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Wisdom Wide and Deep (Wisdom 2011) by Shaila Catherine is a contemporary manual on Theravadan methods for cultivating vipassana meditation and jhana states of meditative absorption. Thought to predate the Buddha, concentration practices of jhana are central to meditation in the Pali Tipitika. Catherine pulls extensively from the fifth-century commentator Buddhaghosa’s magnum corpus, the Visuddhimagga, or Path of Purification, and bases her instructions on those she received from the Burmese meditation master Venerable Pa Auk Sayadaw. Theravadan meditation instructions repeated here include focusing attention on specific colored circles, reflecting on the benefits of joy, and contemplating the repulsiveness of a rotting human corpse. While referencing classical sources, Catherine seeks to make jhana-induced states accessible, “even when immersed in a busy lay life.” It’s an ambitious goal, given that these meditations were traditionally taught to adepts and forest-dwellers in monastic settings.


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