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Numata Public Lecture: Changing Roles of the Written Word in Theravada Buddhism

October 9, 2009
5:00 pmto7:00 pm

This fall, the Numata Public Lecture will feature a talk by Prof. Daniel Veidlinger of California State University, Chico, hosted by the Institute of Buddhist Studies at the Jodo Shinshu Center on October 9th.

Lecture description: Early Buddhism arose in an oral world where monks were charged with memorizing the words of the Buddha in order to preserve them. Writing is not mentioned in the Pali canon, and there is little emphasis on the idea of honoring or even using books in authoritative Theravada literature until the end of the first millennium CE. On the other hand, key Mahayana texts have from the beginning reserved their highest praise for the Dharma-bearing written word, and archeological and iconographic evidence as well as accounts of Chinese travelers suggest that stupas were made to enshrine texts and that books were the subject of votive cults. In predominantly Theravada regions such as Burma, Sri Lanka and central Thailand, a positive change of attitude towards books and writing coincided with the height of Mahayana influence in those areas, which led to the ritual veneration of books and manuscripts in these parts of the Theravada world as well.

About the speaker: Daniel Veidlinger received his Ph.D. from the South Asian Languages and Civilizations department at the University of Chicago and is currently an associate professor of Asian Religions at California State University, Chico. His research focuses on the roles that different communications media have played in the formulation and transmission of Buddhist texts and ideas. Professor Veidlinger’s recent book Spreading the Dhamma: Writing, Orality and Textual Transmission in Buddhist Northern Thailand is published by University of Hawaii Press.

For more information or to RSVP for this event, please contact Kumi Hadler at the IBS.

Numata Public Lectures are generously supported by the Numata Foundation in association with the Institute of Buddhist Studies and are free and open to the public.

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