2013-2014 Lecture Series

October 7 - Matthew Sayers


"Feeding the Dead: Buddhist Influences on the Tradition of Ancestral Offerings in Ancient India"

Matthew R. Sayers, Assistant Professor of Religion and Philosophy, Lebanon Valley College 

matt sayers

Monday, October 7, 4:15 pm

Barker Center, Room 133 (Plimpton Room)

12 Quincy St. [ see map]



November 14 - Karin Meyers


"Free Will, Freedom and Method in Buddhist Philosophy"

Karin Meyers (PhD, University of Chicago) 


karin meyers

Thursday, November 14, 5:15 pm

CGIS South, S050 (bottom floor)

1730 Cambridge St. [ see map]


PLEASE NOTE: This event will take place on THURSDAY.



November 21 - Roy Tzohar


"Early Yogācāra Theory of Meaning and the Possibility of Intersubjective Discourse Among Different Speech Communities"

Roy Tzohar, Assistant Professor, Department of East and South Asian Studies, Tel Aviv University 

roy tzohar

Thursday, November 21, 3:00 pm

Barker Center 133 (Plimpton Room)

12 Quincy St. [see map]


PLEASE NOTE: This event will take place on THURSDAY at 3:00pm.



March 3 - Jason Neelis


"Sons of Pigs, Potentates and Prostitutes in Gandhāran Avadānas: Localization and Transmission of Rebirth Narratives in Regional Literary and Visual Cultures"

Jason Neelis, Associate Professor, South Asian Religions, Wilfrid Laurier University 


Jason Neelis

Monday, March 3, 4:15pm

CGIS S153 (in Asia Center)

1730 Cambridge St. [ see map]




March 10 - Phyllis Granoff and Koichi Shinohara


"Maitreya’s Jeweled Yūpa and Śākyamuni’s Nirvāṇa: A new look at some Gandharan reliefs"

    Phyllis Granoff, Hixon Professor of World Religions, Yale University




"Esoteric Buddhist Rituals, Story Literature, and Biographies"

    Koichi Shinohara, Senior Lecturer of Religious Studies, Yale University

Phyllis Granoff

Monday, March 10, 4:15 pm

CGIS North, K262 (Knafel Building)

1737 Cambridge St. [ see map]



Phyllis Granoff:

This paper examines several puzzling reliefs from Gandhara in which the Buddha is shown standing by the side of a pillar. The evidence suggests that the scene was regularly placed just before the depiction of Śākyamuni’s Parinirvāṇa. I suggest an identification of the scene with the Buddha’s prediction of Maitreya’s arrival as told in texts like the Divyāvadāna. Maitreya’s life story in this text is radically different from the normal “Life of a Buddha”, and I explore possible connections with non-Buddhist stories.


Koichi Shinohara:

Sources preserved in Chinese translation enable us to trace how Esoteric Buddhist rituals evolved from the recitation of spells to include image worship and finally maṇḍala initiations that eventually incorporated elaborate visualization practices. Anxiety over the ritual's efficacy drove this evolution. Ritual manuals, often secret, and stories about Esoteric masters follow different narrative strategies. But the anxiety revealed in the ritual manuals with their need to demonstrate the efficacy of their rituals shaped the formation of these stories as well. The paper illustrates this pattern with a few examples taken from the Japanese story collection Shasekishū.



March 24 - Christoph Emmrich

WORKSHOP: Description, Prescription, and Memory. Reflections on Method in the Study of Ritual Manuals

LECTURE: Buddhist Period. Gender, Life Course, and Timing in Three Newar Menarche Manuals

Christoph Emmrich, Assistant Professor of Buddhist Studies, University of Toronto 

christoph emmrich

Monday, March 24, 10:00 am
Buddhist Studies Workshop
Center for the Study of World Religions
Conference Room
42 Francis Ave., Cambridge, MA

Monday, March 24, 6:00 pm
Buddhist Studies Forum Lecture
Center for the Study of World Religions
Common Room
42 Francis Ave., Cambridge, MA



Description, Prescription, and Memory. Reflections on Method in the Study of Ritual Manuals: The speaker will attempt to both bear witness to his own ongoing conversation with his research collaborators and initiate a conversation with the audience about the issues that trouble and motivate him in his research. For that purpose he will point at the opportunity ritual manuals offer in reconstructing lost precursors of current practice in the mode of writing and at the limitations to the recovery of the ritual event posed by qualification, participation, and gender. Further, he will try to explore the methodological difficulties in establishing the relation between writing and doing, or rather between having-written and having-done, particularly in awareness of the problem whether past manuals indeed still pertain to the kind of ritual practice that seemingly corresponding manuals currently attempt to paraphrase, regulate, or recollect. By confronting manual writing with accounts of rituals in chronicles, literature, and ethnographies, the speaker hopes to contribute to a discussion about what kind of texts writing about ritual produces and how the memories these texts evoke, repeat, erase, and revise may encourage us to be aware of the kind of history they seemingly compel us to write.



Buddhist Period. Gender, Life Course, and Timing in Three Newar Menarche Manuals: Building on previous anthropological work on rituals for Newar Buddhist girl children in the Kathmandu Valley, this talk will attempt an analysis of liturgies pertaining to a religious practice called bārhā pikayagu. Documented by local texts in a recognizably stable form since about the 17th century, it ends a period of seclusion preceding menarche, arranged for and undergone by girl children in certain Newar communities. In looking at three ritual manuals currently used by Buddhist priests in three traditionally Newar cities, Lalitpur, Kathmandu, and Bhaktapur, respectively, the speaker’s aim is to supply a textual background to existing ethnographies and historicize their data. He will outline both the ways the texts were composed and have been read, as well as define their role in the performative unfolding of singular events.
He will attempt to do so by placing these manuals at the conjunction of other textual genres of domestic rituals for women with cosmological, demonological, marital, and pregnancy-related connotations. Apart from locating the texts within the larger ritual literature of Buddhism among the Newars, what drives the interest in this specific genre of manuals are two interlinked questions: How do male and female ritual specialists conduct parallel, consecutive, and exclusive, yet coordinated sequences of ritual orchestration and thus produce gender-specific ritual scripts? And, what can the divergence and asynchrony of life stages as, on the one hand, experienced by the girl children during and beyond the ritual and as, on the other hand, enacted by them within the ritual itself, tell us about the genealogy of this practice?



March 31 - Bernard Faure


"The Hidden Face of the Sun: Ise, Amaterasu, and Uhō Dōji"

Bernard Faure, Kao Professor of Japanese Religions, Columbia University 

bernard faure

Monday, March 31, 5:30pm
CGIS South, Seminar Room (S153)
1730 Cambridge Street [ see map]

Please note that this lecture will take place at 5:30pm.