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Spring Term 2019


Thursday, April 4, 2019, 5 pm
2019 Numata Lecture
Avalokitasvara / Avalokiteśvara, Amitābha / Amitāyus and pratyekabuddha / pratyayabuddha:
Misinterpretations of Gāndhārī Buddhism by Sanskrit Composers of the Mahāyāna Scriptures
Seishi Karashima, Soka University, Tokyo
Location: 180 Doe Memorial Library
UC Berkeley

Buddha Preaching, Gandhara, 3rd or 4th century CE, gray schist 
John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art - Sarasota, FL

Śākyamuni seems to have preached in a colloquial language, namely Māgadhī. The scriptures of early Buddhism were transmitted also in various colloquial languages, e.g. Pāli. Probably, many of the early Mahāyāna scriptures were originally transmitted in colloquial languages as well, e.g. Gāndhārī, which were later gradually translated into (Buddhist) Sanskrit. There are quite a few instances where later Sanskrit translators and composers misunderstood the meanings of Gāndhārī forms and created hyper-sanskritised ones, from which new interpretations also appeared. Avalokitasvara, meaning “One Who Surveys Sounds”, Amitāyus (“Infinite Life”), pratyayabuddha (“one who has become a buddha by [understanding] causes”) are some such instances. We shall trace the misinterpretations of Gāndhārī Buddhism by Sanskrit composers by means of comparing Sanskrit texts and the early Chinese translations whose underlying language is probably Gāndhārī.

Seishi Karashima is Professor of Sino-Indian Buddhist Philology at The International Research Institute for Advanced Buddhology, Soka University, Tokyo. From 1976 to 1994, he studied Indology, Buddhist Studies and Sinology at the University of Tokyo (B.A. and M.A.), Cambridge University, Beijing University (Ph.D.) and at Freiburg University. Areas of publication and research include philological studies of early Buddhist Sanskrit Texts and early Chinese Buddhist translations. Among his publications are: A Glossary of Lokakṣema’s Translation of the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā, 2010; A Critical Edition of Lokakṣema’s Translation of the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā, 2011; Die Abhisamācārikā Dharmāḥ, 2012, 3 vols.; Buddhist Manuscripts from Central Asia: The British Library Sanskrit Fragments, ed. with Klaus Wille, vol. 1 (2006), vol. 2 (2009), vol. 3 (2015); Buddhist Manuscripts from Central Asia: The St. Petersburg Sanskrit Fragments, vol. 1 (2015) ed. with M. I. Vorobyova-Desyatovskaya; Mahāyāna Texts: Prajñāpāramitā Texts,(1) (2016), (2) (2019) (Gilgit Manuscripts in the National Archives of India Facsimile Edition Volume II.1, 2).


Thursday, April 11, 2019, 5pm
2019 Chao Lecture
Buddhist Contemplation and Higher Education:
Researching and Adapting Contemplation in Modern Universities
David Germano, University of Virginia
Goldman Theater, Brower Center
2150 Allston Way, Berkeley

image of Larung Gar gathered monks

Buddhist contemplation has a long history with complex educational institutions, namely Buddhist monasteries all across Asia. In recent decades, there has been a surge of interest in the American academy in such practices, including scientific research on their efficacy and mechanism, possible adaptation for new pedagogical approaches in the classroom, and inspiration for fresh perspectives on co-curricular programming for students. This talk will reflect on such developments by considering both the promise and peril involved across multiple registers as modern academics revisit the fault lines of the ancient emergence of universities out of monastic institutions and their contemplative lifestyles.

David Germano is professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia where he also serves as the director of the Tibet Center (www.uvatibetcenter.org), director of the Contemplative Sciences Center (www.uvacontemplation.org), and director of SHANTI (Sciences, Humanities, and the Arts Network of Technological Initiatives, (www.shanti.virginia.edu). He also is the founder and director of the Tibetan and Himalayan Library (THL, www.thlib.org), the largest international initiative using digital technology to facilitate collaboration in Tibetan Studies across disciplines. His personal research interests are focused on the Nyingma and Bön lineages of Tibetan Buddhism, tantric traditions overall, Buddhist philosophy, and Tibetan historical literature and concerns, particularly from the eighth to fifteenth centuries. He also does research on the contemporary state of Tibetan religion in relationship to China, and non-monastic yogic communities in cultural Tibet, and has broad intellectual interests in international philosophical and literary traditions, including hermeneutics, phenomenology, literary criticism, systems theory, among others. He currently serves as the 2019 Chao Visiting Professor in Buddhist Studies at UC Berkeley.


Monday, April 29, 2019, 5pm
A Tantric Theology from 12th century Tibet
Matthew T. Kapstein, Professor Emeritus, École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris
Numata Visiting Professor of Buddhist Studies, University of Chicago
3335 Dwinelle Hall, UC Berkeley

The teachings of the tantric lineage of the Zur clan, which flourished in West Tibet during the early second millennium, have remained a missing element in the history of the “ancient,” Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism. While the historical importance of the clan is well known and significant lines of transmission are attributed to it, few authentic works stemming from the Zur and detailing their tradition have appeared. The recent discovery of a major synthetic treatise, The All-Encompassing Lamp of Awareness, by a 12th century successor to the Zur and treating all major aspects of their doctrinal heritage, permits us for the first time to consider their contribution in substantial detail.

Matthew T. Kapstein received his PhD from Brown University and specializes in the history of Buddhist philosophy in India and Tibet, as well as in the cultural history of Tibetan Buddhism more generally. He regularly teaches Contemporary Theories in the Study of Religion in the History of Religions program, and Introduction to the Philosophies of India in Philosophy of Religions. His seminars in recent years have focused on particular topics in the history of Buddhist thought, such as Buddha Nature, idealism, and epistemology (pramāṇa), or on broad themes in the study of religion including the problem of evil, death, and the imagination. Kapstein has published over a dozen books and numerous articles, among the most recent of which are a general introduction to Tibetan cultural history, The Tibetans (Oxford 2006), an edited volume on Sino-Tibetan religious relations, Buddhism Between Tibet and China (Boston 2009), and a translation of an eleventh-century philosophical allegory in the acclaimed Clay Sanskrit Series, The Rise of Wisdom Moon (New York 2009). With Kurtis Schaeffer (University of Virginia) and Gray Tuttle (Columbia), he has completed Sources of Tibetan Traditions, published in the Columbia University Press Sources of Asian Traditions series in 2013. Kapstein is also Director of Tibetan Studies at the École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris and current Numata Visiting Professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of Chicago.