The Tibetan Graduates Studies Seminar (TGSS) is a weekly series of colloquia and guest lectures at the Oriental Institute.
The intended purpose of the TGSS is to give MPhil and DPhil candidates a platform to present their work-in-progress and receive feedback from staff and affiliated scholars of the field.
Additionally, the weekly time slot will also allow visiting scholars to present their current research.
They are provided with the opportunity to engage in similar ways with both students and fellows of the Tibetan Studies department.
Dharmabhāṇakas, Siddhas, Avatārakasiddhas, and gTer stons
This lecture offers a new look at the origins of Gter ma literature in an intertextual framework. Academic authors on the origins of gter ma have generally agreed that the evolution of the gter ma traditions in Tibet must be seen as a confluence of both Indian and Tibetan influences. Yet surprisingly little effort has so far gone into researching the Indian influences. Drawing inter alia on Paul Harrison's work on the Pratyutpanna-buddha-saṃmukhāvasthita-samādhi-sūtra and Śāntideva’s Śikṣāsamuccaya, Ulrike Roesler's work on the early Bka' gdams pa tradition in Tibet, John Nemec's work on the avatārakasiddhas of Kashmir, and David Drewes' work on dharmabhāṇakas in Indian Mahāyāna, this talk is an offering towards setting out on that much-delayed task.
Early Explanations for the Appearance of Mahāyāna sūtras
A presentation looking at how early Mahayana sutras explain where they came from. This presentation argues that the authors of these texts shared a general understanding that the Buddha revealed them to advanced bodhisattvas during his lifetime and appointed them with the task of returning to the world five hundred years later to reveal and spread them. It also considers the ideas that these texts were revealed in meditation or dreams, and that they were revealed by the pratibhāṇa, or inspired speech, of śrāvakas.
Revelation and Rediscovery: Early Medieval Indian Origin Myths of the Tantras
David Gray talks about revelatory or "treasure" texts from Indian and Tibetan perspectives in a comparative framework. This presentation will attempt to shed some light on the process by which tantras are believed to have been revealed in the world in Indian Buddhist tantric traditions. Unfortunately, we have very little information about the actual revelation process, unlike in the Nyingma “Treasure” gter ma traditions, for which we have numerous sources describing this process. Surveying some of the available sources, I will argue that in India, as in Tibet, we find both accounts of discovery of physical texts as well as accounts of purely visionary revelation. However, even in the case of the former, we find that visionary experiences seem to play an important role in the revelation process. Drawing on these accounts, the work of Tanya Luhrmann and my own experience, I will suggest that visionary experiences likely triggered by intensive visualization practice likely played a central role in the revelation of tantric Buddhist scriptures in India.
Perfected Beings in Human Form: The Siddha Tradition in Śaiva Tantra
John Nemec's talk on the origin of siddha and its polysemic application in Sanskrit textual sources. It is well known that the term “siddha” comes to be used to refer to Śaiva, and other, masters who enter the earth in bodily form, as perfected beings thus authorized to teach. Often, they are described as having “crossed down” to this world, bringing teachings with them to share with humanity—thus the use of the term avatāraka to refer to such ones in the Krama literature. At the same time, the earliest date for use of the term siddha to refer to such incarnated teachers is indeterminate. The purpose of this talk is to begin to trace the development of the term “siddha” in Sanskrit textual sources, in order to identify how the term has changed in use over time and what the Śaiva tantric traditions had available to them to take up into their own uses of the same. In doing so, the non-tantric prehistory of the term siddha is examined, which originally referred to a class of beings and not to incarnated gurus, a use of the term that is adopted sometimes, too, in the tantric sources themselves.
The Dharmabhāṇaka’s Body and the Ontologization of Authority
This talk by Natalie Gummer explores the role of Dharmabhāṇaka – those who recite the Dharma – in Mahāyāna Sutras In this presentation, Natalie Gummer looks at the “Chapter on the Benefits to the Performer of the Dharma” (dharmabhāṇakānuśaṃsāparivartaḥ) in the Saddharmapuṇḍarīka (Lotus Sūtra), in which the Buddha proclaims the many remarkable transformations that will take place in the six sense faculties of the performer of the dharma (dharmabhāṇaka). Her analysis of this chapter clarifies the sūtra’s normative vision both for the self-referential performance of the dharmabhāṇaka and for the bodily transformations that he is said to undergo as a consequence of his performance. In the process, the presentation sheds light on the temporal aspects of self-referentiality as elements in the embodied performance of authority and demonstrates some of the ritual and performative precedents for the creation of new forms of buddhavacana.
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Medicine Mountains along the Himalayas: Healing, Trade, and Ecology
The Greater Himalayas extend through many different kinds of community. This lecture considers several ‘medicine mountains’, particular mountains that fold society and ecology together, and explores them as a comparative category