Updates on the activities of Edinburgh Buddhist Studies
Storytelling workshops - 20th and 21st May 2022 - Edinburgh (in person)
We held two storytelling workshops in person for scholars and teachers on the 20th and 21st of May, followed by performances from storytellers Steve Killick and Sita Brand at the end of the afternoon. The workshop for scholars and students was led by Steve Killick to learn some Buddhist tales and acquire storytelling skills to help with teaching and public speaking. It was d time in the process at this small interactive workshop. It was followed by a performance by Steve Killick, telling a range of stories from Buddhist traditions, introduced and contextualised by scholars from the Edinburgh Buddhist Studies research network. The workshop for school teachers was animated by Steve Killick and Sita Brand to learn how to use storytelling skills in classes. The workshop is focused on Buddhist tales that address key themes and curricular areas. Academics from the EBS network added context to each Buddhist story. It was followed by the storytelling performance "the Perfect moment" by Sita Brand, an autobiographic journey from the temples of Thailand across Asia and Europe. Sita spent her 30s in search of wisdom through Buddhism. This is her story: a cacophony of true stories and traditional folktales. She was born and raised in Bombay.
Eco-Buddhism Conversation - 6th April 2022 - online session
Our last In-Conversation session was held on the 6th of April at 4.30 pm (UK time).
Led by Dr Paul Fuller, his interlocutors were Dr Christopher Ives (Religious Studies, Stonehill College), Dr Saskia Adelle Abrahms-Kavunenko (University of Copenhagen) and Dr Susan Darlington (Deep Springs College, California).
"Who is the Buddha" January - March 2022
In this series of webinars, we explored some key aspects of Buddhism through the figure of the Buddha. Who was the Buddha? A philosopher or a divine saviour? A unique figure, or an example of a goal available to all Buddhists? How does his person relate to his teachings and Buddhist beliefs and practices? And what is his role in our own UK context?
Led by scholars Dr Naomi Appleton (University of Edinburgh) and Dr Chris Jones (University of Cambridge), it was an informative and entertaining tour through Buddhist literature, ideas, and practices, suitable for new and experienced teachers of Buddhism alike, though those new to Buddhism should make sure to attend the first two sessions.
All sessions were recorded (without the Q&A) and are now available, including the PowerPoint slides and notes for personal use on the Teaching Buddhism Resources blog.
Annual visiting lecture and roundtable 14-15th March 2022
We were very glad to welcome Dr Christian Luczanits (SOAS University of London) for our next annual visiting lecture "The Vajradhātu Mandala: Variations on a Theme of Early Esoteric Buddhism" on Monday 14th March 5-6.30 pm on Zoom and in the Elizabeth Templeton Lecture Room, New College, Edinburgh.
We organised a roundtable the next day on Tuesday 15th March 2022, 11 am-12.30 pm focusing on “The relationship between art and esoteric Buddhism” on Zoom and in the Althaus-Reid Room, New College, Edinburgh.
Abstract: Among all esoteric Buddhist topics the Vajradhātu mandala, a shorthand for the main mandala of the Compendium of Principles of all Tathāgatas Tantra (Sarvatathāgatatattvasaṃgrahatantra), has a pivotal position. It not only introduced the decisive set of the five esoteric Buddhas, but it also spread across the entire Buddhist world and effectively was the public face of esoteric Buddhism from the eighth to the twelfth centuries. But as is typical for early esoteric Buddhist topics, neither the concept of the five Buddhas nor the mandala itself are static entities. Various ideas of five Buddhas occupying a cosmic space become conflated, local interpretations result in different iconographic solutions, and newer esoteric Buddhist trends impact the interpretation of the mandala itself. This lecture will introduce the Vajradhātu mandala and its variations across time and space. It will demonstrate the wide relevance of this topic, its importance for a better understanding of the development of mandala depictions, and also how newer esoteric Buddhist ideas impact its appearance in Tibetan Buddhism. It will present expressions of this mandala from across the ancient Buddhist world, and explain the variations of this mandala represented in the early monuments of Alchi Monastery, Ladakh, the murals of which date to the late 12th and early 13th centuries.
About the speaker: Christian Luczanits is the David L. Snellgrove Senior Lecturer in Tibetan and Buddhist Art at the Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. His research focuses on Buddhist art of India and Tibet, in particular Gandhāran and early western Himalayan art, the latter largely based on extensive field research and documentation done in situ. Christian Luczanits also held visiting professorships at UC Berkeley in 2004/05 (Freeman), at Free University in Berlin 2006–08, and at Stanford University and UC Berkeley (Numata) in the first half of 2010. Before joining SOAS he has been Senior Curator at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York. Since joining SOAS, he has led an AHRC-funded research project on “Tibetan Buddhist Monastery Collections Today.”
The recording of the lecture is now available here.
Book Launch "An Introduction to Engaged Buddhism" by Dr Paul Fuller
On Wednesday 3rd November 2021, EBS organised the book launch of Dr Paul Fuller An Introduction to Engaged Buddhism in person at New College (University of Edinburgh) and online via the Zoom platform.
The launch featured responses from Dr Naomi Appleton (University of Edinburgh), Pr Richard King (Emeritus, University of Kent) and Pr David Webster (SOAS) as well as reflections from the author himself.
UKABS Conference 2021: Word, Image, Object, Performance
The University of Edinburgh and EBS hosted the United Kingdom Association for Buddhist Studies (UKABS) annual conference on the 1st and 2nd of July 2021 with the following theme “Word, Image, Object, Performance.” The conference was held over Zoom and Gather.Town due to current travel restrictions. The keynotes were delivered by Justin McDaniel (University of Pennsylvania) with his work titled "Cajoleries and Thin Description in the Study of Thai Buddhist Art", and Pamela Winfield (Elon University) with her work "What’s in A Nāma? A Rūpa Would Smell as Sweet: Reflections on Sensational Buddhism". The full program of the conference and the abstracts of the various panels and roundtables are still available on the conference blog.
Moreover, we held a special workshop for PhD students to present their research work in video or poster format. All the works made by the participants were available on the conference website and on Gather.Town for a live Q&A session. A special prize was attributed to Daniel Borengasser (Harvard University) for his video entitled "Hall of the Lotus King: Sculpture and Multiplicity in Early Medieval Japan" and to Olivia Porter (King's College London) for her poster Who are the Tai Zawti? Hidden in Plain Sight: the Zawti of the Myanmar China Border.
Introduction to Key Concepts in Buddhism for RMPS Teachers
This series of talks addresses each area of the Buddhism section of the Nat5/Higher RMPS curriculum. Each session began with a presentation introducing the relevant concepts and some sources that might be used to explore them in the classroom, followed by an open Q&A session.
The sessions were hold on the second Tuesday of each month, from February to June 2021 (the detailed program can be found on the event page). They were led by Dr Naomi Appleton (University of Edinburgh) and Dr Chris V. Jones (University of Cambridge). When possible, presentations (though not Q&A discussions) were recorded and are now available on Teaching Buddhism blog.
"In Conversation" series
In fall 2020, Edinburgh Buddhist Studies initiated a series of "in conversation" centered on Buddhist thematics and topics. The first session entitled "Why study Buddhist stories" was featuring Dr Naomi Appleton (Edinburgh), Dr Reiko Ohnuma (Dartmouth College), and Dr Andy Rotman (Smith College) discussing why we might want to study Indian Buddhist narrative, and what we learn about Buddhism, stories, and humanity. The event took place on Teams on October 7th 2020. A record of the session is available online.
The second "in Conversation" session with Edinburgh Buddhist Studies featured Dr Ian Astley and Dr Paulus Kaufmann (Munich) discussing the place of Shingon Buddhism in Buddhist Studies on November 19th 2020 on Teams. The Shingon school of Buddhism is one of the main traditions in Japan, yet it does not feature prominently in many accounts. In this session EBS's Ian Astley hosted Paulus Kaufmann to talk about why they became involved in studying Shingon Buddhism and what they see as its principal value for our studies.
Edinburgh Buddhist Studies Inaugural Academic Event
On the first day of November 2019, EBS formally began its academic activities with a round-table discussion, lunch, and review of future plans and possibilities. The discussion centred on the theme of ‘Interdisciplinarity and Buddhist Studies’, and was initiated and Chaired by Professor Joachim Gentz of the Network’s steering committee. Professor Gentz raised a number of searching questions relating to the function, nature, and structure of interdisciplinary scholarship including pertinent queries regarding shared goals and the utility of the vessels used to achieve them, invoking analogies from the stock of Buddhist lore as he did so. We then heard from the assembled members of the Network, several of whom had travelled to attend and give valuable and interesting insights from their respective disciplinary perspectives. Following a brief break for lunch the conversation next turned to the network's plans for the future which revealed many exciting possibilities and challenges.
Visit of Drupon Khen Rinpoche
September 2019 saw the visit to the University of Edinburgh by the Tibetan Buddhist retreat master and traditional scholar Drupon Khen Rinpoche. EBS were proud to host the eminent Kagyu monk and his team: Kunga his translator; Choden from Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery; and, the University’s Honorary Buddhist Chaplain Ani Rinchen Khandro. An enriching meeting was held between the monastics and members from the EBS committee before a convivial lunch was had in the Rainy hall. This was followed by a well-attended public talk by Drupon Rinpoche on the theme of basic Buddhist principles.
Edinburgh Buddhist Studies Launch Event
On 6 September 2019, EBS celebrated the launch of the network in the wonderful surroundings of the National Museum of Scotland on Chambers Street. Our lively event enabled many participants in EBS to come together for the first time over a few refreshments. This included scholars from the Network, visiting scholars attending the symposium ‘Indian Buddhist Narrative: Text and Image’ , academics participating in the ‘Joint East Asian Studies’ conference, representatives of local Buddhist groups, and our gracious hosts for the evening: the specialist curators of the National Museum of Scotland. Many thanks are also due to the Museum for putting on a great ‘after hours’ tour of the new East Asian galleries. We were also treated to a few words from the EBS co-Directors and the Museum’s senior curator for Middle East and South Asia. In sum it was a great start to Edinburgh Buddhist Studies that bodes very well for the future.
‘Indian Buddhist Narrative: Text and Image’ Symposium
Organised and hosted by EBS co-Director Dr Naomi Appleton this symposium brought together world-leading Buddhist Studies scholars to explore the multiple interactions evident in a wide range of narrative materials. From cave painting to poetry the synergies and differences between the mediums and modes of the expression of story gave rise to two days of stimulating discussions. Many truly interesting papers, as well as a format that enabled significant peripheral conversations, ensured that this was a memorable occasion.