Podcasts from OBSF 2012

Published June 11, 2012 1:58 PM

(Maître de Conférences with the École française d’Extrême-Orient, Bangkok and Paris)

Published Mar. 2, 2012 8:55 AM

This talk will discuss a form of meditation practice known in Chinese as hua- t’ou. It was popularized by the Chinese Zen master Ta-Hui (1089 – 1163) a member of the Lin-Chi sect of  Zen. Though Ta-Hui popularized this method of meditation, he did not invent it.

In particular, this talk will discuss what a hua-t’ou is, why Ta-Hui placed so much importance on it, why this practice could be of interest to at least some people today, give examples of well known hua-t’ou, offer one way to practice this method, describe some states of mind that may arise when doing the practice, offer some  personal experience from my own long years of  practicing the hua-t’ou, and discuss what it means to have a Zen awakening. In conclusion,  I offer cautions related to  having an awakening experience and the importance of continuing practice thereafter.

The talk was a condensed version of this paper (pdf).

Published Feb. 22, 2012 11:47 AM

Buddhist pilgrimage inventions, promotions and exhibitions in contemporary Japan

Pilgrimage as a practice has been widely used by Buddhist temples in Japan as a means of enhancing their popularity and in order to get people to engage in prayer activities at temples.  In the present day –when, as I discussed in a previous talk in the Buddhist Studies Forum (Sept 21 2010),  Japanese Buddhist temples are rapidly losing support -  pilgrimage remains a common way through which temples  try to bring people into their precincts.  In recent times,  Buddhist temples and organisations have used a variety of promotional activities to this end.  They have put on exhibitions about pilgrimage in museums,  established copies of their pilgrimages in secular settings such as department stores and airport malls,  invented new routes that incorporate not just Buddhist sites but also those associated with Shinto, offered new consumer items (along with special discount train tickets in conjunction) that might attract visitors, and campaigned to gain UNESCO World Heritage status for one prominent pilgrimage.  In my talk I will examine these activities and discuss the extent to which they represent a continuation of standard patterns of pilgrimage promotion that have long been used by Japanese Buddhist priests, or whether they can be seen as evidence of an increasing secularisation of the pilgrimage process – a secularising process made necessary because of the problems Buddhism faces in the modern day in Japan.