Rupert Gethin to give 2008 Numata Lecture in Buddhist Studies

March 4, 2008

Thai painting (19th century) depicting the Buddha flanked by his two chief disciples, Sāriputta and Moggallāna

The 2008 Numata Lecture in Buddhist Studies will be given at 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 20th by Dr. Rupert Gethin. Gethin is the Numata Visiting Professor in Buddhist Studies at U.C. Berkeley for Spring 2008. He is a Reader in Buddhist Studies in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, and co-director of the Centre for Buddhist Studies, at the University of Bristol, and (since 2003) President of the Pali Text Society.

This free, public lecture, titled "The Word of the Buddha or the Disputations of his Disciples? The Buddhist Path as Presented in the Pali Nikāyas," will be held in the IEAS Conference Room, 2223 Fulton Street, 6th Floor. A reception will follow.

The Pali Nikāyas contain a number of different schemes of the Buddhist path. These schemes are characteristically set out in the Nikāyas by way of variations on stock formulas presented in a variety of narrative frames. It has been argued by scholars that these different schemes represent competing voices within early Buddhist texts, and some scholars even argue that it is possible to identify the authentic voice of the Buddha among these voices. Such an approach assumes that the Nikāyas are best considered as the end result of a somewhat haphazard and unsystematic process of compilation and redaction that reveals instances of incoherence and inconsistency which can then be used as a basis for distinguishing between early and late in the different path schemes. Rupert Gethin argues that such an approach has overlooked the extent to which the Nikāyas are a systematically redacted whole: the product of a particular process of compilation and editing which the compilers and editors deliberately employed in order to present a particular vision of the Buddhist path. Analysing the schemes and formulas both numerically and contextually, Gethin attempts to articulate what the vision was by establishing what the compilers of the Nikāyas wished to highlight and emphasize in their presentation of the Buddhist path.