Posts Tagged ‘ISYT’

ISYT Conference Day 2 continued

Back on day two of the ISYT conference, Elijah Ary (Ph.D., Harvard University) presented us with his study of the biographies of Tsong Kha pa blo bzang grags pa, entitled “From Disciple to Divinity: a shift in the figuration of Tsong kha pa blo bzang grags pa (1357-1419).”

ISYT Conference organizer Elijah Ary

ISYT Conference organizer Elijah Ary

Dr. Ary described two distinct tendencies in dge lugs descriptions of Tsong kha pa. First, Tsong kha pa is described as a disciple of Mañjuśri who received teachings directly via visions or through a medium (his teacher dbu ma pa). Second, a later development, presents Tsong kha pa as a sprul pa of Mañjuśri. In this case, all his actions are to be described within the rubric of enlightened activity. As Mañjuśri, all the stories of Tsong kha pa’s meetings with Mañjuśri need to be explained, since Mañjuśri doesn’t need to appear to himself. Furthermore, some stories relate how Tsong kha pa could not understand Mañjuśri’s speech and needed a medium to translate for him. Ary found that there is some evidence for discomfort with viewing Tsong kha pa as an emanation of Mañjuśri even within the dge lugs tradition itself. Outside of the tradition, it has even been suggested that Tsong kha pa met with a demon pretending to be Mañjuśri (Gorampa’s claim). Ary explored the multiplicity of meaning in Tibetan Buddhism and the various traditional hermeneutical tools used to explain (away) various inconsistencies. The three main methods he mentioned are 1) to describe Tsong kha pa’s biographical information through how he appears to the viewer, either in terms of common or exclusive (thun mongs dang thun mongs ma yin pa) view; 2) through reference to relative and ultimate reality (kun rdzob bden pa dang don dam bden pa); and 3) through reference to the inability of normal beings to understand the intention of the acts of enlightened beings.

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ISYT Conference Day 4

The fourth day of presentations was an interesting mix of discussions on Tibetan history, women’s studies, and anthropology.

One of the most interesting was a presentation entitled “Sources for Researching the life of Ngor chen kun dga’ bzang po” by Jörg Heimbel of the University of Hamburg. This important branch of the Sa skya school is based at Ngor E waM chos ldan, founded in 1429 in a valley southwest of gzhi ka rtse (now only a 1-hour jeep ride). The Ngor school enjoyed the patronage of the Kings of Mustang and later the Kings of Derge. According to Jörg’s research there are only three different biographies available for Ngor chen, some of which have multiple editions available. Several biographies seem to be missing as Appey Rinpoche’s text on the Saskya literature notes 13 total biographies (whether or not this was an accurate count was questioned).  The three extent editions are: 1) Mus chen sems dpa’ chen po dkon mchog rgyal mtshan’s biography (he was the 2nd Ngor abbot and much of it was written during Ngor chen’s life); 2) Gu ge paNDi ta grags pa rgyal mtshan (1415-1456/87?), also a personal disciple of Ngor chen- apparently van der Kuijp has an edition but Jörg was unable to obtain it. 3) Sangs rgyas phun tshogs (1649-1705) wrote the famous Ngor chos ‘byung and the gdan rabs (abbatial history) of Ngor monastery. Jörg focused on his fascination with Sangs rgyas phun tshogs work as an editor and compiler who cited his sources extensively and provided his readers with as many sources as possible on the subjects he discussed.

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ISYT Conference Day 3

Things have been very busy here at the conference and I have not had time to blog about each of the presentations at ISYT. However, I have taken extensive notes and will be posting these as time warrants. I also have a collection of photographs, although very few of the presenters as they specifically asked that pictures not be taken. For now, I will try to update a piece of each day as it passes and will add more posts on every individual presentation I attended at a later date.

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ISYT Conference Day 2

Room Dussane, École Normale Supérieure.

Seiji Kumagai (Kyoto University, Japan)

“Development of the Two Truths Theory in Tibet”

Marc-Henri Deroche (École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris, France And Kyoto University, Japan)

“Study of The Lamp Illuminating the Two Truths written by ’Phreng po gter ston Shes rab ’od zer (1518-1584)”

The second morning of the conference began with two friends and colleagues presenting issues related to one of the most important problems of Buddhism, the two truths. Seiji Kumagai of Kyoto circumscribed the history of the development of the two truths theory in Indian Buddhist, Bön, and Tibetan Buddhist philosophy. His handout and presentation was a wealth of information succinctly presented in outline-style. I had never learned anything about the Bön tradition’s conception of the two truths, which appears to be suspiciously (or not so) close to Buddhist presentations.

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ISYT Conference Day 1

Mr. Gurung’s discussion of some finer points of Bön po history opened the conference, after a great welcome from conference convener Elijah Ary and superb speeches by the eloquent and genuinely funny Charles Ramble (President of IATS) and Brandon Dotson (President of ISYT). Dr. Ramble certainly stole the show on this first day with his well timed scholastic jokes and clear speaking voice. Notable moments of the commencement speeches include: Elijah noting the importance of the local for this second ISYT conference. The city of light has never held a IATS or ISYT conference and the venues (Ecole Normale Superieure, Bibliotheque Sainte-Barbe, INALCO and musee du quai Branly) are legendary. Charles compared his receipt of an invitation to give the opening speech to a description of the stages of shock a patient goes through when learning they have contracted an incurable disease, and Brandon noted the importance of a venue where a collegial attitude was the focus and young scholars could feel safe to “stick our neck out” with new ideas without fear of rebuke. The feeling was collegial, but perhaps a little subdued by humility as the honor of standing in the Ecole Normale Superieure began to sink in.

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I have arrived in Paris! Sans baggage, but in high spirits. I will be blogging about the presentations made at the Second International Seminar of Young Tibetologists (ISYT), which will be convening tomorrow, Monday September 7th through September 11th. A great group of dedicated young scholars has worked hard since the London meeting in 2007 to prepare what looks to be an excellent conference in Paris. Elijah Ary, Marc-Henri Deroche, Alice Travers and Nicola Schneider are the organizing committee and they have extended a wonderful welcome to me and I am very glad to be able to come and observe as a representative of Tsadra Foundation.

I am also pleased to note that Trace Foundation and the Fonds de Solidarité et de Développement des Initiatives Etudiantes supported ten young scholars of Tibetan origin who will be able to present at the conference because of their generosity. I will be sure to attend some of their presentations, although because so many are presenting each day, I will be unable to attend every session. However, I shall do my best to report as much of the comings and goings of the conference.

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