Pūjemi Buddhaṃ / dhammaṃ / saṅghaṃ kusumen’ anena
Puññena-m-etena ca hotu mokkhaṃ.
Pupphaṃ milāyāti yathā idam me
Kāyo tathā yāti vināsa-bhāvaṃ.
Through the merit of honouring the Triple Gem may there be Freedom. As these flowers are fading away, so this body of mine is moving towards dissolution.
It is with sadness that we inform you of the death of Lance Cousins at the age of 72. We understand that Lance died at 01:40 a.m. on Saturday 14th March in Oxford. Lance will be known to many as a teacher of great wisdom and skill; many will also have benefited from the generous way in which he shared his deep experience and learning by way of comment and advice.
Lance was a founding member of the Samatha Trust and a much respected teacher of samatha meditation. He will be remembered by many as a true paṇḍita.
A Day of Remembrance
was held was held for Lance Cousins at the Manchester Centre For Buddhist Meditation
on Saturday 13th June 2015
It is customary in many Buddhist countries to perform memorial chanting 3 months after a person has died. The first part of the day will involved chanting by Buddhist monks from different traditions as well as by Samatha meditators. Later, there was a meeting and informal gathering for Samatha meditators, their family and friends.
Around 120 people attended the event in Manchester. Monks and nuns chanted in four styles - Thai, Sri Lanknan, Samatha and Forest Tradition. At the same time samatha meditators across US, who had known Lance, individually practised at the same time during the meeting in Manchester - at least one group sat together in Maryland. On the following day a TV programme about Lance Cousins with some reminiscences by Sri Lankan friends and scholars was broadcast in Sri Lanka. The video can be found at the bottom of this page.
Paul Dennison, Nai Boonman and Lance Cousins at Greenstreete
Aniccā vata saṅkhārā, uppādavayadhammino.
Uppajjitvā nirujjhanti, tesaṃ vūpasamo sukho
(Mahāparinibbāna-sutta, Dīgha-nikāya 2.3, 221)
Impermanent indeed are all formations, by nature arising and passing away.
Having arisen, they cease; their calming brings happiness.
The funeral took place on Saturday 28th March, with a cremation at Oxford Crematorium, Bayswater Rd OX3 9RZ at 11.15am, in St John's Chapel.
The proceedings were led by the Venerable Dhammasami of the Oxford Buddha Vihara.
The cremation was followed by a gathering in the Haldane Room at Wolfson College, Linton Road, Oxford OX2 6UD from around 12.30.
Dear All Samatha Meditators,
In the name of Honorary President of the Samatha Trust in the UK, I am very sad to know that Lance has died at 72.
He was the first Samatha meditator in the UK. It was in Cambridge University nearly 50 years ago when I started to teach Samatha meditation in Cambridge. He was the trustee for many years and contributed to teach all the time up to his death.
Great merit to Lance,
Lance was one of the few true panditas of modern times and a great spiritual friend to many. Many of us owe him much.
Lama Jampa Thaye
[At 2.00 pm on the day of Lance's funeral (March 28th 2015) Lama Jampa Thaye carried out an initiation of the Shakhyamuni Buddha for his students, dedicated to Lance.
Lance was his academic supervisor remembered with love and respect.]
A tribute from the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies
We announce with deep regret that Lance S. Cousins, Research Fellow of the OCBS, died in Oxford on 14 March 2015.
L.S. Cousins was formerly Senior Lecturer in Comparative Religion (University of Manchester) and a Supernumerary Fellow of Wolfson College (Oxford). Also a former President of the UK Association for Buddhist Studies and of the Pali Text Society His main areas of research concern the history of Buddhist schools, Abhidhamma literature and thought, as well as Pali, Middle Indian and Buddhist Sanskrit textual studies. His publications include 22 articles in periodicals and festschrifts and some edited volumes. To this can be added some 44 book reviews in 15 periodicals. and the section on Buddhism in: John R. Hinnells, _A New Handbook of Living Religions, Blackwell, 1997, pp. 369–444. Eight of his articles have been reprinted in Vols I–IV of Williams, Paul, Buddhism: critical concepts in religious studies, Routledge, London, 2005. In Oxford, he has taught various aspects of Buddhism, mainly in the Theology Faculty and Pali and Middle Indian in the Oriental Faculty. He has also taught Buddhist meditation for many years and is the Founding Chairman of the Samatha Trust and other related organizations.
I was young and without direction. He revealed a path to me. For the first part of my journey he was my kind, wise guide. Now I am older it is still a great adventure.Thank you so much Lance.
