Buddhism: Hearing Her Words – Prof Alice Collett

Zoom lecture: Meeting Registration – Zoom

13 April 2024 03:00 PM

In her recent book, ‘I Hear Her Words: An Introduction to Women in Buddhism’, Prof Collett asks for a change in the way we understand the phrase ‘women in Buddhism’. She shows that increasing knowledge of the historical sources has made it possible to build a coherent picture based on real lives of historical characters and today’s Buddhist women.

Professor Alice Collett (University of St Andrews) specialises in ancient Indian religions, with a focus on women in Buddhism, an area on which she has published extensively.

The British MahaBodhi Society is delighted Prof Alice Collett will discuss and answer questions on the role and impact of women in Buddhism, describing their achievements and struggles from the past to the present.

Redisplaying the Buddhist Collection at Chiddingstone Castle

Speakers: Naomi Collick and Dr Nick Swann

To book: Redisplaying the Buddhist Collection at Chiddingstone Castle – The Courtauld

Photograph of Denys Eyre Bower’s Buddhist Room, Chiddingstone Castle. Image courtesy of the Chiddingstone Castle archive.

Chiddingstone Castle is a historic house and accredited museum in Kent, which holds the collections of the last private owner, Denys Eyre Bower (1905 – 1977). Bower had a personal interest in Buddhism, and it was a key part of his identity. His understanding, display, and interpretation of the collection was informed by attitudes towards Buddhism in the West of the early 20th century. In Bower’s ‘Buddhist Room’, the original context and sacred significance of the objects was secondary to their aesthetic qualities, and their new meaning as the curiosities of a collector.

In 2018, the opportunity arose to redisplay the Buddhist collection and to reconsider how it is interpreted. The current display is the result of consultation, collaboration, and research over the past six years. The displays have been developed with the support and insight of members of the Buddhist and Tibetan communities in the UK, and specialists in Buddhism and Buddhist art. This work has supported the castle’s ongoing aim of decolonising the collection and uncovering new stories, perspectives, and meanings behind the objects.

Naomi Collick has worked as the Curator at Chiddingstone Castle in Kent since 2018. The castle is a historic house and museum which holds the Buddhist, Japanese, Stuart and Jacobite, and Ancient Egyptian collections of the last private owner. She is a graduate of Japanese Studies at the University of Oxford and the History of Art and Archaeology of East Asia at SOAS. Her interests are Japanese art from the Edo and Meiji periods, and the display of Buddhist art in museums.

Dr Nick Swann is Senior Lecturer in Buddhist Studies at University of South Wales. His research interests include decoloniality in education, as well as the use of games and innovation in learning Buddhist languages. He is currently Secretary of the UK Association for Buddhist Studies.

This event is organised by Lori Wong (Senior Lecturer in Conservation) and Dr Sujatha Meegama (Senior Lecturer in Art History) as part of The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Centre for Buddhist Art and Conservation at The Courtauld.

Buddhism and Food Ethics

Call for papers

20 April 2024 (9:00am-5:00pm) 

The University of Oxford China Centre, Dickson Poon Building, Canterbury Road, Oxford, OX2 6LU 

The University of Oxford and Yin-Cheng Buddhist Studies Network are pleased to announce a one-day conference on Buddhism and Food Ethics to be held on Saturday 20th April 2024 at the University of Oxford China Centre

Food Ethics lie at the heart of many aspects of Buddhist practice. Traditionally consideration and debate concerning food ethics were played out in relation to the nature of Buddhist renunciation and identity, almsgiving (dāna) and merit making, serving of seniors, ancestors, deities and Buddhas, and so forth. In recent decades, food ethics has been transformed by concerns about climate change, the plastic catastrophe, waste management, modern-day slavery, endangered species, animal welfare, agri-business, the health impact of food and food security.  

Papers are welcome on any aspect of Buddhism and Food Ethics, historical or modern. Please submit your 300-word proposal to [email protected] by 6pm on 1 March 2024. 

