Chiasmus in Buddha Hagiography

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Chiasmus in Buddha Hagiography

Post by Huifeng » Mon Feb 17, 2014 7:35 am

Chiasmus in Buddha Hagiography

SHI Huifeng @ University of the West, Los Angeles, Feb 5th, 2014

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Chiasmus in Buddha Hagiography
(Ven.) SHI Huifeng
Assistant Professor
Department of Buddhist Studies
Fo Guang University

The study of the story of the life of Gautama the Buddha is an essential element of all schools of Buddhist thought and practice. It has thus attracted great interest among the scholarly community. Utilizing modern text-historical critical approaches, much work has been attempted to ascertain the biographical life of the “historical Buddha”. This is akin to the modern European search for the “historical Jesus”. Textually, most such studies in Western languages have been based almost exclusively on the Pali Theravādin literature. Attempts to remove perceived mythical elements have dominated such studies. This has resulted in textual bias, and overlooking much myth that still contains valuable material.

This talk shall focus on a greater range of textual sources, including the Sanskrit and Chinese. It shall not attempt to uncover an historical biography, but to examine the hagiographical story of the Buddha’s life. We shall attempt to apply Campbell’s “hero myth” reading, or, more specifically, identify a chiasmic structure to these hagiographies. In broader terms, the scope is set from around the birth of the Prince to his final extinguishing as the Buddha, noting key parallels between these original and terminal events. In more focused terms, we shall turn to the more detailed events circumscribing his awakening. The scope is set from the Prince’s renunciation to his later return to Kapilavastu, again centered on his awakening. Many events both before and after this central climax will be examined for structural parallelisms. Having identified such structures, we shall attempt a chiasmic reading of the hagiography of the Buddha.


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Re: Chiasmus in Buddha Hagiography

Post by Qianxi » Fri Feb 21, 2014 10:42 am

The second video cuts off just before your conclusion.

That was interesting. I couldn't quite make out the 'Renunciation, awakening, return' overview slide, would it be possible to post a picture of it, or perhaps email the ppt?

There seem to be quite good parallels between the journey to awakening and the journey back to Kapilavastu. I wonder where the parinirvana story fits in to that. Perhaps it's a very separate narrative unit.

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