Annual One-Day Conference: 06 July 2024
The Khalili Lecture Theatre, The School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

Draft Programme

9.30 Arrivals

9.50 Welcome and Notices

10.00–11.00 Dr Upali Sraman (University of Edinburgh): ‘Why do Monks Punch Each Other?’: Humour and Ethics in the Vinaya Texts (Chair: Prof Naomi Appleton, University of Edinburgh)

11.00–11.30 Tea/coffee

11.30–12.30 Postgraduate Panel l (Chair: Carlos García-Jané)

a. 11.30-12.00 Luodeng Ouyang (University of Liverpool): ‘Locating the ‘Four Noble Truths’ and Karma in Pema Tseden’s films’

b. 12.00-12.30 Myriadne Changhuan Wang (SOAS): ‘Mārtāṇḍá and Avijjaṇḍakosa’

12.30–1.30 Lunch

1.30–2.30 UKABS AGM

2.30–3.30 Postgraduate Panel 2 (Chair: Carlos García-Jané)

a. Hirohito Tsuji (University of East Anglia): ‘Japanese Buddhism and Inheritance of Branch Families of the Imperial House: A Case Study of Fushimi-no-Miya in 18 Century’.

b. Nan Ni (SOAS) ‘Dreams of Health of Wealth: The Multi-Lingual Transmission of Amoghapāśa-Hdaya Dhāraī on the margins of Middle-Period China’.

3.30–3.45 Tea / Coffee

3.45–4.15 Dr Sujatha Meegama and Lori Wong (Courtauld Institute): An Interdisciplinary, Post-Colonial Response to the Study of Tara from Sri Lanka at the British Museum

4.15–5.00 Current Research in Buddhist Studies

a. St Andrews Encyclopaedia of Theology: Launch of the Buddhism Section (Professor Alice Collett, University of St Andrews)
b. Buddhism and International Humanitarian Law – project in collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross

5.00 Conclude


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Registration Fee for UKABS 2024 conference
Attendance in person includes coffee and sandwich buffet lunch. Please notify in advance any allergies, medical conditions, etc, when registering).
UKABS members: £30 (£20 students/monastic members/retired)
Non-UKABS members: £40 (£30 students/monastic members/retired)

Postgraduate abstracts

Luodeng Ouyang (University of Liverpool)

Locating the ‘Four Noble Truths’ and Karma in Pema Tseden’s films

With the frequent portrayals of Tibetan Buddhism in Hollywood such as Little Buddha (1993) and Kundun (1997) since the 1990s, Tibetan culture and religious beliefs have started to attract unprecedented global attention. In recent years, Pema Tseden has emerged in a relatively short period of ten years as one of the most prominent Tibetan cultural figures nationally and internationally. Existing studies on Pema Tseden’s Tibetan Buddhist approach in cinema focus on how Tibetan Buddhist values are being destabilized by the forces of globalization and how he uses Buddhist thoughts to reflect on the Tibetans’ complex socio-political situation. However, rarely are Tibetan Buddhist concepts applied to examine Pema Tseden’s cinematic storytelling and artistic devices.

This paper focuses on how the Tibetan Buddhist concepts of Karma and the ‘Four Noble Truths’ have influenced Tibetan director Pema Tseden’s storytelling, particularly his films’ narratives, cinematography and mise-en-scène. The films that will be discussed are Old Dog (2011), Tharlo (2015) as well as Jinpa (2018). I will argue that the karmic circular structure, the ‘residual and nonresidual cessation of suffering’ from the ‘Four Noble Truths’ play significant roles in his cinematic language in addition to providing a spiritually-informed negotiation of the dilemmas of Tibetans in terms of identity, life, and religious belief in the face of commercialization, and regulations imposed by the Han Chinese majority. This research will provide a novel framework for decoding Pema Tseden’s cinematic language through a lens of Tibetan Buddhism.

Myriadne Changhuan Wang (SOAS)

Mārtāṇḍá and Avijjaṇḍakosa

The present survey investigates two compounds associated with ovals in the religious texts of ancient India, i.e., Vedic mārtāṇḍá ‘what springs from a dead egg’ and Pāli avijjaṇḍakosa ‘the shell of the ignorant egg’ (Chinese wuming luan/ke) from Buddhist texts. The earliest mention of Vedic mārtāṇḍá is found in a cosmological hymn of the tenth Maṇḍala of R̥gveda (RV X 72), wherein he is portrayed as the eighth and the sole mortal son of the mother goddess Aditi. In subsequent Middle Vedic texts, mārtāṇḍá is identifies as the progenitor of human beings, initially taking a clot-like form as a result of the divine miscarriage. The diverse accounts of mārtāṇḍá’s myth in Yajurvedic Sahitas and Brāhmaas are explored, and further compared to the Iranian accounts of the first man (Avestan gaiia- marǝtan– ‘mortal life’, Pahlavi gayōmart), which arguably testify to a shared Indo-Iranian myth of the birth of human from egg. In contrast, Pāli avijjaṇḍakosa (Sanskrit avidyāṇḍakośa) is documented in Vinaya within the context of Buddha’s discourse with a brahman. Here, the eggshell serves as a metaphor for penetrable ignorance, pecked away by the beak of wisdom. In the Chinese translations of the Buddhist texts, a special Chinese character luan/ke is devised to correspond to either the entire compound aṇḍakośa ‘eggshell’ or one of the two members of it. The study scrutinises diverse translation techniques, shedding light on varying interpretations of the term avijjaṇḍakosa and its associated metaphor.

