Buddhist Studies at Leiden University

Previous Buddhist Studies Events

Kabul Institute of Archaeology & IIAS Lecture | Tuesday 11 December

Recent excavations of the Buddhist remains from Mes Aynak, Afghanistan

Speaker: Mr Khair Mohammed Khairzada & Dr. Willem Vogelsang
Time: 15.15
Venue: Gravensteen room 111, Leiden, the Netherlands

Since the early nineteenth century, Afghanistan has become known for its Buddhist sites that date back to the early centuries of the modern era. Most famous of all are, or better, were, the two giant Buddha statues in Bamiyan, which were destroyed by the Taliban regime in the spring of 2001. But all over the country, and especially in the east, Buddhist stupas and other remains still crown many hilltops.

Mes Aynak excavation
Archaeological investigations were started again soon after the fall of the Taliban in late 2001, and one of the most spectacular sites is that of Mes Aynak, some 40 km south of the Afghan capital, Kabul. Here the Afghan Institute of Archaeology and the French Archaeological Mission in Afghanistan (DAFA) have unearthed, since 2009, a huge site of some 40 ha that includes a number of stupas, five monastic complexes, many clay and wooden statues, some of which with the original colours, wall paintings, and a commercial centre. Hundreds of Buddha images were found, including a stone statue of Prince Siddartha.

Copper ore concession
The ancient settlement may have developed mainly because of the large deposits in this area of copper ore, which were mined, and the extracted copper being worked, from an early age. Unfortunately, these copper deposits, which are now known to be the second largest in the world, may also lead to the complete destruction of the ancient site, since the China Metallurgical Group won a concession in late 2007, for thirty years, for a price of some three billion dollar, to extract the copper ore from the area, which now extends over five square km. Provisions were made to carry out further excavations at the site, but it remains to be seen whether these can satisfactorily be concluded before the actual ore extraction will start.

Mr Khairzada is an Afghan archaeologist who in 2007-2008 studied at Leiden University with a grant from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and has since his return to Kabul been mainly involved in the excavations at Mes Aynak. From 2011-2012 he was the acting director of the Afghan Institute of Archaeology, and general director of the Mes Aynak excavations.

Willem Vogelsang has been working, intermittently, in Afghanistan since 1978, when he worked at the ancient site of Old Kandahar, in the south of the country, and which is also crowned by a Buddhist stupa from the mid first millennium. He will provide a brief introduction to the Buddhist remains in Afghanistan, after which Mr Khairzada will talk about the excavations at Mes Aynak.

Photo courtesy U.S. Embassy, Kabul, Afghanistan: The remains of standing figures in a chapel at Tepe Kafiriat in Mes Aynak, Logar Province, Afghanistan.

IIAS Lecture | Thursday 6 December

A dharma to be proved: Texts from the Indian Buddhist epistemological tradition

Speaker: Cristina Pecchia
Time: 15.15 - 17.00
Venue: Room 1.48, Lipsius Building, Leiden

In this lecture Dr Cristina Pecchia will explore how and why the philosopher Dharmakīrti discussed the four noble Truths, more in particular the ‘cessation of suffering’, in a section of his Pramānavārttika. The last commentary in Sanskrit on this work highlights the theory of causation, the specific nature of compassion, and the concept of no-Self as the major points of Dharmakīrti’s argumentation against the challenges posed to the Bodhisattva path.

An in-depth interpretative analysis of these points reveals textual problems, which compel to add a text-critical approach to the texts. A wider cultural and historical perspective, on the other hand, leads to reconsider the soteriological dimension that characterizes Buddhist epistemological theories.

Cristina Pecchia, University of Vienna, is Gonda Research Fellow at the International Institute for Asian Studies, Leiden


Friday 30 November | 20th Gonda lecture

Carrying Buddhism: The role of metal icons in the spread and development of Buddhism

Speaker: Prof. Robert L. Brown
Time: 16.00
Venue: Trippenhuis, Kloveniersburgwal 29, Amsterdam

The Gonda Foundation and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences cordially invite you to the 20th Gonda Lecture by Robert L. Brown, Professor of Indian and Southeast Asian art at the University of California at Los Angeles, and Curator of South and Southeast Asian art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

It is usually assumed that icons of metal have played an important role in Indian religious traditions from the earliest appearance of art, specifically in Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist traditions from as early as the third century BCE. Evidence indicates, however, that the production of metal icons was rare up until the fifth century CE, and even then was unusual. The production of metal icons began in any numbers only in the sixth and seventh centuries, at which time they were produced in enormous numbers.

