Nirvāṇa as Permanence, Joy, Self, and Purity in a Medieval Chinese Buddhist Commentary 

Wendi Adamek, University of Calgary and Institute of Advanced Study

Thursday, January 28, 4:30-6:00 P.M.

Location: Brower Commons A

Abstract: This talks looks at a localized Chinese context for the development of tathāgatagarbha (buddha matrix)-influenced soteriology, through the lens of the Nirvāṇa-sūtra characterization of nirvāṇa as permanence, joy, self, and purity (chang le wo jing 常樂我淨). The sixth-century Dasheng yi zhang 大乘義章 (Chapters on the Meaning of the Mahāyāna) provides an important window into the hermeneutics through which the rubric chang le wo jing was understood and adapted by clerics of the Northern dynasties. The Dasheng yi zhang is attributed to Jingying Huiyuan 淨影慧遠 (523-592), one of the most prominent masters active in the Northern Qi, Northern Zhou, and Sui dynasties. He is also considered an important figure in the development of Chinese Pure Land theory. Here his work is viewed not only as an important historical artifact, but also as part of a broader discussion about the nature of agency and subjectivity in Chinese Buddhism. (Co-sponsored with Asian Languages and Cultures.)