Sarah Shaw (1955) is a lecturer at Oxford University as well as a meditation teacher at the Samatha trust. She has quite a few book titles to her name, all of which have in common that they connect Buddhist theory with everyday life and with daily meditation for lay people. Her books offer a scientific extension of knowledge about Buddhism but always linked to practice and the here and now..
Dr. Sarah Shaw holds a PhD in English Literature. In her student days she was very active in Buddhist circles in Oxford, where she met Nai Boonman, a Thai monk who taught meditation classes in the United Kingdom between 1963 and 1974. Sarah Shaw has had Pali lessons from Professor Gombrich, but also from Lance Cousins, a direct student of Nai Boonman. That combination is important: prof. Gombrich is a scientist with a great interest in Buddhism and an extensive knowledge of languages, Lance Cousins was her Buddhist teacher. As a result, Sarah learned to approach texts from the language angle and from the meditation practice angle. As a result, she developed a very broad view of the texts nourished by both scientific knowledge and meditative experience. In her own Buddhist teachings she makes an intensive use of the source texts in Pali, usually rephrasing them in her own words.
Sarah tries to draw a clear line in her life: the academic dr. Shaw, and Sarah the practitioner and meditation teacher. Her academic work is rooted in the Pali scriptures. She has published on the Digha-Nikaya, written several books on meditation, on the history of Mindfulness, and translated Jatakas, birth stories of the Buddha. She teaches at the universities of Oxford and South Wales, and is also affiliated with the Oxford Centre of Buddhist Studies. In addition, she is very active as a meditation teacher affiliated with ‘the Samatha Trust’, an organization that has been founded to pass on the samatha / vipassana meditation method of Nai Boonman. The Samatha group was founded in Oxford, and many of its practitioners are also scientists (such as Peter Harvey, Rupert Gethin). The school started offering live meditations online at an early stage, which means that there are now students all over the world connected to the Samatha organization – Sarah was one of the first to coach her students online, as early as 2015 she taught online.
Dr. Shaw is particularly interested in the stories that are found in the Pali Canon, and in the important role that the Buddha has always assigned to the layman in his Teachings. In the stories, very often laymen have a leading role, and Shaw believes that the scriptures show that the Buddha considered far more possibilities for the lay practitioner than is often claimed. Her approach in her meditation classes is a playful and open approach to the scriptures, and perhaps because of this she has many young students.
Dr. Shaw has an almost intuitive way of translating. This is sometimes a bitter necessity aa Pali, – unlike Sanskrit – can be very inconsistent. This inconsistency is an indication that Pali may actually have been a living language, as Prof. Gombrich believes as well. Dr. Shaw also has an open mind to the influence of Indian culture on the texts, and listens carefully to the ideas and opinions of young Indian students. As a result, she sometimes comes up with translation ideas that had not been seen by linguists before, because those linguists mainly base themselves on the letters they see in front of them and not so much on the society that was the source for the text.
The Jātakas: Birth Stories of the Bodhisatta, New Delhi: Penguin, paperback/Penguin Global Classic Series (2006).
Buddhist Meditation: an Anthology of Texts, London: Routledge (2006), hardback, paperback (2008) and e-book (with chapter on Tibet by Georgios Halkias).
An Introduction to Buddhist Meditation, London and New York: Routledge (2008).
Linda Covill, Ulrike Roesler and Sarah Shaw eds., Lives Lived, Lives Imagined: Biographies of Awakening,Boston, MA: Wisdom (2010)
(2013) Co-author, with Dr Naomi Appleton and Professor Toshiya Unebe, of Illuminating the Life of the Buddha: An Eighteenth-Century Siamese Chanting Manual, in the Treasures of the Bodleian Library Series, Bodleian Publications, Oxford.
(2014) The Spirit of Buddhist Meditation, New Haven: Yale University Press.
(2015) The Ten Great Birth Stories of the Buddha: the Mahānipāta of the Jātakatthavaṇṇanā: a translation and introduction to last ten Jātaka stories and their commentaries, with Dr Naomi Appleton, Edinburgh University (Silkworm Books, Thailand/University of Washington Press, Seattle). With a foreword by Professor Peter Skilling and 100 photographs of temple art depictions. 2 volumes (cloth-bound and paperback).
(2020)Mindfulness: where it comes from and what it means. Shambhala.
(2021)The Art of Listening. Shambhala Publications Inc.
 ‘the art of listening’