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Lance Selwyn Cousins (7 April 1942 – 14 March 2015), was a leading scholar in the field of Buddhist Studies. Born in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, he studied history and oriental studies at Cambridge University, and took up a post in the Department of Comparative Religion at Manchester University as lecturer and then senior lecturer. After early retirement in the 1990s he settled in Oxford and continued to publish scholarly papers and reviews[1] including a widely cited historical summary such as "The Dating of the Historical Buddha: A Review article," which was published in The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society.[2] He was a Fellow at Wolfson College University of Oxford and part of the faculty at the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies. Prior to this, he was briefly President (2002/3) of the Pali Text Society (PTS). Professor Richard Gombrich once described him as the leading authority in the West in the field of abhidhamma.[3]

L. S. Cousins
Lance Selwyn Cousins.jpg
Lance Selwyn Cousins, 2012.
Born7 April 1942
Hitchin, Great Britain
Died14 March 2015 (aged 72)

Cousins helped establish the Pali Canon on the web and assisted many publications being involved with a breadth of translations from Pali to English himself. He had completed two books by the time of his death that are likely to be published soon.[citation needed]

He received several awards including honorary professorships incorporating recognition of his contributions from among other places the Mahamakut Buddhist University, Bangkok, Thailand in 2013.

In addition to his academic work, he was also a teacher of Buddhist meditation in a Thai samatha tradition being a founder member of the Samatha Trust and the Samatha Association. He commenced samatha classes under Nai Boonman in 1963 at Hampstead. He was instrumental in founding the Cambridge University Buddhist Society and its samatha class in the 1960s. When he moved to Manchester in 1967, he started the Manchester University Buddhist Society and the class there that lead to the beginning of several similar classes in the rest of the UK and the eventual establishment of the Manchester Centre for Buddhist Meditation in Chorlton. He was an influential teacher and conducted several retreats incorporating the UK, particularly at the Samatha Centre, Greenstreete farm in Wales, The USA, Ireland and Sri Lanka.[4]

‘Lance Cousins: An Obituary, Appreciation and Bibliography’, published in Buddhist Studies Review vol.32, no.1, 2015, can be accessed at:



Book-length publicationsEdit

His book-length publications primarily revolved around work on Pali texts, translations and translators:

1974. Buddhist Studies in Honour of I.B.Horner, ed. L .Cousins, A. Kunst and K.R. Norman. Dordrecht, Holland, D. Reidel Publishing Co.

1979. Revised reprint with indexes, and list of some variant readings, of the Aṭṭhasālinī ed. E. Müller (1897). London, Pali Text Society, pp. 432–510.

1992. Special Issue in honour of K.R. Norman, Indo-Iranian Journal, ed. Cousins et al, 35 (2 & 3).

1995. Mahāniddesa Part III (index volume). Oxford, Pali Text Society.

1996. The Dispeller of Delusion (Sammohavinodanī), 2 vols, trans. Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli, extensively revised for publication, with annotations and index, by L.S. Cousins, Nyanaponika Mahāthera and C.M.M. Shaw. Oxford, Pali Text Society.

1999. Reverse Index to the Mahāniddesa, with Y. Ousaka and M. Yamazaki, digital edition:

He was also working in the early 2000s with Somadeva Vasudeva, a visiting scholar from Kyoto University, on transliterating a number of sūtras of a newly discovered Dīrgha Āgama, including a fragment on when the consumption of meat is not appropriate for a monk. At the time of his death, he was preparing for publication: i) a collection of lectures relating to meditation, to be edited by Sarah Shaw, and ii) a translation of the Yamaka commentary and, with Charles Shaw, of the Yamaka. The first third of the latter has now been published: The Book of Pairs and its Commentary: A translation of the Yamaka and Yamakappakaraṇaṭṭhakathā, Vol I (2018), tr. C.M.M. Shaw and L.S. Cousins. It includes Lance’s translation of the relevant portion of the ancient commentary, the Pañcappakaraṇa-aṭṭhakathā and is intended as the first of a planned three-volume translation of the whole Yamaka and its commentary.