The two egg-related words and the allegories surrounding them share a number of features such as the human birth from the egg, and the symbolic act of cutting part of the egg, and so forth. Despite the absence of direct textual support, their shared features provide compelling grounds to posit a connection between these accounts from two different ancient Indian traditions.

Keywords: mārtāṇḍá, avijjaṇḍakosa, R̥gveda, Middle Vedic texts, Yiqiejing yinyi (Huilin)

Hirohito Tsuji (University of East Anglia)

Japanese Buddhism and Inheritance of Branch Families of the Imperial House: A Case Study of Fushimi-no-Miya in 18 Century

Miyake are the branch families of Japan’s Imperial House. They are expected to produce a successor to the throne when the emperor has no sons. During the pre-modern, the practice was that the majority of royals, other than the crown prince or miyake heirs, had to be Buddhist monks known as monzeki, and in the Edo period, the number of miyake was fixed at four: Fushimi-no-Miya; Katsura-no-Miya; Arisugawa-no-Miya; and Kan’in-no-Miya, princes who left descendants without becoming priests were limited. The importance of the emperor’s control of Buddhist temples and cost savings in the Imperial Family were the main reasons. The retirement of Prince Kuniyori, a younger brother of 16th Fushimi-no-Miya head Prince Kunitada, from the priesthood to become the 18th head of Fushimi-no-Miya, with the support of the Fushimi-no-Miya vassals, was a highly unusual event in the pre-modern era. It was the first case for a former Buddhist monk to become head of miyake, so there was a lot of opposition at the Imperial Court. Conventional research has used the figure that the relationship between the Fushimi-no-Miya and the main family of the Imperial House was conflicted. However, it has been ignored that the point of view of the Buddhist policy of the Shogunate and the complex dual structure of the pre-modern Japanese family concept of uji [clan] and ie [household] elements. This case is extremely important for Japanese religious history because it can be positioned as a precedent of many priest-princes’ leaving monzeki temples and establishing new miyake as part of the separation between Shinto and Buddhism during the early modern and modern transition. Using unpublished primary archives and anthropological methods, this presentation discusses the power relations between Buddhist temples, the Imperial Court and the Shogunate in early modern Japan in the case study of Prince Kuniyori.

Nan Ni (SOAS)

Dreams of Health of Wealth: The Multi-Lingual Transmission of Amoghapāśa-Hdaya Dhāraī on the margins of Middle-Period China

The Amoghapāśa-hṛdaya Dhāraṇī has been one of the most popular texts for Esoteric Buddhists in Middle Period China, translated into various languages including Chinese, Tibetan, Sogdian and Tangut. While some fragments in Sanskrit were found to be preserved by libraries, most of the texts were excavated in Dunhuang and Ningxia, both cities are located in present Northwest China. Textual evidence has revealed an approximate 800-year worship of the Buddhist deity-Amoghapāśa on the margins of Middle period China, suggesting vibrant religious communications between neighbouring civilisations. This paper is going to provide a thorough philological study of the multi-lingual dhāraṇī based on etymological research and textual comparisons, and thus to elucidate the textual transmission between various dhāraṇī traditions. Moreover, it attempts to observe both similarities and differences concerning the styles of translating Buddhist literature in varied cultural contexts. Through the textual approach towards these manuscripts, this paper aims to dig into the historical background of how these dhāraṇī texts in different languages were produced, practised and valued by esoteric Buddhists of different cultural identities. With reference to related historical records and excavated materials, this paper is going to elucidate the function and significance of the Amoghapāśa-hṛdaya dhāraṇī in the context of religious life of Buddhists on the margins of Middle-Period China

By collecting all attested manuscripts of Amoghapāśa-hṛdaya Dhāraṇī in various languages, this paper aims to elucidate the textual transmission of this dhāraṇī between Han Chinese and its neighbouring civilisations. It also provides a philological approach to study the worship of Amoghapāśa in Dunhuang and Ningxia, from approximately 6th century to early 14th century. By introducing “less-known” dhāraṇī traditions which have been relatively neglected in previous scholarly treatment, this paper will offer new information to the current knowledge of Esoteric Buddhist communications on the margins of Middle Period China.

Call for Papers

UK Association for Buddhist Studies

 Annual Conference, SOAS, London, 06 July 2024

Call for Papers – Postgraduate Panel

Submission Deadline: 29 April 2024

Call for Papers

The UK Association for Buddhist Studies calls for submissions for the Postgraduate Panel at the next UKABS annual conference to be held at SOAS, London, 06 July 2024.

Please submit your proposal to the email below by 29 April 2024 with the following information:

  • Title
  • Abstract (250-300 words)
  • Author’s details, including name, affiliation, supervisor’s name, year and level of research, and email address

You do not need to present a polished final version of your work. If you are not yet at an advanced stage, you can present your current ideas and plans, with a view to gaining some feedback from more established Buddhist Studies scholars – a fantastic opportunity for graduate students.

Reasonable expenses within the UK will be funded.

Could academic staff please inform and encourage interested students to submit an abstract.

Best Wishes,

Carlos Garcia-Jane

PhD researcher, University of Edinburgh

Post-Graduate Representative, UKABS Committee

Contact: [email protected]