Published: Oct. 15, 2015
close up of machig from himalayan art

Master translator Sarah Harding of Naropa University and the Tsadra Foundation will deliver a colloquium-style presentation on "Tibetan Meditation Techniques: On the Interaction of Text and Practice." The lecture will take place on  Thursday, October 15th at 6pm in the British Studies Room in conjunction with the ongoing exhibit of Tibetan textual production, titled "Opening the Tibetan Treasury of Knowledge: Textual Transmission and Cultural Preservation" on the 3rd floor of Norlin Library across from Special Collections.

What is the relationship between oral and textual modes of transmission for instructions on meditation practice in Tibet? While practice instructions are transmitted orally from Buddhist master to disciple, they can also be set down in writing for posterity and gathered into textual compilations. In this presentation, Sarah Harding discusses the progression from the oral to the written word and back to the oral with respect to Tibetan meditation techniques. The focus of the presentation is practice instructions collected by Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thayé in The Treasury of Knowledge and The Treasury of Precious Instructions, the subject of an exhibit on the third floor of Norlin Library. As a case study, Sarah Harding discusses the proliferation of instructions for a single practice, namely the distinctively Tibetan meditation technique of chöd, translated as "cutting" or "severance." In her words, chöd is a "practice renowned in the popular mind mainly for its graphic visualizations of cutting up one's body to offer to demons in charnel grounds." Sarah Harding discusses the variety of instructions on chöd as contained in the Treasury of Precious Instructions and its contemporary transmission and adaptation in the US.

Sarah Harding is Associate Professor in Religious Studies at Naropa University, where she has been teaching since 1992. She is author of a seminal study and translation of chöd, titled Machik's Complete Explanation: Clarifying the Meaning of Chöd (2003) and the translator of numerous works including Creation and Completion: Essential Points of Tantric Meditation (1996), The Treasury of Knowledge: Esoteric Instructions (2008), and Niguma: Lady of Illusion (2011) . As a Fellow for the Tsadra Foundation since 2000, she is currently completing a translation of the twenty-nine texts on chöd contained in The Treasury of Precious Instructions.

Image courtesy of the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation. Machig Labdron, ground mineral pigment on cotton (HAR #77114).