Jul 25, 2022, 9:00 am11:00 am
Event Description


9:00-9:15 Welcome and Thanks (David Shulman & Jonathan Gold)

9:15-9:45 Speaker 1 (20 minutes plus Q&A): Whitney Cox

“‘Fondée sur la critique archaeologique des textes’: Thoughts on Borobudur and the Vajradhātumaṇḍala

This very preliminary talk will for the most part consist of a report on Max Nihom’s 1994 monograph Studies in Indian and Indo-Indonesian Tantrism: The Kuñjarakarṇadharmakathana and the Yogatantra.  In this unfortunately now largely forgotten work, Nihom sought to account for some anomalies in the evidence from insular Southeast Asia on the history of esoteric Buddhism, moving between sources in Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Old Javanese. While similar efforts had been made earlier, this Dutch scholar brought a critical philological rigor to what had largely been a (frequently exhilarating) search for possible connections and identities from across Buddhist Asia. One of the book’s central demonstrations is that of the apparent absence of the text of the Sarvatathāgatatattvasaṃgraha Tantra from classical Indonesia, reevaluating the claim – first made by Lokesh Chandra, and widely repeated – that this early esoteric scripture’s central vajradhātumahāmaṇḍala was influential in the design of Borobudur and elsewhere.

Revisiting Nihom’s conclusions affords us an opportunity to think about ways to conceptualize the relation between textuality and forms of the built environment. Drawing on some earlier and unpublished work of my own, I am interested in considering what ‘textual archaeology’ might mean, while taking both the adjective and the substantive seriously. I will suggest that attention to Mus’ seminal book ‘about’ Borobudur along with subsequent scholarship (e.g. that of Lokesh Chandra again, Snellgrove, and Dumarçay) suggests the value of considering a text like the Tattvasaṃgraha as the result of a gradual and collective mode of composition, and its central maṇḍala a work of post facto interpretative synthesis of the overlapping worlds of early Buddhist Mantranaya.

9:45-10:15 Speaker 2 (20 minutes plus Q&A): Julie Gifford

“Borobudur Present and Past: Learning from the Contemporary NgalSo Tradition”

When he first visited Borobudur in 1989, Lama Gangchen Tulku Rinpoche, a reincarnate master in the Geluk school of Tibetan Buddhism, began having visions. Based on these revelations, he devised the NgalSo Tantric Self-Healing initiation, which he granted to many students during annual pilgrimages to Borobudur. The NgalSo initiation and Lama Gangchen’s account of Borobudur as a Highest Yoga Tantra mandala provide rich opportunities for new research. First, a thorough study of the NgalSo initiation would make a valuable contribution to a comprehensive reception history of Borobudur. Second, studies of the NgalSo tradition would contribute to ongoing conversations about religious innovation, religious material culture, and the transnational character of contemporary Tibetan Buddhism. Third, a careful historical investigation of Lama Gangchen’s account of the Borobudur mandala might shed light on the original meanings and uses of the monument, and on the nature of Javanese Buddhism in the first half of the ninth century.

10:15-11:00 General Discussion in Consideration of a 2023 workshop

Attendees are invited to share information about current research projects and plans relevant to the study of Borobudur, and offer advice and opinions for a projected July 2023 on-site workshop.