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Lectures on Buddhism

The brahminic origins of Buddhist meditation

Alexander Wynne
20 Nov 2002

Related: Buddhism, Mysticism

Buddhist views on consciousness

OCHS consciousness seminar
Professor Richard Gombrich
1 Mar 2005

Related: Buddhism, Consciousness, Science and Religion

Philosophy's linguistic turn

Shivdasani Lecture
Professor Ashok Aklujkar
12 May 2005

Related: Buddhism, Grammarians, Philosophy

Action movies and American ideals: The growth of Buddhism in Hollywood

Religion and film seminars
Dr Jessica Frazier
23 Jan 2006

Jessica Frazier, Divinity Faculty, Cambridge, and OCHS

Related: Buddhism, Film

What did Ramakantha contribute to the Buddhist-Brahmanical atman debate?

Dr Alex Watson
8 Feb 2007

In attempting to refute the Buddhist doctrine of no-Self, Ramakantha absorbed many features of Buddhism. For example, he sided with Buddhism against Nyaya and Vaisesika in denying the existence of property-possessors (dharmins) over and above properties (dharmas), and in denying a Self as something that exists over and above cognition. For him the Self simply is cognition (jnana, prakasa, samvit) and so he has to prove that cognition is constant and unchanging. I will present those arguments of Ramakantha's that strike me as his strongest and most original. I will spend at least the first 10 minutes of the talk introducing, and giving an overview of, the Buddhist-Brahmanical atman debate.

Related: Buddhism, Philosophy, Saiva

Madhyamakas and Ontological Categories

Shivdasani Conference 2009
Jan Westerhoff
11 Oct 2009

The status of categories within Madhyamaka philosophy is a curious one. On the one hand there is a strong tendency to reject philosophically refined analyses of the constituents which make up the world, thereby rejecting systems of categories as well. The Madhyamika, it seems, accepts whatever conventions the world accepts at the merely conventional level but does not propose any conventions of his own. In fact there appear to be good reasons for such a view. Given that the membership of an object in a category is generally taken to be a clear example of a property an object has intrinsically, and since the Madhyamikas reject intrinsic properties (properties which exist by svabhava) they should reject categories as well.

On the other hand, however, Madhyamakas make use of the very sophisticated and intricate categorial frameworks found in traditional Indian grammar and in the Abhidharma. Furthermore they also vehemently argue against the use of other frameworks, such as that of the Naiyayikas.
This paper will explore ways of resolving this tension and investigate more generally what role categories play in the Madhyamaka system of philosophy.

Related: Buddhism, Categories, Philosophy

Mystical Traditions in Comparative Perspective: Session Two - Buddhist Meditation

Dr Sarah Shaw
5 Feb 2010

Mysticism is a term that has fallen out of use in recent years, partly due to the critique of essentialism in the history of religions, partly due to the recognition that mysticism is particular to tradition and culture and partly due to the orientation to understand religion in terms of a politics of culture that sees religion purely in constructivist terms. The abstraction "mysticism" is a problematic category that has been developed from Christian mystical theology (in contrast to dogmatic or natural theology). Viewing other religions through the lens of "mysticism", particularly the religions of India and China, has tended to give a distorted picture to the West, underlined by Radhakrishnan's claim, among others, that the east is "spiritual" while the west is "material". Of course, the historical reality of religious traditions is much more complex than this. Nevertheless, religious traditions are interested in, and develop, keen senses of inwardness that lay stress upon a direct understanding or experience of transcendence. While acknowledging the problematic nature of the category "mysticism" this series of seminars intends to explore the mystical traditions of specific religions in dialogue with Hinduism. The series is seen as an exercise in comparative theology. Short lectures on the mystical traditions would be followed by a response from a Hindu perspective and general discussion.

Related: Buddhism, Comparative Theology, Mysticism

Comparative Mysticism Seminar 1: Flowing Milk. A Lost Meditation, Tradition from the Silk Road

Lance Cousins
22 Oct 2010

This lecture examines a Buddhist meditation tradition exemplified particularly by visualisation text from central Asia. This is a seminar in our series on Comparative Mystical Traditions.

Lance Cousins is an expert in Buddhism, particularly the Theravada tradition and Pali commentarial literature, and Buddhist meditation traditions. He taught for many years at the University of Manchester where, among other things, he taught a course in comparative mysticism.

Related: Buddhism, Comparative Theology, Mysticism

Religious Experience in Early Buddhism

Interdisciplinary Seminar in the Study of Religions/Mysticism Seminar
Professor Richard Gombrich
18 Feb 2011

This seminar examines accounts of religious experience in early Buddhism as gleaned from our textual sources. Of particular importance here has been the role of meditation and living an upright and ethical life. 

Professor Gombrich was the Boden Professor of Sanskrit for many years. He is a world authority on Buddhism and has written definitive works on early Buddhism and the Theravada tradition. Among his publications are What the Buddha ThoughtHow Buddhism Began andTheravada Buddhism

Related: Buddhism, Comparative Theology, Mysticism

“Which wise man would worship beings who are tormented by sorrow and fear?” Powers and Weaknesses of Gods in Buddhist Literature

Dr Ulrike Roesler
21 Nov 2011

Buddhists do not deny the existence of gods, but they regard them as beings who are subject to karma and sa?sara and are therefore not free from the fetters of cyclic existence. Their life is extremely pleasant, but when they die they experience horrible agonies, and Buddhists say that there is no greater suffering in the world than that of a god who is dying. In early legends, gods like Indra and Brahma appear as supporters of Buddha Shakyamuni. Some later Buddhist authors, on the other hand, point out their weaknesses, describing them as “beings who are tormented by sorrow and fear, are devoid of compassion, bear various weapons and raise them with the intention to kill” – as opposed to Buddha Shakyamuni, who works solely for the welfare of others. The lecture will illustrate these multi-faceted views with examples from Buddhist literature.

Ulrike Roesler obtained a PhD in Indian Studies from the University of Münster (Germany). She held teaching positions in Indian and Tibetan Studies at the Universities of Marburg and Freiburg (Germany) and in Buddhist Studies at the University of Oxford, and has recently been appointed the Lecturer in Tibetan and Himalayan Studies at the University of Oxford. Her research interests are in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, the history of the Kadampa schoolof Tibetan Buddhism, and narrative and biographical literature. Her most recent publication is the volume Lives Lived, Lives Imagined: Biographies in the Buddhist Traditions. Ed. by L. Covill, U. Roesler and S. Shaw. Boston: Wisdom Publications 2010.

Related: Buddhism

Buddhists and Brahmins at Vikramaśīla

Shivdasani Lecture
Professor Parimal Patil
28 May 2012

 It is so well-known that Buddhist philosophers in India argued with their non-Buddhist opponents that it is hardly worth mentioning. Yet, despite the centuries-long history of such polemics, Buddhist philosophers in India rarely explained what they hoped to gain in critically engaging their opponents through such arguments. In this lecture, I discuss why Buddhist epistemologists at Vikramaśīla thought it was important to argue with their Brahmanical opponents. 

Related: Buddhism, Philosophy

On How To Argue with a Buddhist

Shivdasani Seminar
Professor Parimal Patil
30 May 2012

In this seminar, we will explore what was at stake, both philosophically and otherwise, for Brahmanical philosophers in debates with Buddhist opponents. We will focus, in particular, on Nyāya arguments for the existence of Īśvara and Buddhist counterarguments. 

Related: Buddhism, Nyaya, Philosophy