Bringing the Past to Life: Visions, Writing, and Me

Teacher and Treasure Revealer Jikmé Lingpa, Tibet, 18th–19th century metal alloy, 8 ¾ x 71/2 x 4 3/8 inches (22.2 x 19 x 11.1 cm), Rubin Museum of Art

Join us at 6:00 PM Thursday, February 21, as Janet Gyatso, Harvard Professor of Buddhist Studies, reflects on reading and translating the visionary autobiography the eighteenth-century Tibetan Buddhist master, Jigme Lingpa.

This talk will discuss the Tibetan art of writing autobiography and how the modern scholar herself becomes connected to it. It will focus on how Gyatso appreciated, translated, and wrote about the “secret autobiographies” of Jigme Lingpa, an 18th century visionary, who was himself trying to connect to the 8th century master Padmasambhava. It will reflect on how the speaker worked with Tibetan scholars to translate the text, and what “understanding” the work meant, both for her and for the Tibetan readers with whom she studied. Finally, it will talk about how the author of the autobiography used writing and vision to imagine himself.

This event is free and open to the public.

Programming for The Second Buddha was coordinated by Associate Professor of Asian Studies Benjamin Bogin through the Skidmore Faculty Scholar Residency, which is co-sponsored by the Center for Leadership, Teaching, and Learning and the Office of the Dean of Special Programs; and the Tang Teaching Museum.

About Janet Gyatso

Janet Gyatso is a specialist in Buddhist studies with concentration on Tibetan and South Asian cultural and intellectual history. Her books include Apparitions of the Self: The Secret Autobiographies of a Tibetan Visionary; In the Mirror of Memory: Reflections on Mindfulness and Remembrance in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism; Women of Tibet; and Being Human in a Buddhist World: An Intellectual History of Medicine in Early Modern Tibet, which focuses upon alternative early modernities and the conjunctions and disjunctures between religious and scientific epistemologies in Tibetan medicine in the sixteenth–eighteenth centuries. She has also been writing on sex and gender in Buddhist monasticism, and on the current female ordination movement in Buddhism. Previous topics of her scholarship have included visionary revelation in Buddhism; lineage, memory, and authorship; the philosophy of experience; and autobiographical writing in Tibet. Her present research focuses on poetics, as well as a project in animal studies. Gyatso was president of the International Association of Tibetan Studies and co-chair of the Buddhism Section of the American Academy of Religion. She is the Hershey Professor of Buddhist Studies and the Associate Dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs at the Harvard Divinity School.

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