Lance Cousins: An Appreciation
Dr. P.D. Premasiri
Emeritus Professor of Pali and Buddhist Studies
University of Peradeniya
I was deeply saddened by the news of the death of Lance Cousins in March 2015. I still have vivid memories of the time I spent with Lance when I first met him at the University of Cambridge in 1965. Two years after my graduation from the University of Peradeniya obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree in Pali, I had the opportunity to spend three years of study at the University of Cambridge. Although the subject chosen for my study was Western Philosophy when I came to know that Lance was a student of Oriental Studies through my Sri Lankan friends who were students at the University of Cambridge at that time, Lance and I became close friends. Since we shared this interest in the study of the Pali language and the profound teachings of the Buddha contained in the ancient scriptures written in that language we developed a lasting academic relationship.
Lance happened to be an active member of the Cambridge Buddhist Society. He took a special interest in persuading me to be an active participant in the activities of the Society. It was mainly through his influence that I came to be introduced to formal instruction in the practice of Samatha meditation organized by the Cambridge Buddhist Society. Thanks to Lance, I continue to this date as a practitioner of Samatha meditation. I still remember the numerous occasions during my three year period of studentship at the Cambridge University when we sat together practicing meditation under the guidance of our teacher, Nai Boonman, and discussing together many profound issues relating to our practice. There were also many occasions when Lance invited me to his home and treated me with extreme hospitality with his wife Barbara.
After I returned home I kept track of Lance’s academic progress especially because my academic involvement too was mainly in the area of Buddhist philosophy. My acquaintance with his academic contributions has unmistakably convinced me of his excellence of scholarship in Pali and Buddhist Studies. I knew him as someone who not only had a deep understanding of the theoretical aspects of Buddhist meditation but also intense practical experience in samatha meditation. I am aware that he shared his knowledge and experience quite widely serving the community as a competent teacher of meditation.
I remember at least three occasions when Lance visited Sri Lanka either on lecture tours or to engage in his research interests. On two of those occasions I had the opportunity to keep him as my honoured guest in my own home. I was happy to organize some years ago a lecture by Lance on Buddhist meditation to the Peradeniya University Buddhist Brotherhood, the principal Buddhist student society at that time. On a subsequent visit a lecture by Lance was arranged by me at the Buddhist Studies Forum of the Department of Pali and Buddhist Studies, of which I was the then president, based on his research relating to newly discovered fragments of the Dãrghàgama in Buddhist Sanskrit. On the same evening he kindly obliged at my request to meet a small group at my home to speak about his insights on Buddhist meditation. His most recent visit to my home was, if I remember right, in the year 2009. Lance greatly relished Sri Lankan cuisine and I am satisfied that on both occasions we hosted him at home my wife and I tried our best to provide him with what is typically Sri Lankan.
With all the fond memories of our close association, I wish in the Buddhist way that Lance Cousings progresses steadily in samsara on the noble Buddhist path and finally attain the bliss of Nibbana.
A message from Venerable Dr. Khammai Dhammasami of Oxford Buddha Vihara
Saturday 13 June 2015
Lance Cousins could be considered a novelty among western Buddhists in that he was a committed Buddhist scholar and at the same time a serious practitioner. Though no longer a novelty these days, it was in the 70s and 80s. However much he wanted to stress the total separation of the two sides of his in his scholarly or practice-related judgements, I like to think that he was conditioned by both, and it was for the better, especially for all his students, at the university or otherwise. In an old Buddhist description, we would say that he was good at both pariyatta (study) and patipatti (practice).
Although he is gone, I believe his spirit will live on in many of the people who gather to remember him today.
I attended one of Lance's Abhdhamma groups, and he gave me advice in a personal crisis. There are children alive because of that !
Lance admonished me 30 years ago. The reverberations are still with me to this day ...... Like quiet thunder !
And so I had to attend Lance's funeral, to pay my respects and deep gratitude for what effect he had on my life.
When Lance really got underway at a Dhamma talk or discussion there was nothing quite like it.
He was unflinching in the way he acted or spoke to help people.
A great man.
A memory from my only meeting with Lance.
Applying the brahma-viharas in daily life.
Use loving-kindnes, compassion, or empathetic joy.
Equanimity is a last resort.
A simple teaching.
So very important.
You found a truth that worked for you. And then by jiminy you made it work.
You lived it. Good on you, mate.
You were tolerant of those who might find a slightly different way. An amused and wary tolerance, but warm in behind.
You truly did explore the depths of the tradition in which you had landed. I’m sorry not to have drunk deeper at your well.
Flashes come to mind. Like when you said the Mahābhārata almost certainly derived from a Prākrit original. But of course!
Some of us cleave to certainty, some take the byways. It’s a rich mix. Your certainty, you old hedgehog, served you well.
Fare well, friend upon the way!
A great scholar, a wise teacher, and a good friend. Words cannot express how much I will miss him.
