[Event Announcement] Public Lecture: A Crazy History of Buddhism: On Buddhist Monasteries, Mental Institutions and Meditation/Mindfulness (Mar.16, 2017)

A public lecture by Professor James Robson (James C. Kralik and Yunli Lou Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations) at Emmanuel College of Victoria University in the University of Toronto. This lecture will be delivered in a way to accommodate both English and Chinese speakers.

There has been increasing attention paid to the relationship between Buddhism and medicine, but despite the advances in a number of subfields, there remains a paucity of studies on Buddhism and mental illness.  What was the early Buddhist doctrinal discourse on mental illness?  How has the category of madness evolved within the Buddhist tradition? Were there connections between meditation and madness? This talk discusses the history of some of the specific ways Buddhism addressed madness, the intriguing history of particular sites in East Asia with close associations between Buddhist monasteries and mental institutions, and a critical assessment of modern appropriations and applications of Buddhist meditation and mindfulness practices in therapeutic contexts.  In order to understand both the promises and potential problems of the use of meditation and mindfulness within various healing techniques (which are so celebrated in the popular media today) it is important to track how those practices developed within the Buddhist tradition and how they have been transformed down to the present day.  Current writing on meditation and mindfulness generally celebrates those practices as a panacea for a wide range of physical and mental ailments, but the final section of this talk will discuss some emerging research that suggests that there can also be some unintended negative consequences associated with the contemporary unregulated experimentation with those practices.

Venue: Emmanuel College, Chapel (3rd Floor), 75 Queen’s Park Crescent, Toronto ON M5G 0B2

Date and Time: March 16, 2017, Thursday, 7pm-9:00pm

Admission is free but space is limited and RSVP is required. Please RSVP by clicking the following link: https://goo.gl/forms/5cyDu8IqrJFQcGCh2

About the speaker: James Robson is the James C. Kralik and Yunli Lou Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University. He specializes in the history of Chinese Buddhism and Daoism.  He is the author of the Power of Place: The Religious Landscape of the Southern Sacred Peak [Nanyue 南嶽] in Medieval China (Harvard University Press, 2009), which won the Stanislas Julien Prize awarded by the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres in France and the Toshihide Numata Prize in Buddhist Studies.  He is currently engaged in a long-term collaborative research project with the École Française d’Extrême-Orient studying local religious statuary from Hunan province and is completing a monograph on the Daodejing for the Princeton University Press, Lives of Great Religious Books Series entitled The Daodejing: A Biography.

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