PAPERS Resources

AAR Annual Meeting
Denver, CO
November 17-20, 2018

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  • Preconference Workshop
  • Professional Practices and Institutional Location
Buddhist Studies Workshop
Theme: Buddhism for the Liberally Educated: Today’s Buddhist Studies Classroom
Friday - 3:00 PM-6:00 PM
Convention Center-108 (Street Level)

Buddhist studies, while historically moored in textual studies, is a vibrant field of academic scholarship that engages new methodologies and issues. Yet, how do the more recent discussions, trends, innovations, and controversies of the field find their way into our classrooms and out into the world? This workshop invites Buddhist studies scholars to share and critique a variety of approaches to engaging students in the contemporary study of Buddhism. Our workshop panel will address the successes and failures of their pedagogical strategies, including a critical review of some reading assignments, in-class activities, films, and writing projects that make their Buddhist studies classrooms work. We will also conduct break-out sessions in which participants will develop sample classroom activities based on the ideas shared during the panel discussion.

The cost for attending the workshop is $40, which includes a coffee break and the entire afternoon of sessions. Registration is limited to the first 50 participants. To participate, select this workshop when registering for the Annual Meeting. If you have already registered for the Annual Meeting, you may contact to reserve a space in this workshop.

Kristin Scheible, Reed College
Jonathan Young, California State University, Bakersfield
Amy P. Langenberg, Eckerd College
C. Pierce Salguero, Pennsylvania State University, Abington
Natalie Gummer, Beloit College
Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies
Theme: Saving Action in Shin Buddhism and Christianity
Friday - 4:00 PM-6:30 PM
Sheraton Downtown-Director's Row I (Plaza Tower - Lobby Level)

This session will explore how Christians can rethink the meaning of saving action in light of dialogue with Shinran's perspectives and also how recent readings of Paul might help Shin Buddhists in coming to an understanding of Shinran and his Buddhist path.

Leo Lefebure, Georgetown University
Dennis Hirota, Ryukoku University
Karen Enriquez, Loyola Marymount University
Hsiaolan Hu, University of Detroit Mercy
Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy
Theme: Part I: Individual Papers Session
Saturday - 9:00 AM-10:30 AM
Hyatt Regency-Granite C (Third Level)


Hin Ming Frankie Chik, Arizona State University
An Examination of Ageism and Abelism in Early Chinese Political Philosophy


Mary Jeanne Larrabee, DePaul University
Exploring the Flowing Path to Enlightenment with Yogacara Buddhism and Meister Eckhart


Dennis Stromback, Temple University
Nishida on the Notion of the Secular


Buddhism Unit
Theme: Animal Consumption in Context: Comparing Localized Constructions of a Mahāyāna Buddhist Animal Ethics
Geoffrey Barstow, Oregon State University, Presiding
Saturday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Convention Center-605 (Street Level)

This panel presents a series of debates over the ethics of utilizing animal products within Mahāyāna Buddhist communities in Japan, China, India, and Tibet. We analyze social, economic, cultural, and religious contexts within which Buddhist writers in diverse regions and historical moments developed highly specific arguments both for and against animal consumption. The five papers that comprise this panel reveal a fundamental ambiguity at the center of Buddhist “animal ethics,” showing how Buddhist thinkers have maneuvered among a plurality of competing and intersecting perspectives. We contribute to previous scholarship by exploring the conditions under which these authors considered the experience and suffering of non-human animals. In addition, we show how their arguments shifted when Buddhist authors had to confront and incorporate the views of rival traditions as well as resolve doctrinal contradictions within their own scriptures.

Hyoung Seok Ham, Kyushu University
Bhāviveka’s Involuntary Contradiction with the Pro-Vegetarian Mahāyāna Sūtras

The anti-vegetarianism arguments of Bhāviveka (500-570 CE) consist of seven verses located in the Mīmāṃsā chapter of the Madhyamakahṛdayakārikā. They serve as rare textual evidence of an active defense of a Buddhist meat diet. However, Bhāviveka’s anti-vegetarian discourse can be read as a critique of the claims made in the pro-vegetarian Mahāyāna sūtras though it is framed as a counter-argument against the ascetic Brahmins. In this paper I analyze how Bhāviveka came to refute those sūtras without intending to do so. In so doing, I delineate the historical trajectory of Buddhist attitudes towards meat-eating and argue that Indian Buddhists developed dietary rules mainly for social concerns. Bhāviveka’s conflict with Mahāyāna scriptures demonstrates that social pressure for vegetarianism was constant from the earliest period of the tradition, and Indian Buddhists did not form a unified view on the matter of eating meat in the middle of the first millennium.

Barbara Ambros, University of North Carolina
Partaking of Life: Eating Animals in Contemporary Japanese Buddhism

In the past decade, several Japanese Buddhist publications have argued that humans must rely on animal lives for food. As meat eating has become normative in Japanese Buddhism, a sacrificial rationale has replaced anti-meat-eating discourses common in East Asian Buddhism. The contemporary Japanese Buddhist discourse on meat eating envisions an interconnected chain of becoming that is sustained by animal lives and culminates in human lives. As animal bodies are consumed and transformed into human bodies, humans have the moral obligation to face this reality and express their gratitude. This paper presents an ethnographically embedded reading of Partaking of Life: The Day that Little Mii Becomes Meat, a popular children’s book written by Jōdoshin Buddhist author, Uchida Michiko, as an example of a sacrificial narrative in which the grateful consumption of meat constitutes a form of atonement for the violence perpetrated on the animal victim.

Alan Wagner, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Collège de France
Layman Ruru on Karma, Animal Sacrifice, and the Unity of the Three Teachings

In his General Exhortation to Observe the Precept Against Killing, Song-dynasty literatus and lay Zen Master Yan Bing (a.k.a. Layman Ruru, d. 1212) offers a comprehensive ethical vision that integrates his multiple identities as Buddhist, Confucian, animal, and human. Arguing on the basis of the "Unity of the Three Teachings," Yan frames the practice of ritual sacrifice within the mechanisms of karma while also citing passages from the Confucian Classics which he claims argue for the filiality of vegetarianism. He incorporates the agency and experience of non-human animals into his scope by explaining that both they and humans are simply different phases in the existence of a single being who is working continually to escape saṃsāra. Finally, Yan positions observance of the precepts among the other Buddhist options available to pious laypeople, as part of the foundation for the ultimate lay vocation as a "householder bodhisattva."

Anna Johnson, University of Michigan
Meat for Monks: A Tibetan Polemicist Refutes Arguments for Vegetarianism on Scriptural Grounds

This paper examines a fifteenth century defense of meat-eating for monks by the Tibetan scholar, Khedrup Je Gelek Palsang in his three-vow text, Clean Jewel of the Sage’s Teachings. Khedrup’s polemic suggests that, rather than the faults of meat, he was primarily concerned with the faults of misunderstanding Buddhist doctrinal literature that lead to uninformed claims for the ethical superiority of mass vegetarianism. Using an analysis of the technical workings of karmic theory, he seeks to disaggregate the effects of killing animals with the evaluative considerations around meat consumption. I show in this paper that Khedrup grounds his ethical theory in an identification of the ethical agent and engages various interpretive frameworks to resolve contradictory statements across diverse genres of Indian Buddhist literature that variously sanction and prohibit meat consumption.

Stuart Young, Bucknell University
A Silkworm Theodicy: Buddhist Discourses on Sericulture, Entomic Deities, and Sentient Consumables in Medieval China

This paper examines Buddhist discourses in medieval China concerning silkworm killing and the production and consumption of silk, against the backdrop of widespread Buddhist admonitions against eating meat. Chinese Buddhist debates about vegetarianism often accompanied prescribed bans on silk clothing. Through these debates, Buddhist authors re-envisioned silk production and silkworms themselves in Buddhist doctrinal terms, ethically, cosmologically, and soteriologically. In such terms silkworms represented, on the one hand, the bonds of endless death and rebirth and the propensity of sentient beings to weave webs of self-delusion. On the other, they exemplified divine metamorphosis and the mysteries of immortal sages. These two main lines of discourse both illustrated the divine and cosmic scope of human existence. This paper aims to advance our understanding of how silk and animal flesh were discursively conjoined in ways that would inform broader Chinese Buddhist understandings of the relationships between humanity, divinity, and non-human animals.

Business Meeting:
James Robson, Harvard University
Reiko Ohnuma, Dartmouth College
Confucian Traditions Unit and Daoist Studies Unit
Theme: Scathing Screeds: Polemics as a Means of Defining One's Religion in Imperial China
Pauline Lee, Saint Louis University, Presiding
Saturday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Convention Center-301 (Street Level)

Since the Warring States period (481-222 BCE), Chinese thinkers have maintained a tradition of writing polemics against their intellectual rivals. During the imperial period (221 BCE to 1911 CE), religious leaders often employed polemical writings to attack other rival traditions. The intended audience of these polemical works was usually the court. Through these treatises, religious leaders hoped to persuade the emperor to exclusively patronize their own tradition, while excluding their rivals. Past works on medieval Chinese polemical literature tell us much about how literati either attacked other religions, or defended their own. Our panel, though, approaches this literature from a different angle: we look at how polemicists used their criticisms of other religions to define their own tradition. In other words, we employ these works of religious propaganda as windows into the beliefs and self-imaginings of their authors.

David Bratt, University of California, Berkeley
That Practice of Theirs, This Way of Ours: Polemic as Self-Definition in The Scripture of Great Peace

“The Heaven-Condemned Four Types of People Who Dishonor the Way” (天咎四人辱道), a section of the Scripture of Great Peace (or Taiping jing), has typically been interpreted according to the perceived targets of its attack. In particular, most scholarship has revolved around the question of whether the criticisms leveled in this section constitute an early “nativist” critique of Buddhism. My paper aims to reorient our attention instead to the framing assumptions and purposes of those making the attack. Specifically, I demonstrate that the text’s criticism of heteropraxis and its account of the origins of deviant practices ground the standard for correct behavior articulated in the text in cosmological cycles and the standards of Heaven. In doing so, I show that previous scholarship on this text has overlooked how polemic serves in this section of the Scripture of Great Peace as an essential tool for self-definition.

Keith Knapp, The Citadel
Why Buddhism Stinks: Defining Confucianism through Polemical Attacks

During the Eastern Han (25-220 CE), Confucianism did not have a well-defined competitor; however, during the early medieval period (220-589), it was suddenly competing for influence with two well-organized religions: Buddhism and Daoism. By the fourth century, the competition between the three traditions is embodied in the appearance of the term sanjiao “The Three Teachings,” in which Confucianism is merely relegated to being one of three equal doctrines. In an effort to distinguish their own teachings from the others, Confucians began attacking in writings the other two teachings, especially Buddhism. It is my belief that these polemical works were not only created to savage their rivals, but were also a means by which Confucians attempted to define and tout their own tradition. Ultimately, Confucians used this polemical literature to define themselves as the group that was the most dedicated and best able to preserving social and political stability.