All associated costs, including accommodation and meals during the conference, will be covered by the conference organizers. Depending on the funds available, travel expenses may also be partially or fully covered. The anticipated time slot for each paper is 20 minutes. Selected conference papers will be published in the Yin-Cheng Journal of Contemporary Buddhism.  

The conference is kindly funded by the Yin-Cheng Network for Buddhist Studies

Being Buddhist in Britain talk by Dr Caroline Starkey

Date: Wednesday 13th December

Time: 19:30-20:30 PM

Location: on Zoom

Description: Dr. Caroline Starkey, Associate Professor of Religion and Society and Director of Liberal Arts in the School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science at the University of Leeds joins us online for a fascinating talk based on her work studying Buddhists in Britain. Caroline writes, ‘The aim of this talk is to provide a brief historical overview of Buddhism’s connection to Britain, detail its contemporary trajectories, and give particular focus to burgeoning areas of study and reflection of interest to Buddhist practitioners and academics alike, including gender, social class, secular mindfulness, and Covid. Whilst Buddhism in Britain has grown and diversified since the 1960s, it still does not receive the kind of academic attention it deserves, and the aim of this talk is to encourage a revitalisation in the study of Buddhism on British shores. Through the talk, I weave together a discussion of what it is like being a Buddhist in Britain, whilst also studying Buddhists in Britain, and the opportunities and tensions inherent within occupying this particular position.’ Caroline’s talk will be followed by a live Q&A session. You don’t want to miss this!

How to register: please register for the online event using this link – https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZIldO2tqzkrGteNqF7Blaxue7mmln6Dl0mg. once you have registered you should receive the Zoom log-in details. If you do not receive the log-in details within 24 hours of registering, please send me an email and I will help you with that. 

Note: UKABS, NBOs, BMBS and CfAB are hosting a follow-up Being Buddhist in Britain meeting online on Wednesday 13th December from 7:30-8:30pm!
As those of you who attended last month’s event will know, due to the adverse weather conditions that the UK was experiencing on that weekend and the resulting disruptions to transport services, the key speaker, Dr. Caroline Starkey, was unfortunately unable to make the event. We tried to arrange for her to dial in over Zoom on the day, however, that didn’t work out either. 

Buddhist Studies Survey 2023


As some of you may know, in 1993 and 1995 I did two surveys of Buddhist Studies as an academic discipline. Most of the results of these surveys were published in my 1999 book Luminous Passage. A little more than a decade later (in 2006) I did a follow-up survey. This survey was significantly larger than the previous surveys, and yielded a wonderful response rate of more than 80%. The results were published in the JIABS (30, 1-2), and presented at the 2008 meeting of the IABS in Atlanta.

We have also benefited from José Cabezón’s brilliant Presidential Address at the 2020 American Academy of Religion annual meeting, published in the September 2021 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion.

However, despite the immense growth and changes in Buddhist Studies in the intervening years from 2006 until now, no additional surveys of individual Buddhist Studies scholars have appeared in more than 15 years. I would very much like to remedy that situation. As such, I am requesting that any and all Buddhist Studies scholars take just a few moments from their busy schedules, and email me ([email protected]) a copy of their curriculum vitae (formatted in either Microsoft Word or Adobe Acrobat). I will then collate and tally the results of this data, and make the results available online. Be assured that complete anonymity will be maintained throughout the project, and no individuals will be identified by name.

We will then be able to see where our colleagues earned their doctorate, where they teach, what is their rank, what languages they know, what professional societies they belong to, where they publish their books and articles, where they present papers, what are their areas of Buddhist Studies specialization, what grants and awards have they received, where have they held editorial positions, how they use the internet, and so forth.

Obviously, Buddhist Studies as an academic discipline has been profoundly influenced, and advanced, by the explosive growth of technology. It has also expanded to provide a truly comprehensive approach to the study of all aspects of the Buddhist tradition worldwide.

I am hoping this new survey will greatly enhance our understanding of the academic study of Buddhism, and all you have to do to assist that advance is email me your curriculum vitae. I hope you’ll join your colleagues in this effort.

