Meditation Sickness and the Ethics of Buddhist Studies

Date: 22 November 2021

Time: 5:00PM (GMT)

Speaker: Dr. Pierce Salguero (Penn State University’s Abington College)

Abstract: Why does a certain percentage of people experience psychotic breaks or other adverse mental and physical side-effects from practicing meditation? Are these the symptoms of improper practice or an unavoidable part of spiritual cultivation? In either case, the phenomenon that centuries-old Buddhist texts called "meditation sickness" is now amply documented in contemporary scientific literature. Writings from medieval China not only identify the mental and physical symptoms that can arise in the course of meditation practice, but also explain why these pathologies arise and how they can be effectively treated. Might these materials contain important therapeutic information that is relevant for meditators today? The possibility is tantalizing, but we Buddhist studies scholars find ourselves in a predicament. We are the only people who can translate these premodern texts for contemporary audiences and interpret them in light of modern medical theories. But will our professional norms and disciplinary identities let us help?

About the speaker: Dr. Pierce Salguero is a transdisciplinary humanities scholar who is fascinated by historical and contemporary intersections between Buddhism, medicine, and crosscultural exchange. He holds a Ph.D. in History of Medicine from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (2010), and teaches Asian history, medicine, and religion at Penn State University’s Abington College, located near Philadelphia.

The major theme in his scholarship is discovering the role of Buddhism in the global transmission and local reception of knowledge about health, disease, and the body. He approaches this topic using methodologies from history, religious studies, translation studies, and literary studies. More recently, He has gotten into ethnography and documentary filmmaking as well.

This lecture series is generously sponsored by Lingyin Temple, Hangzhou, China.

Attendance free. Advance registration required.

Everyone is welcome to attend.

For the registration of this event, please see here: