In the Mirror of Memory

Reflections on Mindfulness and Remembrance in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism

Edited by Janet Gyatso

Subjects: Comparative Religion
Series: SUNY series in Buddhist Studies
Paperback : 9780791410783, 316 pages, October 1992
Hardcover : 9780791410776, 316 pages, October 1992

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents


Janet Gyatso

Memories of the Buddha
Donald S. Lopez, Jr.

Smrti in the Abhidharma Literature and the Development of Buddhist Accounts of Memory of the Past
Padmanabh S. Jaini

The Omission of Memory in the Theravadin List of Dhammas: On the Nature of Sanna
Nyanaponika Thera

Mindfulness and Memory: The Scope of Smrti from Early Buddhism to the Sarvastivadin Abhidharma
Collett Cox

Memory in Classical Indian Yogacara
Paul J. Griffiths

Buddhist Terms for Recollection and Other Types of Memory
Alex Wayman

The Matikas: Memorization, Mindfulness, and the List
Rupert Gethin

Letter Magic: A Peircean Perspective on the Semiotics of Rdo Grub-chen's Dharani Memory
Janet Gyatso

Commemoration and Identification in Buddhanusmrti
Paul Harrison

The Amnesic Monarch and the Five Mnemic Men: "Memory" in Great Perfection (Rdzogs-chen) Thought
Matthew Kapstein

Remembering Resumed: Pursuing Buddhism and Phenomenology in Practice
Edward S. Casey





This book studies the diverse array of species of memory in Buddhism. Contributors focus on a particular school, group of texts, terms, or practices and identify a considerable range of types of mnemonic faculties in Buddhism. Included are discussions of Buddhist teaching, meditation, visualization, prayer, commemoration of the Buddha, dhārani practice, the use of mnemonic lists to condense lengthy scriptures, and the purported recollection of infinite previous lives that immediately preceded Sakyamuni's attainment of Buddhahood. Even enlightened awareness itself is said by some Buddhist schools to consist in a "mnemic engagement" with reality as such.

The authors explore Buddhist views on mundane acts of memory such as recognizing, reminding, memorizing, and storing data as well as special types of memory that are cultivated in religious practice. One of the most striking discoveries is that perception is intimately related to certain types of memory. Several essays investigate if, and if so, how, meditative mindfulness and recollection of the past—both of which can be designated by the term smrti—are connected within the Buddhist tradition. The question of whether recollection of the past can be explained without violating the foundational Buddhist notions of radical impermanence and no-self is addressed by several of the contributing scholars.

Among the primary sources for the studies in this volume are the northern and southern Abhidharma literature, the Mātkās, Pāli and Mahāyāna sūtras, works of the Buddhist logicians, Yogācāra materials, the Tibetan Great Perfection (Rdzogschen) tradition, and Indian and Tibetan commentarial works. Affinities of Buddhist views on memory with those found in Western phenomenology, semiology, psychology, and history of religions are considered as well.

Janet Gyatso is Assistant Professor of Religion at Amherst College.


"Gyatso has put together a collection written by some of the indisputably top-ranking people in the field. All the contributors are internationally recognized scholars, and the level of their essays is uniformly very high: scholarly, erudite, but above all pioneering, fresh, original. The collection is thought-provoking and challenging, yet deeply responsible and responsive to the tradition of textual interpretation. It is very interesting, gripping from beginning to end. " — David M. Levin, Northwestern University