Finally, because I have been retired for more than a decade, I may not be completely up to date on the newest Buddhist Studies scholars. If you know of anyone who is relatively new to Buddhist Studies, please send their name and email address along to me so that I can be sure that they too are invited to participate in this survey.

With Best Wishes.

Charles Prebish

Professor Emeritus, Pennsylvania State University

Charles Redd Endowed Chair Emeritus, Utah State University

[email protected]

Buddhist Forum — SOAS Centre of Buddhist Studies Friday 19 May, 5-7pm

Crossing the Boundaries of the Pali Canon: An Analysis of Future Bodhisattas in Theravada Tradition Ven. Medagampitiye Wijithadhamma

The next Buddhist Forum event of the SOAS Centre of Buddhist Studies is scheduled this Friday 19 May, 5-7pm; it will take place in the SOAS Main Building, room 4426 (4th floor). The lecture is free, and no registration is needed.
Our speaker will be Ven. Medagampitiye Wijithadhamma, professor in the Department of Pali and Buddhist Studies at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Sri Lanka.

Buddhist Forum 202319 May 2023, 5:00-7:00 PMSOAS, Main Building Room: 4426 (In-person only)


A bodhisatta is an individual one who seeks awakening. In Pali Buddhism, bodhisatta refers to someone who has decided to become a Buddha and has also received a prediction from a living Buddha that this will be so. In the Pāli Nikāyas of the Theravāda tradition, the term bodhisatta is used mainly by the Buddha Gautama to refer to his pre-awakening experiences.

The Pali Canon only mentions one future Buddha, Metteyya. But the Dasabodhisattuppattikathā (DBK) mentions ten future Buddhas and their Bodhisatta lives. The DBK is a Pali text where the most important paramitās perfected by the ten future Buddhas in their bodhisatta lives are described. This also is the only example of a book written in Pali devoted entirely to extolling the bodhisattas who will be Buddhas in future. The Wheel-turning King Saṁkha, Nārada, King Pasenadi Kosola, Abhibhū deity, Asura King Dīghasoṇa, Caṁkī brahmin, Subha brahmin, Todeyya brahmin and two elephants Dhanapālaka and Pāraleyyaka are the ten future bodhisattas. They will be Buddhas by the names of Metteyya, Rāma, Dhammarāja, Dhammassāmi, Nārada, Raṃsimuni, Devadeva, Narasīha, Tissa and Sumaṅgala respectively.

Ancient Sri Lankan artists have transformed this literary description in temple paintings. My research has explored such paintings through random samples, based on the ‘Protected Monument List’ published by the Department of Archaeology, Sri Lanka. I have selected 21 places covering 11 districts in Sri Lanka. Each place was visited and photographed and then carefully analyzed. Paintings in Pusulpitiya Rajamaha Viharaya of Kotmale, Potgul Viharaya of Hanguranketa, Kasagala Rajamaha Viharaya at Kumbukgate, Tam Pita Viharaya of Digampitiya, Sneviratnarama Tempita Viharaya at Dodanthale and Bomalu Tempita Viharaya at Udatalawinna were discovered during this research. The paintings of the ten bodhisatvas in these temples exhibit several special features, which I shall discuss in the lecture.

Ven. Medagampitiye Wijithadhamma is professor in the Department of Pali and Buddhist Studies at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Sri Lanka. He received his Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Pali from the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka in 2009. He is the author of Dasabodhisattuppattikathā-aṭṭhakathā, which explored the concept of future bodhisattas and Buddhas. His current research explores Sinhalese manuscripts in the British Library and the SOAS library. He is a visiting scholar at the Centre of Buddhist Studies at SOAS.The Buddhist Forum series is supported by the generosity of the Khyentse Foundation.