I didn't know Lance well personally as he had already left Manchester when I started to learn the practice there. But his presence was so strongly felt from the start and I have always been aware of his powerful impact and the gift he has given to so many people including myself. The last talk I heard from him, at Manchester in 2013, was particularly impressive for me. It feels sad that his light is no longer present for us but his legacy lives on in the very fabric of the Samatha organisation, in the way we learn, practice, share and develop. Thank you Lance, go in peace after a life lived well.
It is with great sadness that I have learnt about Lance’s passing away. He seemed so well when I last met him before Christmas at Kate Crosby’s inaugural lecture at King’s College, London, after not having seen him for a long time. In earlier years we used to meet regularly at the Spalding Symposium. In December we spoke for a while and I had the impression that he was in very good shape, serene and happy. I am so sorry that he is now no longer alive. I would love to come to the Oxford funeral but unfortunately I will have to be elsewhere.
I do hope that many friends and like-minded people will be present for this special occasion and commemoration of a fine human being and great scholar whom I will always remember with great respect and admiration. My my deepest sympathies go to his relatives, friends and colleagues.
I knew Lance only for a short time, but what an impression!
New to the tradition and feeling overwhlemed at the Greenstreete celebrations in '12, he sternly reminded me of the importance of faith.
At his final Abhidhamma course I was able to witness the magician in motion. Lance had the ability to make the simplest anecdotes ring profoundly true, allowing things that we knew, or maybe half-knew, to become cemented in place.
I feel fortunate to have met one of the foundations of Samatha.
At a course not long ago I accidentally sat in Lance's special, back-protecting chair at lunchtime. I joked I had done it to 'steal his power'. Of course you couldn't steal anything from Lance because he gave what he knew and what he was freely and generously. He shared a lot of memories with me that time of the early days of Samatha, and Saros, which made a deep impression on me. A unique being, a true friend in the Work, I am so sad I won't see him again.
Lyn Webster Wilde
I was at the Manchester Centre at a time in the 80s when Lance approached me and said “you’re very unhappy aren’t you?” to which I could only say “Yes.” He said nothing but placed his hand on the middle of my back. Heat welled in my chest and I felt elated and uplifted somehow. I knew that it was a taste of how I could turn my life around, if I really worked at it, and my faith in the Practice grew stronger.
After one retreat I attended with Lance as the teacher, he set up a study group on The 32 Marks and this esoteric teaching alone really transformed my practice. He definitely fitted the character of a Universal Monarch, teaching with generosity and kindness wherever it was required.
One condition of the Group Meetings we attended was that when we spoke or contributed we did so without “advertising”. Initially, this was quite perplexing; as an aspiring actress how could I curb that tendency to be an exhibitionist! I came to understand the importance of not showing off or “up staging” in life generally.
Although I have not seen much of Lance over recent years, my impression of him is indelibly etched. He wanted us to be independent, free-thinking and not lose our own birth religious identity.
I am filled with gratitude and admiration that one man should be so generous with his time, wisdom, heart and humour. He boldly went where most are not willing to go, risking being controversial yet only acting from compassion. We can only try to follow his example.
Lance constantly challenged us to be more aware and awake. Thank you!
Lance's passing away is a great loss to the Buddhist world. He benefited many by his sharing his deep knowledge of Buddhism as well as by teaching Samatha meditation practice. He visited Sri Lanka several times, last time to teach a meditation retreat here in Kandy. I and other monks had interesting discussions with him.
He also shared his great understanding of Theravada Buddhism, especially on subtle points of Abhidhamma, with me in relation to my work on the new translation of the Vimuttimagga. His involvement has greatly benefited the translation. Sadly he will not witness its publication later this year.
Sabbe sankhara anicca.
I had the tremendous fortune to have Lance as my meditation teacher for almost 11 years. I wish to honour his treasured memory by helping people in the way that he helped me and others.
You were light in the world Lance, go in peace.
Of the few visits made to Oxford to talk with Lance one particular occasion still shines out beyond the rest.
There was a problem with the posture & the mind was in a quandary....
Do I sit this way or that? With cushions or directly on the ground? Having experienced sitting on the floor in Thailand, could it be possible to work towards that & how?
You asked me to sit and watching with a gentle directness saw within moments what was needed. You suggested an adjustment to legs & feet, a raising of the seat with a cushion. A big smile dawned on my face as I experienced sitting in balance for what felt like the first time ever. The eyes brimmed and sparkled with tears of Joy and a deep gratitude was felt. A gentle inner smile still fills me as I recollect that moment and I thank you deeply Lance.
