LECTURE> Robert Sharf at Emmanuel College (Toronto), March 6, 2018

Cuilan Liu's picture

Dear Colleagues,

It is my great pleasure to announce a public lecture by Professor Robert Sharf (D. H. Chen Distinguished Professor of Buddhist Studies, University of California, Berkeley) at Emmanuel College of Victoria University in the University of Toronto. This lecture will be delivered in English and simultaneous interpretation in Chinese will also be provided. Admission is free but space is limited and RSVP is required. Please RSVP by clicking the following link:


Title: Buddhist Modernism, Meditation, and Mindfulness: What Is at Stake?

Venue: Emmanuel College, Chapel (3rd Floor), 75 Queen’s Park Crescent, Toronto ON M5G 0B2

Date and Time: March 6, 2018 Tuesday, 7pm-8:30pm


"Buddhist modernism" evolved out of a complex intellectual exchange that took place between Asia and the West over the last century. Generally speaking, Buddhist modernists hold that Buddhism, properly understood, is not so much a "religion" as it is a "spiritual technology" designed to bring about a liberating psychological and spiritual transformation. The technology is comprised of meditation, which is often identified by Buddhist modernists as the practice of mindfulness. Scholars have justly criticized this approach to Buddhism for being historically and ethnographically naïve. (Indeed, some have argued that construing Buddhism as a "science of happiness" turns Buddhism on its head!) But putting aside a scholar's concern with theoretical sophistication and historical accuracy, one might ask what harm there is in popularizing Buddhism in this manner? After all, Buddhism spread and survived for two thousand years precisely by adapting itself to local needs and norms. This talk will consider the issue of what is at stake—historically, sociologically, and philosophically—in reducing Buddhism to meditation, and meditation to mindfulness.


About the speaker

Robert Sharf is D. H. Chen Distinguished Professor of Buddhist Studies in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of California, Berkeley.  Before joining the Berkeley faculty he taught in the Department of Religious Studies at McMaster University (1989-95) and in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Michigan (1995-2003). He works primarily in the area of medieval Chinese Buddhism (especially Chan), but he also dabbles in Japanese Buddhism, Buddhist art, ritual studies, and methodological issues in the study of religion. He is author of Coming to Terms with Chinese Buddhism: A Reading of the Treasure Store Treatise (2002), co-editor of Living Images: Japanese Buddhist Icons in Context (2001), and is currently working on a book tentatively titled "Thinking about Not Thinking: Buddhist Struggles with Mindlessness, Insentience, and Nirvana." In addition to his appointment in East Asian Languages and Cultures, he is Chair of the Center for Buddhist Studies at UCB. He also serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, the Journal for the Study of Chinese Religions, the Journal of Religion in Japan, and the Kuroda Institute Series published in conjunction with University of Hawai'i Press.


Cuilan Liu

Assistant Professor of Buddhist Studies 

Emmanuel College of Victoria University in the University of Toronto

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Kimberly Penner 

Event Coordinator 

Emmanuel College of Victoria University in the University of Toronto

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