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 he Birth of Insight: Meditation, Modern Buddhism, and the Burmese Monk Ledi Sayadaw

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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: he Birth of Insight: Meditation, Modern Buddhism, and the Burmese Monk Ledi Sayadaw   Thu Apr 17, 2014 8:51 pm

Highly recommended.  I just listened to the Buddhist Geeks podcast as I was huffing and puffing on the treadmill at the gym.  Chilly Manhattan evening.  My boyfriend is working the night shift at a hospital in New Jersey.  Back to this new book - There are many analogies to Zen history.  Much of what we might believe or think about Zen history or the history of mindfulness is simply not true, romantic, and being able to understand a more historically accurate version - is part of being a spiritual adult.  And it's fascinating.  And it in no way undermines authentic practice.  Being able to face our human nature is part of the path - and in that way, we absolutely do not need to ignore, live in fantasy land, pretend, etc.  We can use, honor and make full use of our intellect, our rational mind, logic, analysis, AND be mindful.  They are not in opposition, at least not from my point of view.

Buddhist Geeks podcast:

http://www.buddhistgeeks.com/2014/04/bg-318-birth-insight-meditation/

THE BIRTH OF INSIGHT: Meditation, Modern Buddhism and the Burmese Monk Ledi Sayadaw

Publication Date: November 19, 2013


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 Buddha’s most important gift to humanity. In the first book to examine how this practice came to play such a dominant—and relatively recent—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 Ledi’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 accessible—in part to protect Buddhism in Burma after the British takeover in 1885. Braun also addresses the question of what really constitutes the “modern” 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 Buddhism’s most important figures, The Birth of Insight provides an original account of the development of mass meditation.

Reviews

 “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 ‘texts’ to the repertoire of tools at our disposal for the critical examination of Burmese tradition.”(Patrick Pranke, University of Louisville)

“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 Braun’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 Ledi’s influence on other teachers in Burma, and through them on the American disciples who brought the techniques to the West.  A very fine book.” -- Steven Collins, University of Chicago

“Erik Braun’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 ‘Buddhist modernism,’ and by the last quarter of the twentieth century their innovative—if sometimes controversial—approach to Buddhist doctrine and practice had spread to the rest of Asia, as well as to Europe, America, and beyond. Braun’s account of their achievements should be required reading for anyone interested in the roots of modern ‘insight’ (or ‘mindfulness’) meditation practice.” (Robert H. Sharf, University of California, Berkeley)

About the Author

Erik Braun is assistant professor in the Religious Studies Program at the University of Oklahoma. He lives in Norman, OK.
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cmpnwtr

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PostSubject: Re: he Birth of Insight: Meditation, Modern Buddhism, and the Burmese Monk Ledi Sayadaw   Fri Apr 18, 2014 6:37 pm

I do have a certain admiration for how the Vipassana meditation movement has organized itself in the U.S. into peer led communities of practice, and become accessible to lay practitioners with a body of teaching that is coherent and understandable.
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: he Birth of Insight: Meditation, Modern Buddhism, and the Burmese Monk Ledi Sayadaw   Sat Apr 19, 2014 10:30 am

For the most part, the vipassana / mindfulness world has avoided the whole master/ guru approach.  Most of the teachers go to great lengths not to play the guru game, to share their own personal issues and shortcomings, and continue to seriously practice mindfulness.  I believe that most of the groups have strong boards of directors and codes of conduct / ethics.  There have been some problems, but that's human nature. 

Also, places like Spirit Rock bring in a variety of speakers and teachers from other traditions and points of view and some of the mindfulness teachers are also psychotherapists. Also, many groups are much more democratic in their administration, less hierarchical  Of course, these are all "lay" movements, no priest class, although many invite Bhikkus and Lamas to teach - and they are treated with great respect, the focus is not on creating an elite priesthood.
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PostSubject: Re: he Birth of Insight: Meditation, Modern Buddhism, and the Burmese Monk Ledi Sayadaw   Sat Apr 19, 2014 11:38 am

Jcbaran wrote:
For the most part, the vipassana / mindfulness world has avoided the whole master/ guru approach. ....Of course, these are all "lay" movements, no priest class, although many invite Bhikkus and Lamas to teach - and they are treated with great respect, the focus is not on creating an elite priesthood.

This is what I like about the movement as it has developed in the U.S. A good model for meditation practice groups. It offers teaching and support but no hierarchical or authoritarian structures or personalities that can turn abusive or corrupt.
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: he Birth of Insight: Meditation, Modern Buddhism, and the Burmese Monk Ledi Sayadaw   Thu May 01, 2014 3:42 am

This the second Buddhist Geeks podcast / webstream focused on this book.  Highly recommended and very applicable to all Dharma-related movements in the West.  Tackles the evolution of practice, recent Buddhist history, myths and hagiography, and so on. Free as a podcast through iTunes or just stream on the web.  Am sure actually reading the book would be valuable, but these interviews are a fine intro and at no cost.  Thanks you, BG.

Buddhist Greeks provides a very valuable service... and it's not that you must necessarily agree with every speaker, but for the most part, Vince has created an honest platform of open inquiry that is respectful, smart and not afraid to tackle complex and controversial topics.  Everything can be discussed, which is actually rare - because as we have seen, in so many Buddhist situations, so much cannot be addressed - rocking the boat is not welcome....... Vince has no problem with a little boat rocking, but he also does it in a way that is not over the top or cynicial. 

http://www.buddhistgeeks.com/2014/04/bg-319-making-mass-meditation-movement/
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: he Birth of Insight: Meditation, Modern Buddhism, and the Burmese Monk Ledi Sayadaw   Wed Jun 04, 2014 10:14 pm

http://cheetahhouse.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Meditation-En-Masse_Erik-Braun.pdf
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