The University of Toronto/McMaster University Yehan Numata Program in Buddhist Studies hosts an annual lecture series that invites Buddhist Studies scholars from around the globe to Southern Ontario for public lectures and reading groups at both University of Toronto and McMaster University. A uniquely collaborative Buddhist Studies program between the two universities, this program offers students the opportunity for students and the public to engage the research and scholarship of specialists across the spectrum of Buddhist Studies as well as promoting intellectual exchange between Buddhist Studies graduate communities at the Religious Studies departments of University of Toronto and McMaster University.
Founded by the Rev. Dr. Yehan Numata, the Bukkyō Dendō Kyōkai Society for the Promotion of Buddhism supports Numata programs in Buddhist Studies at universities across the globe. The University of Toronto/McMaster University Yehan Numata Program in Buddhist Studies lecture series has been an excellent opportunity for students to encounter the expertise of established scholars and to engage with the research of emerging scholars. Each visiting scholar offers both a lecture and participates in a reading group, usually addressing both their previous and current research.
Reflecting the diverse specializations and interests of the Buddhist Studies communities of University of Toronto and McMaster University, the Numata program lecture series has persistently featured regionally and methodologically diverse scholarship in Buddhist Studies—and this year is no exception. In 2017, we are looking forward to receiving our visiting lecturers who will be engaging new research, discussing their theories, and presenting their recently published works across their various regional and methodological specialties. The 2016/2017 schedule includes:
LEWIS LANCASTER (University of California Berkeley / University of the West)
Thursday, October 13, 2016, 3-5 pm, University of Toronto, Jackman Humanities Building, 317
ASUKA SANGO (Carleton College)
Thursday, December 1, 2016, 3-5 pm, University of Toronto, Jackman Humanities Building, 317
FRIDAY, December 2, 2016, 4-6 pm, McMaster, University Hall 122
ERIK BRAUN (University of Virginia)
Thursday, January 26, 2017, 3-5 pm, University of Toronto, Jackman Humanities Building, 317
Reading Group of excerpts from The Birth of Insight
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Friday, January 27, 2017, 4-6 pm, McMaster, University Hall 122
Lecture: “Crossing Meditative Imaginaries: Insight Practice and Mindfulness in Burma and America”
In this talk I trace changing approaches to mindfulness (sati) in the work of Burmese monastic figures who have profoundly influenced conceptualizations of insight practice (vipassanā) in the U.S. (for example, Ledi Sayadaw, Mahāsi Sayadaw, Pa Auk Sayadaw, and Sayadaw U Tejaniya). By doing so, my goal is to explore how their teachings about mindfulness (and their receptions) reshape insight practices and senses of its purposes (as a therapeutic tool, as a means to escape from samsāra, as a secular versus religious resource, etc.). As we will see, neither forms of practice nor the worldviews that those forms entail and affect change seamlessly. Rather, arguments by these monks about mindfulness and the requisites of insight practice frequently diverge and even conflict. Such frictions produced by the movements of ideas and people across the complex landscape of dharma teachings that includes Burmaand the U.S.-what I am calling the “dharmascape”-will be seen to reformulate the possibilities of practice.
KANŌ KAZUO (Koyasan University)
Thursday, March 2, 2017, 3-5 pm, University of Toronto, Jackman Humanities Building, 317
Lecture: “Legacy of Indian Buddhists in Tibet and Tibetan Translators in India”
Hardly any Sanskrit manuscripts of Buddhist scriptures remain in India today, even though such manuscripts have been discovered in surrounding regions. Tibet in particular is one of the richest treasuries of precious Sanskrit manuscripts from as early as the 8th century. In order to clarify the history of the reception and transmission of Sanskrit manuscripts in Tibet, one needed task is to identify previous owners of the manuscripts. The manuscripts that were brought by individuals must for the most part have originally been part of private collections before being integrated into monastery libraries. The present talk is a case study undertaken with this assumption. The issue in question can be cleared up by investigating examples dealing with other Sanskrit manuscript owners, whose names sometimes appear in Tibetan remarks written on Sanskrit manuscripts in Norbulingka and the Potala. Furthermore, in the course of researching these manuscripts, I came across rare examples which vividly show cross-cultural religious activities between Indian and Tibetan Buddhists: Sanskrit manuscripts around 11–13th century are normally written on palm leaves or birch bark, but there are some exceptions, i.e., Sanskrit manuscripts written on paper are found from the 13th century Tibet, which were written in Tibet by Buddhists from India. On the contrary, there are Tibetan texts written on palm leaves, which were written in India by Tibetan Buddhists. I shall show these particular examples to clarify how Indian and Tibetan Buddhists were active in transmitting Buddhist tradition from both directions.
Friday, March 3, 2017, 4-6 pm, McMaster, University Hall 122
Reading Group of Two Sanskrit Formulas of Buddha-nature – Reconsidering the Background of the Term tathǟgatagarbha
KAMMIE TAKAHASHI (Muhlenberg College)
Thursday, March 23, 2017, 3-5 pm, University of Toronto, Jackman Humanities Building, 317
Reading Group of Birds and Fishes: View and Method in the Mahāyoga Texts of Buddhaguhya
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Friday, March 24, 2017, 4-6 pm, McMaster, University Hall 122
Lecture: “Pronouncing Praxis and Doing Doxography: Exploring the Functions of Genre in Early Tibetan Tantra”
This paper takes up a type of textual redaction which involves literary fluidity and creativity, one that holds at the margins between shared texts within a particular community or lineage of transmission. In addition to the diachronic creative embellishment and accretion of individual texts of all genres, we see particularly in texts which might be characterized as representing oral traditions of lung or man ngag, passages which appear to have been borrowed wholesale from other texts with no expressed recognition by the authors of their sources via annotation, teaching title, or authorial attribution, or even of the fact of any loan whatsoever. Tapping these sites of borrowing allows us a window into the complicated webs of practical transmission and lineal identity that might otherwise be lost. The paper takes up the particular case of ninth-century dPal dbyangs’s texts, exploring the textual fluidity therein, and hypothesizing about his perceptions of teachings and teachers.
ERICK WHITE (Cornell University)
Thursday, March 30, 2017, 3-5 pm, University of Toronto, Jackman Humanities Building, 317
Lecture: “Spirit Possession as Buddhist Vocation: Debates over Piety, Devotion and Charisma in Modern Thai Buddhism”
The religious landscape of modern Thailand is filled with a wide variety of non-monastic religious virtuosos advancing unconventional visions of Buddhist piety and devotion. Professional spirit mediums are one example of this religious ferment and cultural creativity. Professional mediums claim to be possessed by virtuous divinities from the upper heights of the Buddhist pantheon who are endowed with great merit and virtue. Thai actors and institutions outside the subculture of professional mediums, however, are often dubious about such claims. In this talk I will explore the claims and counterclaims of these different groups, exploring how these debates illuminate changing ideas about moral propriety, sacral potency, charismatic authority and the practice of piety in contemporary Thai Buddhism.
Friday, March 31, 2017, 4-6 pm, McMaster, University Hall 122
Reading Group of Contemporary Buddhism and Magic
Check out our series of reflections on past lectures and reading groups in the 2016/17 Yehan Numata Lecture Series.