Sharon Salzberg

The work of Sharon Salzberg

Who is Sharon Salzberg?

Sharon Salzburg is a best-selling author who has written extensively on the subject of Eastern philosophy, specifically Buddhism. Much of her work has been focused on explaining aspects of Buddhism to a Western audience. She has written and taught a great deal on the subject of meditation, for instance. In 1974, Salzberg was one of the founders of the Insight Meditation Society, located at Barre in the US state of Massachusetts, a group she initially formed with Jack Kornfield, a teacher of the vipassana movement in American, and Joseph Goldstein. Salzberg would later go on to create the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies in 1989, again with Goldstein. In the mid-1990s she also established a long-term meditation retreat centre, again in Barre. However, it is for her writing that she is best known, not least for her 1995 publication, 'Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness'.

 When was Sharon Salzberg born?

The daughter of a Jewish family living in New York, Sharon Salzberg was born on August 5th in 1952. Her family suffered a breakdown in her formative years, and her father departed the family home when she was only four years of age. Just five years later, her mother died, and she ended up living with her paternal grandparents. At the age of 11, Salzberg's father suffered an overdose for which he was hospitalised, something that had an impact on her as she grew up. During her university career at Buffalo, Salzberg took a course on Asian philosophy which led to a lifetime's fascination with Buddhism.

What does Sharon Salzberg have to teach about Buddhism?

Due to her exposure to new ideas at university, Sharon Salzberg decided to travel to India in the early 1970s. Her direct experience of intensive meditation at that time informed many of her subsequent interpretations of Buddhism. She attended Bodh Gaya, a religious site and a place of pilgrimage in Bihar which is said to be the location where the Buddha achieved Enlightenment. Partly due to this experience, her work has centred on concepts like vipassana, or insight, and metta, which is usually translated as loving-kindness. Broadly speaking her approach with both of these methods relies on meditation. As such, she has been staging meditation retreats and advocating for their usefulness across the globe with her writing and face-to-face teaching.

What honours has Sharon Salzberg won?

In 1999, Sharon Salzberg was commended by the New York Open Center for what they described as her outstanding contribution to the mindfulness of the West. She has also been appointed as a panellist at the prestigious Investigating the Mind Conference. Sharon Salzberg is also a frequent contributor to O Magazine.

Which books by Sharon Salzberg should you read?

If you want to find out more about meditation and loving-kindness, then any of the publications by Sharon Salzberg will be a good departure point. Of particular interest may be 'The Force of Kindness: Change Your Life with Love and Compassion', first published in 2006 or 'Voices of Insight' from 2001. 'Lovingkindness Meditation' is an audiobook worth listening to which first came out in 2005.

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Meditation refers to a variety of mental exercises which have their origin in ancient times and became increasingly popular in the western world over the last decades. While meditating, we practice different kinds of focus to achieve a more mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state. Meditative practices were developed as part of the path towards enlightenment, self-realisation and the end of suffering. There are various types of meditation, such as focused attention, or mindfulness meditation, which is the most widely studied form of meditation in modern science. Metta or loving-kindness meditation is another example of focused attention. Other forms of meditation are the chanting of mantras or transcendental meditation.
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