His publications, though, were primarily in the form of incisive and original articles, the quality of which is reflected in the fact that in Buddhism: Critical Concepts in Religious Studies, an eight-volume collection of influential articles on Buddhism, edited by Paul Williams (New York: Routledge, 2005), eight of the 110 entries are by Lance Cousins: three more than any other author. These are: ‘Pali Oral Literature’, ‘The Dating of the Historical Buddha: a review article’ (in vol. 1); ‘Buddhist Jhāna: Its Nature and Attainment according to the Pali sources’; ‘The “Five Points” and the Origins of the Buddhist schools’; ‘Person and Self’ (in vol. 2); ‘Sākiyabhikkhu/Sakyabhikkhu/Śākyabhikṣu: A Mistaken link to the Mahāyāna?’ (in vol. 3); ‘The Paṭṭhāna and the Development of the Theravādin Abhidhamma’, and ‘Nibbāna and Abhidhamma’ (in vol. 4).

A list of his publications, other than the above books, is given below. Their titles give an indication of the focuses of his scholarship: Pali literature, Buddhist history, especially early Buddhist schools, Abhidhamma and meditation.


All the following are downloadable from, unless otherwise stated.

Pali literatureEdit

1972. ‘Dhammapāla and the Ṭika Literature’, Religion, 2, pp. 159–165: a review article (of Lily de Silva’s edition of the ṭīkā to the Dīgha Nikāya), which discusses the relation of the ‘Dhammapāla’ author of commentaries to the ‘Dhammapāla’ author of sub-commentaries.

1983. ‘Pali Oral Literature’, in Buddhist Studies Ancient and Modern, ed. Philip Denwood and Alexander Piatigorsky, London, Curzon Press, and Totowa, N.J., Barnes & Noble, pp. 1–11: on the suttas as showing techniques of improvisation found in other oral literature.

2013. ‘The Early Development of Buddhist Literature and Language in India’, Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, 5, pp. 89–135:

1997. Detailed analytical review article on Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi, The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Majjhima Nikāya, reviewed in Journal of Buddhist Ethics 4, pp. 260–80:

1996. ‘The Dating of the Historical Buddha: a review article’, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 6(1), pp. 57–63: a review of a large conference on this issue.

2003. ‘Sākiyabhikkhu/Sakyabhikkhu/Śākyabhikṣu: a mistaken link to the Mahāyāna?’, Nagoya Studies in Indian Culture and Buddhism: Saṃbhāṣā, 23, pp. 1–27: a critique of this term as signifying a Mahāyānist.

Early Buddhist schoolsEdit

1991. ‘The “Five Points” and the Origins of the Buddhist Schools’ The Buddhist Forum Volume II, ed. Tadeusz Skorupski, London, School of Oriental and African Studies, pp. 27-60: on the points attributed to the Mahāsāṃghika Mahādeva, but originating as earlier Abhidhamma discussion points between the Sarvāstivādins and what were later to become the Theravādins: (An earlier and unrevised version is in: Buddhist Essays : A Miscellany: A Memorial Volume in Honour of Venerable Hammalawa Saddhatissa ed. P. Sorata, L. Perera and K. Goonesena, London, World Buddhist Foundation, 1992, pp. 79–126.)

1994. ‘Person and Self’, in Buddhism into the Year 2000: International Conference Proceedings, (no named editor), Bangkok and Los Angeles: Dhammakaya Foundation, pp. 15–32: on the central idea of the Pudgalavādin schools.

2001. ‘On the Vibhajjavādins: the Mahiṃsāsaka, Dhammaguttaka, Kassapiya and Tambapaṇṇiya branches of the ancient Theriyas’, Buddhist Studies Review, 18(2), pp. 131–82: on early roots of what became the ‘Theravāda’: .

2012. ‘The Teachings of the Abhayagiri School’, in How Theravāda is Theravāda? Exploring Buddhist Identities, ed. Peter Skilling et al, Chiang Mai, Silkworm Books, pp. 67–127: on a Mahāyāna-leaning Sri Lankan fraternity.