Thomas Jülch, Ghent University
Comparative Perspectives on Anti-Daoist Writing in Medieval Chinese Buddhist Apologetic Literature

As Buddhism and Daoism were rivals throughout medieval Chinese religious history, anti-Daoist argumentation is one of the main focuses of Chinese Buddhist apologetic literature. Having studied major Buddhist apologetic scriptures of the Tang dynasty in my previous publications, I found that the included anti-Daoist argumentation shows a variety of parallels to anti-Jewish treatises of Christian apologetic literature. In my presentation I would like to offer a brief overview. Firstly, I will show that both apologetic traditions employ a common structural pattern, which was perfectly suited to serving apologetic purposes on a cross-cultural level. Secondly, I will refer to contents of the apologetic argumentation demonstrating that we can also discern argumentative methodologies and objectives shared by both apologetic traditions.

Albert Welter, University of Arizona
A Buddhist Ru at Song Emperor Taizong’s Court: Zanning’s Arguments for the Inclusion of Buddhism in Chinese Wen (Literary Culture)

Han Yu famously decried the Buddhist influence as a blight on Chinese society in the late Tang dynasty (618-906); his cries were heeded in suppressive policies toward Buddhism enacted by Tang emperor Wuzong (ca. 845) and the Later Zhou emperor Shizong (955). By the late tenth century, in the early decades of the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127), the “Buddhist question” –– whether Buddhism should assume a role in Chinese society, and if so, what role should this be –– was of paramount concern at the Song court. Against rising tides of Confucian critiques, Zanning (919-1001) –– the leading Buddhist of the day and a respected member of the imperial bureaucracy –– argued for inclusion of Buddhist teachings in the wen (literary) tradition of China. My presentation reviews several aspects of Zanning’s response, culminating in the notion of Buddhist Junzi (famen Junzi), a class of Buddhist Ru that epitomized the heights of literati attainment.

Mark Halperin, University of California, Davis
Parting of the Ways: A Twelfth-Century Confucian Looks at the Taoists

As the Confucian revival gathered force during the Chinese twelfth century, even literati unaffiliated with the Neo-Confucian movement sought to burnish their Confucian credentials. This paper demonstrates how some men did so through expressions of anti-Daoism, even in normally innocuous occasional texts. In the essays and verse of Zhou Zizhi (1082-1155) and Zhao Mao (fl. 1179), we see scholar-officials, not known otherwise for their ideological commitments, belittle and question the Daoist heritage, and assert the primacy of the Confucian Way. Their stances illustrate the gradual shift in mainstream Confucian attitudes toward a stricter orthodoxy and presage the anti-Daoism seen in the Neo-Confucian movement in the thirteenth-century and beyond.

Business Meeting:
Pauline Lee, Saint Louis University
Aaron Stalnaker, Indiana University
  • Books under Discussion
Critical Theory and Discourses on Religion Unit
Theme: The Legacy of Orientalism (Pantheon, 1978)
Marko Geslani, Emory University, Presiding
Saturday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Convention Center-601 (Street Level)

On the fortieth anniversary of Edward Said's Orientalism, the Critical Theory and Discourses of Religion Group hosts a conversation on the status of this formative and controversial work within Religious Studies. Seven prominent scholars working in a variety of fields (Western Thought, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism) with a range of methods (philosophy, philology, ethnography, history) will discuss Said's effect on issues of periodization, geography, power, and canon in Religious Studies, and imagine the direction of their future engagements with or disengagements from Orientalism.

Erik Braun, University of Virginia
Juan E. Campo, University of California, Santa Barbara
Peter Gottschalk, Wesleyan University
Jason Josephson-Storm, Williams College
Nancy Levene, Yale University
Travis Zadeh, Yale University
Business Meeting:
David Walker, University of California, Santa Barbara
Sean McCloud, University of North Carolina, Charlotte
Indian and Chinese Religions Compared Unit
Theme: Commentaries: Transmission and Innovation
Michael Allen, University of Virginia, Presiding
Saturday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Convention Center-Mile High 1F (Lower Level)

"I transmit but do not create," Confucius famously said of himself. Commentators typically present themselves in the same way, as faithful elucidators of a text's meaning; but in both India and China, commentaries were also important sites of creativity and innovation. As a continuation of last year's theme, "The Art of Commentary," this session explores ways in which premodern traditions were both transmitted and transformed through a variety of commentarial practices. The papers cover a wide range of traditions, including Hinduism, South Asian Buddhism, East Asian Buddhism, and Daoism. The papers will be followed by a discussion inviting comparison of the commentarial practices explored.

Maria Heim, Amherst College
An Apprenticeship in Pali Commentary

My paper discusses the 5th century Pali commentator, Buddhaghosa, and his theory of buddhavacana (the Buddha’s word). It explores Buddhaghosa’s ideas about the different types of discourse in which the Buddha taught, and the implications of these for the interpreter. Specifically, it focuses on several commentarial distinctions, namely, definitive (nītattha) and interpretable (neyyattha) teachings, contextual (pariyāya) and abstract (nippariyāya) teachings, and conventional sense (sammuti) and further sense (paramattha) language. Setting these against the backdrop of other Buddhist and nonBuddhist Indian commentarial uses of these terms, I show what was distinctive to Buddhaghosa’s project, and the considerable philosophical implications of his choices. Finally, I make the methodological point that since Buddhaghosa did not pull back and advance these or other interpretative guidelines as formal and general rules to be universally applied, we must learn about them by following him, apprentice-style, in his exegetical practice in a manner highly attuned to context.

Dan Lusthaus, Harvard University
How Commentaries Elucidate or Alter a Text's Meaning

Commentaries can unpack root texts, repackage them for changing audiences, add to or alter their meanings, and update them to address new issues. While often studied as exegetical aids to a root text's meaning, less attention has been given to the ways and methods by which they alter subsequent understandings of texts. This paper will look at examples of methods of semantic alteration in Indian and Chinese commentaries. In India, as writing became more commonplace, the styles, polemical function, and semantic possibilities of commentaries changed dramatically. This will be detailed using Dignāga's Ālambana-parīkṣā with its autocommentary, and the evolution of commentaries on the Nyāya sūtra. In China, typically commentaries graphically intrude into root texts, becoming irresistible and hard to ignore when contiguous with an obscure passage or archaic terms. These intrusions can subsequently become the 'standard reading' even if their fidelity to the original text is questionable. This will be illustrated with commentaries on the Daodejing.

Sangyop Lee, Stanford University
The Immanence of Enlightenment in Indian and Chinese Buddhism: The Metaphor of the Ocean and Waves Revisited

The metaphor of the ocean and waves is used in such seminal Buddhist philosophical texts as the Laṅkāvatārasūtra and the Dasheng qi xin lun to illustrate the immanence of enlightenment: The intrinsically serene ocean is likened to the originally enlightened mind, and the fluctuating waves on the ocean's surface are compared to the defiled phenomenal consciousness. By drawing on previously neglected textual evidence, this study investigates the way in which the _ Qixin lun_'s application of the metaphor fundamentally departs from its Indian prototype in the Laṅkāvatārasūtra. I contend that this departure can be attributed to a unique theory of the intrinsically enlightened mind that was developed in the early Chinese Buddhist discourse on the imperishability of the soul (shen bumie). This finding highlights the complexity of the process through which Sinitic forms of Buddhist thought developed and the irreducible historical significance of the discourse on the imperishable soul.

Xiaoming Hou, École Pratique des Hautes Études
From Meditation Teachings to Exegetical Tools : Development of the “Six Gates” Meditation Teachings in the Works of Zhiyi (538-597)

The “Six Gates to Subtleness” (Liu miaomen六妙門) is the name attributed by Zhiyi 智顗(538-597), the founder of the Tiantai School in China, to a series of six meditation teachings commonly described as a type of “mindfulness of breathing” (ānāpānasmṛti). Through an analysis of the relationship between the names of the six elements included in the “Six Gates” and their related interpretations in the works attributed to Zhiyi, the present paper wish to demonstrate how, through the strategy of constant redefinition, the six Chinese terms, originally names of six practices, have determined fundamentally the development of this teaching in the works of Zhiyi, who expanded it far beyond the traditional boundaries of ānāpānasmṛti. The six terms, initially translations of Indic terms, have been turned into exegetical tools that allow the author to create new doctrinal links through their glosses on a purely nominal level.

Ronald S. Green, Coastal Carolina University
The Relation of Early Japanese Hossō to Woncheuk and “Old Yogācāra”

This paper examines the influence of Woncheuk and “Old Yogācāra” on the formation of Japanese Hossō by focusing on the Daijō hossō kenjenshō (Chapters Providing a Brief Study of the Mahāyāna Yogācāra) by Gomyō (750-834). Gomyō was the foremost priest of the Hossō tradition in the late Nara and early Heian periods and was considered a leading thinker among all Japanese Buddhists of his day. While later Heian period Hossō reformers codified the lineage of their tradition as being that of Xuanzang, Kuiji, and Huizhao, the so-called “New Yogācāra” patriarchs of China, Gomyō’s work demonstrates that Nara and early Heian Hossō thinkers additionally acknowledged Woncheuk’s contribution to their tradition, recognizing criticisms of even Xuanzang’s interpretations. Later Japanese Hossō would designate such views as “heretical”, but Gomyō’s treatment of Yogācāra logic and philosophy demonstrates that he, like Woncheuk, is concerned with doctrine rather than lineage.

Business Meeting:
Dan Lusthaus, Harvard University
Religion and Sexuality Unit and SBL LGBTI/Queer Interpretation Unit
Theme: Sacred Texts in Sexuality Education
David T. Stewart, California State University, Long Beach, Presiding
Saturday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Hyatt Regency-Capitol 5 (Fourth Level)

This panel brings together four papers that discuss the use of sacred texts in comprehensive sexuality education. The first two papers explore the use of biblical texts through the lenses of critical pedagogy and gender-power relations. The final two papers query the use of sacred texts in specific faith tradition curriculum (Our Whole Lives and Sexuality and Our Faith). In particular, the panel addresses critical issues of embodiment and presents multiple ways to affirm justice, mutuality, and responsibility as central concepts within comprehensive sexuality education.

