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AAR Annual Meeting
San Diego, CA
November 23-26, 2019

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Hinduism Unit and Indian and Chinese Religions Compared and Yogācāra Studies Unit
Theme: Yogācāra and Vedānta in Modern Chinese and Indian Thought
Eyal Aviv, George Washington University, Presiding
Saturday - 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Convention Center-2 (Upper Level West)

When the global colonial modernity brought new challenges to traditional cultures around world, India and China each rose to this challenge. Their respective engagements with European modernity were dissimilar in many respects. Nonetheless, there is one surprising homology. In each case, a significant part of the response was to argue that their own culture was already modern. In each case, the evidence for that modernity, and so the intellectual movement that was deployed as modern, was a form of idealism: Yogācāra in China and Vedānta in India. In the context of the ascendancy of European materialism, the modern rise of idealism is prima facie surprising.
However, this deployment was not as adversarial as it sounds. As demonstrated by each panelist, the originally idealist arguments were repurposed to support a new understanding of materialism, and to demonstrate a distinctively Asian way to understand and to pursue science and material development.

Jingjing Li, Leiden University
From the Yogācāra Concept of Consciousness to the Modern Confucian Doctrine of Volition

The Yogācāra revival in early republican China set the stage for modern reforms of Buddhism and Confucianism. This presentation examines the early thinking of Liang Shuming (1893-1988), one of the founders of modern Confucianism. Subordinating his academic research to the goal of enabling China to confront and compete with Western science, Liang turned to Yogācāra. Harmonizing the Yogācāra notion of ālaya with the Neo-Confucian mind-nature, the Bergsonian élan-vital, and the Schopenhauerian Wille, Liang produced his doctrine of “yiyu (volition)” to define the type of mind that shapes people’s way of living in one culture. Further appropriating the Yogācāra theory of pramāṇa, Liang demarcated the Confucian type of mind from that of Buddhism and Science. Consequently, he predicted how the global culture would first embrace the Western scientific type of mind until it encounters insurmountable obstacles, and would then turn to the Confucian type of mind and the Buddhist one.

Jessica Zu, Princeton University
The Global Flow of Darwinism and A New Yogācāra in Modern China

The China Inner Learning Institute (1922-1952) was the leading center of the Yogācāra revival in modern China. However, in the wake of the May Fourth Movement (1919), science and realism had become the prevailing wind. Why did consciousness-only doctrines become newly relevant at this historical juncture?
To understand the appeal of Yogācāra, I investigate a 1929 edition of Xuanzang's Cheng weishi lun that was collated with Sanskrit and Tibetan texts such as Vasubandhu’s Triṃśikāvijñaptikārikā, Sthiramati’s Triṃśikāvijñaptibhāṣya, and Vinītadeva’s Triṃśikāṭīkā.
I demonstrate that the editor Lü Cheng accentuated certain doctrines in Xuanzang's treatise such as prasiddha, indirect objective support, and praṣṭhalabdha. These hermeneutic strategies allowed him to theorize a Yogācāra social evolution in terms of phenomenological naturalism. Yogācāra proved a powerful tool to refute social Darwinism and Bergsonism. Lü’s scholarship furnished a social turn of Yogācāra soteriology that paved the way for the Institute’s project of revolutionizing the consciousness (āśraya-parivṛtti).

Unregistered Participant
Sri Aurobindo and Neo-Vedānta

Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950) was a philosopher, poet, translator, yogi and guru, as well as a former political activist. I examine neo-Vedānta trajectories in his thought, through his essay “The Secret of the Veda” (1914) and his poem Savitri (1950-51). In “The Secret of the Veda,” Aurobindo aims to establish a sense of unity, or non-difference, or “sub-root affiliation” between two languages, Sanskrit and Tamil, belonging to different language-families. His larger goal is to achieve correlating affinity between the Arian and Dravidian races, that India is supposed to be made of. Language, politics and metaphysics are interweaved here as to create an Advaitic, non-dual picture. Classical Idealism, such as Śaṅkara’s, is metamorphosed as to suit modernist needs and political concerns. In Savriti, a rereading-as-rewriting of a classical episode from the Mahābhārata, Aurobindo blends together ingredients from classical Indian and European idealisms, as to create an all-embracing philosophico-psychologico-religio-occult picture, which conveys his modernist interpretation of Advaita-Vedānta.

