The Art of Buddhism Lecture Series

The Art of Buddhism

With Debashish Banerji Ph.D. 

This course will trace Buddhism through its visual culture from its beginnings in India in the 3rd. c. B.C.E. to modern times, considering the principal sects of Buddhism and their spread through Central, Southeast and East Asia.

$10/Lecture or $15/Day. 

The Art of Buddhism Lecture Series
Lecture Number:


Lecture 1: Introduction – Life of the Buddha, philosophical basics and history of early Buddhism

Saturday, July 11th, 10:30am-11:30am / Q&A 11:30-12:00pm

This lecture will introduce the series, looking at the cultural and philosophic context of the emergence of Buddhism in India around the 5th c. B.C.E. and trace the life and teachings of Gautama Buddha. 

Lecture 2: Stupas, stambhas and storytelling – the early aniconic phase of Indian Buddhism

Saturday, July 11th, 1:00pm-2:00pm / Q&A 2:00-2:30pm

This lecture will explore the objects and ideas representing Buddhism in its early public expansion in India under the patronage of the Mauryan emperor Ashoka and his successors.

Lecture 3: The appearance and evolution of the Buddha image, and the Ajanta caves

Saturday, July 25th, 10:30am-11:30am / Q&A 11:30-12:00pm

This lecture will trace the development of the Buddha image in India from its appearance in two styles around the 1st. c. C.E. to its becoming an aesthetic icon and India’s principal cultural export around the 4th c. C.E. We will also visit the 5th c. cave sites of Ajanta to look at the sculpture and some of the finest paintings of India.

Lecture 4: The early spread of Buddhism – the Silk Road, Dunhuang and Bodhisattva cults

Saturday, July 25th, 1:00pm-2:00pm / Q&A 2:00-2:30pm

In this lecture we will consider the spread of early Buddhism along the Silk Route and the the variety of Buddhist sects that found representation in the cave sites of Mogao in Dunhuang in the Taklamakan desert on the western fringe of China. This will introduce early Mahayana bodhisatvas such as Avalokiteshvara, Maitreya and Manjushri.

Lecture 5:  Theravada Buddhism – Buddhism in Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand

Saturday, August 8th, 10:30am-11:30am / Q&A 11:30-12:00pm

In this lecture, we will consider the art of Theravada Buddhism as expressed in countries predominantly practicing Theravada, which is strongly focused on monasticism and meditation.

Lecture 6: The cult of Vairochana and the Flower Garland Sutra, Borobudur

Saturday, August 8th, 1:00pm-2:00pm / Q&A 2:00-2:30pm

This lecture discusses the cult of the transcendental Buddha Vairochana and the early expressions of this form of Buddhism, particularly as expressed in the spectacular Javanese mandala-mountain Borobudur.

Lecture 7: Western Pure Land Buddhism in China, Korea and Japan

Saturday, August 22nd, 10:30am-11:30am / Q&A 11:30-12:00pm

In this lecture, we will look at Pure Land Buddhism, a spin-off of the Vairochana cult dedicated to Amitabha Buddha that grew very popular in China, Korea and Japan

Lecture 8: Tantric Buddhism in Tibet, China. Mongolia and Japan

Saturday, August 22nd, 1:00pm-2:00pm / Q&A 2:00-2:30pm

In this lecture we will consider Tantric or esoteric Buddhism, with its meditation diagrams (mandalas), magical incantations (mantras) and multi-limbed deities embracing their female counterparts (yab-yum).

Lecture 9: Chan/Zen Buddhism

Saturday, September 5th, 10:30am-11:30am / Q&A 11:30-12:00pm

In this lecture we will look at the art of Chan Buddhism, a sect that developed in China from the teachings of the Indian teacher Bodhidharma and then spread to Japan, where it is called Zen.

Lecture 10: Buddhism in the Modern World

Saturday, September 5th, 1:00pm-2:00pm / Q&A 2:00-2:30pm

In this last lecture, we will consider the modern and contemporary manifestations of Buddhist art, seeing how the sects dealt with above continue to produce artworks and how individuals practicing Buddhism in the modern world have expressed themselves.

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