In his lecture, Professor Brown will explore the implications of this dating of Buddhist metal image production. He will argue that the creation of metal images in India happened at the same time as the appearance of metal images in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia. Thus, the appearance of the icons in both South and Southeast Asia does not follow the standard scholarly explanation that Buddhism arrived sequentially as Hinayana, Mahayana, and Tantric. In fact, the Buddhism of the sixth and seventh centuries reflects elements of all these categories that were moving together at the same time.

Robert L. Brown is Professor of Indian and Southeast Asian art at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), and Curator of South and Southeast Asian art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). His research focuses on the relationship of South Asian culture, religion, and art to the cultures, religions, and art of Southeast Asia.

Admission to the lecture is free, but please register in advance by submitting the online registration form or by sending an e-mail to bernadette.peeters@bureau.knaw.nl

More information on the 20th Gonda Lecture by Robert L. Brown can be found at the KNAW website

Religious Studies - BA lecture series

The transformation of Buddhism across Central Asia from India to China - Taught by Numata Professor Meiji Yamada

Time: Every Tuesday evening from 19.00-21.00
Venue: LIPSIUS Building Room 228, Leiden University


These lectures are on the transmission of Buddhism across Central Asia, with attention given to laicization, interaction with other religious and cultural traditions, pilgrim records, art and archaeology. More info...

Register for the course here
For more information contact Professor J.A. Silk

Religious Studies MA lecture series

The Way of Tea, the Way of the Buddha - Taught by Numata Professor Meiji Yamada

Time: Every Wednesday evening from 19.00-21.00
Venue: LIPSIUS Building Room 204, Leiden University

Tea is a sort of ‘mysterious’ drink. Not as strong as alcohol or drugs, yet from ancient times until today, both in East Asia and in the West, it has shaken the history of the world. From the Opium Wars and the ceding of Hong Kong to the British to the American Revolution with its ‘Boston Tea Party’ to the rise of the socialist state of Mongolia, tea has been deeply implicated in many great events and movements of world history. In particular, its impact on the culture of Japan has been profound. More info...

Lecture | Of Monks and Embryos

Date: 30 May
Time: 11.00 - 12.30 hrs
Location: Huizinga building, second floor, Statenkamer

On Wednesday 30 May, Dr. Lucia Dolce (University of London) will give a guest lecture entitled 'Of monks and embryos: visualizing Tantric practice in Medieval Japan'.

Recent investigations in Japanese temple archives have brought to light new documents from the medieval period which present a consistent discourse on the process of generation of the human body in the context of Tantric ritual practice. This material includes cryptic diagrams that, drawing from Indian medical knowledge and classical Chinese notions of yin-yang and wuxing, describe the actions of a Buddhist practitioner as the embryological growth of a foetus. Controversially, this material has been regarded as marginal in the larger picture of Japanese Tantric Buddhism, when not labelled as heretical. Yet the circulation of the diagrams across different Buddhist lineages suggest that the embryogenetic discourse represented a major soteriological model in medieval hermeunitics. This lecture will explore the pattern of five-stage foetal gestation (tainai goi) that appears in an unpublished document from the Ninnaji archives, and discuss it in relation to contemprary notions of organic body-mandala (gozō mandala).

Lucia Dolce is Senior Lecturer in Japanese Religion at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, where she also directs the Centre for the Study of Japanese Religions. She holds a first degree from the University of Venice (Italy), and a PhD from Leiden University. Her research to date has explored doctrinal and ritual aspects of Buddhism in Japan, with a focus on the medieval period. She has published on the Lotus Sutra and the Tendai and Nichiren traditions, Tantric Buddhism, rituals and ritual iconography, and kami-buddha combinatory cults.


IIAS Lecture | Friday 27 April 2012

Texts in Context: A Reflection About the Hermeneutics of Buddhist Texts

Speaker: Professor Francesco Sferra (University of Naples, L'Orientale, Italy)
Time: 15:30 - 17:00 hrs.
Venue: IIAS, Rapenburg 59, Leiden

Early Buddhists adopted a number of strategies for the composition of their canonical texts, developing and implementing techniques of literary composition which were functional, on the one hand, to the transmission of texts and, to the other hand, to their semiotic enrichment in the awareness that the shape/structure of a text influences and completes its content.

The formal and structural elements, in fact, may help to provide additional information compared to those obtained directly from the letter of the text. These factors may be extrinsic, concerning primarily the location of a passage in a larger context, or intrinsic, regarding its internal structure, the choice of terms, of formulas and their disposition, which, in the opinion of the speaker, do not have only a mnemonical function.

