THIS ARTICLE FOCUSES on the meditative jhānas as they are encountered by Western, English-speaking Buddhists in popular Buddhist writings and teachings available in the United States. I ask: how do the most popular teachers frame jhāna meditation? Do their teachings and writings reveal “traditional” or “modernist” ways of understanding? Are there significant differences between the various jhāna teachers’ presentations, particularly in their constructions of authority in the Buddhist tradition? Do they display the qualities of “Buddhist modernism” cited in the Buddhist studies literature?
…This study has indeed demonstrated that different sorts of modernity underlie the jhāna teachings being presented to the West, with some teachers emphasizing the authority that tradition (esp. the commentaries) carries, some rejecting anything not said by the “Buddha himself” in textual accounts, and some locating authority in the de-traditionalized self.