Dharma Contemplation

Dharma Contemplation was developed to support contemplative access to the Buddha’s early teachings (Pāli Canon).

Many people have found the suttas difficult to approach. Technical terminology, cultural references, and obscure language can get in the way. And the texts themselves are challenging, questioning cherished assumptions about life’s direction and meaning.

The practice of Dharma Contemplation provides would-be readers of the suttas with an accessible doorway into this rich vein of wisdom. Just as we can experience the intimate and insightful dialogue with a good friend or teacher, we can do so with the Buddha via his legacy in a remarkably direct way: human to human, in direct contact with the wisdom texts.

Although it can be practiced individually, Dharma Contemplation, like Insight Dialogue, was developed as a relational meditation practice. The Dharma Contemplation process has similarities with the Christian tradition of Lectio Divina, the layers of knowledge (patisambhida) described in Theravada Buddhist tradition and other reflective reading practices. Participants begin by contemplating a short excerpt from the Buddha’s teachings and over the course of five distinct practice phases engage with the text and one another, speaking the truth and listening deeply. Participants move from engagements with just the words of the text, then to the emotional resonances, it evokes. This leads to a cognitive investigation of the meaning, discernment of its essence, and finally, setting the text aside to engage in an exploration of present moment experience: how has this life been touched by the Buddha’s words.

Dharma Contemplation has been practiced in teacher-led retreats, in local peer-facilitated groups, and online via videoconference. For more information about Dharma Contemplation, including guidance on how to introduce the practice to a new or existing group, please download Gregory Kramer’s book, Dharma Contemplation: Meditating Together with Wisdom Texts. An outline of the Dharma Contemplation phases and Sample Texts are also available. Videos about the practice can be accessed here.

Practice Phases

Selecting Texts