J. D. R. Mechelke, Luther Seminary
Providing a Disorienting Dilemma: Possibilities for Genesis 34 in Church Comprehensive Sexuality Education with Youth

In the midst of the #MeToo movement, the requirement of the gospel (and therefore, of the church) to dismantle institutions of patriarchy and cis/heteronormativity has revealed the essential need for comprehensive sexuality education in the ecclesiastical context. Comprehensive sexuality education, especially wielded against rape culture and purity culture, can be seen as a form of resistance against those oppressors who necessitate the cry “me too.” While the biblical text gives nearly no narratives where rape or purity cultures are not present, Genesis 34 and the rape of Dinah can provide a disorienting dilemma that leaves youth in church sexuality education longing for tools and narratives that spur sexual dignity for themselves and for their neighbors. Utilizing Genesis 34, four areas will be analyzed and synthesized to provide such a proposal: 1) critical pedagogy, 2) comprehensive sexuality education, 3) the connections between purity culture, rape culture, and violence against women and queer folk, and 4) the requirement of the gospel to dismantle institutions that uphold such cultures.

Barbara Thiede, University of North Carolina, Charlotte
Bromance in Bible: How Male-Male Friendships in Biblical Literature Can Teach Students about the Use and Misuse of Women and Women’s Bodies

Teachers employing biblical literature to teach sexuality frequently devote time to pedagogical necessities: demonstrating that homosexuality, as modern society defines it, isn’t found in Hebrew Bible and that sexual violence is. One issue that is salient for comprehensive sex education has yet to be explored: the ways in which male bonding and friendship serve as channels for the misuse of women.
In Hebrew Bible, male friendship can function as a literary interlocutor for homosocial and possibly homoerotic relationships that rely on the use and abuse of female sexuality to direct male energies. This project considers three pivotal narratives in Hebrew Bible from that vantage point: Genesis 38, 2 Samuel 13, and Judges 19. Exploring these texts can teach students about the range of sexual expression found in male-male relationships, demonstrate in what ways those relationships impact women, and show how power intersects with sexuality in subtle and dangerous forms.

Laurel Koepf Taylor, Eden Theological Seminary
There Aren’t Any Owls in OWL But There Aren’t Any Eunuchs Either: The Bible in Comprehensive Sexuality Education with Young Children

The Our Whole Lives curriculum (OWL) has become one of the most respected comprehensive sexuality education curricula available. It is used both in secular contexts and in Unitarian Universalist and United Church of Christ congregations. A lifespan curriculum, it can be offered for Kindergarten and first grade, fourth through fifth grade, seventh through ninth grade, tenth through twelfth grade, young adults and adults. Kindergarten and first grade children in an OWL classroom are correct to point out that the class isn’t really about owls. Instead, they often suggest that OWL be called “Bodies and Babies.” This would indeed be a more forthright description of a curriculum that openly discusses the human body including genitals, reproduction, family configurations, and the ways in which children become a part of families. The biblical texts proposed for support of the OWL curriculum in Sexuality and Our Faith: A Companion to Our Whole Lives are notably less open about “bodies and babies” than the curriculum itself, risking the impression that the Bible does not discuss human bodies and reproduction. Biblical scholarship recognizes that texts across testamental boundaries contain a great deal more engagement with embodiment than is often considered “appropriate for children.” Using existing research on the ongoing evolution of Bibles for children, this paper will critically examine what shapes the assessment of whether Biblical texts are “appropriate for children” and apply that assessment to contexts in which children are assumed to benefit from honest answers and accurate information about human sexuality.

Kathryn House, Boston University
To Choose Rightly: How Sacred Texts and Faith Traditions Inform Sexual Behavior Decisions

This paper queries the use of sacred texts in Sexuality and Our Faith, the faith-tradition companion resources to Our Whole Lives, the secular comprehensive sexuality education curriculum published by the Unitarian Universalist Association. Through a close reading of these supplementary guides published by the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ, I identify the hermeneutical stances and the practical strategies these traditions utilize as they incorporate texts that inform and inspire their traditions' perspectives. I attend specifically to lessons that counter the abstinence-only-until-marriage approaches of many faith-based sexuality education programs and that instead employ a faith-informed approach to guide student reflection on healthy choices, responsibility, consent, and gender justice. To conclude, I make suggestions for a progressive Baptist context and demonstrate how other faith traditions could utilize similar approaches to incorporate their traditions' sacred texts to emphasize justice, mutuality, and responsibility through comprehensive sexuality education.

Religion in Southeast Asia Unit
Theme: Religion and Ethnicity across Southeast Asia
Etin Anwar, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Presiding
Saturday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Hyatt Regency-Mineral E (Third Level)

This panel examines the relationship between religion and ethnicity in Southeast Asia, drawing on detailed case studies from Burma, Thailand and the Philippines. The three papers reflect respectively on customary law among the Higaûnon of Mindanao; the role of brahmans with historical ties to South India in the Siamese court of Nakhon Si Thammarat; and nationalist Buddhist sermons in Myanmar that employ anti-Muslim propaganda to legitimize violence against religious and ethnic Others. Our contributors will reflect on the way categories of religious and ethnic identity articulate both community and solidarity, but also exclusion—and how, in some cases, they may be used to justify violence and perpetuate oppression. Bringing together anthropological, historical and political approaches, the panel is directed to opening up a multi-disciplinary conversation—to examine broader trends in the use of religion and ethnicity to embody, cultivate and contest new forms of agency and collective life.

Niklas Foxeus, Stockholm University
Buddhist Nationalism and Boundary-Making in Myanmar: Anti-Muslim Conspiracy Theories, a Nationalist Discipline, and Nationalist Rituals

In the aftermath of riots between Buddhists and Muslims that began to ravage Burma in 2012, as the country entered a period of volatile political transition, with democratization and liberalization of the economy, a number of Buddhist nationalist, anti-Muslim organizations led by monks were established, most notably the 969 movement and later Ma Bha Tha, and which have disseminated conspiracy theories about Muslims.

Based mainly on sermons delivered by nationalist monks, the aim of this paper is to examine how a Buddhist framing provided legitimacy, credibility, and social acceptance of discriminatory anti-Muslim propaganda by being delivered by monks. It will analyze some of the rhetorical techniques serving to authenticate anti-Muslim narratives; and how these were linked to a nationalist discipline and nationalist performative rituals. These three elements served as instruments of boundary-making and to bring a sense of unity to the Buddhists, thereby establishing the Muslims as the hostile Other.

Oona Paredes, National University of Singapore
An Unbroken Whole: Law as Religion among the Higaûnons of Mindanao (Philippines)

In upland Mindanao, in the southern Philippines, modern Higaunons argue over the relevance and preservation of their customary law, called the bungkátol, in relation to the future of Higaunon culture, ethnic identity, and the preservation of what is left of their ancestral lands. A key part of Higaunon oral traditions (known as the panúd), the bungkátol serves as more than a code of laws and punishments, encompassing practically all aspects of life and all aspects of morality. In this paper, I explore the nature, origins, and historical evolution of the bungkátol in an effort to understand its practical significance to modern Higaunon life, as well as its relevance as a cultural and political symbol of pugkahigaunon or “Higaunon-ness” today. To appreciate the profound influence of the bungkátol on Higaunons to date, I propose to approach it as a religion whose legal aspects are inseparable from the larger whole.

Nathan McGovern, University of Wisconsin, Whitewater
The Brahmans of Nakhon Si Thammarat

Brahmans with roots in South India have played an important role in the political, religious, and ceremonial life of the Siamese court since at least the 16th century. Such Brahmans were not active only in the capital of Ayutthaya, however. They were also active in several southern meuang, including most importantly Nakhon Si Thammarat. This paper will explore the evidence about these Brahmans provided by the Tamnan Phram Meuang Nakhon Si Thammarat (“Chronicle of the Brahmans of Nakhon Si Thammarat”), a letter that was sent in 1734-5 by a royal court Brahman in Ayutthaya to the South as a guarantee of Brahmanical privileges there and impetus to revive their ceremonies. This document shows that in pre-modern Siam, Brahmans were not simply religious actors, but played a crucial role both in international diplomacy and in the internal politics of the Siamese state.

James Hoesterey, Emory University
Business Meeting:
Alexandra Kaloyanides, University of North Carolina, Charlotte
Richard Fox, University of Victoria
  • Full Papers Available
Transnational Religious Expression: Between Asia and North America Seminar
Theme: Border Crossings: Mutability and Multidirectionality
Lucas Carmichael, University of Colorado, Presiding
Saturday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Convention Center-302 (Street Level)

The papers presented in the second year of our seminar critically engage the multidirectional, transformative processes of transnational religious circulation that complicate institutional, national, cultural, spatial, and ethnic boundaries as religious ideas, technologies, and actors move between Asia and North America. All papers will be posted online by November 1 at

Marcus Evans, McMaster University
The Man with the Iron Fists: Anti-Racism and Afro-Asian Solidarity in Film.

Wu-Tang Clan’s Robert F. Diggs (RZA, 1969 – present) wrote, directed, produced, and starred in The Man with the Iron Fists—a two-part film production (Part I 2012; II 2015) that represents one of many Afro-Asian encounters in North American history and popular culture. Situated in mid-19th century China, the film portrays RZA as a fugitive who escapes slavery in the American South, finds refuge in China by way of shipwreck, undergoes tutelage in a Buddhist monastery, and spends his days in China on a heroic yet gruesome quest for enlightenment. Reading this film through the interpretative lenses of afro-orientalism and poly-culturalism, I demonstrate how The Man with the Iron Fists, a product of RZA’s Asian fetish and fancy, depicts Afro-Asian solidarity in a common struggle against oppression, and how it constructs anti-racist religious rhetoric that legitimizes Afro-Asian alliances.

Alexander Rocklin, College of Idaho
Hindu Cosmopolitanism of the Afro-Atlantic: Popular Healing and the Complexity of Racial Religious Identifications in Colonial Trinidad

In 1919 in Trinidad, Baboo Khandas Sadoo stood charged with the assumption of supernatural powers, or obeah. Khandas spoke fluent Hindustani. His name evinced Hindu and Islamicate elements. Yet the newspaper described him as being a man “of the bold negro type.” Khandas identified himself as African Trinidadian but also as a Hindu, claiming to have been born in Africa and raised in India. Khandas’s case provides an opportunity to analyze the recyclical loopings and reimaginings of modes of racial and religious identification that cut across the black and multi-colored Atlantics that connected to the Indian Ocean world. It also provides an opportunity to examine the ways in which these transnational (if also local) identity formations created opportunities for performing new solidarities across reified racial religious lines, allowing for the complex exchanges of discourses and practices between peoples of Indian and African descent in the Atlantic world and beyond.

