All events are free and open to the public

Fall Term 2015

Thursday, December 3, 2015, 5 pm
Buddhist Relics in Western Eyes: The Ongoing Saga of the Piprahwa Finds
John Strong, Bates College
180 Doe Library

Buddha at Grande Pagode, Paris

In 1897, some Buddhist relics, claimed to be bones of Śākyamuni, were unearthed by William Peppé on his estate at Piprahwa in Northern India. Along with the gems that were buried with them, they quickly became objects of controversy whose authenticity was disputed. At the same time, they were the focal point for a series of diplomatic and political maneuvers by the British Colonial government, the Siamese king (Chulalongkorn), and various Sri Lankan and Burmese monastics.

This talk reexamines this epic story and brings it up to date: In 2006, some of the Piprahwa gems resurfaced in a cardboard box at the British Buddhist Society in London, while members of the Peppé family went public with their possession of other gems they had inherited from their ancestor William. Then in 2009, some of the Piprahwa relics were translated from the “Golden Mount” in Bangkok to the “Grande Pagode” in Paris where a kind of Buddhist ecumenicity is being fostered. Both of these events serve to illustrate some of the changing attitudes of Westerners towards Buddhist relics.

John Strong is Charles A. Dana Professor of Religious Studies at Bates College in Maine. He is the author of several books on Buddhism including Relics of the Buddha (Princeton, 2004) and, most recently, Buddhisms: An Introduction (OneWorld, 2015).


Spring Term 2016

Thursday, February 11, 2016, 5 pm
2016 Khyentse Lecture
Donald S. Lopez, University of Michigan
The Faculty Club, Heyns Room

Thursday, April 7, 2016, 5 pm
Title TBA
Douglas Duckworth, Department of Religion, Temple University
IEAS Conference Room, 180 Doe