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Eviatar Shulman – What is a Discourse (Sutta)? Reconsidering the Nature of Early Buddhist Scripture
November 9, 2020 @ 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm
Speaker: Eviatar Shulman, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
We commonly speak of the Buddha’s “discourses” – sutta, sūtra – knowing that they were not just spoken by him (or “him”) in this way, but nevertheless taking these texts as a clear category of authorized Buddhist speech, which scholars then ask to what degree they return to the Buddha himself; even if they are not historical utterances of the historical Buddha, they are the closet we can get to understanding his ideas and practices. While much of scholarly practice today still hopes to skin a discourse of its mythology and popular sentiments to reveal the earlier layers of the teaching, and while many scholars compare discourses in different languages in the quest for their original core, it is time to see these texts for what they are – literary masterpieces, which generate and channel rich patterns of Buddhist emotion and imagination, and that engage with the Buddha devotionally while contemplating his figure and hoping to feel his unique presence. This talk will focus on some of the literary, poetic, and contemplative dimensions of the texts, in an attempt to understand what a discourse was for the early Buddhists. Specifically, we will investigate the idea that the texts are, in certain cases, a meditative practice, so that the text is in itself the reflection upon the teaching, rather than being some formulized representation of them.
Presented Via Zoom.
Register at: https://harvard.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJEqceyrqD0pGdW8y-zm51z1273EjYQsqisj%C2%A0