Book Review - Buddhist Meditation


I’ve read a lot of meditation books on my quest in an effort to deepen my own practice, but Buddhist Meditation by Edward Conze is without a doubt the most scholarly text on the subject that I have come across thus far. Originally published in 1972, this book wastes no time at all before diving deep into the material. In the introduction, Conze briefly discusses the meaning and purpose of Buddhist meditation, its range and principal divisions, the literary sources from which the practice stems, and a comparison of this Eastern science of mind with modern-day Western psychotherapy.

From there, the book is broken up into four major sections. The first goes over devotional exercises that Buddhist meditators can work on while meditating. The other sections go over three aspects of the practice—mindfulness, trance, and wisdom. The book features advice on how to cultivate and maintain mental and physical awareness, which includes instructions on postures, breathing, rejection of the sensory world, and above all the recollection of the ultimate goal: nirvana.

Buddhist Meditation is considered by many to be a classic text. It’s included in the list of suggested books to read at the end of Ram Dass’ seminal spiritual book Be Here Now, which is where I probably first heard of it. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I had hoped I would. It’s a very dry read. All in all I found it to be a bit esoteric and unhelpful, frankly, which was a disappointment because I think it probably contains helpful information that I would benefit from putting to use in my own meditation practice, but I just couldn’t get past the writing style to those nuggets of wisdom.

I did finish reading this book, and I even highlighted some of the pages. There were some parts that I really liked, and on the whole I have a positive opinion of it. Maybe it’ll be good review material in 20 years after I’ve learned more about these concepts from more entertaining authors and teachers. While I wouldn’t recommend Buddhist Meditation to most people, if you consider yourself to be really interested in Buddhism and want to learn more about the role of meditation in this tradition, then maybe you’ll appreciate it. Anyone else should probably steer clear and pick out a more accessible book on the topic.

3/5 stars. 192 pages.