Published: Feb. 19, 2024

Feeding Asceticism: Himalayan Buddhist Renunciation, Devotion, and Embodied Intimate Care

Thursday, February 22 at 6pm
Humanities 250

In Tibetan and Himalayan Buddhist biographies, devotion frames stories of the intimate, emotionally intense connections between gurus and disciples. By contrast, Tibetan Buddhist accounts of renunciation often highlight separation, departure, and absence, themes that appear in tension with the intimacy of the devotional ideal. This talk focuses on accounts of the life of the reclusive twentieth century Himalayan Buddhist meditator and poet, Khunu Lama Tenzin Gyaltsen (1895-1977), highlighting the impact of his renunciation on his closest disciples, especially women. Khunu Lama’s female students, in particular the renunciant meditator Drikung Khandroma Sherab Tharchin (1927-1979), attempted to practice embodied forms of devotional care for him, while grappling with the separations his renunciation required. Stories about disciples’ devotional care for Khunu Lama highlight the role of longing as a bridge between renunciation and devotional practice.

Annabella Pitkin is associate professor of Buddhism and East Asian religions at Lehigh University. Her research focuses on Tibetan Buddhist theories of modernity, Buddhist ideals of renunciation, miracle narratives, and Buddhist life-story writing. She is the author of Renunciation and Longing: The Life of a Twentieth-Century Himalayan Buddhist Saint (2022), which explores themes of renunciation, memory, and teacher-student relationship in the life of Khunu Lama Tenzin Gyaltsen.

Co-Sponsored by the Center for Asian Studies and Religious Studies.

25th CU Boulder Asian Studies Graduate Association (CUBASGA) annual conference

The Department of Asian Languages and Civilizations is excited to announce the dates for our 25th CU Boulder Asian Studies Graduate Association (CUBASGA) annual conference! We are affiliated with the CU Boulder Department of Asian Languages and Civilizations and sponsored by the Center for Asian Studies and Cultural Events Board, with support from the Center for Student Involvement.

This year’s conference will feature 12 panels dedicated to a variety of topics and fields in graduate-level Asian Studies, including literature, history, media studies, cultural studies, linguistics, sociology, and religious studies. Each panel consists of three to four presentations (15 mins each) followed by discussion sessions (5-10 mins each), where students and faculty have the opportunity to ask questions and learn about the state of the field.

The CUBASGA conference aims to facilitate academic conversation and networking among graduate 
students from across the U.S. and around the world. Graduate students are able to present their research 
and receive feedback from both CU's world-class faculty and prestigious keynote speakers. This year, our invited keynote speakers will give the following talks:

Prof. Wai-yee Li (Harvard University): 
Saturday, 24 February 2024

"Chronicling Confucius" 

Sima Qian (145-ca. 85 BCE), one of China’s greatest historians, gives us the first chronological account of the life of Confucius in his monumental Historical Records (Shiji). Scholars have often questioned its historical accuracy. I will not weigh in on issues of veracity but will focus instead on the power of storytelling and on the complex, ambiguous, and polyvalent construction of narrative in a textual universe where textual units often have fluid boundaries. I will discuss the following issues. 1. The consequence of chronology: how does chronology supply motives and contexts? How does our understanding of a saying or a story change when it is linked to a specific historical moment? 2. Chronicling Confucius draws attention to temporality, contingency, and expediency, expediency being a mode of reasoning and action tied to our embeddedness in time and confrontation with contingency. 3. Confronting contingency leads to uncertainty and sometimes failure. How does Sima Qian turn a broad arc of striving and setbacks into ultimate vindication? Is this vindication based on the cohesion or the fissures of the narrative? How does Sima Qian parry divergent perspectives as he weaves together accounts from different sources flourishing between Confucius’ lifetime and his own?

Prof. Zev Handel (University of Washington):
Sunday, 25 February 2024

"The Development of Japanese Scripts From Chinese Characters in Comparative Context" 

Chinese characters originated in China over 3,000 years ago.  Prior to their creation, East Asia was completely devoid of writing. By the time of the Han Dynasty (202 BCE - 220 CE), China already had a long literary tradition, a flourishing culture, and a sophisticated government bureaucracy. Over subsequent centuries, Chinese writing exerted an enormous influence on surrounding peoples and places, including the areas of modern-day Korea, Japan, and Vietnam.  Eventually the Chinese-character script was adapted to write the language spoken in these places. The adaptation of Chinese characters to the writing of Japanese, and their ultimate transformation into the kanji and kana scripts, is thus but one instance of a set of script adaptations that took place across East Asia. This talk presents a theoretical framework for understanding that adaptation in comparative context, and explains the ways in which the Japanese case is similar to and different from other historical adaptations of Chinese characters.

We hope to foster a convivial ambience for exchanging ideas. We welcome everyone from CU who is 
interested to drop by and join us.