Lecture Series: Buddhist Studies: Monastic and Daily Life


Boeddhisme is een drijvende kracht in vele regio’s van de wereld. Toch blijven vele aspecten daarvan onderbelicht. Dat is zeker zo wanneer het gaat om dagelijkse praktijken en, om mensen nu en vroeger die boeddhisme in hun dagelijks leven verwerken. Dit is de rode draad doorheen deze lezingenreeks. Voor iedereen die geïnteresseerd is in religies van de wereld!

Buddhism is a driving force in many regions of the world. Yet many aspects of it remain unknown. This is especially true when it comes to everyday praxis, to people now and in the past who incorporate Buddhism into their daily lives. This is the common thread throughout this lecture series. For anyone interested in religions of the world!

This series offers a mix of eight live / online lectures on Buddhism.

Tuesday 14 March

  • Commemorating the Dead and Gaining Merit: Reading Buddhist Stone Epigraphy of Medieval China 
  • by Anna Sokolova (Ghent University)
  • in-person / online

Tuesday 21 March

  • Pleasure and Fear: On the Paradox of Art and its Responses, from Ghent to Gandhāra
  • Henry Albery (Ghent University)
  • in-person / online

Tuesday 28 March

  • Waar anders dan in de dagelijkse praktijk? / Buddhism in practice: where else?
  • Edel Maex (psychiatrist and Zen teacher)
  • in-person / online
  • This lecture will be in Dutch!

Tuesday 18 April

  • The Great Monastery of Nālandā: The World’s First University?
  • by Lucas den Boer (Ghent University)
  • in-person / online

Tuesday 25 April

  • The veneration of Buddhist relics in Thailand
  • Martin Seeger (University of Leeds)
  • in-person / online

Tueday 2 May

  • Holy topography: The role and function of space in the development of Buddhism in India
  • Max Deeg (Cardiff University)
  • in-person / online

Tuesday 9 May

  • Metonymy and Meditation: a study of the gap between primary and secondary meanings of terms in Theravāda canon
  • Aruna Keerthi Gamage (Philipps-Universität Marburg)
  • in-person / online

Tuesday 16 May

  • Individual and Collective Practices at a Chan Female Monastery in Contemporary China
  • Daniela Campo (Université de Strasbourg)
  • in-person / online

This lecture series is an initiative of the Ghent Centre for Buddhist Studies (GCBS) in collaboration with the Department of Languages and Cultures at Ghent University. It aims to offer an international forum for scholars and students interested and / or engaged in the field of Buddhist Studies. Coordinators are Ann Heirman and Mathieu Torck.

Registration fee

  • Our target price for attending the lectures in-person is €5.
  • Would you like to see the Humanities Academy grow? €10 can help us a long way!
  • If you are affiliated with Ghent University, you can join for free.
  • If you wish to participate online, you can do so for free as well.
  • You can select the fee of your choice during checkout.

Need help registering?

How to watch the livestream?

  1. Go to https://humanitiesacademie.ugent.be/.
  2. In the upper right corner, click on "Mijn profiel" (My profile).
  3. Click on "Inloggen" (Log in).
  4. Login with the same credentials you used while registering for this lecture series.
  5. Click on My profile - > "Dashboard".
  6. You will get on overview of all activities you have registered for.
  7. In the column "Video" click on "Bekijk live video" (Watch live video).
  8. You will automatically be redirected to the livestream, which will be available 15 minutes before the start of each lecture.

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    Commemorating the Dead and Gaining Merit: Reading Buddhist Stone Epigraphy of Medieval China 

    Online beschikbaar

    Whenever a renowned Buddhist monk passed away in medieval China, his disciples, lay followers, and state officials collaborated to establish a stele with a carved epitaph relating to the life of the deceased master. Other common reasons for the establishment of a commemorative, inscribed stele were the foundation of a significant institution, such as a monastery or ritual sanctuary, and the erection of a statue. Although very few of these medieval Buddhist stelae inscriptions are still in situ, a large corpus of texts has been transmitted in literary collections, and several important memorials have been excavated over the last century. This talk will focus on medieval Buddhist epigraphy from the seventh to the tenth century with a view to explaining its value as source material on early Chinese Buddhist communities and their interactions with secular society from a variety of perspectives. Specifically, these sources will be referenced to address such key questions as: How did Buddhist identities and lineages evolve in medieval China? What was the role of the imperial court and state bureaucrats in the formation and growth of regional Buddhist communities? And how did certain ritual practices emerge and develop? The talk will also touch upon the methodology of working with Buddhist epigraphy, such as the application of Social Network Analysis (SNA) in studies of Chinese medieval Buddhism.

    Pleasure and Fear: On the Paradox of Art and its Responses, from Ghent to Gandhāra

    Online beschikbaar

    Art is paradoxical in its inducing both pleasure and fear; just as it is desired by some it is equally feared by others. Such aesthetic power has throughout history produced a perpetual dialectic of affirmation and negation, of creation and destruction, the respective justifications for which are likewise found repea in quite similar forms. This presentation shall consider the problems posed by decorative and figural art from two episodes in this tale: the first concerning Christian debates of the 16th century over the presence of art in Churches, which famously culminated in the Beeldenstorm in Ghent and elsewhere in Europe; and the second treating arguments among Buddhist monks in Gandhāra (eastern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan) of the 1st century over the introduction of art into monasteries and how monastics dealt with images of deities, a question which likewise resulted in iconoclasm. Though these two cases are quite obviously distinct at manifold levels, certain commonalities underlying the logics of their respective debates are nonetheless revealing about the fundamental paradox inhering in art and its responses. 

