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Guest lecture: "The Vajra-Like Body of the Buddha"

Dec 10, 2019 06:00 pm to 08:00 pm
Organiser: Professorship of Buddhist Studies

Speaker: Dr. Zhao Wen (Nankai University, Tianjin, China)


This talk will investigate the description of the vajra-like body that occurs in the context of the reinterpretation of the complete Nirvāṇa of the Buddha according to the Larger Prajñāpāramitā. It shares the same literary tradition with the Śatapañcāśataka, which states that the Buddha destroys his own body through the willpower (samādhivajra) to generate the relics. This idea is a significant modification of the belief entrenched in early Buddhism that, as stated in several versions of the Mahāparinirvāṇa-Sūtra, the Buddha’s body, even the vajra-like body, will be destroyed due to impermanence. This modification tends to emphasize the solidity of the body, and thus may be somehow associated with the sanctification of the relics, given that the Kharoṣṭhī inscription of Senavarma, king of Oḍi (1st cent. AD), a text closely related to the cult of relics, also mentions the body as solid as vajra. Such an emphasis on the solidity of the Buddha’s body influenced the further development of the Buddha-body theory.

About the speaker:

Dr. Zhao Wen is a lecturer at the College of Philosophy, Nankai University, China. He studied for his PhD at LMU Munich. His doctoral thesis investigated the historical development of "seeing the Buddha" and its relationship with Buddha embodiments, as described in early Prajñāpāramitā literature in Sanskrit and in Chinese. He is particularly concerned with the bodhisattva practice within the Prajñāpāramitā tradition, but his work aims concurrently to engage with broader issues, such as the history of ideas, rhetorical techniques, and Buddha visualization practices, based on a strictly philological study of the primary sources. In addition to studies on early Mahāyāna Buddhism, he is engaged in the study of traditional Chinese religions and the cultural exchange on the Silk Road.



Lecture poster:

7.7 M

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