Friday, 4/8 2016: Talks by Phyllis Granoff & Koichi Shinohara (Yale)

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 two-in-one talk meeting:

Narrating Conversion: Some Reflections on Buddhist and Jain Stories

A Talk by Phyllis Granoff (Yale)

and also

Image worship in Esoteric Buddhist Rituals

 A Talk by Koichi Shinohara (Yale)

Time: Friday, April 8th, 2015, 6 PM

Place: Columbia University, Faculty House* (room TBA)


Talk Abstracts: 

       Narrating Conversion: Some Reflections on Buddhist and Jain Stories (Phyllis Granoff)

Both Buddhism and Jainism from their inception were missionary religions. This did not escape the notice of one of the earliest Protestant missionaries to India, who remarked that unlike worshippers of Viṣṇu or Śiva Buddhists and Jains actively recruited converts into their fold. It is not surprising that accounts of the life of the Buddha and Jinas contain numerous stories of their successful conversions. This paper focuses on the Buddhist accounts, allowing the comparison with the Jain stories to highlight  just how complex and often problematic the Buddhist stories can be.   

       Image worship in Esoteric Buddhist Rituals (Koichi Shinohara)

In the narrative of dhāraṇī practice a miraculous vision of a deity or deities often demonstrates its efficacy. With the introduction of image worship, this visionary demonstration is replaced by image miracles. At the climactic moment of the ritual miraculous signs appear around the image, which often announces in a loud voice the success of the ritual. Images became very popular, but the Esoteric Buddhist rituals remained ambivalent toward images. In the initiation ceremony for ācāryas that is subsequently introduced, the focus shifts from images to maṇḍalas, where deities are invited to their seats on the maṇḍala, rather than into images representing them. When Esoteric Buddhist rituals turn into elaborate visualization practice, images again appear to become somewhat redundant. The deities are visualized, rather than located in the animation of physical images. In his talk Prof. Shinohara will examine how image worship shaped the rhetoric of efficacy and how its status shifted with the increasing importance of visualization practice.  The examination focuses on two translations attributed to Śūbhākarasiṃha (637–735): the Subahu Sūtra (T. 895/896) and the Buddoṣṇīṣa Yoga Practice Manual (T. 973).


Phyllis Granoff graduated from Radcliffe College with a major in Far Eastern Languages and Harvard Graduate School with a PhD in Sanskrit and Indian Studies and Fine Arts. After teaching for many years at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, she joined the Department of Religious Studies at Yale University in 2004.  Her research interests are varied; she has written on Indian art, religion, philosophy and literature, and on all of India's classical religions. 

Koichi Shinohara graduated from the University of Tokyo and received his PhD from Columbia University. He taught at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario and Yale University, New Haven. He has written on Chinese biographies of Buddhist monks, Daoxuan's vinaya commentary and historiography, Daoshi's anthology Fayuan Zhulin, and the evolution of Esoteric Buddhist rituals.

 * Room will be announced additionally. For directions to the Faculty House, see the following PDF: