SOAS University of London

Centre of Buddhist Studies

The Authorship and Provenance of the Chapters of the Suvarṇa[pra]bhāsa Ascribed to Paramārtha, and Implications for the History of Buddhist Texts

Dr Michael Radich (Victoria University, Wellington)

Date: 23 January 2014Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 23 January 2014Time: 6:30 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: Kamran Djam Lecture Theatre

Type of Event: Lecture


In this talk, I will argue that four chapters of the Suvarnaprabhasa-sutra ("Sutra of Golden Light") attributed to Paramartha (499-569) were most likely composed in China, and other versions of those chapters most therefore most likely derive from Paramartha's versions. This will require me to discuss the possibility that some Tibetan versions of the chapters, which are supposed to have been translated from Sanskrit, are more likely to have in fact been translated from Chinese. These findings have wider implications for the history of the Suvarnaprabhasa; for the history of Buddha-body doctrine; for the whole corpus ascribed to Paramartha; and for our understanding of the information in traditional Tibetan catalogues. I will also briefly discuss new computer-assisted techniques that were used to uncover the patterns of textual evidence upon which my analysis is based.


Dr Michael Radich is Senior Lecturer at the School of Art History, Classics and Religious Studies at Victoria University, Wellington where he teaches course on East Asian religions and Buddhism, and religion and the body.
Dr Radich received his PhD from Harvard University in November 2007, with a dissertation entitled "The Somatics of Liberation: Ideas about Embodiment in Buddhism from Its Origins to the Fifth Century C.E."  In this work, he examined a number of interesting ideas that were proposed in Buddhism about the forms in which the Buddha can be embodied in the world, and traced some of their history.  He is also engaged in two other larger research projects. One studies the works of Paramārtha (499-569), an important Indian missionary-monk to China, and his influence on the formation of East Asian Buddhism. The other studies the many versions of the story of King Ajātaśatru in Buddhist and other traditions, including modern versions such as the Japanese psychoanalytic theory of the Ajase ("Ajātaśatru") Complex.
In 2009, Dr Radich spent three months at Kyōto University as a visiting scholar, at the invitation of Professor Shingū Kazushige. He is member (at a distance) of a five-year (2005-2010) research project entitled "Paramārtha and His Times", led by Prof. Funayama Tōru of Kyoto University. He is also part of a three-year (2010-2012) project entitled "Indian Buddhist Thought in Sixth and Seventh Century China", led by Prof. Lin Chen-kuo of Chengchi University in Taiwan, which has funding from the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation.

More generally, he also studies Chinese Buddhist history and Yogācāra Buddhist philosophy, and I have an increasing interest in the Mahāyāna Mahāparinirvāṇa sūtra. He has additional interests in early Chinese philosophy and Lacanian psychoanalysis.

Organiser: Dr. Vincent Tournier

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