We are very happy to share with you a look back at our 2021 books for those who practice in the family of traditions and communities based on the Pali text tradition including traditional Theravada as well as Insight Meditation. Over the last few years, we have really focused on bringing to light the diversity of traditional Theravada along with the great books from the Insight meditation community of authors and scholars, many of which you will find below.
But before we get started, we wanted to draw your attention to a recent Guide for Readers to some of our works on traditional Theravada. The twelve books profiled here are meant to give a sense of the breadth, diversity and richness of the Theravada tradition and we think many will surprise you.
The most recent book is Sara Shaw's The Art of Listening: A Guide to the Early Teachings of Buddhism which explores the Dīghanikāya or Long Discourses of the Buddha.
We think of a “canon” as a collection of books, but in this captivating and illuminating work Shaw emphasizes the oral quality of this collection and brings us along to imagine how very different experiencing these teachings are when listening to them. There is a lot at stake here. Reading is often a passive endeavor, yet listening to these texts, as Shaw explains, these essential texts:
"must also have been regarded as something more interactive: you would listen, perhaps investigate the content (and yourself), and then allow your mind to move on to the next stage of the text. Each text is a paced, rhythmic composition, a choreographed movement in time, that works in a different way from something you read alone with book or iPad in hand. So, with these texts, you start to feel the Buddhist principles of rising, sustaining, and falling—with circling rhythms repeating in “real” time—in the very structure of the words. If you hear the texts as recitals in a temple, you look, listen, and attend; you are conscious of those around you, how you are sitting, and the environment. You are open to the text in a different way. Much of Buddhist meditation and ethical teaching is based on this underlying delivery of the text itself by living people to those who have met, perhaps, just to listen."
Watch the book trailer for The Art of Listening.
The Woman Who Raised the Buddha: The Extraordinary Life of Mahaprajapati is the first full biography of Mahaprajapati. Here, Wendy Garling presents her life story, with attention to her early years as sister, queen, matriarch, and mother, as well as her later years as a nun. Garling reveals just how exceptional Mahaprajapati’s role was as leader of the first generation of Buddhist women, helping the Buddha establish an equal community of lay and monastic women and men. Mother to the Buddha, mother to early Buddhist women, mother to the Buddhist faith, Mahaprajapati’s journey is finally presented as one interwoven with the founding of Buddhism.
In Esoteric Theravada: The Story of the Forgotten Meditation Tradition of Southeast Asia Dr. Kate Crosby of Kings College, London, presents her groundbreaking research which has created an enormous buzz in the Theravada community of scholars and practitioners. Theravada Buddhism, often understood as the school that most carefully preserved the practices taught by the Buddha, has in fact undergone tremendous change over time. Prior to Western colonialism in Asia—which brought Western and modernist intellectual concerns, such as the separation of science and religion, to bear on Buddhism—there existed a tradition of embodied, esoteric, and culturally regional Theravada meditation practices. This once-dominant traditional meditation system is harder to find now, but it still exits in pockets. Known as borān kammaṭṭhāna, is related to—yet remarkably distinct from—Vipassana and other Buddhist and secular mindfulness practices that would become the hallmark of Theravada Buddhism in the twentieth century. Drawing on a quarter century of research, scholar Kate Crosby offers the first holistic discussion of borān kammaṭṭhāna, illuminating the historical events and cultural processes by which the practice has been marginalized in the modern era.
Watch the book trailer for Esoteric Theravada.
Secularizing Buddhism: New Perspectives on a Dynamic Tradition is a very engaging and provocative essay collection that explores the opposing ideas that often define Buddhist communities—secular versus religious, modern versus traditional, Western versus Eastern—are unpacked and critically examined. Those focused on the Pali tradition include contributions from:
- Bhikku Bodhi: Manifesting the Buddha Dharma in a Secular Age
- Kate Crosby: The Shared Origins of Traditionalism and Secularism in Theravāda Buddhism
- Gil Fronsdal: Naturalistic Buddhism
- Sarah Shaw: Has Secularism Become a Religion? Some Observations on Pāli Buddhism’s Movement to the International Stage
Black and Buddhist: What Buddhism Can Teach Us about Race, Resilience, Transformation, and Freedom includes several contributions from Insight Meditation teachers and practitioners like:
- Cheryl A. Giles: They Say People Could Fly: Disrupting the Legacy of Sexual Violence through Myth, Memory, and Connection
- Pamela Ayo Yetunde: Voluntary Segregation: The Paradox, Promise, and Peril of People of Color Sanghas
- Ruth King: Wholeness is No Trifling Matter: Race, Faith, and Refuge
- Sebene Selassie: Turning Towards Myself
In Radical Friendship: Seven Ways to Love Yourself and Find Your People in an Unjust World, Insight Meditation teacher Kate Johnson makes a powerful case for friendship as a radical practice of love, courage and trust, and a path that paves the way for profound social change.
We released a new edition of the highly acclaimed The First Free Women: Original Poems Inspired by the Early Buddhist Nuns by Matty Weingast. For those with the first edition, the poems are the same, just the subtitle clarifies that these represent a creative approach to the Therigatha and the introductions also flesh out the process of how these were rendered a bit more. As Dr. Sarah Shaw of the University of Oxford describes this book in a recent review of the work in an academic journal,
These are explorations around the nuns' verses. They meld together commentarial backstories and the verses themselves with the lived experience and imaginative excursions of the author. Impressively, the author, Weingast, stayed at the Aloka Vihara Forest Monastery in California for four months, compiling his work based on his own meditation, reading, and consultation with nuns and guests. Bhikkhuni Anandabodhi, in particular, encouraged his interest in the project from the outset. Her introduction gives a moving and gracefully eloquent account of the impact of the poems from a modern nun’s perspective. Artistic work based upon such “research,” both internal and external, is an arresting idea: it demonstrates the continued creativity that Buddhism has historically fostered and developed.
In Xuanzang: China’s Legendary Pilgrim and Translatorfrom our Lives of the Masters series (also see the volume on S.N. Goenka), Ben Brose brings one of the most fascinating figures in the history of Buddhism to light. While Xuanzang himself is known for his Mahayana works, he brought to light most of what we know about Buddhism in India in the 7th century, including the interplay between contemporary monks from the Mahayana and Sravakayana traditions.
In 2021 we published three wonderful books parents who want to expose their kids to the ideas and culture, and figures of this Buddhist tradition will delight in.
Forthcoming in 2022
And we have even more from the Pali tradition coming out next year from the likes of Buddhadasa, Ayya Khema, Paul Dennison, L.S. Cousins, and many more. So make sure you sign up for our emails so you do not miss them! Here is a sneak peek at January's release which you can pre-order now and take advantage of the discount.
We are very excited about the release of this astonishingly comprehensive book by Buddhadasa, one of the most important Buddhist figures in Southeast Asia of the 20th century. This is the most complete work of his ever, based around the the theme of "life as cultivation of mind". The focus is on practice, but the emphasis is not so much on breathing mindfulness and other mediation techniques. Rather, as Santikaro Upasaka relates in his preface, "he is concerned with the practice of inquiry and contemplation more broadly, in its multiplicity of forms within the activity of quotidian life".
The Dalai Lama on Buddhadasa Bhikku
Audiobooks on and by Suzuki Roshi