A survey of the techniques of literary composition in relation to the Buddhist canons is obviously not an end in itself. Trying to shed light on them is also important to develop more accurate heuristics and hermeneutics. In particular, a) the general context within which a passage is placed can tell us more about how to interpret the letter, b) the inclusion of keywords in it can better illuminate the scope of the teaching and perhaps even its original context, and c) the internal structure of a text can recall similar structures and thus allow the reference to other parts of the Canon.

Francesco Sferra (b. 1965) is Professor of Sanskrit at the University of Naples "L'Orientale". He studied in Rome under the guidance of Raniero Gnoli and Raffaele Torella. His research is focused on the study of tantric traditions of medieval India, in particular on the philosophical and soteriological doctrines of some schools of late Indian Buddhism and of some Hindu traditions of Kashmir. Among his publications are critical editions of two Buddhist Kalacakra works, the longer Sadangayoga by Anupamaraksita with its commentary by Raviarijnana and the Sekoddesatika by Naropa. Sferra is coeditor of the Manuscripta Buddhica Series.

IIAS Lecture | Monday 19 March 2012

The Last Gentleman: The Huichang Persecution of Buddhism as a Stimulus to the Spread of Printing

Speaker: Professor T.H. Barrett (School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London)
Time: 15:30 - 17:00 hrs.
Venue: IIAS, Rapenburg 59, Leiden

One very early reference in literary materials to printing in China is a fundraising appeal from the poet Sikong Tu for the reprinting of the Vinaya in Luoyang. This is generally dated to the 880s, but close scrutiny suggests that the early years of the tenth century provide a better context. Such scrutiny also suggests that restocking Buddhist literature after the massive losses due to persecution in the 840s formed a strong motive for the adoption of printing, despite lack of dynastic support for the new technology.

T H Barrett studied at Yale after graduating from Cambridge, where he returned to teach in 1975 after further study in Japan; his Yale doctorate was awarded in 1978. From 1986 he was Professor of East Asian History at SOAS, London, and from 2010 has been Research Professor there. He has published extensively on the history of East Asian (primarily Chinese) religion, and latterly especially on the religious background to early Chinese printing.

IIAS Lecture | Thursday 1 December 2011

Speaking of the individual: the work of Prakāśātman and the beginnings of a theory of language in classical Advaita-Vedānta

Speaker: Hugo David
Time: 17.00-18.00 hrs.
Venue: Lipsius Building, room 235B, Cleveringaplaats 1, Leiden

Vedānta is generally known as one of the six “systems” (darśana) of classical Brahmanical philosophy, mainly defined by its metaphysical and soteriological positions. However, its proponents – Mandana Miśra and Śankara to begin with, who initiated its “non-dualist” trend – considered themselves first of all as specialists of Vedic exegesis (mīmāmsā) and, at least for some of them, of general linguistics. In this lecture, I will present this by now largely forgotten line of thought on language in its first systematic formulations around the 10th century AD. Attention will be drawn on one of its main figures, Prakāśātman, the author of an important synthesis on this topic, the Śābdanirnaya (“An enquiry into verbal knowledge”). A brief consideration of two of its main theses will allow us to catch a glimpse of the intellectual context in which they were conceived, and of the misinterpretations to which they gave rise in later tradition, as they became the common heritage of the school in the first centuries of the second millennium.

Hugo David, École Pratique des Hautes Études, Section des sciences religieuses, is a Gonda Fellow at the International Institute for Asia Studies (IIAS)



IIAS Lecture | Friday 4 November 2011

Mantra Method or Vajra Vehicle: On the self-perception of Indian Tantric Buddhism

Professor Harunaga Isaacson (Classical Indology, Hamburg University)

Time: 16.00-17.30 hrs.
Venue: IIAS, Conference Room, Rapenburg 59, 2311 GJ Leiden

This presentation will consider the ways in which Indian Tantric Buddhists saw and defined their own practices viz a viz non-tantric forms of Buddhism. It will show a tension between, on the one hand, a self-presentation as a form of Mahā yā na Buddhism, parallel to the Method of the Perfections (pā ramitā naya, i.e what is now most commonly called simply Mahā yā na Buddhism) and leading to the same goal as that, though much more swiftly, and, on the other hand, a tendency to claim that tantric practice can, alone, lead to a state higher than that attainable through non-tantric practice.