Buddhist Studies Events in Oxford in Trinity Term 2023


15 May 2023 at 5:00-6:00pm
Laurence Cox and Brian Bocking
Researching colonial Buddhist history from below – Irish-Burmese monk U Dhammaloka, subaltern perspectives and plebeian movements

22 May 2023 at 7:00-8:30pm
Ajahn Brahmali, Venerable Canda and Guest Bhikkhuni (Registration required)
Two Buddhist Nuns & a Monk Discuss the Buddha’s Views on Women & Gender

24 May 2023 at 9:00-10:30am
Ajahn Brahmali (Registration required)
A monastic approach to translating Buddhist texts

5 June 2023 at 2:00-3:30pm
The Yin-Cheng Distinguished Lecture by Harold Roth (In person and online)
A Zen Foundation for Critical Subjectivity in the New Field of Contemplative Studies

26 June 2023 at 5:00-6:00pm
Wang Song
A debate on infinity paradox in Chinese Buddhist tradition

5, 12, 19 May and 2, 16 June at 2.30-4:00pm

Pali Texts Reading (via Teams. Registration required)

University of Oxford
Glorisun Lecture Series in Buddhist Studies 2022-2023
Basement Teaching Room 1 at 5:00pm
Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
Pusey Lane
Oxford, OX1 2LE
All Welcome
Tea and snacks at 4:15 – 4:45pm (Common Room in the basement)
All enquiries: [email protected]

15 May 2023

Laurence Cox and Brian Bocking

Researching colonial Buddhist history from below – Irish-Burmese monk U Dhammaloka, subaltern perspectives and plebeian movements

The problem is not always whether the subaltern can speak: it is whether anyone will record and archive it when they do. Moreover, when working-class radicals seek to avoid repression, this can be entertaining for historians but also a problem for their research. With Alicia Turner and the help of an extensive international network of researchers, Laurence Cox and Brian Bocking spent a decade researching the Irish emigrant, sailor, hobo, Buddhist monk and anti-colonial activist U Dhammaloka (1856 – 1913?) – a man with at least five aliases, a 25-year gap in his biography, the target of police and government surveillance and a proto-extradition attempt, someone who faked his own death and eventually disappeared. The lecture discusses some of the challenges of ‘history from below’ in relation to working-class voices, radical social movements, and subaltern ethnicities. It also notes the specific interests of religious organisations and academic disciplines in constructing suitably respectable origin myths to fit contemporary needs.

Laurence Cox is Professor of Sociology at the National University of Ireland Maynooth and has published widely on Buddhist Studies and social movements. A particular area of interest has been uncovering the history of Irish involvement in late C19th and early C20th Buddhist Revival activities in Asia and Europe, including the first Buddhist mission to Europe (1889-1892). With Alicia Turner and Brian Bocking, he recently published The Irish Buddhist: the Forgotten Monk who Faced Down the British Empire (OUP 2020), using the life of Dhammaloka as a lens to explore Asian Buddhist networks.

Brian Bocking (MA Lancaster, PhD Leeds) is emeritus Professor of the Study of Religions at University College Cork, Ireland (retired 2015), previously holding posts at the universities of Stirling, Tsukuba (Japan), Bath Spa and SOAS, London. He has worked on Japanese religions, Buddhism, and the Study of Religions. His books include Nagarjuna in China, with the first full English translation of the 5th-century Chinese text of Nagarjuna’s ‘Middle Treatise’ (1995); A Popular Dictionary of Shinto (1996); and The Oracles of the Three Shrines: Windows on Japanese Religion, a study of the changing form and interpretations over four centuries of a key Japanese religious scroll called the sanja takusen

(2000). With Laurence Cox and the late Yoshinaga Shin’ichi he has researched and published on the forgotten Irish Japanologist and pioneer London Buddhist missionary Charles J W Pfoundes (1840-1907) and together with Alicia Turner and Laurence Cox has co-authored The Irish Buddhist: The Forgotten Monk who Faced Down the British Empire (2000) which reconstructs the life (c. 1856-1914) of the Irish Burmese radical monk U Dhammaloka.

