Tracking Mañjuśrī Across Asia. The Peregrinations of an Indian Bodhisattva
This lecture by Prof. Paul Harrison (Stanford University, USA) addresses some of the details of Mañjuśrī's journey to East Asia, using as its point of departure an early Tantric text for which until recently we had no Sanskrit version. Drinks afterwards.
The great bodhisattva Mañjuśrī is one of the better known figures in the pantheon of Mahāyāna Buddhism. Viewed as a personification of wisdom or insight, his cult spread across Asia, from India to Japan. The Chinese, for example, identified the mountain of Wutai Shan as Mañjuśrī's abode, in effect adopting him as one of their own. This lecture addresses some of the details of Mañjuśrī's journey to East Asia, using as its point of departure an early Tantric text for which until recently we had no Sanskrit version. This short work, the Viśeṣavatī-dhāraṇī, opens up some new perspectives on the cult of Mañjuśrī and its transnational manifestations. It also raises the question whether the flow of influence was always from the imagined center to the periphery, that is, whether we have any solid evidence that in India it was accepted or even known that Mañjuśrī had become a permanent resident of China. Answering that question leads us to think more broadly about cultural exchange between India and China in the pre-modern period.
Paul Harrison is the George Edwin Burnell Professor of Religious Studies at Stanford University, where he also serves as Co-Director of the Ho Center for Buddhist Studies. Educated in his native New Zealand and in Australia, he specializes in Buddhist literature and history, especially that of the Mahāyāna, and in the study of Buddhist manuscripts in Sanskrit, Gandhari, Chinese and Tibetan. He is the author of The Samādhi of Direct Encounter with the Buddhas of the Present, and of numerous journal articles on Buddhist sacred texts and their interpretation. He is also one of the editors of the series “Buddhist Manuscripts in the Schøyen Collection.” His current projects include editions and translations of a number of Mahāyāna and Mainstream Buddhist sūtras and śāstras, including the Vajracchedikā (Diamond Sutra) and the Vimalakīrtinirdeśa.
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