Nalini Bhushan, Smith College
Modern Philosophy of Science from a Vedanta Perspective: A Case Study

How did Indian philosophers approach Vedanta idealism as a framework for addressing 19th and 20th century concerns in the philosophy of science? To answer this question, I will focus on the writings of professor SS Suryanarayana Sastri (1893-1942) who taught at Madras University during British rule. My goal is to use this case study in support of a much broader point regarding the aspirations and methodological choices of philosophers who wrote during this period, which drove them to demonstrate the continued viability and vitality of the Vedanta framework in making sense of contemporary developments in the sciences.

Indian and Chinese Religions Compared Unit
Theme: Mind and Consciousness: Indian and Chinese Approaches
Maria Heim, Amherst College, Presiding
Sunday - 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Aqua 305 (Third Level)

Intangible yet ubiquitous, the locus of thought, emotion, and spiritual insight: what exactly are the mind and consciousness? Are they the same or different? What terms are used to express them? How are states of consciousness analyzed and classified? Can the intangible become tangible, and if so, how? What access or insight do Indian and Chinese traditions offer? Four papers address such questions, looking at the terms used in Indian and Chinese traditions to analyze and describe mind and consciousness, aspects of cognition, meditative insights, and mental cultivation. Among the systems and texts examined are Sāṃkhya-Yoga, Yogācārabhūmi, Abhidharmakośa-bhāṣya*, and Tiantai Zhiyi on the Four Dhyānas.

Karen O'Brien-Kop, SOAS University of London
Mind, Meditation, and the Metaphor of Cultivation: Bhāvanā and the Case of Rice Cultivation

This paper examines the technical significance of metaphors of rice cultivation in relation to meditation in the Pātañjalayogaśāstra, the Abhidharmakośabhāṣya, and the Yogācārabhūmiśāstra. I argue that the material details of such metaphors are integral to the way in which classical Indian meditation paths were formulated conceptually. By exploring the specific differences between growth patterns of wild rice and domesticated rice – as well as farming practices of cultivation, irrigation, harvesting, and storage – I show that these metaphorical details are not incidental but rather integral to models of mind and consciousness in relation to meditation. It is only by understanding material agrarian history from the early common era that we can decode the significance of these metaphors and better analyse what was intended by acts of meditation.

Fei Zhao, University of Washington
Consciousness as a Pincer or a Pond: Different Interpretations of the Term Akāra and Their Cognitive Models

Does the consciousness function like a pincer to grasp the object? Or, does the consciousness bear the form of the object as if the object projects itself into the pond of the consciousness? This paper aims to explore the nature and function of the consciousness by examining two different cognitive models in abhidharma Buddhism. In order to approach the big issue regarding the nature and function of the consciousness, we take the term ākāra (form) as a tool since it is a crucial concept associated with our cognitive models in question. We will examine different interpretations on the concept of ākāra proposed respectively by Vasubandhu in the Abhidharmakośabhāṣya, and his commentators Yaśomitra and Puguang (普光). We will use Yaśomitra and Puguang’s interpretations as a case of comparison to show their understandings regarding the state of the consciousness in different cognitive models.

Xiaoming Hou, École Pratique des Hautes Études
Same yet Different? The Superior and Inferior Four Dhyāna in the Works of Zhiyi (538-597)

The present paper proposes to investigate the strategies employed by Zhiyi 智顗 (538-597), the de facto founder of Tiantai School in China, to reconcile the lexical profusion and the textual divergences in defining nominally the same states of consciousness : the “four dhyāna”. Through a scholastic endeavor founded primarily on philological concerns, the author went so far as to establish two different teachings : one inferior “four dhyāna” called “fundamental four dhyāna” (genben sichan 根本四禪) and one superior “four dhyāna” called “the contemplation of penetrating supernormal powers and illuminating insights” (tongming guan 通明觀). Through textual and terminological analysis, the paper wishes to demonstrate how the application of these strategies has transformed the attainment of “four dhyāna”, inferior and superior, something deeply imbedded in the Chinese language and indigenous religious culture.