26 June 2023

Wang Song

A debate on infinity paradox in Chinese Buddhist tradition


The discussion on ‘infinity paradox’ (無窮過) is widely seen in philosophical traditions around the world, such as those in China, India, and Greece. In the field of ontology, it is generally used to derive the first cause. In the debate on specific propositions, it is used as a fallacy proof. For instance, Chinese philosophers like Zhuangzi, Guo Xiang and their Indian counterparts, such as Nagarjuna, Vasubandhu, and others have all explored the problem of ‘infinity paradox’. After Buddhism was introduced to China, Hua-yan Buddhism philosophers such as Zhiyan and Fazang interfused the two major traditions and proposed the theory of ‘endless origins’ (無盡緣起). Zhang Taiyan (章太炎), a modern philosopher, responded to this based on his philosophical position of ‘Tathagata Monism’ (真如一元論) and put forward different views. This lecture will review relevant literature and analyze the dual perspectives of Buddhist philosophy on this issue.

Professor Song WANG received his B.A. and M.A. from Peking University and Ph.D. in East Asian Buddhism from the International College for Postgraduate Buddhist Studies, Tokyo. Prior to teaching at the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies of Peking University in 2005, he conducted his postdoctoral research as Overseas Researcher of Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS). His publications include A Study on the Thought of the Huayan School in the Song Dynasty (2008), Japanese Buddhism: From the Beginning till 20th century (2015), and A Critical Annotation and Study on the Huayan Fajie Guanmen (2016), and numerous papers on East Asian Buddhism in Chinese, Japanese and English.

Kindly supported by Glorisun Global Network for Buddhist Studies.

Two Buddhist Nuns & a Monk Discuss the Buddha’s Views on Women & Gender

Debate by Ajahn Brahmali, Venerable Canda and Guest Bhikkhuni

Monday 22 May, 7.00 – 8.30pm

Leonard Wolfson Auditorium,

Linton Rd, Oxford, OX2 6UD

Join Ajahn Brahmali, Venerable Canda and a guest bhikkhuni for this thought-provoking debate, including the seeming paradox between women & gender, and non-self.

Hear from experts in the field as they explore and analyze the historical context and teachings of the Buddha on this important topic. Gain a deeper understanding of the role of women in Buddhism and learn about contemporary perspectives on gender and equality. This event promises to be an enlightening and stimulating discussion. Don’t miss out on the chance to engage in this important dialogue and expand your understanding of this fascinating topic!

About Ajahn Brahmali

Renowned meditation teacher Ajahn Brahmali is visiting England to lead his second meditation retreat & give an exciting series of Dhamma talks!

A close disciple of Ajahn Brahm, Ajahn Brahmali is known for his for joyful teaching style and incredible understanding of the Early Buddhist Texts. His talks bring the Buddha’s teachings to life in ways that we can readily apply, to help us find more happiness and peace in our lives.

Register at anukampaproject.org/events.


A monastic approach to translating Buddhist texts

By Ajahn Brahmali

Wednesday 24 May, 9.00-10.30am

Old Common Room, Balliol

To register, contact: [email protected]

Ajahn Brahmali, whose well-received translations of the Vinaya are available on sutta-central, discusses with us his approach to translating from Pali. Anyone interested or engaged in translating from Pali is welcome to join us. Please email [email protected] to confirm your attendance.

Kindly supported by Glorisun Global Network for Buddhist Studies.


University of Oxford

Yin-Cheng Distinguished Lecture Series

5 June 2023 at 2:00-3:30pm

Basement Teaching Room 1

Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

Pusey Lane

Oxford, OX1 2LE

All Welcome

Tea and snacks at 3:30-4:00pm (Common Room in the basement)

All enquiries: [email protected]

Harold Roth (Professor of religious studies, Brown University)

A Zen Foundation for Critical Subjectivity in the New Field of Contemplative Studies

The new academic field of Contemplative Studies supplements the third-person academic model of the critical study of texts through the contexts of culture and history with an equal emphasis on the critical study of the experiences embodied in these texts via first-person epistemology, supported by scientific research on meditation. At the core of this first-person epistemology is a new approach to critical subjectivity derived from modern Zen Buddhist philosophy and practice. These will be presented and detailed in the lecture.

