Seminar: An Anxious Grimoire: New Research on the Consecration Scripture

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10:00 am to 1:00 pm
Brunei Gallery
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About this event

Dr. Ryan Richard Overbey (Skidmore College)

Lecture: Treasures from the Deep: Text and Materiality in the Consecration Scripture (19 January 2023)

The Consecration Scripture (Guanding jing 灌頂經, T 1331) is a Chinese anthology of twelve distinct Buddhist scriptures compiled in the mid-fifth century CE. The scriptures in this collection are focused on rituals for protection, healing, and the production of merit for the living and the dead. Throughout the anthology particular attention is given to the materiality of Buddhist magic: the names of protective spirits are written down and worn as amulets; they are carved into wooden discs and used as mudrā (seals) in healing rites; and the efficacious texts of the Consecration Scripture itself is preserved for future generations in a purple-gold box buried deep within mountain caves. In this talk we will survey the Consecration Scripture’s materialization of Buddhist magical language and consider its place in the broader context of early medieval Chinese religion.

Seminar: An Anxious Grimoire: New Research on the Consecration Scripture (21 January 2023)

In this workshop the author will share their in-process draft translation of the Consecration Scripture. In terms of the grimoire’s content, the group will explore a representative sampling of the anxieties motivating the anthology: anxieties about demonic infestation, about karma and rebirth, about family obligations, and about the dangerous ritual practices of non-Buddhists. We will pay close attention to the ways in which the Consecration Scripture notonly generates anxiety, but also uses these anxieties to generate demand for Buddhist ritual services. In terms of method, the workshop will explore strategies for translating large and unwieldy Buddhist texts, and will demonstrate the use of digital tools like TACL for finding intertextual connections across the Chinese Buddhist canon.

Speaker bio

Ryan Richard Overbey is a scholar of early medieval Buddhist ritual, primarily working Chinese and Sanskrit texts. He is the author of “‘Why Don’t We Translate Spells in the Scriptures?’: Medieval Chinese Exegesis on the Meaning and Function of Dhāraṇī Language” (JIABS 2020), and co-editor with David Gray of Tantric Traditions in Transmission and Translation (Oxford 2016). His current project is a study and translation of the Consecration Scripture, a fifth-century Chinese Buddhist grimoire. He currently serves as the Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation Assistant Professor in Buddhist Studies at Skidmore College.

The Buddhist Forum is kindly sponsored by the Khyentse Foundation


This event is free and open to all. The seminar will be held in Brunei Gallery, room B102, at 10:00am-1:00pm. The seminar is free, but registration is necessary. Please email Dr Christian Luczanits on to register.

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Image: Scroll 3 of the Consecration Scripture, entitled Consecration Spell Scripture Concerning the Three Refuges and Five Precepts Worn as an Amulet to Protect the Body. MS from the Nanatsudera archive. Image courtesy of the Koshakyō Database, International College for Postgraduate Buddhist Studies 国際仏教学大学院大学, Tokyo