one).

What won’t you find here? There’s not much Zen, but beyond that there’s not much in the way of the next generation. This is pretty much a baby boomer’s list – a very specific group that has done much to make popular and make secular. Just an observation. Definitely worth checking out.

Two Guided Mindfulness Meditations from Sam Harris

Harris also has a fairly thorough, if fairly typical, overview of Vipassana meditation (the link is below). The two guided meditations are in the Vipassana (mindfulness) style, and appropriately, Sam focusses on the the arising and passing away of the self. While that may sound a little odd to some, he seems to be a very down to earth guy.

The meditations can be found here: The Mirror of Mindfulness.

I wrote an article on meditation two years ago, and since then many readers have asked for further guidance on how to practice. As I said in my original post, I generally recommend a method called vipassana in which one cultivates a form of attention widely known as “mindfulness.” There is nothing spooky or irrational about mindfulness, and the literature on its psychological benefits is now substantial. Mindfulness is simply a state of clear, nonjudgmental, and nondiscursive attention to the contents of consciousness, whether pleasant or unpleasant. Developing this quality of mind has been shown to reduce pain, anxiety, and depression; improve cognitive function; and even produce changes in gray matter density in regions of the brain related to learning and memory, emotional regulation, and self-awareness. I will cover the relevant philosophy and science in my next book Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion, but in the meantime, I have produced two guided meditations (9 minutes and 26 minutes) for those of you who would like to get started with the practice. Please feel free to share them.