Wisdom Wide and Deep

A Practical Handbook for Mastering Jhāna and Vipassanā

By Shaila Catherine
Wisdom Wide and Deep is an extended introduction to an in-depth training that emphasizes the application of concentrated attention to profound and liberating insight. With calm, tranquility, and composure established through a practical experience of jhana or deep concentration, meditators are able to halt the seemingly endless battle against hindrances, eliminate distraction, and facilitate a penetrative insight into the subtle nature of matter and mind. It was for this reason the Buddha frequently exhorted his students, “Develop concentration, one who is concentrated understands things as they really are.”

This book, Wisdom Wide and Deep, follows and amplifies the teachings in Shaila Catherine’s acclaimed first book, Focused and Fearless: A Meditator’s Guide to States of Deep Joy, Calm, and Clarity. Readers will learn to develop this profound stability, sustain an in-depth examination of the nuances of mind and matter, and ultimately unravel deeply conditioned patterns that perpetuate suffering. This is a profoundly practical guide, the fully detailed manual for the mind sure to become a trusted companion to many inner explorers.


ISBN-13: 978-0-86171-623-4
Wisdom Publications, October 2011, 550 pages

NOTE June 2019: Wisdom Wide and Deep is currently out of stock. Reprint date is anticipated for mid-July, at an updated price of $34.95. Please check back later. 

Click Here to purchase both of Shaila Catherine’s books at a discount.

Inside the book

Table of Contents
Forward by Pa-Auk Sayadaw
Introduction: Approaching Deep Calm and Insight
Chapter 1:  Clearing the Path: Overcoming the Five Hindrances

Study Aids

Study Guides and Tables


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Praise from Buddhist Authors and Teachers

"This is a handbook that respects both the ancient tradition and the needs of contemporary lay practitioners, without compromising either. Shaila Catherine presents the Buddha's teaching by blending scriptural references, personal examples, and timeless stories with detailed meditation instructions. She writes with an authority that comes from genuine meditation experience, and a clarity that is informed by her own personal experiences of this training. The combination of Shaila’s pragmatic style and theoretical knowledge produces a striking invitation for the reader to apply these instructions and master the complete practice for awakening. I highly recommend Wisdom Wide and Deep to any serious meditator who wants to practice what the Buddha discovered and taught.”...more...
Pa-Auk Sayadaw, author of The Workings of Kamma

"In Wisdom Wide and Deep, Shaila Catherine has laid out a path of practice from the simplest beginnings to profound and subtle insights. Her writing is beautifully lucid, making accessible the inner depths of the Buddha's teachings. This book is a powerful inspiration both for those who would like a glimpse of what’s possible and for those intrepid explorers of the mind who want to bring these teachings to fulfillment. Highly recommended.”...more...

Joseph Goldstein, author of One Dharma: The Emerging Western Buddhism

"Shaila's new book converts theory to practice, ideas to application, knowledge about meditation to direct experience. She has written a manual in clear, practical language. It is an excellent follow up to her previous book, Focused and Fearless. The strength of Shaila's new book is the detailed attention that she gives to exploring various depths of calmness and inner absorption, as well uncovering insights. The West needs such manuals.”...more...

Christopher Titmuss, author of Light on Enlightenment

"Shaila's book, Wisdom Wide and Deep is far more than just a handbook--it is an in-depth, piece-by-piece examination of many of the specific teachings of jhana and insight. It is book that you will study, as opposed to sit down and read through. It is reference book that you will use over and over again. The strong substantive nature of the book is an accurate reflection of Shaila’s own dedication to the dharma and her intense study of the Pali teachings. If you are interested in dharma study, then Shaila’s book belongs in your library.”...more...

Phillip Moffitt, author of Dancing With Life: Buddhist Insights for Finding Meaning and Joy in the Face of Suffering

"Shaila Catherine has managed a difficult feat—to be simultaneously encyclopedic and charming. Her extraordinary clarity and step-by-step approach will embolden some readers to attain jhanic absorption, while others may simply gain useful insights into mind-body processes. This meditation manual is a first for the West. It will surely become a classic and support generations of practitioners.”...more...

Kate Lila Wheeler, editor of In This Very Life: Liberation Teachings of the Buddha

"The whole spiritual path concerns attitudes and perspectives that we have on things. From there, actions spring up and life unfolds. Shaila Catherine leads us to a completely different way of seeing things by skillfully guiding us through an array of traditional Suttanta and Abhidhamma methods. The precision with which she explains the samadhi exercises combined with a wide range of systematic vipassana techniques gives us a depth that can be difficult to believe. The impossible is made possible. This is a book about reality rarely encountered.”...more...

Venerable U Jagara

"Wisdom Wide and Deep is a clear and comprehensive account of a path of meditation leading to profound levels of concentration and insight. Based primarily on the teachings of the Burmese master Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw, it also includes a helpful collection of references from classical Theravadan sources. Shaila Catherine has clearly done her meditative homework and here she shares it with us in a systematic way that is easy to understand. This is a valuable work as both a practice guide and a reference manual for this lineage.”...more...