    Buddhism in practice: where else?

    Online beschikbaar

    This lecture will be in Dutch!

    Je kunt het boeddhisme vanuit verschillende invalshoeken benaderen. Voor een filosoof is het een filosofie en voor een godsdienstwetenschapper een geloof. En ook wie op zoek is naar sjamanisme en magie kan er zijn gading in vinden.  Voor vele Aziaten maakt het deel uit van de vanzelfsprekende culturele achtergrond. Een Westerling daarentegen kan zich juist door de exotiek ervan aangesproken voelen. Maar misschien is het boeddhisme in de eerste plaats een praktijk. En ook al heeft de  praktijk van meditatie, vooral het in het Westen, daarin een belangrijke rol, uiteindelijk komt het neer op de praktijk van het dagelijkse leven.

    One can approach Buddhism from different angles. For a philosopher it is a philosophy and for a scholar of religion a faith. And those looking for shamanism and magic can also find their likings in it. For many Asians, it is part of the natural cultural background. A Westerner, on the other hand, may feel drawn to it because of its exoticism. But perhaps Buddhism is first and foremost a practice. And even though the practice of meditation, especially in the West, has an important role in it, ultimately it comes down to the practice of daily life.

    The Great Monastery of Nālandā: The World’s First University?

    Online beschikbaar

    Nālandā mahāvihāra was a large Buddhist monastery in the East of India which flourished from the 5th until the early 13th century CE. In its heyday, it attracted thousands of students from all over Asia who did not only study the Buddhist scriptures but also learned sciences, such as grammar, philosophy, and medicine. For this reason, the monastery of Nālandā is often portrayed as a university. However, the labelling of Nālandā as a university in some early scholarly publications has led to many ahistorical claims and fantasies in later academic and popular literature. In my talk, I will discuss what we actually know about Nālandā as a centre of knowledge and learning. I will also explore the merits and demerits of using the European label ‘university’ for a Buddhist institute of knowledge that predates the foundation of the first European universities for more than half a millennium.

    The veneration of Buddhist relics in Thailand

    Online beschikbaar

    Relics, stūpas (sacred monuments containing Buddhist relics), and amulets are key elements of Thai Buddhist culture. Discussing a number of relevant case studies, I will demonstrate the importance of studying material culture when trying to better understand religion. I will address the following questions: How can we explain the fascination with (Thai Buddhist) relics? How does our understanding of (Thai) religion change when we also consider material culture? What can we learn from a study that focuses on the veneration of Buddhist relics? Thus, I will show that material objects, such as relics and stūpas, often have a much wider and profound impact on religious practices, beliefs and emotions than canonical and other important Buddhist texts.

    Holy topography: The role and function of space in the development of Buddhism in India

    Online beschikbaar

    This talk will focus on the conceptual and physical construction of space in the history of Indian Buddhism. It will argue that the evolvement of a sacred topography in the Buddhist heartland in the Gangetic plain – but also beyond it – played a crucial role in the success of the religion as it gave both the monastic community (saṅgha) and the Buddhist laypeople a concrete framework for religious practice (relic and stūpa veneration, contemplation, commemoration of the “glorious past” of the Buddha’s lifetime). The examples or case studies will be taken from the speaker’s recent exploration of respective sites in Bihar, particularly the region between Bodhgayā, the place of the Buddha’s enlightenment, and Rājgir (Rājagṛha), the ancient capital of Magadha.

    Metonymy and Meditation: a study of the gap between primary and secondary meanings of terms in Theravāda canon

    Online beschikbaar

    Metonymy is a figure of speech and it is represented by the Pāli term rūḷhi (Skt. rūḍhi). It refers to the substitution of the original meaning of a phenomenon to a secondary one. For instance, the original meaning of the term maṇḍapa is ‘scum-drinker.’ But it is secondarily substituted to a ‘pavilion.’ As the primary sources of the Theravāda Buddhist tradition show, many of the rūḷhis have two diametrically opposed metonymic functions—1 Either the expansion or 2 the contraction of the original meaning—when they appear in the Tipiṭaka, which is the canon of Theravāda Buddhist tradition.

    Theravāda Buddhist masters record a considerable number of canonical words that are examples of rūḷhi. Important interpretations of these are to be found in the commentaries of Buddhaghosa (5th c. CE), especially in his magnum opus entitled Visuddhimagga. The ninth chapter of this commentary teaches how the knowledge in metonymy helps meditator to successfully develop loving kindness (mettā). This lecture focuses on this particular exegesis appearing in the Visuddhimagga. 

    Individual and Collective Practices at a Chan Female Monastery in Contemporary China

    Online beschikbaar

    The Great Chan Monastery of the Golden Mountain (Dajinshan Chansi 大金山禪寺) is a large monastic complex for nuns located in Jiangxi province in southeast China and belonging to the Chan (meditation) school. The monastic community counts a steady average of two hundred nuns, including about a hundred student-nuns of the Buddhist Academy. This case study will consider the monastery as an institutional environment where religious practice is conducted: who practices what, and why? Are practices taught and learned, and if yes, how and by whom? What changes did religious practice undergo in the post-Mao era? How do these changes reflect shifts in individual, social and institutional goals? This presentation will try to answer these questions by providing an overview of the individual and collective practices performed at the monastery, including ritual, devotional and renunciatory practices, as well as of the different actors teaching and performing them.