Harold D. Roth is professor of religious studies and founding director of the Contemplative Studies Initiative at Brown University. He is a specialist in Chinese philosophy and textual analysis, the classical Daoist tradition and a pioneer of the academic field of Contemplative Studies, in which he created the first Bachelor’s degree program at a major research university in North America. He has written and/or edited nine books and more than 50 scholarly articles in these areas including Original Tao (Columbia, 1999), a translation and analysis of the oldest text on breath meditation in China; “Against Cognitive Imperialism,” (Religion East and West, 2008), a critique of conceptual bias in Cognitive Sciences and Religious Studies; The Huainanzi: A Guide to the Theory and Practice of Government in Early Han China (2010) (with 3 other scholars), the 139 BCE Daoist compendium long considered the last great untranslated work of classical Chinese thought; and The Contemplative Foundations of Classical Daoism (2021), a collection of his scholarly articles on this topic. He is also the compiler and editor of Manifesting Zen: Master Dharma Talks from Mt. Baldy, a collection of teishos on the foundational Chan work, the Linjilu (Jp.: Rinzai roku) by Zen Master Kyōzan Jōshū Rōshi (Sasaki: 1907-2014).

Discussant Sarah Shaw

Dr. Sarah Shaw read Greek and English, at Manchester University, where she did a doctorate in English literature. After studying Pali and Sanskrit at Oxford University, she began to conduct research on Pali literature, particularly jātakas, texts concerned with meditation, and modern practice. She is a member of Wolfson College and the Faculty of Oriental Studies, Oxford. She is also a fellow of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies.

Her books include Buddhist Meditation: an Anthology of Texts, Routledge (2006);

Jātaka Stories: Birth Stories of the Bodhisatta (2006); co-authored, with Naomi Appleton, The Ten Great Birth Stories of the Buddha: the Mahānipāta of the Jātakatthavaṇṇanā Silkworm Books, Thailand/University of Washington Press (2015); Mindfulness: Where it Comes From and What it Means, Shambhala (2020) and The Art of Listening: A Guide to the Early Teachings of Buddhism, Shambhala (2021). She has just edited a posthumous book by her teacher, L.S. Cousins, Meditations of the Pali Traditions: Illuminating Buddhist Doctrine, History, and Practice, Shambhala (2022). A frequent visitor to South and Southeast Asia, she lectures and writes on Buddhist subjects.

About the Yin-Cheng Distinguished Lecture Series:

Launched in September, 2021, the Yin-Cheng Distinguished Lecture Series (印證佛學傑出學術系列講座) is a collaborative, multi-university partnership between Peking University, University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, Inalco (Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales), Princeton University, Harvard University, and the University of British Columbia. The Lecture Series is established in honour of Venerable Cheng-yen 證嚴, founder of Tzu Chi, and her mentor Yinshun 印順 (1906–2005), with the goal of promoting topics in Buddhist Studies.

The lecture will be in person and live-streamed via YouTube with simultaneous English and Mandarin channels.

Pali Texts Reading

5, 12, 19 May and 2, 16 June 2.30-4:00pm via Teams

The Pali reading class was set up to read texts that require certain types of technical knowledge (such as traditional grammar, vinaya, Abhidhamma, or material culture) and/or which do not have a published edition or translation, as well as to support those working on an edition or translation or seeking to understand a particular text for their research. It meets online on Fridays (except those Fridays where key members have other commitments).

Please contact [email protected] or [email protected] if you would like to join this group or have a text you would like to read with this group.

Glorisun Lecture Series in Buddhist Studies 2022-2023 & Yin-Cheng Distinguished Lecture 2023, University of Oxford

University of Oxford Glorisun Lecture Series in Buddhist Studies 2022-2023 & Yin-Cheng Distinguished Lecture 2023

Trinity Term 2023

Lecture Room 1 at 5:00pm  

Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies  
Pusey Lane 
Oxford, OX1 2LE  

All Welcome  

Tea and snacks at 4:15 – 4:45pm (Common Room in the basement)  

All enquiries: [email protected]      

24 April 2023

Donna Marcus Duke ‘Identity without Essence’: Self and gender in the Soreyyatheravatthu