Guy Armstrong, Insight Meditation teacher

"All of us in our lives need to find the ways to cultivate a mind which is a friend—calm, clear, insightful and pervaded with kindness. In this book Shaila Catherine has outlined an ancient way to train the mind in stillness and wise attention. This book can be a guide for cultivating the inner calm we long for.”...more...

Christina Feldman, author of Compassion: Listening to the Cries of the World

Reader Reviews

"If you can no longer ignore the stirring in your own good heart which longs for liberation, you have in hand a book that offers western readers a Dhamma gate or bridge to the Buddha's profound and systematic teachings without compromising the instructions. In 2008 during a four month meditation retreat at The Forest Refuge in Barre, MA, Venerable Pa Auk Tawya Sayadaw presented Shaila Catherine with the task of writing this book. Informed by her own direct meditative experience, Wisdom Wide and Deep is both beautifully written and rooted in the time honored Way of The Elders. Kudos to the author. This worthwhile project demanded meticulous attention and three years of effort. Shaila Catherine has done an admirable job and has honored The Sayadaw’s request.”...more...
Robert C., California

"As someone with a serious meditation practice who lives in a small provincial city, I've often had to figure out a lot of things on my own. It can sometimes be frustrating. Try to find a helpful definition of breath nimitta on the internet for example. This book, with its clear, concise, and progressive instructions for developing a concentration practice, is immensely helpful to me. I appreciate the faith that Shaila has shown in the potential of non-monastic practitioners by making these teachings clear and available.” —Anne Macquarie, Carson City, Nevada
“Wisdom Wide and Deep: A Practical Handbook for Mastering Jhana and Insight by Shaila Catherine is a remarkable work, a must-have for serious vipassana meditators. Unlike anything previously available, it delivers exactly what the title suggests an immediately accessible guide for mastering traditional meditative practices leading to liberating wisdom. Discussions of Buddhist psychology and Abhidhamma theory are supported by practical meditation instructions, reflections, and well-organized charts. Although this work is broad in scope and comprehensive in detail, readers should not be hesitant to approach with confidence, for it is also remarkably accessible. One need not be ready for the complete practice; practitioners can glean invaluable benefit from any single practice, reflection, or discussion. Shaila Catherine writes with a voice so fresh and rare, speaking from direct experience of knowing and seeing, guiding readers along the path of meditation practice. Instructions are clear and concise. Discussions are light-hearted and relevant. At last, contemporary meditators have access to the ancient practices of liberating wisdom. I highly recommend Wisdom Wide and Deep to anyone dedicated to deepening their meditation practice.”

Ann D., Gainsville, Florida

"I've had the pleasure of creating the index for Wisdom Wide and Deep, and I found it extremely interesting and readable for being such an esoteric manual. It really informed my own decades long meditation practice, and I felt drawn into the venerable and ancient consideration of meditation in such a pleasurable way. It’s a massive tribute to Shaila’s practice that she could write such a book, let alone do it in such a clear and interesting manner. I’m very impressed! This book was very good company and very inspiring.”...more...

Denise G., Middletown, California

"This book is a gift to current and future generations of Buddhist meditators. The teachings of the Buddha over 2500 years ago have been interpreted in a variety of ways, leading to a variety of skillful means for achieving wisdom and liberation. At Pa Auk Monastery in Burma, a very structured and detailed approach based on the Visuddhimagga has been preserved and developed. For those with the discipline to practice it, it is said to be extremely effective. However, until now it has been little known in the West. In Wisdom Wide and Deep, Shaila Catherine, a student of Pa Auk Sayadaw, performs the heroic task of elucidating the often arcane instructions for this approach in beautiful, readable, yet precise English prose. Her masterful work is a generous gift to many future generations of Western practitioners. It is based on, and consistent with, the manual Knowing and Seeing by Pa Auk Sayadaw, but is one hundred times more accessible and comprehensible. At a recent retreat with Pa Auk Sayadaw, Shaila Catherine’s book was my constant companion. I referred to it often, not only to clarify points of instruction, but to be nourished by Catherine’s kind and practical encouragement, real life examples, and connections to Western thought. The exercises, designed to illustrate concepts for the more casual reader, were also highly useful to me on retreat, deepening my understanding of concepts while providing a break from formal meditation. For the practitioner of Pa Auk Sayadaw’s approach, Wisdom Wide and Deep is an essential–and I mean truly essential–resource for making the most of one’s practice time. And for any practitioner of Buddhist meditation, Wisdom Wide and Deep provides a very readable, enjoyable, and instructive introduction to one truly remarkable skillful means.”...more...

