2012 Seminars

2012 Seminar Series







Round table discussion

The State of Play: What’s happening in Buddhist Studies in Australia

Reports on new research, post graduate proposals, publications, and conferences; reflections of the current research environment. The themes for the session will be:

1) New research – brief précis by members of current research projects
2) Survey of current post graduate research proposals
3) Discussion on recent AABS conference presentations
4) Discussion of what is being done in Buddhist studies around Australasia



David Templeman, Monash

Sex and Love in Buddhism

Buddhist scholarship, especially the field of translated materials, has made it easy to conceive of Buddhism as being entirely populated by both monks and nuns, celibate and frugal, self contained and ascetic. This view has largely come about due to the preponderance of material which has dealt with texts which have largely reflected purely monastic preoccupations. This production has ignored the fact that this renunciate Buddhism was preceded, and was largely underpinned, by Buddhist practitioners who were neither celibate nor frugal, who relied on extensive family and court networks and lives beset by the extremes of poverty and luxury. That is, a layperson’s Buddhism. This paper will move away from the scholarly sort of texts which are often found to be substantially proscriptive. Instead it proposes to examine how lay Buddhists in the past have viewed the activities of both love and sex. One can see in the joyous descriptions and the rich iconographies that the lay world has been eminently capable of bringing profoundly human realizations into Buddhism using areas such as sex and love which have been frequently shunned by the monastic orders. To make my major points I shall use the Caryā songs of the 11th cent. ascetic Kāṇha, some Dohā verses of Saraha and a selection of paintings from Tibet and Nepal.



Iain Sinclair, Monash

A Blissful Scene: Visual Testimony for a Buddhism Transformed

It is well known that Buddhism did not survive in South Asia much beyond the thirteenth century – except in Nepal, where the mature Indian tradition has been preserved, partly transformed, up to the present day. Tantric practice is thought to have played a crucial role in this highly significant survival, but the most influential ideas and forms of practice are yet to be identified. This presentation, offering a small preview of my doctoral research, takes a close look at a twelfth-century Nepalese painting that is not only a spectacular artistic accomplishment, but a rich historical source. The painting testifies to the existence of a type of tantric practice then gaining rapid acceptance in Nepal, one which would later come to dominate its Buddhism completely. The iconography of the painting will be precisely correlated with sources in Sanskrit and Tibetan that have not been studied or translated before. I will also discuss trends in these sources, especially the ideology of bliss, that helped transform Buddhism from a failing religion of renunciation into a dynamic participant in society, making it more inclusive – especially of women – and resistant to the religious violence that destroyed Buddhism in the rest of South Asia.



Corey Jackson, USYD

‘Should I Stay or Should I Go?’ Buddhist Studies in Traditional Versus Modern Settings

Corey Jackson presents an insider’s account of the systems and styles of education translators encounter when approaching Buddhist material within traditional contexts. He examines the important underlying theories, principles and assumptions of the Nalanda scholastic tradition as it is practiced in current forms of Tibetan Buddhist training. He offers his views on ways that traditions are changing as a result of contact with modernity, as well as examples of what traditional approaches may have to offer modern scholars. He also looks at ways Westerners are adapting to immersion in traditional methodologies and what they may bring to the table from their modern educational and social paradigms.



Inge Riebe, USYD

The Twenty Sangha according to the Tibetan thinker Go rams pa

This paper will provide a brief account of the Indian textual sources for the classification of the twenty Sangha including the Prajnaparamita sutra, the Abhisamayalamkara, the Abhidharmakosha and the Abhidharmasamuccaya as a background for then exploring the Tibetan commentarial approach to this topic. The main focus will be on the presentation of the twenty Sangha in the work of the fourteenth century Sakyapa scholar Gorampa Sonam Seng-ge. Possible points of disagreement between Gorampa and his fellow Tibetans will receive particular attention, and some working hypotheses presented as to why these might have come about.



Wendi Adamek, USYD

Zen and the Environment: It’s Not What You Think

Buddhist notions of interdependence and “interbeing” are frequently evoked in calls for environmental awareness. Zen Buddhism in particular is a source of images of natural harmony and all-inclusiveness, presenting the realized person as someone who is “at home everywhere.” A verse from the famous “Ten Oxherding Pictures” says: “Inside his hut, he does not see any object, nothing, outside: rivers flow onward by themselves, and blossoms turn crimson like that.”

Well, does the river flow onward by itself if someone has diverted the water? Here we’ll take a look at the conundrums of relationality in a multi-cultural kaleidoscopic exploration of the works of Michel Serres and Annie Dillard, in conjunction with Zen teachings conveyed in the “Ten Oxherding Pictures” and “Fox Kōan.” How do these provocative reflections on the engagement between human and non-human challenge popular assumptions about interdependence?



Graham Lyall, UBEF

Buddhism behind bars

Chaplaincy plays an important role in the rehabilitation of incarcerated prisoners. In the U.K., Buddhist chaplaincy is administered by the Angulimala organisation, founded by Venerable Chau Khun Bhavanavitesa. In the U.S. there are several Buddhist chaplaincy organisations, including the Prison Dharma Network and the Engaged Zen Foundation. The emphasis of these organisations is in teaching the inmates the practice of meditation, including lengthy Vipassana retreats. Here in Australia, Buddhist chaplains visit the majority of metropolitan gaols and a few in rural areas. The prisoners find that Buddhist philosophy and, especially, meditation goes a long way to relieving the stress of confinement in correctional institutions. Graeme Lyall has been a Buddhist prison chaplain in New South Wales for the past eight years, currently serving inmates at the John Moroney Correctional Centre at Windsor and the Parklea Correctional Centre. In this talk, he will be sharing his experiences as a Buddhist chaplain for prison inmates.


Quang Minh Temple

Venerable Thich Phuoc Tan (Quang Minh Temple), Judith Snodgrass (UWS) and Mr Quang Luu

Buddhism in Australia

There has been a significant rise of interest in Buddhism in Australia, evident in an increasing amount of publications and conference presentations on this topic, in recent years. This seminar, held in partnership with the BCV and featuring three eminent speakers, will discuss several key themes pertaining to Buddhism in Australia including community building, media engagement, community-government relations, and the current state of studies of Buddhism in Australian universities. It will also provide an opportunity for Buddhist community leaders, scholars of Buddhism and members of Buddhist communities to interact on a range of topics and issues of concern to Buddhist communities in Victoria. There will be plenty of time for questions and discussions following the presentations and over refreshments, which will be kindly provided by the Quang Minh Temple.



Ian McCrabb, USYD

Gandhāran Relic Inscriptions

Located at the crossroads of Asia, Gandhāra is of significant interest in contemporary Buddhist studies both for its role in the transmission of Buddhism from the gangetic plain into East Asia, and as a locus for the early development of the Mahāyāna. The reports of early Chinese pilgrims record a region resplendent with stupas and monasteries and a Buddhism which might reasonably be characterized as a relic cult. The ritual practices associated with the establishment of relics being perhaps the most significant element of Buddhist religious culture in the region in the period covered by the inscription record.

Gandhāran relic inscriptions are highly formulaic. In general, they record the establishment of relics by a notable in a stupa. They acknowledge the lineage and associations of that notable and designate who is to be honoured and who might benefit. A fascinating feature is their articulation of the qualities and attainments of the Buddha and the attributes of the relics.

The current research project is centred on the development of methodologies for the analysis of these reliquary inscriptions and the characterization of the ritual practices associated with relic establishment in Gandhāra. The presentation will focus on the initial phase of the project, the development of a comprehensive metadata model and an exposition of some of the findings from an initial analysis of the formula structures.