Contemplative Literature

A Comparative Sourcebook on Meditation and Contemplative Prayer

Edited by Louis Komjathy

Subjects: Religion, Contemplative Studies
Paperback : 9781438457062, 848 pages, July 2016
Hardcover : 9781438457055, 848 pages, September 2015

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Table of contents

Part I. Approaching Contemplative Practice
1. Approaching Contemplative Practice
Louis Komjathy
2. Contemplative Traditions
Louis Komjathy
Part II. Contemplative Traditions
3. Daoist Apophatic Meditation: Selections from the Classical Daoist Textual Corpus
Harold D. Roth
4. Quaker Silent Prayer: A Guide to True Peace
Michael Birkel
5. Jewish Kabbalah: Hayyim Vital’s Shaarei Kedusha
Shaul Magid
6. Southern Buddhist Meditation: The Ānāpānasati Sutta
Sarah Shaw
7. Sufi Contemplation: ‘Abdullah Shah’s Suluk-i Mujaddidiyya
Arthur F. Buehler
8. Eastern Orthodox Prayer: The Rasskaz strannika
John Anthony McGuckin
9. Mahāyāna Buddhist Visualization: The Guan wuliang shoufo jing
Kenneth K. Tanaka
10. Hindu Classical Yoga: Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtras
Edwin F. Bryant
11. Roman Catholic Prayer: The Novem modi orandi sancti Dominici
Paul Philibert
12. Daoist Internal Alchemy: Liu Huayang’s Huiming jing
Louis Komjathy
13. Therapeutic Meditation: Herbert Benson’s The Relaxation Response
Louis Komjathy
14. Techniqueless Meditation: J. Krishnamurti’s This Light in Oneself
Constance A. Jones

Part III. Reapproaching Contemplative Practice
15. Comparative Reflections
Louis Komjathy
Appendix: Toward a Technical Glossary of Contemplative Studies
About the Contributors

An anthology of primary texts on meditation and contemplative prayer from a wide range of religious traditions.


This is the first theoretically informed and historically accurate comparative anthology of primary texts on meditation and contemplative prayer. Written by international experts on the respective texts and corresponding traditions, Contemplative Literature provides introductions to and primary sources on contemplative practice from various religious traditions. The contributors explore classical Daoist apophatic meditation, Quaker silent prayer, Jewish Kabbalah, Southern Buddhist meditation, Sufi contemplation, Eastern Orthodox prayer, Pure Land Buddhist visualization, Hindu classical Yoga, Dominican Catholic prayer, Daoist internal alchemy, and modern therapeutic meditation. Each introduction to a contemplative text discusses its historical context, the associated religious tradition and literature, the method of contemplative practice, and the text's legacy and influence. Volume editor Louis Komjathy opens the work with a thoughtful consideration of interpretive issues in the emerging interdisciplinary field of contemplative studies. Readers will gain not only a nuanced understanding of important works of contemplative literature, but also resources for understanding contemplative practice and contemplative experience from a comparative and cross-cultural perspective.

Louis Komjathy is Associate Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of San Diego. He has published several books, including Daoism: A Guide for the Perplexed and The Way of Complete Perfection: A Quanzhen Daoist Anthology, also published by SUNY Press.


"This collection … offers a rich, detailed trove of information from around the world on the contemplative practices and literatures of meditation and prayer … The volume will be an excellent resource for libraries supporting seminary and religious studies programs … Highly recommended. " — CHOICE

"We have not seen anything this bold and this global since Friedrich Heiler wrote his classic study on the typology of prayer over eighty years ago. Komjathy and his essayists have vastly expanded the scope, depth, and sophistication of this project here. In the process, they have struggled with all of the critical questions around religious pluralism, tradition, and religious authority, and have emboldened the comparative project itself. Contemplation and comparison, it turns out, go very well together. " — Jeffrey J. Kripal, author of Comparing Religions: Coming to Terms

"Teachers and scholars, undergraduate and graduate students, and general readers interested in contemplative practice will cherish a book like this. I'm happy that Louis Komjathy has done this great work. It will undoubtedly be hailed as a milestone. " — Ruben L. F. Habito, author of Healing Breath: Zen for Christians and Buddhists in a Wounded World