Organized Panel Session
The rise of meditation in modern Myanmar has transformed the Buddhist landscape for both lay and monastic practitioners, both within the country and beyond. While a proliferation of scientific studies on the topic of mindfulness (Pali: sati) has exploded in the Anglosphere alongside the growth of a veritable mindfulness industry and a reductive commercialisation, comparatively little scholarship exists in English on the cultures, infrastructure, texts and ideologies underpinning this local and global transformation. Our panel seeks to address this problem by going to the source, bringing together anthropological, philological and philosophical approaches to present a more lucid and dynamic understanding of the meditation lineages and techniques of modern Myanmar. The papers range in focus from an analysis of the site of the meditation centre itself, known as ‘yeiktha’ in Burmese, to comparisons between techniques that emphasize insight (vipassanā) and deep concentration (samatha) respectively, to a discussion of the sophisticated doctrinal articulations and revisions of practices formulated by illiterate and relatively unlearned monks. By invoking a fuller “spectrum” of the techniques, texts and features of the “mass meditation movement” in Myanmar to include Pa-Auk, Sunlun-Theinngu and the Mingun-Mahasi lineages vis-à-vis their physical sites of practice, we hope to engage the scholarly community in a reassessment of how this mass movement arose and proliferated, the relationships between scriptural learning and practice, insight and concentration, the importance of analytical philosophy (abhidhamma) in practice-based techniques, and the role of lay people in the future of Buddhism and their individual pursuit of enlightenment.