OCBS Lecture Series and Lingyin Lectures in Buddhist Studies HT2015

There will be three lectures this Hilary term for the OCBS Lecture Seriesin the Dorfman Centre, St. Peter’s College.

We are also pleased to invite you to the Lingyin Lectures in Buddhist Studies held in The Oriental Institute, Pusey Lane, Lecture Room no. 1.

All OCBS Lecture Series start at 5:30pm on Mondays.

Dr Hiroko Kawanami, Lancaster University

2 Feb.  ‘From a research question to an impact case: the study of Buddhist nunnery schools in Myanmar’

Dr Hiroko Kawanami will talk about the background of her long term research on Buddhist nuns in Myanmar and describe how a simple question has led her to found a Buddhist nunnery school in 1998, comprising of a unique ‘one-pot’ system, which has developed into a leading religious and educational establishment in Myanmar today. Her case study has been chosen as one of the research impact cases for the recent REF 2014, earning the top place in the UK for Lancaster University in the area of theology and religious studies.

Dr Camillo Formigatti, University of Cambridge

16 Feb.   “Translating the Lives of the Buddha on the Roof of the World.”

The central role of narrative literature in all Buddhist traditions and Buddhist countries in Asia cannot be underestimated. Jātakas and Avadānas not only build the narrative framework of canonical literature—and in some cases, even of philosophical texts—, but they also inspired artists throughout history, and many masterpieces of Buddhist visual art are representations of stories from previous lives of the Buddha Śākyamuni or of Bodhisattvas. This literary genre is very widespread and well represented in Himalayan Buddhist countries. For instance, in Newar Buddhism these texts are still ritually enacted nowadays and play a very important role in the life of the Buddhist lay community. Rather than focusing on translation technique, the present paper will focus on the cultural impact of translations of Jātakas and Avadānas by describing and analysing the case study of a work composed in the style of kāvya by the Kashmirian poet Kṣemendra in the 11th century, the Bodhisattvāvadānakalpalatā. This work had a huge cultural impact in pre-modern and modern Tibet thanks to the translation prepared between 1260 and 1280 by the lo tsā ba Shong ston Rdo rje rgyal mtshan and the Paṇḍit Lakṣmīkara on behalf of Kublai Khan’s advisor’s ‘Phags-pa Blo-gros-rgyal mtshan. A brief history of the transmission of this work from 11th century Kashmir to 19th century Tibet via medieval Nepal will be sketched, and some final considerations on the cultural and social impact of translations of Sanskrit works in Tibet will be provided.

Mr. Chris Jones, University of Oxford

2 Mar.  ‘Shadows of a former Self:  the ‘True Self’ taught by the Tathāgatagarbha Literature’

The Indian tathāgatagarbha literature of the Mahāyāna has attracted disapproval for its use of the term ātman to designate a permanent, unchanging ‘Buddha-nature’ possessed by all beings: clearly more reminiscent of extraneous religious traditions, and seemingly at odds with the ‘seal of the dharma’ that is anātman. In evident awareness of the imagery of the upaniṣad-s (and other accounts of a fixed selfhood), some of its authors declared the tathāgatagarbha to be the ‘true’ self for which extraneous religious teachers and practitioners, the so-called tīrthika-s, had sought.

In defense of their own use of this language, these tathāgatagarbha authors attempted not just to undermine analogous, non-Buddhist doctrines, but also to explain them away. I will speak about two texts of the tathāgatagarbha literature, perhaps the earliest sūtra-s to discuss a ‘true self’, and present passages that imply the reduction of non-Buddhist teachings to their own ‘Buddhist self’. More revealing still, these texts imply that the ideas of these non-Buddhists teachers are themselves produced by the Buddha. This not only suggests an important function of the apparent ātmavāda leanings of this tradition, but also betrays a model of the metaphysical Buddha’s expanding influence that helps us situate the tathāgatagarbha doctrine closer to its likely origins in the milieu of the Lotus Sūtra.

The OCBS wishes to thank Dr Thet Thet Nwe for her sponsorship of the Lecture Series.

We are also pleased to invite you to the Lingyin Lectures in Buddhist Studies in Hilary Term 2015.

These lectures have been organised by Professor Zacchetti, and these two lecture series are intended to complement one another.

Please note that the Lingyin Lectures in Buddhist Studies will be held in The Oriental Institute, Pusey Lane, Lecture Room no. 1.

5.15 pm on Mondays.

Prof. Jonathan A. Silk, University of Leiden

26th Jan.  ‘‘Buddhism, Social Justice and the Status of the Caṇḍāla’

Prof. Dr. Jens-Uwe Hartmann, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

23rd Feb.  ‘Literature without letters: the Indian puzzle and the role of Buddhism’

Audio recordings of OCBS Lecture Series are available for listening here.