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Traditional Theravada Meditation: Ritual, the Body and Visual Encounters

Residential Program
Dates: Apr 10, 2023 - Apr 14, 2023
Days: Monday - Friday
Number of Nights: 4 nights

Instructor(s): Kate Crosby, Pyi Phyo Kyaw

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Course Description:

This program will explore three aspects of traditional Theravada meditation that have received less attention during the modern revival and spread of Buddhist meditation: ritual, the body as a locus of change, and the meanings of visual experiences. Traditional Theravada meditation practitioners undertook a variety of devotional and confessional rituals to prepare themselves for meditation practice, and regarded them as important for success. By body as a locus of change, we are talking about practices that harness the body and anticipate changes in the body, rather than the body as an object of meditation. By visual experiences, we are talking about visions, whether lights or more complex imagery seen in meditation, either spontaneously or as the result of active visualization. In modern practice, these visual aspects are often treated as potential distractions but some strands of pre-modern Theravada practice valued these experiences both as diagnostics and as the basis for further understanding and transformation. We will compare different Theravada traditions, as well as early Chinese practice, and may draw on Abhidhamma to explore the mind-mentality-materiality relationship. While the program is mainly aimed at study, we will sample different ritual and meditation practices that relate to these traditions, and different body-based Theravada meditations. The overall aim is to gain an understanding of the diversity of pre-modern Theravada meditation.

Noble Silence:
Noble silence will be observed following each evening session through breakfast the following morning. Additional silent practice periods will be scheduled throughout the program.

Experience Level:
Suitable for beginning and experienced practitioners.


The prerequisite for this course is an openness to: 

Theravada Buddhism as diverse and not monolithic; 

chanting and short rituals using Pali and/or English (you will be guided); 

learning about meditation experience and its uses in traditional Asian settings.

Cancellation Policy:
During the pandemic, there is a cancellation fee of $50 for all residential programs longer than two nights and $25 for weekend programs. 2023: If you need to cancel your registration, please contact us as soon as possible. If you cancel two or more weeks before a program begins, cancellation fees are $50 for all programs longer than two nights and $25 for weekend programs. If you cancel less than two weeks before your program begins, your full deposit is forfeited. If you have requested financial assistance, cancellation fees are $50 for all programs longer than two nights and $25 for weekend programs. All cancellation fees support our Scholarship Funds.

Covid-19 Safety Protocol:
Please review our Covid-19 Safety Protocols here: https://www.buddhistinquiry.org/covid-19/.

As we work to become a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive community, we invite feedback/suggestions you may have regarding ways that we can make participation in the program more accessible and welcoming. Please email us at contact@buddhistinquiry.org.
    About the Instructor(s):
  • Kate Crosby is the Numata Professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of Oxford. Her main research interest is the literature, history, and practice of Theravada Buddhism throughout Asia, reflected in publications such as Theravada Buddhism: Continuity, Diversity, Identity (2013), Traditional Theravada Meditation and its Modern Era Suppression (2014) and Variety in Theravada Meditation (ed. 2019). Her translations of Sanskrit literature include the Bodhicaryāvatāra (1995), and Mahābhārata: The Dead of Night & the Women (2009).

  • Dr Pyi Phyo Kyaw is Senior Lecturer in Theravada Studies at Shan State Buddhist University, Taunggyi, Myanmar. Her research focuses on the relationship between Abhidhamma and meditation, exploring how and to what extent the teachings in the Abhidhamma are applied in meditation practices, and assessing the roles of theoretical knowledge of ultimate realities, i.e., the most basic constituents of reality, in meditation. She also teaches Vipassana meditation in Budapest, Hungary.