Thank you Lance for sharing your knowledge, insight and experience with me on so many occasions, doing so with warmth, patience, and often a smile. I truly value the time you spent helping me further develop my Pāli skills, from wrestling Abhidhamma translation at Wolfson to reading Jātakas at your house. I think I learnt something from every single conversation that we had, even from casual chats over coffee at the Spalding Symposium or UKABS conference. I was lucky to have had the chance to meet you, and I will treasure the memories of our interactions.
In 1981 I was looking for a place to learn about and practice Buddhist meditation in Manchester. Little did I know what treasures lay in store for me in a small sitting room in Chorlton. For me, Lance was a master magician. We had our differences, but when I see him in my mind's eye, I see those eyes that were pure starlight and a smile that was as mischievous as anything I have ever known. He was the gatekeeper and guardian of a universe beyond my imaginings. I am full of gratitude for his immense wisdom, compassion and dedication to the Path. His spirit lives on in so many of us who were touched by his brilliance.
I remember the first Samatha meditation class I attended at Manchester University, looking for something (I knew not what) having been searching and not finding.
What I remember most distinctly is that within minutes of this rather strange, softly spoken, bearded man starting to speak, I knew, clearly and deeply, that what was being pointed to in this class was absolutely the way forward.
Over the years Lance has devoted himself, tirelessly, consistently and compassionately to helping whoever he came into contact with find and develop their path.
For me this gift was immeasurable. I am very grateful to have this opportunity to acknowledge this and to express my deepest thanks.
May he go well and in peace.
When you leave the party
A party evening at a student house in the mid 1970s, in Manchester, a city flexing its muscles to be the party capital of the world. We are throwing a party, and this party has been thrown, not given. Aimed ineptly as a fancy dress, it might have thought to provide some crisps, and some food for later if it remembered. Weird creatures from various fantasy realms are lurching through its door. Only the bottles are arriving with the right label.
9 pm. Bottles of Newcastle Brown, cheap wine and other dodgy drinks stare at us like bouncers, waiting for action, and a gorilla is arriving. I think I am an eighteenth-century romantic heroine. I have daringly invited Lance, whom I know as my teacher from meditation classes and groups, and because he has visited us here so often. But a party?
Door bell goes and Keith goes to answer it. Lance beams at us, in his usual dress.
Keith: “Why have you come as yourself?”
Lance: “But I have no self. So I came in what I was wearing.”
By now the dancing has got going. Lance meets a Buddhism student and is laughing in the kitchen discussing some recent critique of the reliability of commentarial sources as evidence of early canonical practice. Oh dear, this is a party. I go and dance…Crisps mostly going or soaked in wine pools.
11 pm. The party has come to life. A girl sits on the stairs, reading someone’s hand. There is a strange acrid smell in one room. Easy Rider and Spider Man are lounging listening to music and staring fixedly at middle distance, commenting occasionally, like people at a cricket match, on each track. Totally far out. Totally uncool. In the main room there is dancing. In the kitchen, everyone is chatting and laughing their fancy-dress selves. But there is Lance, a reminder. He is now in the corner, reliable, interested and, as he arrived, himself. He is standing talking to someone who is very unhappy, attentively listening to the problem and offering advice and help. Each word is noted carefully and taken seriously as new evidence to work with and as a means of understanding. This girl is the centre of his universe at the time, and she is becoming more grounded and back to herself as she speaks.
2 am onwards: Dancers, smokers and boozers all blur together in a huddle with coats and a take-out fish and chips half-finished on the floor. Al Capone has crashed out. A 1950s air-stewardess can’t find her coat. The party burps itself gently itself to sleep.
So I join the group in the kitchen, where Lance and my house-mates are actually having a conversation. Now it is just a small gathering, round the battered kitchen table where we have often sat with him as he drew diagrams, and explained them to us. It is an oasis of attention. There is a real world after all. Someone seems to have found the bread and cheese and avocado and cream cheese we forgot about earlier. A cake has come from somewhere. Deftly practical but intriguing little maps of the mind are emerging on bits of paper, like diagrams on travel brochures: the jhānas, the formless realms, the various stages of stream-entry and onwards. The sunniness of joy, like sun through dappled leaves. The passage through the strange but oddly familiar jungle thicket, where there is the skilful thought-process at the time of rebirth, and the mind peacefully grasps its new birth, like a monkey languidly jumping from one mango tree, so that it can take the new fruit it sees on the next. The Himalayas of the meditator, the formless stages of meditation, through and beyond joy and contentment, until some finer and clearer air opens a whole new view that takes your breath for a moment until the view is seen. The importance of knowing how to find your way back to base camp, where you must recharge, eat, and sleep, finding your feet again. Then a comparison is made with the Tree of Life, for the benefit of those who work on Kabbalah: the way that Malkhut, the earth, absorbs the dead, and guards all seeds, and keeps them safe, so that they can grow again and remember what they store, in order to reflesh it and change, in a new life and new conditions. The fertile Shekinah, the present moment, that takes what has decayed, and makes the melchy compost from which the new can find its form. Pete rolls up another cigarette.