1 May 2023

Thomas Borchert  

Barami and Bureaucracy: Mechanisms of Monastic Power in Contemporary Thailand 

15 May 2023

Angela Chiu 

Antiquities Looting in Southeast Asia 

22 May 2023

Laurence Cox and Brian Bocking 

Researching colonial Buddhist history from below – Irish-Burmese monk U Dhammaloka, subaltern perspectives and plebeian movements  

29 May 2023 The Yin-Cheng Distinguished Lecture Series (印證佛學傑出學術系列講座)Julia Shaw (Associate Professor, University College of London, UK) Buddhism, ecology and place-making: an archaeological perspective

5 June 2023 

Harold Roth (to be confirmed

Other than the 29 May Yin-Cheng Distinguished Lecture, all lectures are kindly supported by Glorisun Global Network for Buddhist Studies. 

The Lotus Sutra: Teachings, Transmission and Material Culture of a Sacred Buddhist Text

15-16 December, The Foyle Suite, British Library 96 Euston Road London NW1 2DB

The British Library and International Dunhuang Project will be hosting a conference to celebrate the close of the Lotus Sutra Manuscripts Conservation and Digitisation Project (https://www.bl.uk/…/lotus-sutra-manuscripts-digitisation) on 15 and 16 December.

The keynote will be delivered by Professor Stephen Teiser and the rest of the programme will bring together a group of scholars and the Project team to investigate the teachings of the Lotus Sutra, the transmission of the Lotus Sutra in Dunhuang and the methodology and results of the Lotus Sutra project, which has now conserved, digitised and published on the IDP website nearly 800 manuscripts of the scriptures in the Stein Collection.The conference is free and open to the public.

It would be lovely to count you among our attendees as we will hold it in person, in the Library’s Foyle Suite, but it will also be possible to attend online via live-streaming. For registration and the full programme, please check Eventbrite: https://t.co/cMvWwdDWuX

A Narrative Approach to Early Chinese Buddhist Prose

Professor Antje Richter, University of Colorado Boulder

Chaired by Dr Xiaojing Miao, Pembroke College

Location: Harold Lee Room, Pembroke College

Time: 1 December, 2022, 14:00-16:00 GMT

The silence of Vimalakirti is a famous moment in Mahayana Buddhism. The householder’s decision to respond with “thundering silence” when asked to explain his understanding of non-duality forms the doctrinal and narrative culmination of the Vimalakīrti-nirdeśa-sūtra, a text that mostly consists of a lively and occasionally even humorous back and forth in conversation in front of various audiences. The “scripture of the teaching of Vimalakirti” emerged in India in the first or second century CE and gained immense literary, religious, and cultural currency in East Asia, through Chinese translations that started circulating since the late second century. Scholars have discussed the sutra from many angles, but its narrative form has received little scholarly interest so far.

This talk analyzes Vimalakirti’s silence against two foils that the sutra itself sets up. The first foil is one of non-silence: the conversational pattern that underlies the sutra’s narrative and discursive progression. Turn-taking in this text is both highly formalized and open to surprising twists, not least because the setting of the conversation moves several times, both in this world and to alternative universes, along with the composition of the internal audience. The second foil is one of silence, because Vimalakirti’s celebrated silence is not the only occasion a main protagonist of the text chooses not to answer a question asked of him. Both foils contribute to the performative effect of Vimalakirti’s silence, in narrative as well as doctrinal terms. The talk will embed reflections on the narrative role of silence in the Vimalakīrti-nirdeśa-sūtra into native Chinese notions of speaking and not speaking, which both precede and postdate the introduction of the sutra in China. On a metalevel, the talk hopes to contribute to the extension and establishment of narrative approaches to Buddhist texts and medieval Chinese literature.

Antje Richter, Associate Professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, received her PhD from LMU Munich 1998. Her publications include Letter Writing and Epistolary Culture in Early Medieval China (2013), A History of Chinese Letters and Epistolary Culture (2015), several co-edited volumes, and more than 30 articles. She is currently completing a monograph on notions of health and illness in medieval Chinese literature.

To sign up, please contact Dr Xiaojing Miao ([email protected]) or Dr Christopher Foster ([email protected])