The academic study of manuscripts and texts has been built on the question of interpretation: the proper understanding of a text, we think, is discovered through the recovery of its meaning. This assumption, which derives in large part from the Reformation context for the development of printing in Europe, has led to two kinds of scholarly blindness. First, all other uses of written text are marginalized; and second, text-as-meaningful has become fetished in theory.
To assume that there is only one form of literacy is no better than to assume that there is only one kind of kinship, or one kind of exchange.
Indeed, the much earlier invention of printing in East Asia had little to do with egalitarian access to meaning; it was a state-sponsored effort to harness the recitative power of texts for political ends. A history of artifice and technologization of text elsewhere in the world (and very likely in pre-print Europe too) is impossible within this paradigm. In this talk, I will show several examples of the ritual handling and performance of manuscripts and texts in the Himalayas. In these actions, the primary meaning does not emerge from interpretation, but through procession, consecration, repetition, and a range of other non-interpretive practices. By comparing Tibetan and Newar practices, we will see that even within the broad Mahāyāna understanding of the ritual power of texts, there are significant differences in attitude towards mechanization and oral performance.
SEECHAC organizes conferences for its members as well as colloquies. Only members may attend conferences.
All conferences are held in the conference room on the first floor of Musée Cernuschi at 6 pm.Thursday January 21st Mr William DOUGLAS TULADHAR, Professor of Anthropology at Aberdeen University
Thursday February 18th Mrs Anne-Marie BLONDEAU, Directeur d'Etudes at EPHE
Thursday March 25th Mrs Marie LECOMTE TILOUINE, Chargée de recherche at CNRS
Thursday April 22nd Mrs Nathalie BAZIN, curator at Musée Guimet
Thursday May 20th Mr Ciro LO MUZIO, Professor at La Sapienza University, Rome
Thursday June 17th Mrs Isabelle CHARLEUX, Chargée de recherche at CNRS
SEECHAC organizes conferences for its members
as well as colloquies. Only members may attend conferences.
All conferences are held in the conference room on the first floor of Musée Cernuschi at 18h.
Bengal and Nepal stone sculpture
- a comparison from a religous point of view
A comparison of Bengal and Nepal stone sculpture exhibits close affinities as well as distinct differences.
The Uma-Mahesvara murti is the most ubiquitous Saiva icon in both areas, while the Ardhanarisvaramurti, on the other hand, is the rarest one. The high respect towards the individuality and independence of Devi, the Great Mother, might be an adequate explanation for that phenomenon.
Regarding Vaisnava sculpture a tripartite group is predominant in both countries: while, however, Bengal favours a central, four-armed Visnu flanked by Laksmi on his right and Sarasvati on his left side, Newar art prefers central Visnu accompanied by Laksmi on his right, yet Garuda on his left side. Here, the exchange of Garuda by Sarasvati in Bengal can well be interpreted as a purposeful humiliation of Brahma, who preserved just a marginal competence as priest and gardien of the zenith. Brahma's aspect as a god of creation, in many other Indian areas expressed in the form of the so called trimurti, is absent both in Bengal and in Nepal;
An important specimen in respect of Hindu sculpture is the image of Surya.
In Bengal there is much evidence of the existence of a particular sect of sun worshippers attested by a large amount of elaborated images. The adherents of that sect, the Sauras, called themselves Paramadityas according to inscriptions. Surya wears boots and - in contrast to Western India - no armour (kancuka), but an upper garment as many other Indian gods. Surya's entourage consists of the traditional acolytes Dandin and Pingala, two wives and two arrow-shooters. While Surya enjoys hight respect by Hindus as well as by Buddhists in Nepal a particular Saura sect cannot be proved, as I have pointed out in a recent article on Sun Worship in Nepal (Pandanus 01, 2008).
The fate of Buddhism is quite different in both areas. In Bengal Buddhism came to an end with the Pala and Sena dynasties in 13th century, in Nepal Newar Buddhism is still alive, yet much assimilated to Hindu ritual and imagery.
The early Pala period in Bengal (750-900 AD) corresponds to the late Licchavi period in the Kathmandu valley. The figure of the Buddha is more or less similar in both countries, both continue the Sarnath tradition of the smooth and the Gandhara tradition of the pleated garment (samghati). Among the Bodhisattvas Avalokitesvara seems to be the most popular one. In Bengal the most prevalent type of image is a stela consisting of a flat backside and figures in more or less high relief. The Hindu stone sculptures have varied forms. The most prevalent Buddhist stone sculptures in Nepal are caityas exhibiting the Buddha, the metaphysical Tathagatas, Bodhisattvas and other divinities.
A unique type of image in Nepal is an octagonal (around 1 m high) stone, the Dharmadhatuvagisvaramandala. Its upper surface is a round disc covered with figural or symbolical representations of Buddhist deities. The main figure, however, is Manjusri or Vagisvara, the mythical creator of the Kathmandu valley.
Concluding our short survey we come back to the beginning: among many masks of Avalokitesvara his appearance as Halahala-Lokesvara with his Prajna is a magnificent Buddhist adaptation of the popular Uma-Mahesvara icon in Nepal.
The lecture will be focused upon the role and importance of sacred mountains in the Bon tradition, with specific reference to two main themes: original cosmological beliefs, and the origin of the Tibetan civilization as exemplified by the culture of Zhang-zhung; and the discovery of treasure-texts (Tib. gter ma) related to specific holy mountains, such as those linked to the transmission of Mother Tantras and their lineages.
L'œuvre sculptée étonnante de Zanabazar (1635- 1723), premier lama incarné de Mongolie, étonne dans le cadre des arts lamaïques. Les sources très lacunaires concernant sa carrière doivent être mises en rapport avec l'histoire des Mongols septentrionaux. II convient d'avancer des hypothèses sur la formation de ce maître, l'impact dans sa jeunesse de son voyage au Tibet, le fonctionnement de son atelier, la production à la fin de sa vie lors de ses longs séjours à Beijing, la fin de l'esthétique "zanabarienne" et le passage à un art nouveau au cours du XVIIIe siècle.