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The Aṭṭhakavagga Reconsidered: Between Wisdom and Dispassion

A CBS Colloquium Series Lecture by Professor Luis O. Gmez (Prof. Emeritus, University of Michigan and Profesor Investigador, El Colegio de Mxico).

Friday, April 03, 2009
3:00 PM - 4:30 PM
243 Royce Hall, UCLA
Los Angeles, CA 90095

The Aṭṭhakavagga continues to fascinate us, in part because of the deceptively simple label of “one of the oldest Buddhist texts” (sometimes mistakenly understood as “the oldest Buddhist text,” without further reflection on the meaning of “old,” “Buddhist,” and “text”). But the work is also worthy of several more re-readings, because, as Prof. Gomez has argued previously, it contains a peculiar doctrinal approach that is rare in other parts of the Pāli Tipiṭaka.

The presentation will review briefly some of the conclusions of an earlier article ( “Protomadhyamaka in the Pāli Canon.”—often misread to say much more than the author intended it to say, but also now somewhat superseded in his own mind), then move on to use the Aṭṭhaka to demonstrate some peculiar aspects of early Buddhist asceticism. 

Prof. Gomez will highlight the importance of moral and ascetic renunciation of desire—a point neglected in his earlier paper. He will show how this form of asceticism is inseparable from an asceticism of discourse, language and cognition. He will discuss the polarities desire / ignorance and desirelessness / silence (what is called variously moral apophatism and intellectual apophatism, or asceticism of desire and asceticism of cognition) as these notions appear in the Aṭṭhaka. A short excursus will discuss the way these polarities subsist in later Buddhist ascetic literature.

Cost : Free and Open to the Public


Sponsor(s): Center for Buddhist Studies

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