Pure Land Branches: Destinations

Pure Land Branches: Destinations

  • Friday, May 31, 2013 | 3:00 – 4:30pm | Student Union Building, Room 211

Ingo Strauch (Université de Lausanne) “The Bajaur Mahāyāna Sūtra and the Role of Akṣobhya’s Abhirati Buddha Land in the Development of Pure Land Buddhism”

Our knowledge about early Mahāyāna has been considerably increased by the progress of Gandhāran studies within the last decade. Numerous manuscripts–most of them birchbarks–were discovered in the area of “Greater Gandhāra”, written in the North-Western Kharoṣṭhī script and composed in the Middle Indian language of the region, Gandhārī. Among the Mahāyāna texts discovered here there is a rather large sūtra which is part of the Bajaur Collection, a heterogeneous compilation of manuscripts discovered in the Bajaur district in North-West Pakistan near the Afghan border. The central portion of this sūtra describes the career of a Bodhisattva. His Buddha land is represented as a counterpart of Akṣobhya’s Abhirati which here clearly fulfils the role of a paradigmatic Buddha land–a function, which later on became typical for Sukhāvatī. It is the aim of my paper to discuss the importance of the evidence of the Gandhāran text for our understanding of the early history of Pure Land Buddhism and its role in the larger context of early Mahāyāna.

Benjamin Bogin (Georgetown University) “Prayer as Path: La Sonam Chodrup on the Aspiration for Rebirth at the Copper-Colored Mountain”

Near the turn of the twentieth century, the Tibetan Buddhist scholar La Sonam Chodrup (glag bsod nams chos ‘grub, 1862-1944) composed a lengthy commentary on a prayer for rebirth at the Copper-Colored Mountain. In this text, which bears the poetic title Pure Luminosity (‘od snang dkar po), the author interprets the aspiration prayer (smon lam) for rebirth at this tantric pure land as an account of the path to buddhahood. This paper will focus on the ways in which La Sonam Chodrup combines the poetic and affective dimensions of aspiration prayer with the analytic tradition of scholastic path theory.

James B. Apple (University of Calgary) “The Historical Emergence of Maitreya’s Tuṣita Heaven as a Pure Land in Geluk-pa forms of Tibetan Buddhism”

An overlooked aspect in the study of Tibetan Buddhism is the Geluk-pa (dge-lugs-pa) understanding of Tuṣita Heaven as a Pure Land. Ever since Tsong-kha-pa Blo-gzang grags pa (1357-1419) founded the monastery of dGa’-ldan (Skt. Tuṣita, “Heaven of Joy”) his Geluk-pa followers have placed devotional emphasis on creating merit to form links with the Buddha Maitreya, and Maitreya’s Pure Land of Tuṣita. This paper examines selected works of Tsong-kha-pa and his immediate followers to discern the historical conditions for the emergence of Maitreya’s Tuṣita Heaven as a Pure Land and as a place of devotion.