Harunaga Isaacson studied philosophy and Indology at the University of Groningen, and was awarded a PhD in Sanskrit by the University of Leiden. After holding teaching positions at Hamburg University and the University of Pennsylvania, he was appointed Professor of Classical Indology at Hamburg University in 2006. He is also director of the the Nepalese-German Manuscript Cataloguing Project. His main research areas are: tantric traditions in pre-13th century South Asia, especially Vajrayā na Buddhism; classical Sanskrit poetry; classical Indian philosophy; and Purāṇic literature.

Marijke Klokke

Oratie prof.dr. M. Klokke

Maandag 27 juni, 16:00, Academiegebouw.

Kunst en materiële cultuur van Zuid- en Zuidoost-Azië
Academiegebouw, Rapenburg 73, 2311 GJ Leiden

Vanwege het beperkte aantal beschikbare plaatsen dienen belangstellenden zich bij Webredactie Geesteswetenschappen aan te melden voor het bijwonen van deze plechtigheid en de daaropvolgende receptie. 

Meer informatie 
Mw. M. Wanders
071-527 3130

Meet a Monk | Wednesday June 29 | Venue: Vrieshof 2 - 004 | Time: 10.00-11.00 hr

Q&A session with a Buddhist monk and nuns The Dharma Realm Buddhist Association (DRBA) Heng Sure

Buddhism seems to be all around us nowadays, even in the Netherlands. Perhaps you have read a Buddhist text, heard about the psychological benefits of meditation, seen a video about Buddhist cultures, or have a personal interest in Buddhism. All of these encounters might have raised many questions for you, including those about what a Buddhist life is really like. This Q&A session provides a unique opportunity to ask six experienced Buddhist monastics any questions you may have about Buddhism, what a monastic life is like, how to be a Buddhist in the modern world, and so on. How do they spend their time? Do they call their parents? Do they contribute to society in any way? You're invited to come with curiosity, bringing any questions you have. After the session, the monk, nuns and the accompanying lay-people will have lunch. If you bring your own lunchbox, you're welcome to join.

For more information, see:
Leiden University page

Sunday May 29th 2011 | Buddhist Festival "Boeddhistisch Reveil" | Leiden

Zen Center Suiren-Ji in Leiden has organized a Buddhist Festival which will be heldfrom 10.00-17.00 in the Hortus Botanicus, in the center of Leiden. The day will include workshops, demonstrations, lectures and music, and will be connected to the Japan Market organized by the Japan Museum SieboldHuis.

For more information, please visit Zen Center Suiren-Ji's website

April 7th - May 26th | Studium Generale Lecture Series: Tibet, anders bezien | Leiden

All lectures are held at 19.30-21.00, at the Lipsius building, room 011, Cleveringaplaats, Leiden. Language is Dutch unless otherwise specified.
April 7th: The Great Fifth and the Current (fourteenth) Dalai Lama
April 14th: Tibet en haar Dodenboeken -schilderingen, en -rituelen
April 21st: Meditatie binnen de Tibetaanse tradities
April 28th: Religieuze tradities: klooster, scholastiek en debatcultuur
May 9th: Tibetaanse kunst
May 19th: De verbeelding van Tibet
May 26th: Social and Political Developments in Tibet in the past 60 Years

Additional information

May 18th | Lecture by Professor Lothar von Falkenhausen

Archaeology and its Role in Contemporary China

Lothar von Falkenhausen obtained a PhD in anthropology at Harvard University in 1988. Having taught at Stanford University and UC Riverside, he came to UCLA in 1993 and was promoted to Professor in 1997. His research concerns the archaeology of the Chinese Bronze Age, preferably focusing on large interdisciplinary and historical issues on which archaeological materials can provide significant new information.

One example of this orientation are his numerous publications on musical instruments (especially chime-bells), culminating in his book Suspended Music (University of California Press, 1993). Other publications concern ancient Chinese bronzes and their inscriptions, ritual, regional cultures, archaeological synthesis, ancient trans-Asiatic contacts, and methodological issues.

As the American co-PI of the ongoing Peking University-UCLA Joint Archaeological Project, he is directing excavations at ancient salt-production sites in the Yangzi River Basin. He serves as editor of the Journal of East Asian Archaeology and of the Early China Special Monographs Series.

April 29th | Inaugural Lecture by Professor Peter Bisschop | Leiden

Peter Bisschop's inaugural address as Professor of Sanskrit and Ancient Cultures of South Asia is Friday April 29th at 4:00 pm.
Title: "Voer voor filologen: geüpgradede anonieme Sanskrit literatuur"
Language: Dutch
Time: 16.00
Venue: Academy building, Rapenburg 73, 2311 GJ Leiden

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