Seminar. Course content varies. Offered occasionally by visiting or resident faculty.
This course focuses on several scriptures of a genre of East Asian Buddhist literature known as “apocrypha” in Western scholarships which includes the “false or suspect scriptures” in traditional Chinese Buddhist bibliography that aimed to show their Chinese or non-Indic, and hence “non-Buddhist,” pedigree. Some of these scriptures were marginalized and dispersed while others gained canonical status and exerted considerable influence on Buddhism during the medieval period not only in China but also in the rest of East Asia. Collectively apocryphal scriptures are invaluable source material for the study of Chinese conception of scripture and canon as well as Buddhist religion in East Asia (as opposed to Indian Buddhism therein). Our discussion will begin with comparative traditional hermeneutics with a focus on the issue of criteria of scriptural authenticity and canonicity in India and China. We will then discuss both the translations of selected scriptures and the studies that contextualize them to see how these scriptures, whose subject matters and orientations range from Mahayana precepts, politics and religion, Ch’an ideology, and the cult of Kuan-yin to purgatory, adapted Indian Buddhist models to meet regional needs, religious or otherwise, and consequently contributed significantly to the development of East Asian Buddhist thought, praxis, and institution.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
Class assignments and grading
The course is a seminar and requires informed and active participation. Students are asked to be the discussant to identify the main issues of the readings and raise questions for class discussion. Written assignments consist of critical reviews of some of the readings and a research paper on a topic relevant to the coverage of the course.