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Guest lecture by Tadashi Tanabe

Nov 23, 2018

On November 27, Dr. Tadashi Tanabe gave the guest lecture "Eastward Transmission of Gandhāran Śibi-Jātaka Imagery: From Gandhāra to Kizil and Dunhuang." The lecture was organized by the professorship of Buddhist Studies and took place at the HCTS, starting at 6 pm.

Dr. Tanabe will reflect on a tale from the kingdom of Sibi. It produced many virtuous kings, of whom one was the son and successor of King Ushinara. This new Sibi king was known for his philanthropy, among other virtues. One day, Indra and Agni came to test this. The two deities disguised themselves as a hawk and a pigeon. The hawk started chasing the pigeon, who fell on King Sibi’s lap, trembling with fear. The hawk ordered the king to surrender the pigeon as its prey. This the king refused, choosing to protect the poor creature who had taken refuge under his protection. After much argument the hawk agreed to leave the pigeon alone if the king would offer a piece of flesh from his own body equivalent to the weight of the pigeon. The king was more than happy to make such a sacrifice. Strangely, after repeatedly cutting flesh from different parts of his body and putting it on the scale, the king found that the pigeon still outweighed his contributions. Finally, the king threw his entire body onto the scale, but even then he could not match the weight of the bird. At this point the hawk and the pigeon revealed their true identity and offered boons to the king for his unbounded charitable spirit.

Dr. Tanabe Tadashi 田辺理 is a research fellow of the Japan Society for the Promotion of of Sciences, research fellow at the International Research Institute for Advanced Buddhology at Soka University Tokyo, an adjunct lecturer at Otsuma Women’s University Tokyo, and visiting scholar at the Ludwig-Maximilians University Munich.


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  • Śibi-Jātaka, northern wall, Cave 254, Dunhuang,