Friday 11/08/2018: Talk by Robert DeCaroli, "Snakes and Gutters"

The Columbia University Buddhist Studies Seminar, the Center for Buddhism and East Asian Religion and the Columbia University Seminars would like to invite you to the following talk:

Snakes and Gutters:
Nāga Imagery in the Western Deccan and the Birth of Buddhist Rainmaking Rituals
Robert DeCaroli, George Mason University

Friday, Nov 9th, 2018, 6:00pm
Columbia University
Faculty House Rm. G1

When considering the water-related challenges that confronted the monks and architects involved with rock-cut monasteries, it becomes apparent that the veneration of nāgas complimented methods of hydraulic engineering designed to regulate the flow of water at the sites. The highly visible nature of this arrangement helps to explain the emergence of ritual texts, primarily dating to after the fourth century CE, in which Buddhist ritualists adopt the role of rainmakers. The ritualists invariably invoke a special relationship with the nāgas whom they enjoin to rectify the undesirable conditions. This connection between image and text reveals a centuries-long process by which the monastic community developed an association with weather regulation that was contingent on a cultivated and highly public relationship with Buddhist-friendly nāgas.

Robert DeCaroli received his Ph.D. in the field South and Southeast Asian art history from UCLA. He is a specialist in the early history of Buddhism and has conducted fieldwork in India, Sri Lanka, and Southeast Asia. He is the author of Haunting the Buddha: Indian Popular Religions and the Formation of Buddhism (Oxford UP 2004) as well as of several journal articles and book chapters. The majority of this work deals with early (3rd c. BCE - 5th c. CE) aspects of South Asian material culture and its interaction with forms of regional religious practice. His second book, Image Problems: The Origin and Development of the Buddha’s Image in Early South Asia (U Washington Press 2015), explores the origin of the Buddha image and the social, political, and religious factors that led to its codification and spread. He is co-curator of the Encountering the Buddha exhibit at the Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution. He has been the recipient of the George Mason University Teaching Excellence Award and has received research grants from the Asian Cultural Council and the Getty Research Institute. From 2005 to 2014 he served as Director of the Art History Program.

For directions to the Faculty House, see the following PDF: http://facultyhouse.columbia.edu/files/facultyhouse/web/Faculty_House_Directions.pdf

Information about the Columbia University Buddhist Studies Seminar: http://universityseminars.columbia.edu/seminars/buddhist-studies/

Friday 10/26/2018: Talk by Michael Como, "Angry Spirits and Urban Soundscapes in Ancient Japan"

The Columbia University Buddhist Studies Seminar, the Center for Buddhism and East Asian Religion and the Columbia University Seminars would like to invite you to the following talk:

Angry Spirits and Urban Soundscapes in Ancient Japan
Michael Como, Columbia University

Friday, Oct 26th, 2018, 6:00pm
Columbia University, Faculty House

From the late seventh to the late eighth centuries, Japanese rulers built no fewer than six capitals, with the largest housing as many as 70,000 to 100,000 residents. In this talk, I will suggest that the buildings, roads and tools of these capitals functioned not simply as inert matter, but also as active forces that reshaped the ritual means by which urban residents mediated their relationship with their physical environment and with the superhuman world. Because urbanization disrupted longstanding geographic connections between shrines, tombs and the urban residents that had left them behind, it helped produce a number of new ritual strategies related to divination and the propitiation of angry spirits. Although the visual dimensions of the new urban landscape have been discussed by scholars of Japanese literature and art history, in this talk my chief concern will be with the aural dimensions associated with the construction of the Nara and Heian capitals. How did the new urban soundscapes affect the ritual strategies and interpretative frameworks of rulers ensconced in their Nara and Heian palaces? How, and where, did the court and its officials listen for clues concerning both the mundane and superhuman worlds? As I explore these questions, I shall argue that a series of aural anomalies recorded in the court histories helps illustrate remarkable shifts in the ritual means by which the court engaged this newly-built environment and its manifold structures that went bump in the night. 

Michael Como (B.A., Harvard; Ph.D., Stanford University), is the Tōshū Fukami Associate Professor of Shinto Studies at Columbia. Michael's recent research has focused on the religious history of the Japanese islands from the Asuka through the early Heian periods, with a particular focus upon the Chinese and Korean deities, rites and technological systems that were transmitted to the Japanese islands during this time. He is the author of several articles on the ritual and political consequences of the introduction of literacy, sericulture and horse-culture from the Asian sub-continent into ancient Japan. His major publications include Shōtoku: Ethnicity, Ritual and Violence in the Formation of Japanese Buddhism (Oxford University Press, 2008), Weaving and Binding: Immigrant Gods and Female Immortals in Ancient Japan (University of Hawaii Press, 2009) and Medieval Shintō, a special edition of the Cahiers d’Êxtreme Asie that he co-edited with Bernard Faure and Iyanaga Nobumi in 2010. He is currently working on a new monograph that focuses upon urbanization and the materiality of performance and interpretation in Japanese religion in the eighth and ninth centuries.

For directions to the Faculty House, see the following PDF: http://facultyhouse.columbia.edu/files/facultyhouse/web/Faculty_House_Directions.pdf

Information about the Columbia University Buddhist Studies Seminar: http://universityseminars.columbia.edu/seminars/buddhist-studies/