All events are free and open to the public

Spring Term 2016

Thursday, February 11, 2016, 5 pm
2016 Khyentse Lecture
The Last Lotsawa: Gendun Chopel in India

Donald S. Lopez, University of Michigan
The Faculty Club, Heyns Room

 Asoka Pillar, painting by Gendun Chopell

Asoka Pillar, painting by Gendun Chopel
Click image to expand.

Gendun Chopel (1903-1951) was the most important Tibetan writer of the twentieth century. Born in Amdo, the son of a Nyingma lama, he was educated at Labrang and Drepung as a Geluk monk. In 1934, he traveled to India, not returning to Lhasa until 1945. During his years in South Asia, he wrote his most important works, including translations from Sanskrit and Pali. The India that he visited, however, was quite different from that of the great Tibetan lotsawas (translators) of ages past. This lecture will explore Gendun Chopel's nuanced views of India, the Land of the Noble (and, to Gendun Chopel, not so noble) Ones.

Donald Lopez is the Arthur E. Link Distinguished University Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies at the University of Michigan, where he serves as chair of the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures and chair of the Michigan Society of Fellows.


Thursday, February 25, 2015, 5 pm
Buddhist Stairways to Heaven
Stephen Jenkins, Humboldt State University
180 Doe Memorial Library

Buddha preaching

Buddha's stairway to heaven traced a route most Buddhists aspired to follow. Pāli suttas and abhidharma offer ascent to radiant, pure, blissful lands ideal for enlightenment, through devotion, "a single mind of faith to the marrow of one's bones," and deathbed aspiration practices. Contrary to recent scholarship, "Pure land" is a term of Indian origin developed from earlier "pure abodes." The central concern of early Buddhists for heavenly rebirth set a strong Indian precedent for East Asian Pure Land. This complex of ideas and practices is crucial for understanding Mahāyāna Buddhology and the role of deities in ancient texts and modern practice.

Stephen Jenkins is Professor of Religion at Humboldt State University. He received his doctorate from Harvard in 1999. His research is focused on Buddhist concepts of compassion, their philosophical grounding, and ethical implications. His most recent publication is Waking into Compassion: the Three Ālambana of Karuṇā in Moonpaths, Cowherds, Jenkins etc., New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.


Monday, March 28, 2016, 5 pm
The Garbhāvakrāntisūtra: a Buddhist Sūtra on Conception, Gestation, and Birth
Robert Kritzer, Kyoto Notre Dame University
180 Doe Memorial Library

The fetus in the 12th and 13th weeks, according to Tibetan medical blockprints

The fetus in the 12th and 13th weeks,
according to Tibetan medical blockprints

Garbhāvakrāntisūtra (Sūtra on Entering the Womb) describes the process of rebirth in greater detail than any other Indian text, religious or medical, Buddhist or non-Buddhist. The sutra centers around a unique 38-week account of the development of the fetus and its thoroughly unpleasant experience in the womb. The sutra also describes conception and the factors that may interfere with it, as well as birth itself. The sutra describes the sufferings that afflict all beings from the moment of birth.

This talk will introduce some of the most unusual features of the sutra. It will also discuss the different versions and translations of the text, especially the translation in the Tibetan Mūlasarvāstivādavinaya Kṣudrakavastu, which I have critically edited and translated into English.

Robert Kritzer is a professor at Kyoto Notre Dame University. He received his Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. His research interests, mainly in Indian Buddhism, include abhidharma, early Yogācāra, and Buddhist theories of rebirth. He has published three books: Rebirth and Causation in the Yogācāra Abhidharma (Arbeitskreis fūr Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien, Universität Wien); Vasubandhu and the Yogācārabhūmi: Yogācāra Elements in the Abhidharmakośabhāṣya. (International Institute for Buddhist Studies); Garbhāvakrāntisūtra: The Sūtra on Entry into the Womb. Studia Philologica Buddhica, (International Institute for Buddhist Studies). Currently, he is studying aśubhabhāvanā, the Buddhist meditation on the impure, with special reference to Vibhāṣā and Śrāvakabhūmi.

Thursday, April 7, 2016, 5 pm
Yogācāra and Panpsychism
Douglas Duckworth, Department of Religion, Temple University
180 Doe Memorial Library

Optical illusion - vase or face

Yogācāra, "the yogic practice school," came to be one of two main lines of interpretation of Mahāyāna Buddhism. There is a lot of internal diversity within this "school," and this paper makes some distinctions among its interpretative strands. Yogācāra has been discussed in academic works primarily in terms of idealism and more recently phenomenology. I wish to cast new light on this tradition through extending the conversation to engage the category of panpsychism, "the view that all things have mind or a mind-like quality" (Skbrina).

Panpsychism does not treat the substance of the world as a mysterious thing called "matter," nor does it posit a non-material spirit or "ghost in the machine," as in dualism. Rather, for a panpsychist, the mind inhabits the world fundamentally, and mental life is the one experiential reality that we have certainty. The meaning of "mind" in panpsychism, however, remains an open question; this is the case with Yogācāra as well. That is, interpretations of Yogācāra, like panpsychism, are open to an array of possibilities that extend a theory of mind to include relational, pluralistic, and singular (or nondual) forms. This paper will outline and discuss some of the implications of these interpretations.

Douglas Duckworth is Assistant Professor in the Department of Religion at Temple University. He is the author of Mipam on Buddha-Nature: The Ground of the Nyingma Tradition (SUNY, 2008) and Jamgön Mipam: His Life and Teachings (Shambhala, 2011). He also introduced and translated Distinguishing the Views and Philosophies: Illuminating Emptiness in a Twentieth-Century Tibetan Buddhist Classic by Bötrül (SUNY, 2011).

Thursday, April 28, 2016, 5 pm
Amdo Lamas at the Center of Modern Conceptions of Tibet
Gray Tuttle, Leila Hadley Luce Associate Professor of Modern Tibetan Studies, Columbia University
370 Dwinelle

Image for Amdo Lamas at the Center of Modern Conceptions of Tibet

This talk will cover the spread of Gelukpa monastic education to Amdo, introducing the intellectual climate in Amdo during the Qing. It will especially focus on Amdo lamas who went to Beijing and how their encounter with others (Mongolian, Chinese, Russians, etc.) reshaped their conception of Greater Tibet. Finally, it will discuss the impact of their geographic writings on conceptions of Tibet then and since.

Gray Tuttle received his AB from Princeton, his MA in regional studies (East Asian), and his PhD in Inner Asian and Altaic studies from Harvard. He joined the Columbia faculty in 2005 where he teaches courses on modern Tibetan history, the history of Chinese and Tibetan Buddhist relations, Tibetan Buddhist biographies, and Tibetan civilization.

In his Tibetan Buddhists in the Making of Modern China (Columbia University Press, 2005), Professor Tuttle examines the failure of nationalism and race-based ideology to maintain the Tibetan territory of the former Qing empire as integral to the Chinese nation-state. He discusses the critical role of pan-Asian Buddhism in Chinese efforts to hold onto Tibetan regions (one quarter of China’s current territory). His current research project, “Amdo Tibet: Middle Ground between Lhasa and Beijing,” focuses on Tibetan Buddhist institutional growth and intellectual developments from the seventeenth to the twentieth century and how the spread of Gelukpa monastic education reshaped Amdo, Amdo's relations to Central Tibet and Beijing, and conceptions of Tibet in general. He also co-edited Sources of Tibetan Tradition for the series Introduction to Asian Civilizations, The Tibetan History Reader (Columbia University Press) and Wutaishan and Qing Culture (JIATS issue 6).