Brooke Schedneck, Rhodes College
Translating and Missionizing Buddhism to North American Tourists in Thailand

Both strategies of translation and missionizing are significant ways to understand transnational religious expressions. This paper draws on fieldwork from Chiang Mai, Thailand, including participant-observation and qualitative interviews to analyze transnational encounters between North American tourists and Buddhist monks. These encounters take place in a Monk Chat program where, since 2000, Buddhist monks attending one of the Buddhist Universities in Chiang Mai, have created opportunities for informal conversations about Buddhism for interested English-speaking foreigners. Through researching these encounters, I illuminate the framing strategies contemporary monks in Thailand employ to convey Buddhism to their target audience. I argue that Buddhist translation for tourists in contemporary Thailand is primarily concerned with identifying aspects of Buddhism that resonate with the target population for the purposes of missionizing.

Amanda Lucia, University of California, Riverside
Yogic Spiritual Tourism: A Modern Asceticism?

This paper challenges perspectives on spiritual tourism that focus on touristic consumption and excretion. Instead, it shifts the focus to the experiences of spiritual tourists and suggests that yogic spiritual tourism is actually fostering new forms of modern asceticism. Through an ethnographic close examination of Wanderlust yogic festivals, I show that yogic spiritual tourists are engaging in processes of self-cultivation and self-disciplining that are not only exemplary of late-capitalist and neoliberal understandings of self, but also ascetic and yogic ideals of the self and the importance of self-cultivation. I suggest neoliberalism and asceticism intersect and complement each other, which challenges Gavin Flood’s contention that asceticism and modernity are antithetical and provides a fascinating extension of Max Weber’s argument in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.

Courtney Bruntz, Doane University
Business Meeting:
Lucas Carmichael, University of Colorado
Holly Gayley, University of Colorado
Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy
Theme: Part II: Panel on Dao Companion to Japanese Buddhist Philosophy
Steven Heine, Florida International University, Presiding
Saturday - 10:30 AM-12:30 PM
Hilton City Center-Matchless (Lower Level 1)

This panel introduces a new companion to Japanese Buddhist philosophy. It will present cutting edge and heretofore not presented approaches to the academic study of Buddhist philosophy in Japan. The selected papers will thematize the category of "Japanese Buddhism," introduce one of the greatest philosophers in the history of Japanese Buddhism, Shinran and Hōnen, and expand the cannon of Japanese Buddhist philosophy by discussing the contributions of women philosophers in Japan. In doing so, the panel will accomplish three important goals: It will introduce the study of Buddhist philosophy in Japan as a central and growing field of academic philosophy. It will expand the study of Buddhist philosophy in scope and method. Finally, this panel will contribute to the academic study of comparative and Asian philosophy with a special emphasis on religious philosophy and philosophy of religion.

Richard Payne, Institute of Buddhist Studies
"Japanese Buddhism": Constructions and Deconstructions


Dennis Hirota, Ryukoku University
How to Read Shinran


Mark L. Blum, University of California, Berkeley


Michiko Yusa, Western Washington University
Japanese Buddhism and Women: The Lotus, Amida, and Awakening


  • Books under Discussion
Buddhism Unit and Religion and Sexuality Unit
Theme: Book Panel on José Cabezón’s Sexuality in Classical South Asian Buddhism (Wisdom Publications, 2017)
Sarah Jacoby, Northwestern University, Presiding
Saturday - 1:00 PM-3:00 PM
Convention Center-Mile High 2A (Lower Level)

The purpose of this panel is to engage José Ignacio Cabezón in a conversation about his new publication Sexuality in Classical South Asian Buddhism (Wisdom Publications, 2017). Cabezón’s encyclopedic work breaks new ground in the fields of South Asian religions and studies in religion and sexuality, representing the culmination of his multi-decade quest to explore classical Sanskrit, Pali, and Tibetan texts for insights into the development of Buddhist conceptions of sexual desire and its prohibition, sexual ethics, sexual deviance, multiple genders, and sexual misconduct. Cabezón’s aim is to read these diverse sources with an eye first to understanding their meaning and motivations, and second to critique them using various forms of analysis including feminist theory and queer theory, with the goal of moving the Buddhist tradition toward more progressive positions on issues regarding human sexuality.

C. John Powers, Deakin University
Amy P. Langenberg, Eckerd College
José I. Cabezón, University of California, Santa Barbara
Chinese Religions Unit
Theme: Death, (Re-)Birth, and Time: Transformative Bodies in Chinese Religious Traditions
Jessey J. C. Choo, Rutgers University, Presiding
Saturday - 1:00 PM-3:00 PM
Convention Center-507 (Street Level)

What constitutes bodily integrity? What is a perfected body? What is the role of death, suffering, and bodily destruction in achieving that perfection? How does one repair, purify, and transform a broken or defective body? Who is suffering, who/what needs transformation, and who/what can be sublimated? Through examining bodies in transformation in medieval Chinese religious and healing traditions, this panel explores contemporary understandings of death, (re-)birth, sex, gender, and time. We complicate the relationships between life and death, suffering and liberation, esotericization and democratization, deviation and norm. We engage with questions about the human body raised in religious studies, ritual studies, history of science, and disability studies, while grounding our analyses in the specific social and political conditions that gave rise to new theories and practices.

Jingyu Liu, Harvard University
Physical Sublimation and Universal Salvation: Bodily Transformation in the Daoist Yellow Register Retreat (Huanglu zhai黃籙齋)

This paper aims to study a Daoist postmortem ritual called the Yellow Register Retreat (Huanglu zhai黄籙斋) in terms of the practice of bodily transformation of the dead. This postmortem ritual service, prevalent since the Southern Song (1127-1279) and still in practice today, is often labeled as a rite of “Universal Salvation (pudu 普度)” aimed at bringing about the deliverance en masse of the souls of the dead and conferring universal blessings upon the living regardless of age, gender, and social status. The ritual was developed in the distinctive religious and cultural milieu in medieval China, which recent scholarship has described as reflecting “esotericization” and “democratization”. This study attempts to illustrate how the Yellow Register Retreat embodied “esotericization” and the “democratization” by investigating a ritual procedure called “salvation through sublimation (liandu 煉度)”, with a particular focus on the transformation of broken bodies of the dead.

Hsin Yi Lin, Fo Guang University
Transformed Bodies of Duḥkha: Suffering Fetuses and Mothers in Medieval Chinese Buddhist Transformation Texts and Images

Numerous Buddhist sūtras and śāstra share obstetric knowledge with Indian Āyurveda. Their vivid depictions of embryos' sufferings that do not appear in Āyurvedic texts, however; these were added by monastic authors into Buddhist texts to better illustrate the teaching of duḥkha. This paper examines several Chinese Buddhist transformation texts and tableaux from Dunhuang and Sichuan that reflect the theme. These sources show that the elaboration of birth suffering through obstetrics was inherited, yet simplified and transformed by medieval Chinese Buddhists. The theme of fetuses' birth suffering is to a large extent replaced by an emphasis on maternal suffering in order to promote the idea of "repaying parents' kindness." This shift in focus also implies a shift in intended audience for these works: from monastic practitioners to lay people. This paper expands upon previous studies of Dunhuang materials to demonstrate that the impact of Buddhist embryology was more widespread than previously thought.

Hsiao-wen Cheng, University of Pennsylvania
Meanings of Sexual Transformation and the Temporality of Norms in Early and Medieval China

This paper examines meanings of sexual transformation in Confucian, Buddhist, Daoist, and medical texts from early and medieval China. My materials include instances of sexual transformation recorded in Confucian zaiyi (portent interpretation) texts, references to female-to-male sex change in Buddhist and Daoist literature, a thirteenth-century proto-encyclopedic entry about “human-demons,” and a fourteenth-century medical discussion of “dual-formed” bodies. I will begin with a critical reflection on the modern concepts of the norm, normalcy, and normativity. I then proceed to investigate how the human body and what we now identify as “sexual” were organized in radically different ways when neither “sexual” nor “normal,” as understood today, was a conceptual category. The paper will conclude with an inquiry into the significance of temporality in establishing norms and divinity in premodern China through focusing on notions of bu (replenish; repair) and hua (transform) in the soteriological and healing traditions.

Business Meeting:
Megan Bryson, University of Tennessee
Anna Sun, Kenyon College
Buddhism in the West Unit
Theme: Transnational Ethnographies of Buddhism: Gender, Monasticism, and Inter-Religious Meditation
Wakoh Shannon Hickey, Notre Dame of Maryland University, Presiding
Saturday - 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Hyatt Regency-Centennial E (Third Level)

This session uses ethnographic studies of Buddhist communities in Taiwan, mainland China, the United States, and the West Bank to explore the varied ways Buddhism is practiced in the globalized West, its transnational connections, and the consequences of evolving Buddhist practice in the modern world. Comparative work between mainland China and the United States adds national context to conversations about gender agency and Buddhism. A study of Jewish settlers in the West Bank and their practice of insight meditation reveals the processes of secularization that have allowed Buddhist practices to be extracted from their original contexts. And the establishment of a female monastic community in the United States demonstrates how a specific Buddhist tradition is being transmitted to the West and calls into question the assumption that Western Buddhism is anathema to "tradition."

Di Di, Rice University
Navigating Gender Norms: Gender Agency in Buddhist Temples in Mainland China and the US

Using data collected in two Chinese Mahayana Buddhist temples, this analysis asks whether and how members of religious communities which are nominally gender-progressive retain their sense of agency. The temples are affiliated with the same Buddhist headquarters but located in mainland China and the United States, respectively. Buddhists in both temples envision promoting gender egalitarianism, which is ambivalently defined in their religion. To enact gender egalitarianism, Buddhists use one of two dominant models: the temple’s implicit gender norms or those of the society outside the temple. They compare and navigate both models, adopting what they consider to be the more egalitarian. The findings indicate that the formation of gender agency in nominally gender-progressive religious communities has three components: envisioning, comparing, and navigating. The study adds national context to conversations about gender agency and religion and reveals that similar religious norms in different countries may lead to distinctive types of agency.

Ori Mautner, University of Cambridge
The Buddha Settles in the West Bank: Religious-Nationalist Israeli Jews Re-Enchant Vipassanā Meditation

Until recently, only a minority of Theravāda monastics practiced vipassanā. My interlocutors, however, are orthodox, Israeli-Jewish settlers in the West Bank, who relate their practice of vipassanā to the world’s gradual progress towards redemption.