2013. ‘Tambapaṇṇiya and Tāmraśāṭiya’, Journal of Buddhist Studies, 11, pp. 21–46: on the ancient Sri Lankan school. ( only has the abstract, but the article is downloadable from:

2017. ‘On the Earliest Buddhist Schools’, in Holy Wealth: Accounting for This World and the Next in Religious Belief and Practice: Festschrift for John R. Hinnells, ed. by Almut Hintze and Alan Williams, 21–48. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.


For Lance Cousins, this is not a dry scholastic literature, but an exploration of subtle relationships and a great aid to practice. Richard Gombrich once described him as the leading authority in the West on Abhidhamma.

1983–4. ‘Nibbāna and Abhidhamma’, Buddhist Studies Review, 1(2), pp. 95–109: an exploration of Nibbāna in the Nikāyas and then how the Abhidhamma systems shared in seeing it as an atemporal, non-spatial unconditioned reality that was neither mind, in the usual sense, nor material:

1981. ‘The Paṭṭhāna and the Development of the Theravādin Abhidhamma’, Journal of the Pali Text Society, 9, pp. 22–46: on how the outlines of the developed Theravādin theory of the citta-vīthi, or the process of perception as a series of specific mind-states, lie in this canonical Abhidhamma text:

2003. ‘Summary of the Abhidhammāvatāra’, in Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies, Vol. IX Buddhist Philosophy from 350 to 600 A.D., ed. Karl Potter, Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass, pp. 217–254. (Not at

2011. ‘Abhidhamma Studies I: Jotipāla and the Abhidhamma Anuṭīkā’, Thai International Journal for Buddhist Studies, 2, pp. 1–36: on a neglected medieval ṭīkā text.

2013 [Buddhist era 2556]. ‘Abhidhamma Studies II: Sanskrit Abhidharma Literature of the Mahāvihāravāsins’, Thai International Journal for Buddhist Studies, 4, pp. 1–61, with a possibly amended version published in 2016 as ‘Sanskrit Abhidharma Literature of the Mahāvihāravāsins’ in Text, History and Philosophy: Abhidharma across Buddhist Scholastic Traditions¸ edited by Bart Dessein and Weijen Teng, 169–222. Leiden: Brill: on the influence of Sri Lankan Abhidhamma ideas in mainland India, especially through the works of Jotipāla (sixth–seventh century). ( only has the abstract.)

2015. Abhidhamma Studies III: Origins of the Canonical Abhidha(r)mma Literature’, Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, 8:

2015. ‘The Case of the Abhidhamma Commentary’, Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, 36-37/1-2 (2013-2014[2015]), pp.389-422: on this literature in general but particularly the Aṭṭhasālinī, whose sources he traces back to the late second century and earlier. (Not at

Forthcoming. ‘The sacca-saṅkhepa and its commentaries’: planned to be published in the Journal of the Pali Text Society.

Buddhist meditationEdit

1973. ‘Buddhist Jhāna: its Nature and Attainment According to the Pali Sources’, Religion, 3, pp. 115–31: a key early study of this meditative state central to samatha meditation, with which he was greatly involved. (A paper of the same title also appears in Medagoda Sumanatissa Felicitation Volume, ed. D. Dorakuṇḍura, C. Wikramagamage and A. Guṇasiṃha, Colombo, Medagoda SumanatissaFelicitation Committee, 1996, pp. 105–116.)

1984. ‘Samatha-yāna and Vipassanā-yāna’ in Buddhist Studies in Honour of Hammalava Saddhatissa, ed. Gatare Dhammapala et al., Nugegoda, Sri Lanka, University of Sri Jayewardenapura, pp. 56-68: a key discussion of the various ways in which samatha and vipassanā meditation can be combined.

1992. ‘Vitakka/vitarka and Vicāra: Stages of Samādhi in Buddhism and Yoga’, Indo-Iranian Journal, 35(2–3), pp. 135-57: on key ingredients of the first jhāna and also certain stages of Patañjali’s yoga.

