A series of talks from the Transnational Network of Theravada Studies. The full schedule is in the link below, but here are some of the highlights related to archaeology:
- Pali at Bagan: The lingua franca of the Theravada Buddhist Ecumene | Tilman Frasch
25 Sep 2020
For more than 250 years, between c. 1050 and 1300 CE, Bagan was the capital of kingdom by and large and congruent with modern Myanmar. More than 2500 religous monuments – the vast majority of them Buddhist temples, stupas and monasteries – still attest to the former importance and glory of the city and the generosity of its citizens. At the same time, the city was a cosmopolitan centre of Theravada Buddhism – perhaps its single most important centre during the 13th century – where monks and pilgrims from all over Asia met, studied and held religious ceremonies such as recitations (sangiti) and ordinations. As this presentation will show, the Pali language served this transnational community as a lingua franca, facilitating communication and collaboration. In fact, Bagan may have produced the largest number of major (long) Pali inscriptions of any Buddhist site in Asia, including a number of recent finds. A survey of this body of texts will shed fresh light on the formation and composition of the Buddhist community at Bagan, for instance its connections with Angkor and the Malay world. The presentation will introduce these hitherto overlooked works of Pali scholarship and discuss their implications.
- Wihan at Wat Traphang Thong Lang, Sukhothai: Cultural Linkages with Sri Lanka and Myanmar | Chotima Chaturawong
16 October 2020
Wat Traphang Thong Lang [Monastery of the Coral-tree Pond] is located outside the historical town of Sukhothai to the east and probably belonged to a forest–dwelling order. Its sacred quadrangle simply contained a wihan referring to an assembly hall where people are gathered to practice ceremonies and listen to dharma preaching. Wihan at Wat Traphang Thong Lang perhaps represented the Sudhammasala in the Tavatimsa Heaven as the term Thong Lang [coral tree] is equivalent to Paricchattaka in Pali. The Paricchattaka is the sacred tree that grew in Nandanavana of the Tavatimsa Heaven and its foot is the Pandukambalasilasana [Pandukambala stone] where the Buddha was seated and taught Abhidhamma [higher doctrine] for three months to his former mother, who was reborn as a deva, and other devas and brahmas. The stucco reliefs of the image chamber and the image throne had inspiration from those in Sri Lanka and Myanmar and reflected cultural linkages among the three countries.
- Research on the Kuthodaw Pagoda marble-stelae recension of the Pali canon in Mandalay, Myanmar | Mark Allon
23 October 2020
Between 1860-1868 King Mindon (1853-1878), the second last king of Burma/Myanmar, had the complete Theravāda Pali Buddhist canon carved onto 729 marble stelae which were then housed at the specially constructed Kuthodaw Pagoda in Mandalay, Myanmar. Although Myanmar kings, like other Theravāda kings, had long fulfilled one of their religious duties by commissioning sets of the canon to be written on palm leaf manuscripts, this was the first time that the entire canon had been carved on stone. To some extent, Mindon’s doing so may have been prompted by the annexation of lower Myanmar by the British in 1852. These inscriptions preserve a complete and unified recension of the Pali canon which is a unique textual witness of the Theravāda manuscript tradition of Myanmar well outside the reach of Western textual methods and practices. This presentation reports on an ongoing project to conserve, photograph and study these previously underutilised inscriptions in an attempt to clarify how the texts as inscribed relate to earlier manuscript traditions and to subsequent printed versions of the canon from Myanmar.