The Great Lamp of the Dharma Dhāraṇī Scripture and its theory on scriptual revelation in the Mahāyāna tradition.
The Great Lamp of the Dharma Dhāraṇī Scripture (Da faju tuoluoni jing 大法炬陀羅尼經), extant only in a late sixth-century Chinese translation, purports to transform the wielder of its dhāraṇī into a perfect Buddhist preacher (fashi 法師, *dharmabhāṇaka). According to this text, becoming a perfect preacher entails entering “the Treasury of Tathāgatas” (rulai zang 如來藏), a state in which the preacher accesses the awakening of Buddhas. Ritually representing the Buddha in the body of the preacher, the preacher’s sermons are authorized as the word of the Buddha. Paying particular attention to the ways in which the text frames innovation as a kind of recovery, we will explore how the Great Lamp theorizes scriptural revelation in the Mahāyāna tradition, and how it anticipates forms of revelation in later esoteric Buddhist traditions.
About the speaker
Ryan Richard Overbey, Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation Assistant Professor in Buddhist Studies, Skidmore College. He is a specialist in Buddhism, Chinese religions, Indian religions, Tantra, esoteric traditions, ritual, theory and method in the study of religion, and digital humanities.
He works at the intersection of ritual and intellectual history in the Buddhist tradition, probing the close links between theory and practice, between philosophy and liturgy. As a philologist, his work focuses on the edition and interpretation of texts preserved in Chinese, Sanskrit, and Tibetan in the first millennium CE. As a scholar and teacher in Religious Studies, he seeks to collapse distinctions between “premodern” and “modern,” between “elite” and “popular,” and between “West” and “East.”