1996. ‘The Origins of Insight Meditation’ in The Buddhist Forum, Volume 4, ed. Tadeusz Skorupski, London, School of Oriental and African Studies, pp. 35-58: on the relation of samatha and vipassanā in ancient and recent times:

1997. ‘Aspects of Esoteric Southern Buddhism’ in Indian Insights: Buddhism, Brahmanism and Bhakti, ed. Peter Connolly and Sue Hamilton, London, Luzac Oriental, pp. 185–208: an exploration of kinds of Theravāda meditation side-lined in modern times, involving visualisations and use of mantra-like verbal formulae in Pali.

2009. ‘Scholar Monks and Meditator Monks’, in Destroying Māra Forever: Buddhist Ethics Essays

in Honor of Damien Keown¸ ed. John Powers and Charles S. Prebish, Ithaca, N.Y., Snow Lion, pp. 31–46: reflections of the relation of scholarship and meditation, two key focuses of his own life.

2015. ‘The Sutta on Mindfulness with In and Out Breathing’ in Buddhist Meditative Praxis: Traditional Teachings and Modern Applications, ed. K.L. Dhammajoti, University of Hong Kong, Centre of Buddhist Studies, pp. 1–24. This is on the sixteen stages of Ānāpāna-sati meditation, both in its original meaning and later interpretation. (Not at

Buddhist ethicsEdit

1974. ‘Ethical Standards in World Religions: III. Buddhism’, The Expository Times, 85(4), pp. 100–104: a brief but excellent overview of Buddhist ethics.

1996. ‘Good or Skilful? Kusala in Canon and Commentary’, Journal of Buddhist Ethics, 3, pp. 136–64: An exploration of the meanings of this term which is central to both Buddhist ethics and meditation.

Buddhism in the WestEdit

1994. ‘Theravāda Buddhism in England’, in Buddhism into the Year 2000: International Conference Proceedings, (no named editor), Bangkok and Los Angeles, Dhammakaya Foundation, pp. 141–50: an overview of a topic that he was himself much involved in.

Buddhism overallEdit

1984. Fifty-five entries in J.R. Hinnells, Penguin Dictionary of Religions, Harmondsworth (not at On Buddhism:‘abhidhamma’, ‘ālaya-vijñāna’, ‘anukampā’, ‘bhāvanā’, ‘bodhi-pakkhiya-dhamma’, ‘Buddhaghosa’, ‘Buddha image’, ‘Central Asian Buddhism’, ‘Dhammapāla’, ‘diṭṭhi’, ‘emptiness’, ‘kamma-ṭṭhāna’, ‘lokuttara’, ‘nibbāna’, ‘Pali’, ‘pāramitā’, ‘samatha’, ‘Sinhalese Buddhism’, ‘skilful means’, ‘South-East Asia, Buddhism in’, ‘Śūnyatāvāda’, ‘suttanta’, ‘Theravāda’, ‘Vaibhāṣika’, ‘vipassanā’, ‘Western Buddhism’, ‘Yogācāra’.On Indian philosophy:‘Advaita Vedānta’, ‘Advaitin cosmology’, ‘Ājīvaka’, ‘bhakti-yoga’, ‘Brahmasūtra’, ‘darśana’, ‘dhyāna-yoga’, ‘Gosāla’, ‘guṇa’, ‘haṭha-yoga’, ‘karma-yoga’, ‘jñāna-yoga’, ‘līlā’, ‘Lokāyata’, ‘māyā’, ‘Mīmāṃsā’, ‘nāstika’, ‘Nyāya’, ‘prakṛti’, ‘Rāmānuja’, ‘Sāṃkhya’, ‘saṃsāra’, ‘Śaṅkara’, ‘Vaiśeṣika’, ‘Vaiṣṇava Vedānta’, ‘Vedānta’, ‘yoga’, ‘Yoga-darśana’. (All retained in: John R. Hinnells, A New Dictionary of Religions, Blackwell, 1995.)

