Saturday 11 January 12:00 - 17:00

SOAS University of London
Khalili Lecture Theatre
Main Building, Lower ground floor

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Buddhism Inside/Out: Engaging the dead

Religion & Spirituality

This event brings together perspectives on the diverse ways in which Buddhist cultures, authors, makers and intellectual traditions have engaged with the death of the body, both historically and at present. Distinct from narratives of self-sacrifice or the value of relics, these presentations focus on ways in which death, dying, and the treatment of corpses have been instrumentalized through Buddhist teaching, ritual action, visual culture and the dynamic social relationships within communities of practitioners. 

Speakers will address the use of human remains in tantric ritual objects; the contemplation of corpses in historic monastic practices from the Pāli canon; funerary practice in contemporary Sri Lankan Sinhalese communities; death as a yoga and opportunity for accomplishment in early Indian and Tibetan tantric masters; and the practice of death as meditation, where bodies are preserved and venerated for extended periods of time in situ


Dr. Liz Wilson (Miami University, Ohio), author of Charming Cadavers: Horrific Figurarions of the Feminine in Indian Buddhist Hagiographic Literature (University of Chicago Press, 1996)

Dr. Rita Langer (University of Bristol), author of Buddhist Rituals of Death and Rebirth: Contemporary Sri Lankan Practice and its Origins (Routledge, 2007)

Westin Harris, PhD candidate in Religious Studies at the University of California, Davis and Research Affliliate, Kathmandu University Center for Buddhist Studies, Rangjung Yeshe Institute (2017-18)

Donagh Coleman, Documentary film-maker and PhD candidate in Medical Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley 

The day will be introduced and moderated by the organizer, Ayesha Fuentes, a PhD candidate at SOAS in the Department of History of Art and Archaeology writing on the use of human remains in Tibetan ritual objects and a Research Student Member of the Centre for Buddhist Studies at SOAS. 

This event is intended for a general audience, though some knowledge of the history of Buddhism and its cultural geography will be assumed. Each talk will be followed by a short discussion; a tea break will be available from 230-3pm and there will be a drinks reception following. 

The Buddhism Inside/Out series is generously funded by Khyentse Foundation. 


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