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Crosby, Kate, Skilton, Andrew and Gunasena, Amal (2012) 'The Sutta on Understanding Death in the Transmission of borān Meditation from Siam to the Kandyan Court.' Journal of Indian Philosophy, 40 (2). pp. 177-198.

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This article announces the discovery of a Sinhalese version of the traditional meditation (boran yogavacara kammatthana) text in which the Consciousness or Mind, personified as a Princess living in a five-branched tree (the body), must understand the nature of death and seek the four gems that are the four noble truths. To do this she must overcome the cravings of the five senses, represented as five birds in the tree. Only in this way will she permanently avoid the attentions of Death, Mara, and his three female servants, Birth, Sickness and Old Age. In this version of the text, when the Princess manages not to succumb to these three, Mara comes and snatches her from her tree and rapes her. The Buddha then appears to her to explain the path to liberation. The text provides a commentary,padartha, which explains the details of the symbolism of the fruit in terms of rebirth and being born, the tree in terms of the body, etc. The text also offers interpretations of signs of impending death and prognostications regarding the next rebirth. Previously the existence of Khmer and Lanna versions of this text have been recorded by Francois Bizot and Francois Lagirarde, the former publishing the text as Le Figuier a cinq branches (Le figuier a cinq branches, 1976). The Sinhalese version was redacted for one of the wives of King Kırti Sri Rajasinha of Kandy by the monk Varanana Mahathera of Ayutthaya. This confirms earlier speculation that this form of boran/dhammakaya meditation was brought to Sri Lanka with the introduction of the Siyam Nika¯ya in the mid-eighteenth century. It also shows that in Sri Lanka, as in Ayutthaya, this form of meditation —which in the modern period was to be rejected as ‘unorthodox’— was promoted at the highest levels of court and Sangha.

Item Type: Journal Article
Additional Information: As one of the most downloaded articles, this article may be downloaded for free from the Journal of Indian Philosophy website
SOAS Departments & Centres: Legacy Departments > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Department of the Study of Religions
Legacy Departments > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Department of the Study of Religions > Centre of Buddhist Studies
Regional Centres and Institutes > Centre of South East Asian Studies
ISSN: 00221791
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 02 Apr 2012 09:09

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