1984. ‘Buddhism in Handbook of Living Religions, ed. J.R. Hinnells, Harmondsworth, Penguin, New York, Viking, 1984, pp. 273–343. An expanded version of this is in A New Handbook of Living Religions, ed. J.R. Hinnells, Oxford, Blackwell, 1997, pp. 369–444: perhaps the best concise overview of Buddhism. (Not at

1995. ‘Introduction’, in Ven. B. Ānandamaitreya Mahānāyakathera, Nine Special Qualities of the Buddha & Other Essays, London, World Buddhist Foundation, pp. i–ix. (Not at

1998. ‘Buddha’ and ‘Nirvāṇa’, in Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Chief Editor Edward Craig (Not at, but at: )

2018. ‘Cetiya and Thūpa: the Textual Sources’, chapter 2 in Relics and Relic Worship in the Early Buddhism: India, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Burma, edited by Janice Stargardt and Michael Willis. 18–30. London: British Museum Publications


1972. ‘Annotated Bibliography of Mysticism’in Community Relations Commission, Education for a Multi-Cultural Society III, 1972, pp. 80–83. (Not at

1989. ‘The Stages of Christian Mysticism and Buddhist Purification: Interior Castle of St Theresa of Avila and the Path of Purification of Buddhaghosa’, in The Yogi and the Mystic: Studies in Indian and Comparative Mysticism, ed. Karel Werner, London, Curzon, pp. 103–20: traces similarities of experience through differences of language and culture.

Book reviewsEdit

Of his 45 book reviews, those available from are of these books (dates are of the reviews, not the books):

1974. B.C. Olschak, Mystic Art of Ancient Tibet, reviewed in The Expository Times 85, p. 286.

1976. Lynn de Silva, The Problem of the Self in Buddhism and Christianity, reviewed in The Expository Times 87, p. 92

1976. R. Puligandla, Fundamentals of Indian Philosophy, reviewed in The Expository Times, 87, p.349.

1976. Oscar Shaftel, An Understanding of the Buddha, reviewed in The Journal of Asian Studies, 36 (1), pp. 120–21.

1978. Irmgard Schloegel, The Zen Way, G. Parrinder, Wisdom of the Early Buddhists, and Ernest Wood, Zen Dictionary, reviewed in The Expository Times, 89, p. 154

2001. Carol S. Anderson, Pain and its Ending: The Four Noble Truths in the Theravāda Buddhist Canon, reviewed in Journal of Buddhist Ethics, 8, pp. 36–41:

Other reviews of his include ones of:

1972. H. Saddhatissa, The Buddha’s Way, reviewed in Religion, 2.

1974. Melford E. Spiro, Buddhism and Society: A Great Tradition and its Burmese Vicissitudes, reviewed in Religion 4.

1974. S.M. Stern and Sofie Walzer, Three Unknown Buddhist Stories in an Arabic Version, reviewed in Journal of Semitic Studies 19.

1976. Tenzin Gyatso, the XIVth Dalai Lama, The Buddhism of Tibet and the Key to the Middle Way, reviewed in The Expository Times 87.

1976. Nāgārjuna, The Precious Garland and the Song of the Four Mindfulnesses, reviewed in The Expository Times 87.

1979. The Open University, ‘Man’s Religious Quest: The Noble Path of Buddhism, reviewed in Religion 9(1), pp. 125–27.

1979. Hee-Jin Kim, Dōgen Kigen: Mystical Realist, reviewed in Religion 9(2).

1980. Joseph Head and S. L. Cranston, Reincarnation: The Phoenix Fire Mystery, reviewed in Religion 10(2), pp. 224–25.

1980. Giuseppe Tucci, Religions of Tibet, translated by Geoffrey Samuel, reviewed in The Tablet.

1980. Amaury de Riencourt, The Eye of Shiva, reviewed in The Tablet.

1980. Confucius, The Analects, translated by D.C. Lau, reviewed in The Tablet.

1981. Fumimaro Watanabe, Philosophy and its Development in the Nikāyas and Abhidhamma, reviewed in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 48(1), p. 156.

