in the large hall of the Collège de France building (ground floor),
3 rue d’Ulm, 75005 PARIS
The next conference Buddhist Wall painting in ancient Bactria by Mr Ciro Lo Muzio, Professor at University la Sapienza, Rome, will be held May 20th . Summary :
The epoch in which Buddhism began its spread beyond the north-western border of the Indian Subcontinent, that is to say in ancient Bactria and in other historical regions of Central Asia, is still an open question. An established fact is, on the contrary, that the first flourishing of Buddhist monastic settlements can be situated during the Kushan epoch (I-III centuries CE). This is the time to which the foundation of the earliest sangharamas unearthed Bactria is to be dated.
Buddhist monasteries have been so far discovered in greater number in northern Bactria (Tajikistan and Uzbekistan), which has been – and still is - more extensively explored than southern Bactria (northern Afghanistan). From that part of this crucial historical region come important evidence on Buddhist mural painting.
This lecture will offer an overview of the paintings found in North-Bactrian Buddhist sites, with a special focus on the monasteries of the Termez oasis. The murals from Kara Tepe and Fayaz Tepe display a close relationship with the Gandharan and, broadly speaking, the Kushan tradition and partially fill in the gap of Gandharan painting, which is almost totally lost; on the other hand their subject range reveals elements which deserve to be more thoroughly analysed.
Photo M. Lecomte-Tilouine.
The distinguishing feature of Newar society in the Kathmandu Valley is the coexistence between Buddhism and Hinduism for centuries. On the level of personal religion the Newars define themselves as Hindus or Buddhists and employ a Buddhist priest (vajracarya) or a Hindu priest (Brahman). Religious syncretism is present especially in the texts and pilgrimage guides. It is important to draw a distinction between rituals described in the texts and religious practices. The texts are known only by those who can read the religious texts, in this case, the priests. The inhabitants of the Valley are familiar with the images of the gods and goddesses and their symbols. In the unfolding of each ritual, oral tradition plays a considerable part.
The rites de passage give a social and ethnic identity. Among the Newars are two specific rituals: the ritual marriage of pre-puberty girls (ihi) with a god, Vishnu Narayana for Hindus and Buddha Vairocana, the lord of the Body, for Buddhists. The second ritual, called bhimaratha or bura jyanko is celebrated by a man or a woman who has reached the age of 77 years, 7 months and 7 days and insures the passage of a person from the world of men to the world of the gods.
The ritual of marriage, a collective ceremony, celebrated by Buddhists took place in the eastern part of the Valley at Thimi in 1984. The first day began with the setting up of a mandala of Vajradhatu; Buddha Vairocana is placed in the centre. A statue of Buddha Vairocana had been made at Patan and was consecrated by the Buddhist priest after the setting up of the mandala. The measuring of the body of the young girls makes the second part of the unfolding of the first day's ritual. The marriage ritual with the gift of the young woman and the walking procession around the fire take place on the second day in presence of the priest.
A part from the priests, two other categories
play a significant role in the unfolding of the rituals: painters and
potters. Only the priest knows the text in newari and Sanskrit which
will be used during the celebrations of the ritual. The links
between the image of Buddha Vairocana and the text used by the priest
are clear but the ritual objects like the vajra or the bell have
as much importance as the images.
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