(Photo: Christina Buswell, cropped)

Upcoming Events

Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Pacification, Offering, and Burial in Early Japanese Buddhism

In 1907, three sets of eighth-century objects were discovered from underneath the bronze pedestal of the seated Vairocana Buddha in the Great Buddha Hall, Tōdaiji, Nara prefecture. The objects were initially identified as examples of “platform pacifying objects” (chindangu), but their actual function has been debated since the 1970s. Tōdaiji was conceived of as the main temple for the nascent Chinese-style centralized government, and its construction was an undertaking of unprecedented scale. The central Vairocana Buddha, completed around 752 CE, was the largest and most technically advanced statue ever to be built on the Japanese archipelago. The fact that the Tōdaiji objects were found beneath the pedestal, placed strategically around the statue, suggests that they were more intimately tied to the central Buddha than typical platform-pacifying objects. This presentation reconsiders these Tōdaiji objects within two distinct praxes: the preceding and contemporaneous practice of ritual burial; and the emerging practice of caching objects inside a statue (zōnai nōnyūhin 像内納入品). It is well known that in the latter practice, the space inside a Buddhist statue would be conceptualized as a place to deposit offerings; this presentation will demonstrate that that space beneath the surface (in this case, inside a platform) similarly served as a type of portal that allowed a devotee to access the realm of the divine through the mediation of buried offerings.

Feeling and Wonder on Buddhist Pathways

In 14th-century Tibet, Longchen Rabjam drew from classic Indian Buddhist writing and early Dzogchen tantric poetry to articulate unique features of the Great Completeness (Dzogchen tradition). I trace here the pivotal shifts he describes: He upturns classic Buddhist views of self and senses. For the senses are not problems, they are portals to reality, The state of awakening, enlightened mind, bodhicitta, is not a goal to achieve, but the way things are. The path does not go anywhere, it simply opens. Wisdom, the ultimate truth, suffuses mind, body and world. Recognizing this wisdom evokes in practitioners feelings of wonder, amusement, and spacious delight. Longchenpa's narrative is rooted in the confidence that these qualities are so natural that they are bound to be elicited through practice. Therefore in closing, I connect some of his key points with a more contemporary manner of eliciting feeling and knowing that otherwise remains occult to us.

Recent Events

5/11/2017 - 5/12/2017
2017 Graduate Conference on Religion

Panels: Physical Artifacts of Religious Performance Crossroads of Ancient and Modern--Adaptation and Subversion Body and Speech in Ritual Performance Keynote Lecture: "Paradisiacal Realms in Ancient Egypt and Early China" by Anthony Barbieri-Low, Professor of Chinese History at UC Santa Barbara

The Indian Roots of Global Buddhism

A one-day conference on the Indian origins of Buddhism.