Terry F., Seattle, Washington

"Wisdom Wide and Deep is an extraordinarily detailed and beautifully written book. As a long time Dhamma student who also completed Venerable Pa Auk's course I have firsthand knowledge of the Sayadaw's approach to the path of jhana and vipassana. Shaila, with great clarity and skill, has described this methodical training in a way that makes the enormous detail accessible to lay practitioners. Reading this practice manual felt as though Shaila was personally guiding me through the many exercises and meditations. Her words provide an on-going emotional and technical support for this demanding and sometimes tumultuous work. Even if one does not want to undertake this practice, the book is a useful and much needed reference manual. Wisdom Wide and Deep makes the sometimes dry details of the Visuddhimagga and the Abhidhamma understandable. What is the mental process involved in seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching and thinking? What is dependent origination? Why is life so often unsatisfactory? Read this book and you will begin to understand that insight and personal, direct experience is still possible for people today. Shaila also included contemporary reflections and personal stories which made these ancient practices even more relevant to modern life. After eagerly reading the book from cover to cover I now read several pages each day after sitting meditation. It is a great review of the course and a wonderful inspiration. No serious dhamma student or even one beginning their exploration should be without this book.”...more...

Diane S., Santa Rosa, California

"This book is an absolute gem! What a wonderful find. Perfect for meditators of any level-- experienced, long-term meditators who are looking to deepen their practice as well as beginners and those who simply want to make their everyday lives a little happier and brighter. Shaila Catherine shares her extensive knowledge with the reader in a practical, engaging, witty, and warm way. I utilize the tips and advice in this book almost every day and have seen wonderful benefits. Highly, highly recommended!”...more...

Zarina P., Seattle, Washington

"This book represents something historic. The West has benefited profoundly in our time from the introduction of Buddhist practices, including the teachings from Old School Theravada Buddhism. To date, the latter have been made available largely in the form of Vipassana (insight) teachings, through figures like Goenka, Jack Kornfield, and Joseph Goldstein. As wonderful as these have been (and continue to be), Vipassana is in one sense only half of the original Buddhist tradition. With Wisdom Wide and Deep Shaila Catherine has provided in a single volume an integration with the other half – the Theravada’s instructions for effecting experiential states of deep calm and marked concentrative absorption. Such instructions have traditionally always accompanied, supported, and deepened the practices for enlightened insight in Buddhism. The techniques outlined in Catherine’s book are presented with considerable precision and depth of understanding, including analyses of the very highest and most subtle experiential realizations. A number of the practices described here will be matter-of-factly beyond the current purview of many meditators. But even then, a reader’s acquaintance with the mere existence of such techniques can be of mind-opening benefit itself. In its conjoint, systematic and detailed presentation of both traditional Buddhist concentrative and insight practices, Wisdom Wide and Deep marks a significant contribution towards making Western modernity aware of just what the human mind is capable of.”...more...

David C., Austin, Texas

"An incredibly valuable book for serious mindfulness practitioners. Backed by an enormous amount of research, Wisdom Wide and Deep presents in-depth detail on important meditation practices, and mindfulness in general. It is written with clarity by a guide who obviously has directly toured the path deep and wide, and has the dedication to share this valuable information.”...more...

Surja T., Portland, Oregon

"This book was recommended to me by a monastic teacher when approached regarding ways to deepen my practice. As a Buddhist practitioner and meditator for 9 years, I felt as if my practice has plateaued. My teacher immediately recommended this book as a way to increase concentration and develop insight. Shaila Catherine has written a clear and concise manual that is enjoyable to read. By following the instructions in this book I was able to tremendously deepen my concentration, increase my tranquility, and experience never before known states of bliss and joy. This is a must read for anyone interested in deepening their meditation practice. I am very grateful that Shaila Catherine was inclined to write it and that my teacher was inclined to recommend it.”...more...

Stacey W., St. Charles, Missouri

“As a Buddhist meditation practitioner, I have found no better source of instruction and guidance than the two books written by Shaila Catherine. I hope she will write more books, and if she does, I will look forward to them!”

Rochelle S., Washington

"As someone with a serious meditation practice who lives in a small provincial city, I've often had to figure out a lot of things on my own. It can sometimes be frustrating. Try to find a helpful definition of "breath nimitta" on the internet for example. This book, with its clear, concise, and progressive instructions for developing a concentration practice, is immensely helpful to me. I appreciate the faith that Shaila has shown in the potential of non-monastic practitioners by making these teachings clear and available.” ...more...

Anne M., Carson City, Nevada
"This book is the best I've read on jhanas and it is so much more. It's a comprehensive and accessible reference book for samatha and vipassana, built solidly on the contents of the suttas, the Visuddhimagga and the Abhidhamma. It's a very readable and meticulously laid out manual for
how to establish and practice concentration and insight. Written with wit and personal experience it’s a companionable guide that continues to take me “deeper and wider” in my daily practice. Shaila Catherine has given a great gift to the dhamma world.”...more...
Dorothy R., Asheville, North Carolina