So it is those funny bits of paper I remember the best, which remind me of this tree and of the Abhidhamma, and of Lance addressing each in ways that could be understood. The bits of paper hung around for a while in the kitchen afterwards, and we discussed them, clues to destinations unknown. Or perhaps they were known, and forgotten, as he suggested: we just needed to be reminded, and work out our bearings and get the fuel, and the right moment, and we’d find our way back again. And as for me, at this party, I have left the shadows, and the conversation is the centre of some rich and living tree of life, specially for travellers, who have chanced on friends. We want nothing else. More food keeps us going: cake, more bread and cheese, and more tea and coffee. Someone has found a bowl of fruit tucked away in the kitchen. An orange just tastes so orangey.
This time, I suppose, we chat with Lance into the night. But time itself will have dropped off to sleep, like the party, and so the details of that one occasion escape me. They are just hidden in some room somewhere, with other chats with Lance that I forget most of the time and then something brings it back and I find them again…a fresh store cupboard ready to be opened, where things grow, steep, and ripen, until they are there to taste once more. I do remember though, that the ending of the night, and our talks, is always when the dawn comes, reminding us to go to bed. Lance actually refuses another cup, and says he probably ought to be going. We all yawn and laugh as we look at the clock when he has gone. And I remember that after the chats I would wake up the next day feeling full of life.
So until next time, I hope, and the time that someone walks into the kitchen and remembers a bowl of fruit that we somehow have forgotten, and are so pleased to find, though we always knew it was there. And the kettle will go on again, and there will be talk. And there will be more maps, perhaps, and food, and then another night will lead us into dawn.
Sleep well, Lance, and may you find that tranquil place again. You gave to us the normal. And I think those chats showed us not something that was really so strange, but yours and our real home, inside them.
I just heard about the death of Lance Cousins last week. Please accept my condolences and the good wishes of the Amaravati community at what must be a very sad time for you all.
Please pass on my greetings and blessings to everyone in the wider Samatha Centre community. Lance was a visionary leader and exemplary in his commitment to Dhamma practice. He will missed, no doubt, but his legacy in the form of the centres he founded and the encouragement he gave to so many others will live on and continue to touch the lives of multitudes. May the good that he did be a cause for great peace -- Nibbāna paccayo hotu!
All good wishes,
Having met Lance at his home, I was most struck by his compassionate presence, his ability to listen and relate and his stillness.
A truly great being!
With gratitude and appreciation
For 15 years your teaching and kind help had benefitted me so much. Your hospitality was also unforgettable. I was really lucky ...
It began on a Monday morning in December 1977 at the end of my first term at Manchester. I found myself attending the first in a series of lectures on Buddhism that Lance was giving to first-year students taking the Introduction to Comparative Religion course. I still have the notes from that lecture on the life of the Buddha. I knew then that I wanted to learn more from Lance and ten years later found myself finishing a doctoral dissertation written under his supervision. In the preface to the published version I expressed my gratitude to Lance as "a true paṇḍita who first opened my eyes to many things". More than thirty-five years on since that first lecture hardly a day goes by without something reminding me of just how much I owe him, and if it does it is no doubt because of my lack of attention: siddhir astu, śubham astu, may there be success, may there be good fortune.
Lance loved Samatha. Love makes everything grow.
Lance was in inspiration to both my Dhamma practice and my life as an academic focusing on Buddhist Studies. In the early 70’s his activities also brought me into contact with other inspiring Buddhist speakers, as well as Buddhist thought, and practice. His firm, gentle and probing guidance helped keep my philosophical mind earthed and my heart facing in the right direction.
My initially sporadic practice of meditation put down deep roots because of his example and guidance. Meeting him was typically like meeting a mirror that helped one see oneself and see what needed to be done. Prompts and suggestions were given briefly, to be understood as one worked with them.
In recent years, when I mentioned I had the basis of many samatha meditation talks on my computer, he suggested I put these together in a book for meditators, as I have tried to do.
Lance’s way of being a scholar of Buddhism inspired me to resolve to seek to take a similar route. As other scholars have found, he was tremendously helpful, giving detailed feedback on a draft of my introduction to Buddhism book, and suggesting topics that I then explored in depth. He was a guiding hand at the time when Ian Harris and I started the UK Association for Buddhist Studies, and in its early years, as its first President.
He was very active on Buddhist discussion lists, such as Buddha-L, and I remember when we were at a conference in Hawaii, an American scholar, on meeting him in the flesh, said, with a big smile of welcome and gratitude, ‘Ah, so you’re Lance Cousins!’.