Business Meeting:
Dan Lusthaus, Harvard University
Michael Allen, University of Virginia
  • Full Papers Available
Indian and Chinese Religions Compared Unit and Ritual Studies Unit
Theme: Indigenous Theories of Ritual in India and China
Ronald M. Davidson, Fairfield University, Presiding
Monday - 1:00 PM-3:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Sapphire 410B (Fourth Level)

Scholars apply theories of ritual to Asian traditions. But are there indigenous theories of ritual that traditional Indian and Chinese thinkers developed and expounded? Four papers address this. The first discusses the early Confucian Xunzi's theories on the moral significance of ritual. The next examines how apocryphal Chinese practices refashioned Indian rituals. In the following paper the theoretical basis for the necessity of ritual and precepts applied to Repentance rituals as formulated by the foundational Vinaya theorist, Daoxuan, is explained. Finally, an effort to discern the Indian roots of Chinese Homa rituals is attempted. Papers will be pre-circulated to facilitate a more in depth discussion.

Peng Yin, Harvard University
Xunzi and the Moral Significance of Ritual

In early China, the value of ritual is persistently questioned, notably from the Daodejing and Mozi. The pivotal Confucian thinker Xunzi marshals the key tenets of his moral theory – cosmology, sagehood, and human nature – to defend ritual’s moral significance. Ritual creates a subjunctive world to remedy the abject moral possibility outside it. The sage institutes ritual so as to bring order to an otherwise fractured world and to cultivate an originally unrefined human nature. This account of ritual, while highly specific in its cosmology, has wide-ranging interpretive and comparative implications. To illustrate its theoretical power, I apply it as a framework to interpret Thomas Aquinas’s account of the Eucharist. Xunzi’s ritual theory, when read alongside Aquinas, illuminates the moral significance of the Eucharist and compels us to dispense with distinctions, between the religious and the civil and between belief and practice, often attributed to Chinese and Christian conceptions of ritual.

Esther-Maria Guggenmos, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg
Ritual Dynamics between India and China: On Individual Ritual Performance in a Chinese Buddhist Apocryph

This paper analyzes a Buddhist ritual of throwing dice and evaluating one’s karma followed by repentance. The Sūtra on the Divination of the Effect of Good and Evil Actions (Zhancha Shan'e Yebao Jing 占察善惡業報經, T.839) is regarded as an indigenous composition merging Chinese and Indian elements and is practiced individually. While ritual theory radically changed in the course of 20th century academic discourse, the focus on social effects of ritual as a community-based practice remained one of its main concerns. This paper shows in how far it is reasonable to speak of the individual Buddhist practice as a ritual. But where does the community come into play when practicing individually? What is special about an individually practiced ritual? The paper includes classical Indian and Chinese approaches to ritual theory.

Xingyi Wang, Harvard University
Vessel to the Other Shore: On Daoxuan’s Theory of Repentance Ritual

Daoxuan, a foundational thinker for the Vinaya school of East Asian Buddhism, considered repentance rituals a crucial purifying method of Buddhist soteriological practice. Daoxuan’s innovation was to combine Tiantai Zhiyi’s two-fold repentance model with Vinaya codes, creating a three-fold repentance structure that was inclusive of the two vehicles. While his Mahāyāna repentance theory and practice built on Zhiyi’s model, his added lüchan, “repentance through Vinaya,” served as praxis for the saṅgha. In dealing with repentance for pārājika, grave offenses, he sought a compassionate yet strict formula. On the one hand, he could not wholeheartedly embrace what he considered to be the overly optimistic ideas of Zhiyi, and, on the other hand, he couldn’t fully shift to Xuanzang’s concept of predetermined wholesome seeds. Taking such multiple and conflicting concerns into consideration, Daoxuan formulated what would become an important basis for all subsequent East Asian Buddhist Vinaya theory.

Geoffrey Goble, University of Oklahoma
Homa-Siddhi in Chinese Sources

This paper examines the material and practical dimension of homa rites and their correspondence to the siddhi effects of those rites as described in Chinese Buddhist sources from the eighth century. Examination of these sources suggests that Buddhist homa rites derived from or are cognate to srauta rites of the Atharva Veda tradition. These sources also suggest that these rites were the subject of ongoing attempts to establish standardized set of siddhi classes and correspondences between those siddhi classes and the material and performative aspects of the homa rites. Finally, these sources also indicate attempts to “translate” these Indic homa rituals into a Chinese cultural milieu through processes of systemization and simplification.