This manuscript fragment is part of a rare Yōgavacara meditation manual found in the Theravāda tradition. It sets out the means and plans for practising meditation as an ethical self-training.
What do the illustrations show?
The manual, in its original form, is known to list 112 types of meditation and the resulting states of mind. The illustrations that survive in this fragment show visualisation methods to overcome conditioned states of mind such as fear and aversion. One such method is the visualisation of the varying states of a decaying corpse, also known as meditation on the foul. The meditation exercises in the Yōgavacara manual are said to have been practised by the Buddha himself, but are based on the methods of the pre-Buddhist Indian yoga system.
What is Yōgavacara?
Yōgavacara designates a practice of Theravāda Buddhism that is open to lay and ordained practitioners. It involves incorporating qualities of the Buddha into the body and applying the merit thus gained to practical ends, like healing and protection from threats to human life. The 5th-century scholar and important Theravāda philosopher, Buddhaghosa, discussed Yōgavacara practices in his Visuddhimagga (Path of Purification), a seminal work on meditation.
Where was it made?
This paper folding book was made in the territory of today’s Thailand or Cambodia during the 18th century, when Cambodia was under Siamese dominance. The text is written in Khmer script, which was used in both Cambodia and Thailand for Buddhist sacred texts.
View images of the entire manuscripts via our Digitised Manuscripts website.
- Article by:
- Sarah Shaw
- Buddhism, Devotional texts
There are many kinds of Buddhist meditations; here Dr Sarah Shaw describes the ‘middle way’ of the Buddha and explores key aspects of Buddhist meditation and chant, such as the use of Buddha-images and visualisation.