The Art of Listening: A Guide to the Early Teachings of Buddhism (Paperback)
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An accessible introduction to the teachings of the Buddha told through the oral tradition of the Dīghanikāya--the preeminent text of the Pali canon.
The Dīghanikāya or Long Discourses of the Buddha is one of the four major collections of teachings from the early period of Buddhism. Its thirty-four suttas (in Sanskrit, sutras) demonstrate remarkable breadth in both content and style, forming a comprehensive collection. The Art of Listening gives an introduction to the Dīghanikāya and demonstrates the historical, cultural, and spiritual insights that emerge when we view the Buddhist suttas as oral literature.
Each sutta of the Dīghanikāya is a paced, rhythmic composition that evolved and passed intergenerationally through chanting. For hundreds of years, these timeless teachings were never written down. Examining twelve suttas of the Dīghanikāya, scholar Sarah Shaw combines a literary approach and a personal one, based on her experiences carefully studying, hearing, and chanting the texts. At once sophisticated and companionable, The Art of Listening will introduce you to the diversity and beauty of the early Buddhist suttas.
About the Author
DR. SARAH SHAW is a faculty member and lecturer at the University of Oxford. She has taught and published numerous works on the history and practices of Buddhism, including Mindfulness, An Introduction to Buddhist Meditation, and The Spirit of Meditation.
“For many years I regarded the Dīgha Nikāya, the Buddha’s Long Discourses, as of little personal relevance, seeing it as primarily aimed at enhancing the status of Buddhism in the social and cultural milieu of ancient India. Sarah Shaw’s book has radically transformed my assessment of this collection. Beautifully written and rich in observations, her inspired work shows the Digha to be perhaps the boldest and most majestic of the four Nikāyas. In Shaw’s treatment of the text, the Digha merges two contrasting perspectives in a tense but happy harmony: a panoramic vision of the vast cosmic significance of the Buddha and his teaching, and an earthy view of the Buddha’s concrete physical presence in this world. This contrast, she argues, is seen most poignantly in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta, the long narrative on the Buddha’s final journey and passage into nirvana, where he himself exemplifies his teaching of universal impermanence. I believe that for others, too, this book will have a lasting impact on their appreciation of the Digha, offering many new ways of looking at this fascinating collection of early Buddhist texts.”—Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, author of Reading the Buddha’s Discourses in Pāli
“In this quietly revolutionary book, Sarah Shaw shows us that Buddhist sutras are also Buddhist practices, and that listening can be a form of meditation. She shows that our modern habits of skim reading and skipping ahead in texts are very different from the way the sutras have been appreciated in the past, and that if we can better understand the way the dharma has been recited and listened to over so many generations, it will allow us to engage with it more fully. Cultivating a quiet and attentive practice of listening seems more necessary than ever and this is a book that shows us how it can be done.”—Sam van Schaik, author of Buddhist Magic and Tibetan Zen