Meditation and Culture

Meditation and Culture. The Interplay of Practice and Context. Edited by Halvor Eifring. Bloomsbury Academic. 2015

Behind the stereotype of a solitary meditator closing his eyes to the world, meditation always takes place in close interaction with the surrounding culture. Meditation and Culture: The Interplay of Practice and Context explores cases in which the relation between meditative practice and cultural context is particularly complex. 

The internationally-renowned contributors discuss practices that travel from one culture to another, or are surrounded by competing cultures. They explore cultures that bring together competing practices, or that are themselves mosaics of elements of different origins. They seek to answer the question: What is the relationship between meditation and culture? 

The effects of meditation may arise from its symbolic value within larger webs of cultural meaning, as in the contextual view that still dominates cultural and religious studies. They may also be psychobiological responses to the practice itself, the cultural context merely acting as a catalyst for processes originating in the body and mind of the practitioner. Meditation and Culture gives no single definitive explanation, but taken together, the different viewpoints presented point to the complexity of the relationship. 


"Eifring is to be congratulated for a courageous undertaking, that brings this spirit of fairness and search to the study of so many different kinds of meditation. That such study has been achieved without sacrifcing scholarly care and substantiation is a credit to the editor and the book’s contributors. Only collaboration between scholars in neuro-science, philology, textual analysis, anthropology, ethnography and religious studies will make further work in the eld of the study of meditation and related areas possible. This book offers a distinguished start to these studies: one is left with a solid sense that steps have been taken to a new understanding and accord between scholars working in different elds, and with different background research interests, on a subject that is now coming to be considered so important in matters of health, social benefit and the well-being of the individual." - Sarah Shaw, Faculty Member, Faculty of Oriental Studies, Oxford University. Review in the Oxford Journal of Buddhist Studies.

Eifring is interested in meaningful cross-cultural comparisons of meditation practices, and he advocates for a more open dialogue with the scientific community. (...) While there is still much (well-placed) skepticism on the ability to move beyond individual traditions of meditation towards finding some universal understanding of how meditation practices work and affect the body and the brain, the excellent scholarly work in this volume attests to the possibility of moving in that direction from a solid research standpoint. - Elena Valussi, Advanced Lecturer in History at Loyola, University Chicago. Review in Reading Religion - A Publication of the American Academy of Religion.

"Eifring's edited volume is an extraordinarily rich collection of essays, by some of the most prominent scholars of meditation theory and practice worldwide, which accomplishes even more than the book itself promises. Meditation emerges here as not simply a crucial influence on its ambient cultural contexts but as one of human civilization's greatest cultural achievements in its own right." –  Robert E. Buswell, Jr., Irving and Jean Stone Endowed Chair in Humanities, Director, Center for Buddhist Studies, University of California, USA, and author of The Zen Monastic Experience, 

"This innovative volume brings together a group of excellent essays that illustrate the diverse ways in which meditative practices from a range of religious traditions are embedded in their cultural contexts. It is a must-read for anyone interested in better understanding the complex interplay of religious thought, meditative practice, and the socio-cultural environment, and who wants to explore meditation as a cross-cultural and cross-religious concept." –  Morten Schlütter, Associate Professor of Chinese Religion, The University of Iowa, USA

Table of Content

1 Meditative Practice and Cultural Context, Halvor Eifring

Section 1 Traveling Practices 
2 The Daoist Adaptation of Buddhist Insight Meditation, Livia Kohn
3 Ignatian Visual Meditation in Seventeenth-Century China, Nicolas Standaert
4 Modern Meditation in the Context of Science, Øyvind Ellingsen and Are Holen

Section 2 Competing Practices 
5 Mindfulness and Mindlessness in Early Chán, Robert H. Sharf
6 Reverence and Quietude in Neo-Confucianism, Rur-bin Yang
7 Meditative Pluralism in Hānshān Déqīng, Halvor Eifring

Section 3 Competing Cultures 
8 The Hindi Sants' Two Yogic Paths to the Formless Lord, Daniel Gold
9 Inner Islamization in Java, Paul D. Stange
10 Cinnabar-field Meditation in Korea, Don Baker

Section 4 Cultural Mosaics 
11 Tibetan Chöd as Practiced by Ani Lochen Rinpoche, Hanna Havnevik
12 Vedic Chanting as a Householder's Meditation Practice in the Tamil Saiva Siddhanta Tradition, M. D. Muthukumaraswamy
13 Spontaneous Thoughts in Meditative Traditions, Halvor Eifring

Published Sep. 19, 2016 5:22 PM - Last modified Sep. 19, 2016 8:43 PM