Relying on ethnographic fieldwork of over 18 months, I discuss the creative strategies that religious-nationalist Israeli Jews employ as they Judaize vipassanā. ‘Jewish Vipassanā’ retreats take place in West Bank settlements, and are modelled after the Goenka vipassanā retreats.

What enables the adoption of insight meditation by people who adhere to disparate moral and political commitments is the secularization that such practices have undergone in modernity. As vipassanā is extracted from its original institutional and cosmological context, it turns malleable.

This case raises the question of whether the assimilation of insight meditation into Abrahamic, monotheistic cosmologies is part of a pattern that has always occurred in Buddhist history; or is a novel type of development.

Bhikshuni Changshen, Dharma Drum Mountain
Living Vinaya in United States: Emerging Female Monastic Sanghas in the West

From January 22nd to February 8th, 2018, the first Vinaya course offered in United States for training Western nuns was held in Sravasti Abbey, one of the first Buddhist nunneries in U.S. Vinaya master and senior nuns from Taiwan were invited to teach the Dharmaguptaka Vinaya, which is the longest and lasting bhikshuni sangha lineage in the world. During this course, nearly 60 nuns from five continents representing three different traditional backgrounds lived and studied together. Using my ethnographic work to explore this Vinaya training event, I will analyze the needs of Buddhist practitioners in the West to form bhikshuni sangha. These needs constitute a gesture that goes against the grain of many Western practitioners who wish to create a “new” Buddhism different from Buddhism in Asia. In contrast, this event not only shows the solid transmission of an Asian Vinaya lineage to the West, but also demonstrates how Western practitioners respect the teachers and their wish to practice monastic ethics in forming female monastic sangha in the West.

Comparative Approaches to Religion and Violence Unit and Tibetan and Himalayan Religions Unit
Theme: Religion and Violence in Tibet and the Himalayas
Antonio Terrone, American Theological Library Association, Presiding
Saturday - 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Convention Center-Mile High 1C (Lower Level)

This panel proposes a discussion of various aspects of violent action in the context of religion in Tibetan cultures across the Himalayas. The goal is to contribute to growing academic conversations regarding the conflicting narratives that exist about violent means (perceived, factual, and symbolic) in various Asian religious traditions and their significance. Among Buddhist traditions, Vajrayana as practiced in Tibetan cultures is particularly rich in rituals, contemplation techniques, iconographic systems, and pedagogical tools that utilize performances and concepts involving violent, wrathful, or powerful behavior. The region provides an excellent entry point, therefore, to discuss larger relationships between violent practices and Buddhist traditions. As a result, the contributors offer insights into the nature, origins, and goals of such religious performances in Tibet and the Himalayas, with the aim of stimulating further reflection on the meanings of violence in religion.

Natasha Mikles, Texas State University
Sharing in King Gesar’s Battle-Cry: The Abundant Event of Religious Violence in Tibet

Based upon a detailed examination of rituals soliciting King Gesar’s assistance in destroying demonic enemies, this paper argues for the use of specific vocabulary and imagery to situate the practitioner as a member of Gesar’s social world. Via this position in the social universe of the Gesar epic, the practitioner is made a combatant in the “cosmic war” that Juergensmeyer claims underlies all religious violence—a move through which their religious practice is given heightened meaning. Ultimately, this paper questions the reflexive move to psychologize violent imagery in Tibetan religious practice and instead suggests understanding such rituals as “abundant events” that situate the practitioner in a network of meaningful relationships with otherworldly individuals.

Teresa Yao, ManChing, National ChengChi University
Violence and Myth in Vajrakilaya Ritual: A Giradian Perspective

This paper analyzes the Vajrakīlaya’s ritual as practiced in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition by applying the theory of ritual and violence articulated by René Girard. Modeling my analysis specifically to two of his major works in this regard, Scapegoat (1986) and Violence and Sacred (1977), I first trace the ritual of Vajrakīlaya to its mythic origin. Rākṣasī and Rudra, the wrathful figures in two different myths related to Vajrakīlaya can appropriately be read as “scapegoats”, abused and ultimately killed, thereby absorbing the animosities of a community’s rivals. The sacrificial object (victim or effigy) in the Vajrakīlaya's ritual is thus destroyed to restore harmony. In this study, I argue that the myth behind ritual in the context of the Vajrakīlaya’s ritual reveals conflictual connotations: violence and the sacred coexist and are not mutually exclusive and although this seeming paradox, the sacred (harmony and happiness) cannot be generated without violence.

Christopher Bell, Stetson University
Dorje Shugden’s Holy War of Words

In 1970 a text infamously known as the Yellow Book was composed by Dzeme Rinpoche. This book discusses several Tibetan Geluk masters that were harmed or killed by the wrathful deity Dorje Shugden over the last several centuries. The reason for such violence is said to be because these masters corrupted the Geluk teachings by being initiated into the cycles of other Tibetan lineages, especially Nyingma, which goes against the strict sectarianism that this deity has represented in some Geluk circles in the late twentieth century. Using as a theoretical basis Charles Selengut’s scriptural argument for Holy War in his book Sacred Fury, this examination of the Yellow Book and its surrounding textual context will discuss the justifications given for such supernatural violence through divine attribution and foundational Mahāyāna doctrines. Given his continued controversial nature, Dorje Shugden provides a ready case study for exploring religion and violence in Tibetan Buddhism.

Nicholas Trautz, University of Virginia
Unleashing the Demonic Divine: The bka’ brgyad bde gshegs ‘dus pa in the Articulation of rnying ma Identity

This presentation considers the impact of one of the early-most Buddhist revelation cycles in Tibet, the bka’ brgyad bde gshegs ‘dus pa (“The Assembly of the Sugatas of the Eight Pronouncements”). The Kagyè tradition stands out for its distinctive emphasis on the idiom of “enlightened wrath”, the espousal of ritual violence, and the narration of a myth-history that re-imagines indigenous demonology to advance new visions for tantric adepthood and practice. This cycle proved especially important to the rnying ma tradition in times of inter-institutional pressure, and was curated at several critical junctures to render the corpus into a ritual-centric resource for the articulation of denominational identity. I argue that we can best understand the impact of the Kagyè in terms of its contribution to an arresting imaginaire—one squarely centered on the idiom of ritual violence - that was configurative of denominational identity and a distinctive approach to Buddhist mastery.

Jacob Dalton, University of California, Berkeley
Daoist Studies Unit
Theme: Stones along the Path: Explorations in Daoist Epigraphy
Gil Raz, Dartmouth College, Presiding
Saturday - 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Convention Center-505 (Street Level)

Research into the history of Daoism remains dominated by textual studies, focusing on the Daoist Canon and other textual materials. Our understanding of the history of Daoism, as a result, continues to be dominated by the perspectives of these texts that are often prescriptive. Subsequently, many studies of Daoism have neglected the actual lives of Daoist communities and individuals. The papers in this panel attempt to move beyond canonical texts in order to shed light on the lived reality of religious life. The presenters delve into the vast archaeological, epigraphic, and material resources that have been largely been neglected in previous scholarship. Using these rich and varied sources, the presenters on this panel offer four cases of Daoist epigraphic sources that reveal new insights, new methodologies and approaches to explore ways in which Daoists lived and died.

Beverley Zhang, Arizona State University
Beyond Death: The Daoist Epitaph of Xue Yuanqing 薛遠卿 (d. 646)

This paper investigates the epitaph of Xue Yuanqing薛遠卿 (d. 646), a prominent Daoist in Tang dynasty. Existing research on Daoist epigraphs centers on their moral, philological and archaeological qualities, as well as “social history”. This paper goes beyond these avenues and investigates the efficacy and etiology of Xue’s epigraphic practice. I hypothesize that epitaphs facilitated Daoist an alternative path to death and pursuit of socio-spiritual transcendence, if not immortality through literary means. It also provided the therapeutic means to transform the grief of the bereaved into eulogistic solace, admiration and inspirations.

Huaiyu Chen, Arizona State University
Buddhist and Daoist Stone Lanterns in Tang China: A Comparative Perspective

Stone lanterns were crucial ritual architectural features in Buddhists and Daoists monastic compounds of in medieval China. Their use flourished during the Tang dynasty. This paper compares their historical origins, doctrinal foundations, and ritual functions in medieval political, religious, and cultural contexts. Daoism developed sophisticated lantern altar rituals in the fifth century, while Buddhism introduced votive lamp offering ritual. In the sixth century, Buddhist monastics monumentalized the lamp rituals in the form of stone lanterns in response to the popular notions of the Final Dharma. Daoist monastic communities soon followed the Buddhist model in producing stone lanterns. Inscriptions on stone lanterns reveal the rhetoric, doctrinal ideas, and ritual practices in Buddhist and Daoist liturgies that centered on these stone lanterns and their roles in medieval religious life. This paper sheds new light on the competition between Buddhist and Daoist monastics in medieval China, and the role of stone lanterns in ritual reverence, soteriological goals, and serving the worldly needs of practitioners.

Jonathan Pettit, University of Hawaii
Carving Out a Dao: Epigraphy and Temple Construction in Medieval Daoism

Many of the temple compounds in medieval China were massive construction projects including dozens of buildings, idyllic gardens, and guesthouses. These compounds required substantial financial backing from patrons, which required temple leaders to constantly build relations with old, new, and potential donors. A common way to promote the expansion or maintenance of temples was through commemorative text inscribed on stele monuments before a temple. This paper is a close study of inscriptions composed by Tao Hongjing, a successful temple developer in medieval China. The author analyzes the web of geographic, professional, and political associations in Tao’s inscriptions, and argues that a key aim of these texts was to ensure continued connections with local and global actors. And while writers emphasize ways that a temple continues local traditions, this paper concludes that the new links between a leader and donor inscriptions often result in a radical departure from the past.

Jennifer Bussio, Brigham Young University
What Makes a Patriarch? An Examination of the Hagiography of the Twelfth Zhen Dadao Patriarch, Zhang Qingzhi 張清志 (d.1327/28)

Beginning in 1326, eleven or twelve steles containing a hagiography of the still-living twelfth patriarch of the Zhen dadao school, Zhang Qingzhi, were erected at Zhen dadao abbeys throughout North China. Three of these inscriptions still survive. By comparing these inscriptions with the hagiography of the eleventh patriarch and two other descriptions of the twelfth patriarch, including one by Yuan litari Yu Ji (虞集, 1272-1348), it becomes clear that the hagiography of the twelfth patriarch was carefully crafted to support the legitimacy of Zhang Qingzhi’s patriarchate on a moral, historical, and objective basis in the midst of a prolonged succession struggle within the school.