What a debt I owe to this amazing man – kind of my Dhamma-father.
Every day at least one of Lance's wise, droll, deceptively simple bits of advice pops into my mind at some apposite moment. A problem? 'Try something. If it doesn't work, try something different.' Loss? 'Say to yourself, "Things come, and things go."' Buddhism? 'Buddhism is whatever works.' Asked if you're a Buddhist? 'The Buddha was not a Buddhist. I try to follow his example.' We have been in the presence of one of the great teachers, all the more so because he was so unobtrusive. Thank you Lance.
I was rather in awe of Lance when I first met him at the Samatha class in Cambridge in 1969. One day, he came over to talk to me and I felt apprehensive, wondering what words of wisdom he would utter, and whether I'd be able to grasp them.
'Do you and your friend like curry?' he asked.
An invitation to dinner ensued, and a friendship - often playfully argumentative! - also followed.
It was Lance who first showed me the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, too, and opened up what became my main path of study. I am grateful for that. In the last couple of years, he was also very helpful to our 'Saros Roots' project, in offering and checking information that we had about the early phases of Kabbalistic groups in London.
Sonnet for Lance.
It feels a bit raw like a cool Greenstreete evening
in Spring or Summer when we're out on our own
it's after tea and Sun soon to be leaving
early into the week so easy to moan...
somewhat down in the dumps not letting it show
here now not at home what performance pretend
how best to proceed when battery quite low
this field so unyielding too tough to transcend
clear eyed compass bearing steer straight ahead
wide awake vision unwilling to waver
continue to walk with consistent tread
spread Love shed Light without fear or favour
for a job well done joy and no regrets
so fortunate we friends who won't forget
21st+22nd March 2015
Lance's death is a great loss. Lance was a long-time (11 years)
contributing member of a Pali listserv group of which I am the owner and
moderator. I forward below the last message he posted to the group which
was just a few days before his death.
----- Original Message -----
From: "'L.S. Cousins'
To: < email@example.com
Sent: March 11, 2015 1:37 AM
Subject: Re: [palistudy] About: Sanskrit & Pāḷi
Dear Huynh Trong Khanh,
The problem is that 'Sanskrit' means several different things:
1. A language (late Vedic) that precedes Pali; Pali has developed from
that or something similar.
2. A language from the centuries before or after the Christian Era which
has developed from the same roots as Pali and often contains evidence
relevant to understanding older Pali.
3. The classical Sanskrit mostly from later in the first millennium.
1 and 2 can be used (together with Prakrit material) as evidence for
understanding Pali words and grammar. It is a kind of shorthand, if we
say that such Pali words or grammar 'come from Sanskrit'.
3. is a direct influence on later Pali. This is not in question. Many
Pali works from this time refer to Sanskrit authors and some are a kind
of reworking of older Sanskrit texts. They do not conceal this, although
they do not always emphasize it. So, yes. There is clear evidence of
Do you need to learn Sanskrit to study Pali ? It depends on what you
want to do.
The retreat in Northern Ireland last summer was my chance to experience Dhamma teachings from Lance. His breadth of knowledge, depth of wisdom and experience, and capacity for compassion is awesome, in the traditional sense of the word. It felt healing to be in that straight, open presence of his and also to share the joyful twinkle in his eye. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity, though brief, in this life, to be his student.
I have known Lance since the 70's in Manchester and he was central to Samatha for me, a driving force of the very foundations. I can see his quizzical look as I write this. Will greatly miss his living presence.
I want to recall one of Lance's many contributions to the former Buddha-l list (USA), dated May 11, 2013. This excerpt is about dialects in Greater Maagadha and their relation to Pali.
"Joanna wrote: Didn't the Buddha speak Magadhi?
Well, no. We don't know what precise dialect the Buddha spoke. Any guess would depend on what was the date when one thinks the Buddha lived and whether the dialects spoken in Māgadha proper, Kosala and among the Sakkas, were exactly the same. And whether the Buddha spoke only one dialect.
The standard epigraphical language used in the Gangetic plain and beyond in the last centuries B.C. and a little after was a form of Middle Indian rather close to Pali. We have no reason to believe that any other written language existed in that area at that time. Like Pali it is eclectic with word-forms originally from different dialectics and also with no standardized spelling (as was probably originally the case for Pali). So the first Buddhist texts written down in that area should have been in that form. Since the enlarged kingdom of Magadha eventually extended over nearly the whole Gangetic plain, that language was probably called the language of Magadha, if it had a name. And that of course is the correct name of the Pali language.
