Tobunken-Seminar "Stairway to Heaven and the Path to Buddhahood: Donors and their Aspirations at Ajanta (Dr. Vincent Tournier、EFEO (Paris))"

Date and time: May 30, 2019 (Thu.), 16:00-17:30

Venue: 2nd Conference Room, 3rd floor, IASA

Speaker: Vincent Tournier、EFEO (Paris)

The important soteriological trend placing at its core the ambition to become a perfect buddha progressively suffused Indian Buddhism throughout the Middle Period. Across South Asia, varied evidence concurs in identifying the late 4th to early 6th century as marking a shift, during which the ideas propounded by the Bodhisattva movement became, so to speak, “main stream”. The public impact of the Bodhisattva movement may also be measured by tracing changes in the ideology of merit. As prominently stressed by Gregory Schopen, there is, for instance, a surge in aspirations to the “supreme knowledge” (anuttarajñāna, that is, perfect Awakening) in the epigraphic record from the 4th century onward. While the representation of and identifications with Buddhahood may have played a central role in devotional activities of the late Middle Period, it would seem far too schematic to suppose that samyaksambodhi was the sole goal motivating the act of giving.

The present paper will focus on the epigraphic evidence of 5th/6th-century Ajanta, read alongside associated architecture and imagery, and in light of related prescriptive literature. It will attempt to determine how donors self-identifying as bodhisattvas in fact harmoniously combined and hierarchically structured mundane and supramundane goals. I will argue that both categories of expectations are reconciled by an implied multi-life path to liberation, whereby benefits such as auspicious rebirths serve, inter alia, as markers of one’s progress toward Awakening. I will also suggest that the concern for rebirth among gods and high-born, beautiful, human beings may well relate to the commemorative dimension of many of the 5th- and 6th-century cave dedications.

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