A Less Traveled Path: Meditation and Textual Practice in the Saddharmasmrtyupasthana(sutra)


This dissertation is a study of a third/fourth-century Buddhist Sanskrit text, the Saddharmasmrtyupasthana(sutra) , which reveals a unique literary culture at an important transitional moment in the religious and philosophical life of early Northwest Indian Buddhists. The study argues that meditative practice, rhetoric, and philosophy were intimately tied to one another when the Saddharmasmrtyupasthana(sutra) was redacted, and that the text serves as an important yet unnoticed historical touchstone for an understanding of the development of a Buddhist mind-centered metaphysics. The study suggests that such philosophical developments grew organically out of specific meditation practices rooted in the early canonical Buddhist tradition, and that the Saddharmasmrtyupasthana(sutra) offers perhaps the clearest evidence available attesting to this process. Further, the text evidences an emergent historical ideology of cosmic power, one that ties ethical conduct, contemplative knowledge, and literary practice to a spiritual goal of selfless cosmographical sovereignty. This development is historically significant because it marks a major shift in Indian Buddhist religious practice, which conditioned the emergence of fully developed Mahayana path schemes and power-oriented tantric ritual traditions in the centuries that followed the text’s compilation. As part of this study, the second chapter of the Saddharmasmrtyupasthana(sutra) is critically edited and translated based on a recently discovered codex unicus .


Thanks for sharing this, Javier. I’ve been a little fascinated with this text over the years. The Chinese translation is quite large and has one of the most elaborate descriptions of the Buddhist heavens and hells taking up the bulk of it.


Thanks indeed. I read about this text in warder, and tried to research when writing A History of Mindfulness.

Fun fact, the text had been in the Aust national library for several decades, but when I went there to read it, it turned out the pages were not cut properly, so you couldn’t open it. In all that time, no-one had ever even asked to read it! The staff took it to fix, but I never got back. Anyhoo, if anyone in the future does borrow it, you’re welcome.