Pali is essentially a standardized and slightly Sanskritized version of that language. Māgadhī is a language described by the Prakrit grammarians and refers to a written dialect that developed later (early centuries A.D. ?) from the spoken dialect in some part of 'Greater Magadha'.
In effect, then, Pali is the closest we can get to the language spoken by the Buddha. And it cannot have been very different — we are talking about dialect differences here, not radically distinct languages."
His insights will be greatly missed.
I did not know Lance personally (my loss), but his peerless scholarship influenced me greatly. My condolences to his friends and family.
Lance at a naming ceremony in 1976
A German Wkipedia page has been started here: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lance_S._Cousins
1973 – now
I was on no path.
Knowing transient footfalls
Lance showed me the Way.
TJ, Sunday, 22 March 2015
A delightfully argumentative man who greatly enjoyed debate and Sunday pub lunches. Lance taught me much over many years, not least of which was a strange practice called meditation. I shall miss greatly his light and guidance.
If you had not shown me the way, I would never have known what needed to be done, let alone how to go about doing it.
Looking back, I find it hard to count the many different occasions on which you touched my life – often at key moments of choice and decision – always very lightly and with scrupulous restraint, not ever interfering, but also never failing to direct me towards the cause of my suffering and, beyond that, the path to freedom.
Of the many gifts you gave me, perhaps the greatest of all was your gift of equanimity. Your teachings were opportunities to be taken, or missed, never a burden imposed. So I am grateful above all for your willingness simply to offer and let go, asking nothing back; for your clear recognition of my particular brand of suffering as neither more nor less than that; and for your unqualified acceptance, without pity or condemnation, of me as the inheritor of my deeds and the maker of my own future.
You pointed the way. It is for us to continue. Right effort!
I remember when I first met Lance: a retreat in upstate New York, more than ten years ago. This was my first Samatha strict practice, and I was still new to it all, though I was already smitten.
It was summer, but the weather was unseasonably cold and wet. We were staying in a house on the far side of a lake, accessible only by boat, completely isolated. The plumbing broke in a dramatic fashion. We spent a remarkable amount of time chopping wood in the pouring rain, to feed the fireplace that provided our only source of warmth.
But in the midst of these troubles, Lance's teaching was simply otherworldly. It felt as if he had opened some gateway through which we all were traveling.
Late one night in the middle of the soggy, frigid week, I lie in my tent, exhausted and sore, vaguely listening to the haunting loon calls. Uncannily, I found that I knew, I *knew* the exact moments when the loons would call. For almost an hour I lie there saying, "Now." And a bird would croon its haunting call. Over and over again. It wasn't anything I was doing, it was just happening on its own. Perhaps I was already asleep. Perhaps after all the intense physical labor and meditation, my mind created a fantasy. Perhaps it really happened. I really didn't know.
I spent the next day considering this. At dinner that evening, I told the group. I looked to Lance and asked, "What was that?" He silently stared at me with his intense scrutiny that would have chilled anyone to the bone, were it not tempered - just enough - with pure, spot-on metta. Lance's signature look.
"What do you think it was?"
"I'm not sure. I've never had an experience like that. All I can guess is...magic." I was flush and sheepish.
"Magic. Yes, yes it was." He nodded and returned to his meal.
I would continue to learn from Lance and share my practice with him in the years that followed. Our relationship deepened and nuanced. Other odd, amazing things happened. It's Samatha, after all. But I never forgot this early moment. In my memory, he will always be this magical, wise, piercing, yet unexpectedly tender teacher.
May we all pursue skillful practice, offering merit for all he has given. May he attain nibbana.
I had the enormous privilege of working with Lance over many years at the Samatha Centre in Manchester (as it was originally known). I first met him as an undergraduate philosophy student, when he generously allowed me to sit in on his classes on Abhidhamma and Nagarjuna, held at his house in Withington. I was not enrolled on the courses he taught, but had an interest in learning from a practitioner, as it was well known amongst his students that Lance taught meditation and often spent the long summer vacations in retreat abroad. When I eventually began meditation classes in the Samatha Centre in Chorlton, he advised that I drop all study and practice stilling the mind for at least a year. Eventually I had access to his group work, and came to witness and benefit from his extraordinary skill as a teacher. I do not exaggerate in saying I remain in awe at what he could do, and have no doubt that what I saw and benefited from was just the tip of the ice berg. His insights into people's nature, his unflagging efforts to shift perspectives, and his ability to harness the power of a group to see collectively what they would not be able to see alone, are rare gifts for which many, including myself, have undying gratitude.
I remember another Samatha meditator, who had been involved in the Manchester group long before I joined, relate a conversation he overheard between the Ven. Candavanna, a Cambodian monk associated with Samatha in the 1970s, and another monk. The visiting monk asked Ven. Candavanna, what he thought of this young british meditation teacher. Ven. Candavanna thought awhile and replied, 'He is young, very young.... but old in the Dhamma'.