Death, Dying, and Beyond Unit
Theme: The Material Culture of Death, Monuments, and Memory Making
Mohamed S. Hassan, Temple University, Presiding
Saturday - 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Convention Center-610 (Street Level)

From 12th century Tibet to mid-20th century Georgia to 21st century Egypt, this session looks at material religion and material culture(s) in terms of death rituals, remembrances, and writings.

Rory Lindsay, Harvard University
Material Actors in a Sakyapa Death Ritual

The funerary manuals of the Tibetan Buddhist author Jetsun Drakpa Gyaltsen (1147–1216) center on a remarkable promise: if a ritual expert performs the correct rites, then even a person guilty of committing horrific acts can be spared from bad rebirths. This claim is rooted in the Sarvadurgatipariśodhana Tantra, an influential seventh-century Indian Buddhist text. Since these sources describe the dead as being acted on throughout the ritual process, the question arises: who does the work of saving the dead? This paper explores the various actors described in Drakpa Gyaltsen's writings on funerals, focusing both on conscious, primary agents responsible for saving the dead, as well as material, secondary agents, without which the rites cannot successfully be performed.

Jordan Rowan Fannin, Berry College
Lawn Jockeys, Martyrs, and Confederate Generals: Flannery O'Connor and the Transformation of Monuments Unto Death

This paper examines the memorializing of death and suffering by arguing that current discourse around monument removal in American cities has been incomplete, focusing on what monuments are rather than on what they do. It offers an examination of two kinds of monuments - one fictional, one historical - in order to explore the complex relationship of memory and memorial in the effects of and response to monuments. It turns first to O'Connor's short story about the transformative effects of an unlikely monument (lawn jockey), examining the power of monuments to segregation that nevertheless produce reconciliation in their viewers. It then turns to the historical example of Christian memoriae to martyrs and saints to examine the way monuments to violent death were transformed by their visitors. It argues that the act of memory lies not in the monument alone but in the dynamic interaction between monument and witness. It concludes with brief reflections about the meaning of these two forms of monuments and memory for contemporary discussions.

Giulia Giubergia, University of Gothenburg
Martyrs, Angels, and Corpses: Representations of Death in Graffiti in the 2011 Egyptian Uprising

Popular memorialization of death during and after the 2011 Egyptian uprising was predominantly expressed through graffiti, located mainly in the neighborhood of Downtown Cairo. This paper is set to highlight the visual narrative presented by the graffiti in regard to violent death of protesters, the so-called “martyrs of the revolution”, in different phases of the uprising and post-uprising. Special attention will be devoted to how the figure of the martyr is represented through an assemblage of symbols coming from different religious, political and cultural traditions. In particular, I will problematize the presence of angel wings adorning the graffiti of the martyrs as well as the portrayal of the martyrs as corpses. Finally, I will highlight how the figures of the “martyr-as-angel” and the “martyr-as-corpse” embody distinct political messages characteristic of two different stages of the uprising.

Japanese Religions Unit and Law, Religion and Culture Unit
Theme: Religion and the Constitution in Contemporary Japan
Jessica Starling, Lewis and Clark College, Presiding
Saturday - 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Convention Center-109 (Street Level)

After Abe Shinzō became prime minister of Japan for a second time in 2012, he soon signaled that constitutional reform would become one of the flagship issues of his administration. As of 2018, Abe is closer to initiating the process of reforming Japan’s 1947 constitution than any other prime minister of the postwar period. While attempts to reform Article 9 tend to gain much attention, other aspects of postwar Japanese society that could be the target of significant reform include the principles of religious freedom and the separation of religion from the state. Article 20 of the 1947 constitution provides the basis for these principles, while at the same time forcing Japan as a constitutional democracy to deal with “religion” as a legal category. The papers of this panel explore issues related to “religion” and Japan’s postwar constitution from various perspectives, historical as well as contemporary.

Mitsutoshi Horii, Shumei University
The Allied Occupation of Japan 1945-1952 and the Constitutional Category of "Religion"

After the Second World War, the Japanese constitutional category of ‘religion’ was reformulated into a more inclusive one. This new classification was largely carried out during the Allied Occupation, between 1945 and 1952, and was closely associated with American desire to eliminate ‘militarism’ and ‘ultranationalism’ from the post-war Japanese statecraft, by implementing American-style liberal democratic ideology. In short, American liberal democratic values and sensitivity played an important role in the formation of the post-war Japanese religion–secular dichotomy. The post-war (re-)classification of ‘religion’ in Japanese society formulated a triumphant discourse of liberalism, represented as the liberation by democratic America of the Japanese people from its Emperor system, the state-sponsored ‘religion’ called ‘State Shinto’. This also represents a reorganization of state power and social order. When the category of ‘religion’ was given this new meaning, its entanglement with the state was transformed into a new constellation.

Jolyon Thomas, University of Pennsylvania
Religion and the Controversial Subject of Constitutional Law

In the last two decades conservatives in Japan have experimented with ways to revise the postwar constitution. The redefinition of the capacities of the Self-Defense Force during the Iraq War, the 2006 revision of the Fundamental Law on Education, and the 2017 passage of anti-conspiracy legislation have all presaged a concerted push for constitutional revision. Notable among these initiatives is the LDP draft constitution of 2012. The draft document preserved the idiosyncratic constitutional language of “fundamental human rights,” but it also refocused attention on duties over rights, granted rights to “persons” (hito) rather than “individuals” (kojin) and treated the household, not the individual, as the fundamental legal unit of society. Building on recent advances in the critical study of religion and religious freedom, this paper interrogates what sort of human the LDP proposal imagines and how the proposed revisions change the way religion might be free in Japan.

Ernils Larsson, Uppsala University
Shrine Shinto, "Religion", and the Politics Constitutional Reform

When current Prime Minister Shinzō Abe pushes for constitutional reform, he does so with the support of Japan’s Shinto establishment. Jinja Honchō, Japan’s largest organization of Shinto shrines, has long been involved in politics aimed to replicate the prewar system of Imperial Japan, and its current involvement in LDP and Nippon Kaigi campaigns to revise the 1947 constitution should be read partly against this background. However, another factor contributing to this involvement is the new interpretation of Article 20, which since the Ehime Tamagushiryō ruling in 1997 has ensured that all Shrine Shinto actors are understood as “religion” under the constitution due to their legal status as “Religious Juridical Person.” For an organization like Jinja Honchō which seeks to reestablish ties between Shinto and the state, this has left only one option open – amending the constitution.

  • Presidential Theme: Religious Studies in Public
Religion, Film, and Visual Culture Unit
Theme: Public Intellectuals in Religion, Film, and Television: 21st Century Industry Interlocutors and Creatives
Jeanette Reedy Solano, California State University, Fullerton, Presiding
Saturday - 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Convention Center-605 (Street Level)

This roundtable will be a practical dialogue to encourage more fruitful, critical, and creative interaction with film and television industry professionals around the world and other publics. Topics will include: serving as a religion consultant on film or television, speaking as an expert on broadcast news, film marketing, and the creative challenges of screenwriting, directing, and production. Religion scholars will speak on the skills required in these public roles and offer practical advice regarding how to create and negotiate relationships with film and industry professionals. Panelists will also comment on the obstacles that tend to arise, how to effectively broach religious illiteracy in both the industry and the audience, and how to see your own creative film or television project through production and distribution. The goal of this conversation is to equip and inspire religious studies scholars to have more productive relationships in the industry and to develop their own skills as public intellectuals and producers of media.

Craig Detweiler, Seattle School of Theology and Psychology
Creative Interfaith Collaborations and Marketing

I try to turn theories into creative expressions—from writing fictional screenplays to producing and directing documentaries. The portability and affordability of cameras make it easier than ever to turn our research into films and television shows. I’ve been honored to come alongside scholars doing work on Muslim-Christian musical collaborations in Lebanon and Indonesia and lawyers engaged in prison reform in Uganda. I bring to the discussion the creative challenges of serving as a public intellectual in film and television. I’ve also been hired by studios to craft study guides for their feature films from overtly religious epics like Exodus: Gods and Kings to contemporary stories like The Blind Side, through fantasies like The Book of Eli. I will reflect on the challenges of bringing scholastic rigor to movies marketed toward the masses.

Lina Verchery, Harvard University
The Creative and Intellectual Challenges of Filmmaking

Concurrent with my academic training in Buddhist Studies, I have worked as a writer/director for documentary, educational, and experimental film in Canada and the US since 2006. The study of Buddhism explicitly informs both my filmmaking process — that is, my orientation to the creative process as well as to the larger ethical commitments involved in sharing ideas with the public through the filmic medium — as well as my concrete approach to storytelling: many of my films, either directly or indirectly, have explored Buddhist ideas and subjects. In this panel, I will reflect on some of the key challenges involved in translating academic research into cinematic expression. Providing concrete examples from current and past film projects, I will comment on some of the major differences between thinking cinematically and thinking academically, and provide a few examples of specific techniques I have found useful for modulating academic ideas into the very different register of cinematic language.

Kutter Callaway, Fuller Theological Seminary
Navigating Television as a Religious Scholar and Bridge Building in Hollywood

Drawing from my experience serving as a stereotypical "talking head expert," a behind the scenes consultant, and a recurring guest on a number of television series (e.g. The Story of God with Morgan Freeman; CBS' Living Biblically, et. al.), along with my work on the Scripted TV Advisory Board for Engage Entertainment in LA, I will describe some of the unique challenges and pitfalls that I have encountered while serving in these roles as a scholar, namely the ways in which one rarely, if ever, has control over how one's scholarly contributions are framed in the final cut by the narrativizing work of the production team, the studio, and the network. Along similar lines, I can also discuss the many hard lessons I have learned in attempting to develop robust working relationships with filmmakers, film studios, and marketing companies. As my public conversations with Martin Scorsese, Paul Schrader, and Dan Gilroy each demonstrated, I have discovered a great deal of pedagogical potential in cultivating discursive spaces within which industry professionals, religious experts, and film audiences participate.

Space, Place, and Religion Unit
Theme: Buddhist Material Heritage: Unexplored Questions
Brian J. Nichols, Mount Royal University, Presiding
Saturday - 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Convention Center-107 (Street Level)

There has been growing scholarly literature on the revitalization of Buddhist heritage across Asia, especially considering the transnational movement of pilgrims and a robust religious tourism market that speaks to the importance of growing inter-Asian contexts and connections. Three papers explore aspects of Buddhist heritage, sites, art, and performance in North India, Nepal, and Tibet to ask new questions based on new subjects. Questions like how non-Buddhist domestic tourists' use important pilgrimage sites, and subjects like analysis of unknown Buddhist heritage artifacts to assess the risk of destruction. Finally, a fresh perspective on Buddhist historical figures offers insights into the links between festivals, monasteries, and faith in Maitreya. Together these papers introduce new investigations on religious tourism, heritage preservation, and socio-cultural institution building.

