Early Buddhist Meditation: A Philosophical Investigation by Alex Wynne

New lectures by Professor Alex Wynne that should be of interest-

OCBS Lectures


Thanks for sharing Polarbear, looks interesting. Have any comments or evaluation?

I’d say it is certainly a controversial set of lectures, and I can’t say that I’m in agreement with him on much of what he says, but I thought it was interesting at least.

Wynne critiques the widespread understanding of calm & insight and suggests that much of the traditional theravadin or generally early indian buddhist approaches to and ideas about how to achieve liberation have deviated from what the Buddha taught and have been influenced by Upanisadic thought.

Wynne suggests that liberation has to do less with knowledge or meditative achievements (such as the cessation of perception and feeling) and more to do with a simplification of cognition, with cognition being understood to be wholly or at least mostly embodied cognition. He considers jhana not to be the result of concentrating on specific meditation objects, but an objectless meditation that arises as the result of living a simple life of sense-restraint and mindfulness, and that acts as an aid in achieving a permanent simplification of embodied cognition.

Nibbana is seen as the removal of thirst and the ending of papanca, and not anything above and beyond that, whereas he sees in the suttas some upanisadic ideas of nibbana being some kind of realm or ultimate reality outside space-time, and he thinks of these suttas as representing later ideas. When cognition is no longer built upon and is left in its simplest form, then there is no longer any dependency on views, knowledge, desire for sensory pleasures, or association with being or non-being.

There’s much more I could say but I’ll refrain and let those who are interested listen to the lectures and come to their own opinions and understanding. Hopefully what I have said is an at least somewhat accurate summary of some of his points.



Thank you for that helpful overview.



I second that. I’ve listened to the first lecture and scrolled the pdfs of all the rest, and the summary orients me and structures me to proceed. His conclusions in the last pdf seem a bit weird or far-fetched (my impression, plus still have to listen to that lecture), but he certainly brings up some interesting points.

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I’m on my third time listening through these five lectures, and I’m really enjoying them. The folks participating in the thread on jhana should find them interesting.


Could I ask what is meant by “embodied cognition”? Is it the idea that our thoughts are not as significant as we assume, since they are just a commentary on our sense experience? And then simplification of cognition would presumably be reducing proliferation (papanca)? Or just thinking a lot less?


Sorry, but it’s been a year since I listened to the lectures so I’m gonna leave you to your own devices in regards to understanding the lecture series and/or my summary of them from yesteryear.

Edit: I can’t remember how much Wynne or I were using ‘embodied cognition’ according to some specific understanding or idiosyncratically or along some scale. But you might want to read the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry here: SEP- Embodied Cognition


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Yes, no worries, I also had a look at the Wiki article. It’s interesting to find out more about philosophy and stuff. Thanks for your synopsis. :blush:

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Sounds to me from what you’ve said that he believes the Buddha was focusing very much on the cognitive. Is that right? I think the Buddha was focusing on both cognitive and affective, but probably mostly affective. His path was to bathe the mind in specific affects, such as the jhānas and brahmavihāras, and that seems to have been his primary method for bringing about mental transformation.

The cognitive is involved, as cognitive regulation of affect; and also perhaps we can consider the ‘clear seeing’ aspect as cognitive though I’m not sure how to classify that in Western psychology/neuroscience terms. But the affective was what took so much training. The entire Noble Eightfold Path is entirely focusing on jhāna training, for example. Clear seeing is actually seen as a fruit of that training! (As is the positive affective result also).

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I think “embodied cognition” breaks down the distinction between cognitive and affective somewhat.

If you’ve got some quotes from what he said, that would be great, then we can see how cognitive or affective he is meaning.