So The Sun is eaten by the Moon and for a while there is darkness, the Sun reemerges, rejuvenated according to some ancient traditions, so it goes.
They say that for a Path to have value there must be at least “One who Knows’ within the tradition that teaches that Path. Lance Cousins was for many of us that One. There was great comfort in knowing that we had access to a friend that one could approach and investigate the most difficult questions across the whole spectrum of being.
Lance’s Being was of the highest order and this was reflected in his deep and profound wisdom.
That One has now gone from our lives and I for one will deem myself the poorer for it, but in his going the is also freedom. His final gift.
That knowing smile, with compassion and understanding; never reprove. Saying just enough to a difficult arrogant student so as not to raise his ire. That how he patiently taught me for 35 years. I must have done something really good in my past life, for I am "unteachable" and met a very skillful trainer: Dhamma.
Keng Soon Low
You spoke so much with silence.
Thank you for your inspirational teaching, and thank you for the teachers who follow you.
Very many thanks due to Lance for showing me a path to a way.
I remember with gratitude your guidance and compassion. Your teaching had and continues to have a great impact on my practice. Thank you.
I have known Lance for 35 years at Manchester and Greensteete.
He was always watching me, even when he was not there
- Great Compassion-
He gave many porridge day retreat courses which helped to changed many people.
There are tears in my eyes but a smile in my heart
Thank you for teaching us Abhidhamma this winter. I feel so privileged that I had that experience. It was sometimes challenging, often intense, absolutely insightful, and so full of warmth. I will remember how we crowded into the room, listening to you, and each other, as you helped us take ownership of those ideas.
I feel the loss of your presence amongst us, but I also feel nurtured by this community that you did so much to help build. The strength of Samatha is your gift to us – to me. Thank you, Lance.
Thank you Lance for your encouragement to practise, and practise, and practise.
I only had a fleeting interaction with Lance but I will always remember him.
You exemplified generosity through your teaching.
I will remember you so radiant during our recent course.
So alert and earnest.
A unique blend of great kindness and great honesty.
A very wise man with a timid and boyish side.
You will be greatly missed Sir…
May we honour you as you deserve!
Lance receiving the Honourary Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Buddhist Studies from The Mahamakut Buddhist University, Bangkok
Although I did not know him, I'm grateful to recieve the fruits of his endevour through the sangha of Samatha in Pembrokeshire and Greenstreete.
Lance freely shared his great knowledge and insight. I am grateful to have listened to him and sad we will hear him no more.
Lance was unique in seeing early on many of the supporting conditions and activities that would lead to a balanced and fruitful spiritual development at a time when Dharma was relatively new to the U.K.
Early on many approaches had begun with a partial view of Buddhist Practise.At the Samatha Centre I had the opportunity to experience for myself the importance of the range of activities that could support balanced cultivation and development
Establishing these opportunities took a very special kind of Wisdom and I have remained grateful.
Lance watching a quarterstaffing demonstration with Nai Boonman at Greenstreete in August 2012
An enormous thank you to Lance for showing me the path.
Our recent meeting was full of joy and your kind reminiscences.
Thank You Lance for being my guide and my friend. With boundless hope that I can honour your teaching and that my tears will turn to Wisdom, xx.
I met Lance just once - last year at the week long Strict Practice in Northern Ireland. He made a significant impact on me and my practice. His talks in the evenings were rivetingly interesting and to the point. His ability to relate to your practice during reports was very "human", helpful and challenging. I was amazed at his ability to talk, one evening, on a subject given to him by the audience; he did it without preparation and did it without hesitation. Even though I didn't really know him, I will miss his presence.
The first time I saw Lance was at a talk he gave in a Cambridge college.
It was lunchtime and many students and lecturers had attended.
His lecture on meditation was simple and to the point, and his answers to questions had insight,precision and honesty. I remember leaving with the impression that everybody including myself had left with more awareness.
He will be missed.
Q: Is it true that some in some aeons there is one Buddha and some aeons there are five?
Lance: Some aeons there is one Buddha, some aeons there are two Buddhas, some aeons there are three Buddhas, some aeons there are four Buddhas and some aeons there are five Buddhas. Many many, many many many aeons with no Buddha!
I met him...he opened the door for many...
I was very sad to hear this news. I first got to know Lance nearly 50 years ago, when he was still a graduate student at Cambridge. He was my first real teacher in relation to Buddhist studies and much else, a generous scholar with an original and creative mind, and he has been a true friend over very many years. I shall miss him greatly, and I am sure that many others will do so also.
More tributes to Lance and some links
English Wikipedia Entry