David Geary, University of British Columbia
Romancing the Stone: Archaeological Intimacies and Mobile Mediations of India’s Buddhist Heritage in Sarnath

In recent decades, there has been a growing scholarly literature on the revitalization of Buddhist heritage across Asia, especially in light of the transnational movement of pilgrims and a robust religious tourism market that speaks to the importance of growing inter-Asian contexts and connections. Although it is well known that the development and promotion of India’s Buddhist heritage has become a cornerstone of India’s tourism marketing campaign aimed at capturing foreign exchange earnings, little is known about the varying ways domestic Indian tourists use, understand, and appropriate these spaces of religious memory, and to what effect. This paper examines the relationship and tensions between transnational Buddhist pilgrimage and domestic tourism in Sarnath, and how the site has emerged as popular locale for courtship and romance among India’s middle-class youth, as well as how these interactions over sacred space are mediated by the growing smartphone market and the obsession with “selfies”.

Ivette Vargas-O'Bryan, Austin College
Naresh Shakya, Lotus Academic College
Newar Buddhist Mural Paintings: Marking and the Loss of Religious Space and Identity

In the midst international cultural preservation and conservation efforts of UNESCO cultural heritage sites in Nepal after the April 2015 earthquakes and as international power players leave their imprint on Nepal’s fragile cultural heritage, other works of art less visible and smaller in stature such as Newari Buddhist murals, carved and painted on local residences and monastic communities, are neglected and are at risk of extinction. Local murals represent Nepal’s Newar mural painting tradition’s both tangible and intangible cultural heritage. This joint paper draws attention to the issue of identity in the residential Newar Buddhist murals of Nepal. In addition, it addresses focuses on the contestation of space and religious monument as a critical theory and epistemological tool that fosters a discourse on the analysis of religious preservation and the power structures that undergird the gradual deconstruction of identities.

Edward Arnold, Columbia University
Reconfiguring Spatiotemporal Realities: Tsong Khapa's Buddhist Vision of Tibet

In the fifteenth century, the Buddhist scholar-yogi Tsong Khapa instituted an annual festival in Lhasa, Tibet’s sacred city, culminating in prayers to the future buddha Maitreya. That same year, he oversaw the completion of the first monastery belonging to what would become the world’s largest monastic institutional network. The two events were related, for the monastery was named Ganden, that of the heaven in which all future buddhas reside before earthly descent. This indicates an attempt to suggest Tsong Khapa’s new order manifested the enlightened reality of all buddhas, layering past and future in its spatiotemporal present. Moreover, Tsong Khapa’s order maintains a rite in which his presence manifests from Maitreya, linking continuous ritual space-time and a historical present bound to collective future enlightenment. This paper is the first to investigate connections among elements of Tsong Khapa’s profound religious, social, and political legacies on Asian history.

Yogācāra Studies Unit
Theme: Exploring Yogācāra in the Laṅkāvatārasūtra
A. Charles Muller, University of Tokyo, Presiding
Saturday - 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Convention Center-Mile High 1A (Lower Level)

Among the many Buddhist scriptures that reflect the literary formation of Yogācāra thought and practice, the Laṅkāvatāra plays a central role. Cited ubiquitously by proponents and opponents alike, the text articulates all of Yogācāra's key themes. Focusing on key aspects of this daunting and complex text, this panel examines especially issues that emerge in the Laṅkāvatāra's second chapter. The panel begins with an overview that contextualizes the text and its layers. In collaboration with all those present, we will then examine some key passages in their Sanskrit, Tibetan and Chinese versions. Our panelists will next unpack the text by exploring themes that illuminate both its evident and less obvious features, including the notion of the "three natures" (trisvabhāva), the text's semantics of "conceptualization" (forms of kḷp), the response to the problem of nihilism, and the peculiar notion of contemplative practice as culminating in a "field without appearance" (nirābhāsagocara).

John Dunne, University of Wisconsin
Unregistered Participant
Paul G. Hackett, Columbia University
Unregistered Participant
Daniel McNamara, Emory University
Business Meeting:
Roy Tzohar, Tel-Aviv University
Joy Brennan, Kenyon College
Buddhism Unit
Theme: Seeing through the Secular Paradigm: Buddhism and the Chinese Revolution
Justin R. Ritzinger, University of Miami, Presiding
Saturday - 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Convention Center-Mile High 1F (Lower Level)

This panel brings together four pre-circulated papers to shed light on the integral role of Buddhist intellectuals during various Chinese revolutions, ranging from the Literary Revolution advocated by Liang Qichao at the turn of the twentieth century and its Buddhist rejoinder, to an aesthetic revolution during the May Fourth era, to a radical offshoot from Monk Taixu’s reform, and to Tibetan neologisms that appropriated official discourses in Mao’s atheist regime. As the panelists will collectively discuss, Buddhism has provided vital inspirations for a wide range of revolutionaries and nurtured diverse visions for a new China. These intricate interconnections, which have been conveniently clouded by the secular paradigm, promise to unravel the myth-making processes behind the Weberian discourse of a disenchanted modern. After the panellists summarize pre-circulated papers, the respondent will draw out common themes and raise broader questions on key issues regarding Buddhist agency, the meaning of revolution, and alternative modernities.

Lei Ying, Fudan University
Reading for Enlightenment: Liang Qichao and the Buddhist Origin of the Literary Revolution

Rereading Liang Qichao’s (1873–1929) seminal essay, “On the Relationship between Fiction and the Government of the People,” this study unpacks the central thrust of a Buddhist conceptualization of “enlightenment” in the inception of the Literary Revolution at the turn of the twentieth century. It illuminates a shared horizon of meaning between Liang, a keen participant in the late Qing Buddhist “undercurrent” who has long been (mis)taken as a secular intellectual in the study of modern Chinese literary and intellectual history, and Taixu (1890–1947), a radical innovator of Buddhist ecclesiastical and cultural life. The study restores the Buddhist epistemic context of Liang’s exaltation of “new fiction” as the most potent means for rejuvenating the mind of the people. Furthermore, highlighting Sound of the Tide as a Buddhist rejoinder to the May Fourth movement, it reconsiders the place of Buddhists in the remaking of literary culture in twentieth-century China.

Jessica Zu, Princeton University
Aesthetic Revolution for a New Moral Ecology, 1918-1923

On January 15th, 1919, the editor of New Youth published a spirited reader’s letter, calling for an aesthetic revolution. The author Lü Cheng, who later became a widely respected Buddhologist, was by then still an obscure art teacher in a backwater town. This paper examines Lü’s forgotten revolutionary pursuit during the May Fourth era and his rebuttal against Cai Yuanpei’s thesis—replacing religion with aesthetic education. Lü is often seen as a paragon of the secularization mentality in Chinese Buddhism. This paper reveals the enchanted nature of Lü’s social imaginary, his Buddhicized vision of revolution, and his view of translation and comparative hermeneutics as a key step for collective salvation. By restoring him back into the May Fourth intellectual terrain, this paper hopes to both recover some sense of this creative ferment inspired by Buddhist traditions and highlight how revolution has shaped the Yogācāra revival in modern China.

Rongdao Lai, University of Southern California
A Buddhicized Revolution: The Buddhist New Youth Movement in Republican China

This is a study of the radical Buddhist New Youth movement founded by laymen Zhang Zongzai and Ning Dayun in 1922. Both May Fourth activists, they saw in Buddhism an ideal for creating an egalitarian, free, and just world. They attended Taixu’s new academy in Wuchang, from where the movement grew rapidly, establishing local chapters across China, in Japan and Southeast Asia. I begin with the founding and development of the movement, focusing specifically on its missions that included scientism, internationalism, and pacifism. This is followed by an analysis for the unique monastic-lay dynamic within the group. It shows that new-style Buddhist academies and the new print culture have provided an indispensable platform for re-imagining being modern, Buddhist, and Chinese. In addition, the Buddhist New Youth shared the traditional May Fourth youth’s critical attitude toward popular religion but also their utopian calling for national salvation through social and cultural revolutions.

Nicole Willock, Old Dominion University
Translating “Religion” and the “People": Tibetan Buddhist Scholars in 1950's China

While recent studies on the history of religion in China showed the connection between translation and the emergence of the constructed category of “religion” or “zongjiao” in Chinese as part of the dynamic processes of modern nation-state formation, scant attention has been paid to how key terms for modernity developed in Tibetan-language discourse in the early 20th century. This paper connects oral history with heretofore unexamined Tibetan-language autobiographies and Tibetan translations of Chinese texts, such as Sun Yatsen’s Three Principles of the People, the 1954 Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, and Mao Zedong’s Collected Works to suggest that Tibetan Buddhist scholars employed as Chinese government translators created Tibetan-language neologisms, such as “cho-luk” for “religion” and “mi-mang” for “the people,” based on their own discursive traditions and that these became integral to the formation of nation-state discourse in the P.R.C.

Hung-yok Ip, Oregon State University
Daoist Studies Unit, Indian and Chinese Religions Compared Unit, Tantric Studies Unit, Yoga in Theory and Practice Unit, and Yogācāra Studies Unit
Theme: Yoga in India and China
Dan Lusthaus, Harvard University, Presiding
Saturday - 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Hyatt Regency-Centennial G (Third Level)

The goal of this session is to begin an informed exchanged of information between scholars working on Indian yogic traditions and those working on comparable practices in China. The term “yoga” is intended in a broad sense, to include bodily disciplines, hygienic regimens, inner alchemy, breathing techniques, body maps, pursuit of physical immortality, etc. Topics to be covered include the classical yoga of Patañjali, the early Indian Buddhist Yogācāra tradition, bodily cultivation in the Daoist canon, and the origins of modern postural yoga. The papers will be followed by a discussion opening up to comparative reflection.