1982. Winston L.King. Theravāda Meditation: The Buddhist Transformation of Yoga, reviewed in Religion 10(2), pp. 185–86.

1985. Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli, The Path of Discrimination, reviewed in Indo-Iranian Journal, 28.

1985. C.E. Godakumbura & U Tin Lwin, Catalogue of Cambodian & Burmese Pali manuscripts, reviewed in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 48(3), pp.620–21.

1985. K.R. Norman translation, with alternative translations by I.B.Horner and Walpola Rāhula, The Group of Discourses (Sutta-nipāta) Vol.I., reviewed in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 117(2), pp. 219–20:

1987. Sangharakshita, The Eternal Legacy, reviewed in Studies in Comparative Religion, 19.

1987. Peter Masefield, Divine Revelation in Pali Buddhism, reviewed in Studies in Comparative Religion, 19.

1988. Paul J. Griffiths, On Being Mindless: Buddhist Meditation and the Mind-body Problem, reviewed in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 51(3), pp. 579–80.

1989. S.R. Goyal, A History of Indian Buddhism, reviewed in Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 121(1), pp. 168–69.

1992. David Seyfort Ruegg, Buddha-nature, Mind and the Problem of Gradualism, reviewed in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 55(2), pp. 347–48.

1994. John S. Strong, The Legend and Cult of Upagupta, reviewed in Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 4(1), pp. 114–15.

1994. K.R. Norman, The Group of Discourses, Vol. II, reviewed in Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 4(2), pp. 291–92.

1994. Hirakawa Akira, A History of Indian Buddhism, reviewed in Religion 24.

1994. Uma Cakravarti, The Social Dimensions of Early Buddhism, reviewed in Religion 24.

1994. Damien Keown, The Nature of Buddhist Ethics, reviewed in Religious Studies, 30(2), pp. 252–54.

1995. David Seyfort Ruegg, Earliest Buddhism and Madhyamaka, reviewed in Indo-Iranian Journal, 38.

1995. Reginald Ray, Buddhist Saints in India, reviewed in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 59(1), pp. 172–73.

1996. Peter Masefield, The Udāna Commentary, Vols 1 and 2, reviewed in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 59(1), pp. 580–81.

1997. Oskar von Hinüber, A Handbook of Pāli Literature, reviewed in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 61(1), pp. 155–56.

1999. Richard Gombrich, How Buddhism Began: The Conditioned Genesis of the Early Teachings, reviewed in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 62(2), pp. 372–73.

2001. Bart Dessein, Saṃyuktābhidharmahṛdaya. The Heart of Scholasticism, reviewed in Middle Way 76(2): pp.119–22.

2000. Steven Collins, Nirvana and other Buddhist Felicities, reviewed in Buddhist Studies Review, 17(2), pp.236–39. (Downloadable from )

2002. Padmanabh S. Jaini, Collected Papers on Buddhist Studies, reviewed in Nagoya Studies in Indian Culture and Buddhism, 22, pp.244–45.

2006. Anālayo, Satipaṭṭhāna: The Direct Path to Realization, reviewed in Buddhist Studies Review, 23(1), pp.130–34.

2011. Richard Saloman (with Andrew Glass), Two Gāndhārī Manuscripts of the Songs of Lake Anavatapta (Anavatapta-gāthā), reviewed in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 74(3), pp. 494–96.

2013. Primoz Pecenko, Aṅguttaranikāyapurāṇaṭīkā, reviewed in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 76(3), pp. 527–28.


  1. ^
  2. ^ INDOLOGY - The Dating of the Historical Buddha: A Review Article Archived December 24, 2010, at WebCite
  3. ^ The State of Buddhist Studies in the World 1972-1997, ed Swearer & Promta, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, 2000, page 182
  4. ^ Renowned Buddhist Scholar returns to hold meditation retreat: The Sunday Times, Sri Lanka, 15 Jan 2012 [1]