OCBS Lectures TT2015

There will be two lectures this Trinity Term for the OCBS Lecture Series in the Dorfman Centre, St. Peter’s College.

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

Dr Tatsuma Padoan, University of London (SOAS)

27 April:  “Under the Walking Steps of the Ascetic”: Memory and Place-Making in the Japanese Pilgrimage of Katsuragi.’

The relationship between space and memory has been the object of a long-standing interest in historical and anthropological studies, especially when groups try to define themselves by associating specific places with narratives of past founding events. This paper will investigate such strategic relationship in the context of a mountain pilgrimage performed in Katsuragi (central Japan) by ascetics of the Shinto-Buddhist tradition called Shugendō (“The Way to Ascetic Powers”). Members of this tradition claimed to follow the walking steps of their mythical founder along the pilgrimage, by praying in specific spots where the twenty-eight chapters of the Lotus Sūtra were said to be buried since ancient times. More specifically, the paper will compare two historical moments of memory refashioning and ‘place-making’ in Katsuragi, namely the period between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries–when new mythologies were associated with these ritual sites–and the contemporary period–when revivalist movements have creatively tried to resurrect the ancient pilgrimage practices connected to these mountains.

Professor Richard Gombrich, Director of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies 

11 May:   ‘The imaginary mass murderer who owes his existence to ignorance of Pali.’

The Buddhist monastic rule against killing a human being is obviously important, indeed fundamental. But the story of how the Buddha first came to pronounce it is inconsistent and implausible. It occurs in 4 surviving versions of the Buddhist legal code, the Vinaya, and therefore also in commentaries on those texts; but it is hardly ever mentioned elsewhere. I think I can show that the story came about because of a misunderstanding of a phrase in the Pali version of the rule. This proves that the Pali version is the earliest known to us of the four versions with the same story, and the other three depend on it.

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

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