Gerald J. Larson, University of California, Santa Barbara
The Unique "Dualism" of Classical Yoga Theory and Its Equally Unique Notion of the Pluralizing (or Quantizing) of Consciousness

It is important to understand the philosophy of Yoga through the background of the philosophy of Sāṃkhya. The classical theoretical texts of Yoga (in the first centuries CE) refer to Yoga Śāstra as an "interpetation" or "explanation" of "sāṃkhya" (sāṃkhya-pravacana) or simply as a "common tradition" (samāna-tantra). Two important issues that require careful articulation in the study of Yoga are (1) the precise nature of the "dualism" of Yoga (and Sāṃkhya) as set forth in the original texts; and (2) a precise understanding of the notion of the "pluralization" or "quantizing" of consciousness (puruṣa-bahutva). Analysis of these two issues require work in the philosophy of mind, neurophysiology, and cognitive science in addition to work in traditional Indian philosophy. The purpose of the paper is to examine important alternatives in re-thinking many of the conventional approaches in Indian philosophy and theology having to do with the nature of the body, the mind, mind-body interaction and conceptualizations of the self or self-awareness. Since the theory of Yoga is closely linked with Buddhist meditation theory, the latter of which becomes important in the spread of Buddhist traditions to China and Japan, the discussion of Yoga's 'dualism' and its pluralization of 'consciousness' provides a basis for important intercultural theoretical exploration.

Karen O'Brien-Kop, SOAS University of London
The "Other" Yogaśāstra: Reconfiguring the Category of Classical Yoga

Conventionally, the label ‘classical yoga’ has been aligned to and sometimes conflated with Patañjali’s Yogasūtra, produced circa 325-425 CE. Yet if we broaden the scope of inspection to a wider textual corpus from the same period, we can identify a richer and more complex discourse of classical yoga, which is semantically entangled across religious boundaries. There are a number of close correspondences, hitherto unexplored, between the soteriology of the Pātañjalayogaśāstra and the contemporaneous Yogācārabhūmiśāstra. The Buddhist Yogācārabhūmiśāstra is a self-declared exposition on the practice of yoga and its earliest layers record proto-systems of practice that predate the final redaction of the Pātañjalayogaśāstra. I draw on conceptual metaphor theory to demonstrate how, between the 2nd and 5th centuries, Pātañjala yoga and yogācāra constructed their soteriology under the broad metaphorical banner of bhāvanā qua cultivation. This paper offers a timely reconfiguration of the category of ‘classical yoga’ to include the Yogācārabhūmiśāstra.

Dominic Steavu-Balint, University of California, Santa Barbara
Brahmano-Daoist European Yoga? Tracing the Peculiarly Global History of a Medieval Chinese Bodily Discipline

Out of the innumerable Nourishing Life (yangsheng) methods contained in the Daoist Canon, only two medieval sets of calisthenic (daoyin) and breath-circulation (xingqi) exercises are identified as having Indian origins. This paper centers on these two methods and their origins. It also traces their transmission to Europe, via the writings of Jesuit missionaries who recorded them in their accounts of Chinese biospiritual self-cultivation techniques. These accounts were notably influential in the development of the nineteenth-century physical discipline known as Swedish gymnastics, which scholars have tied to the genesis of modern yoga. By focusing on the transmission of these calisthenic and breathing methods in a global context, startling new connections appear between Indian physical regimens, Chinese Daoist self-cultivation, European bodily disciplines, and yoga.

Interreligious and Interfaith Studies Unit
Theme: Leaving Room for Holy Envy: Applications of Stendahl’s Rule for Interreligious Understanding
Hans Gustafson, University of St. Thomas, Presiding
Saturday - 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Hyatt Regency-Capitol 4 (Fourth Level)

This panel brings together academic scholars to reflect on instances in which traditions found beauty outside their own. The scholars come from across various religious traditions and, when appropriate, reflect on how aspects outside their tradition inform and constructively assist with rethinking their own religious worldviews and practices. Each scholar investigates the various implications, questions, insights, and challenges generated in the process. Traditions discussed in this panel include Catholicism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, LDS Mormonism, Lutheranism, Sikhism, and Buddhism. The formation of this panel was inspired by the well-known Lutheran Bishop of Stockholm Krister Stendahl, who made popular the phrase “Holy Envy” by which he meant to always leave room for finding beauty in the traditions and practices of others.

Benjamin Sax, Institute for Islamic, Christian, and Jewish Studies
Nietzsche and the Jewish Jesus: A Reflection on Holy Envy

This paper explores the irony and power of how Nietzsche’s Jesus could inspire a contemporary Jewish thinker to admire and connect to the Jesus of the New Testament.

Meena Sharify-Funk, Wilfrid Laurier University
Ibn al-‘Arabi and the Virtues of “Holy Envy” in Islam

This paper explores “holy envy” in Islam and argue that it can be understood as implicit to the thought of Muhyi al-Din Ibn al-‘Arabi (1165-1240 CE), a Sufi mystic and Muslim philosopher. In particular, Sharify-Funk will focus on Ibn al-'Arabi's conception of the insan al-kamil (the perfected human being), who is graced with the understanding that the essence of religion is inherently connected to the wonder of divine friendship (wilaya).

Tracy Tiemeier, Loyola Marymount University
The Ritual of Everyday Life: Hindu Women’s Rituals, Mujerista Theology, and the Catholic Theology of Gender

This paper compares Hindu women’s rituals with mujerista theology (Latina and Hispanic women’s theology) with an aim to reconstruct a broader ritual theology that decenters the male hierarchy, recenters the sacred on the gendered body engaged in the world, and expands the Catholic sacramental imagination into the ritual of everyday life.

Kristin Johnston Largen, United Lutheran Seminary
The Nembutsu of Jōdo Shinshū

This paper discusses a central practice of Shin Buddhism, called in Japanese nembutsu (also called nianfo), which is recitation of the name of Amida Buddha, and discusses specific “enviable” aspects of this practice from a Christian perspective. In particular, these aspects are the clarity and purity of focus on one single practice, the recognition of the fallibility of human nature, Shinran’s own humility and his identification with the weak, and the emphasis on a transformed life in the present.

Taunalyn Rutherford, Claremont Graduate University
A Mormon Pilgrimage to Sikh Sacred Practice, Text, and Temple

This paper demonstrates appreciation of Sikhism in the context of an LDS Christian perspective. She will examine three aspects of Sikh practice and suggest that approaching the Sikh Guru Granth Sahib seriously and with holy envy can open bridges of understanding while providing inspiration to return to one’s own devotional and academic reading with enriched resources.

Japanese Religions Unit
Theme: Gods in the Making: Divine Subjectivity in Medieval Japanese Local and Translocal Cults
Fabio Rambelli, University of California, Santa Barbara, Presiding
Saturday - 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Convention Center-109 (Street Level)

The panel seeks to illuminate the construction of divine subjectivity in the emergence of translocal cults. It will focus on the domestication of local divinities that gave rise to a new kind of identity formed through the dialectics of human and kami interaction under the auspices of Buddhism. Panelists will examine specific gods and their Buddho-kami cults in four different locales: the god Hachiman in Kyushu, the Sannō avatar in Shiga, the Niu and Kōya pair of divinities in Wakayama prefecture, and the Itsukushima deity in the Inland Sea region. The panel will consider the process of deification, and how the concept of deifying people evolved and expanded during the medieval period. The panel will also ponder on the question of human agency and the ways in which institutional concerns and local parishioners had an impact on the shaping of newly formed subjectivities of these gods in ritual deification.

Emily Simpson, University of California, Santa Barbara
All in the Family: Divinity and Diversity in the Hachiman Cult

The deity Hachiman is worshipped at well over forty thousand shrines throughout Japan and is often considered the earliest combinatory cult. Yet, while Hachiman chiefly emanates as the deified form of Emperor Ōjin (200-310), the Hachiman deity is in fact a composite figure. Though often presented as a triad, the Hachiman god differs in composition from shrine to shrine, variously comprised of Ōjin and members of his family and household, with his mother Empress Jingū and princess consort, Hime Daijin, the most common components. I will explore the figures and stories behind the Hachiman divinity, focusing on temple-shrine origin stories (jisha engi) of medieval Kyushu. By examining these stories of divine efficacy and their direct consequences on forms of worship, I argue that priests in medieval cultic centers, such as Usa and Iwashimizu, constructed Hachiman’s subjectivity to suit the needs of their living communities, local traditions, and founding narratives.

Or Porath, University of California, Santa Barbara
Gods amongst Us: The Development of Divine Subjectivity in the Buddhist Cult of the Mountain King

This paper explores a central divinity in the Japanese Buddhist pantheon, the Mountain King (Sannō), whose cultic center is located on Mt. Hiei. Specifically, I examine the cultic development around Sannō and the human agents behind it. The paper focuses on the apotheosis of youths into Sannō as part of sexual ritualization and the effect such consecration had on subjectivity, embodiment and gender. I investigate the gradual anthropomorphization of Sannō in medieval times, which contributed to the rise of a ritual tradition of deification. I consider the socio-historical and theological background of the Sannō cult, including how scholarly monks endowed the Mountain King with aspects of locality, universality, and translocality in order to identify patterns of assimilation of Shinto gods to Buddhist cosmology at large. Investigating the Mountain King cult allows us to gain a more nuanced understanding of the theorization of religious amalgamation, and the construction of sexuality and the body in medieval Japan.

Jesse Drian, University of Southern California
Navigating from the Human to the Divine: Deification in Itsukushima Shrine Origin Narratives

This paper argues that the mobility of gods between spaces produced networks of meaning extending the significance of a seemingly local deity beyond a singular spatial identity. While recent research has stressed the fluid and interconnecting natures of the gods of Japan, the locality of each deity’s sacred space has remained a marker of uniqueness amongst the often confounding degree of commonality between certain gods. Examining narratives and rites concerning the deification of the Itsukushima Deity, and the founding of Itsukushima Shrine, I argue that the Itsukushima origin narrative acts as a mediator connecting Itsukushima with both local and translocal spaces. Through the production of such networked spaces, the identity of the gods can move closer to devotees in terms of location, and also in terms of human experience and identity.

Unregistered Participant
Ritualizing Mount Kōya: The Daijingū Honji and the Triad of Kōbō Daishi, Kōya, and Niu Myōjin

Kōya and Niu Myōjin are tutelary deities of the Shingon school centered on Mount Kōya. Esoteric texts have affiliated them with various deities, both Buddhist and Shintō. Among these works, the Daijingū honji, a 14th century text possibly written by Monkan (1278-1357) showcases a combinatory ritual involving these two deities. They are depicted as flanking a bearded Kōbō daishi, the deified form of Kūkai at the moment of entering his eternal samādhi (nyūjō). This presentation will show how this triad was an application of Monkan’s Joint Ritual of the Three Worthies (Sanzon gōgyō-hō), a complex rite that employed the figure of Kūkai to offer a path to enlightenment and means to protect the state. In doing so, I will analyze how kami such as Kōya and Niu were included within a symbolic network linking Mount Kōya not only with the esoteric pantheon, but also with Ise and its deities, which engendered a complex subjectivity for the divinities.

Bernard Faure, Columbia University