Tell a friend about this talk!

Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to Google Buzz

other talks in this theme

Other talks from Cardiff

There is no transcript for this talk. Help us make one!

Imagining Gautama

by Vishvapani

The second in a major new series of talks by Vishvapani to mark the launch of his new book: 'Gautama Buddha: The Life and Teachings of the Awakened One' (Quercus, 2011).

Vishvapani is a well known figure in the Triratna Buddhist Community and is a regular contributor on the BBC's 'Thought for the Day'.

In this splendid talk, originally subtitled, 'Approaching The Buddha As An Historical And As A Mythic Figure', Vishvapani traces his own relationship to the Buddha, from early family connections arising out of the turmoil of war to his experience of writing the book itself. In doing so he explores the tricky work of trying to engage with the imagination constrained and disciplined by the historical evidence. What emerges from his work with the Pali texts is a portrait of the Buddha and his world where it's impossible to miss the vital sense of a man questing for a coherent vision of reality.

Features a question-and-answer session.

Talk given at the Cardiff Buddhist Centre, February 2011.

This talk is part of the series Gautama Buddha.

Tracks (click play to listen)

Play All

click play to listen
1. Introducing the series (1:02) 
click play to listen
2. Vishvapani's own connection to the Buddha; his family story from Nazi Germany - Jewish refugees in Shanghai; a little statue of the Buddha; distinguishing the foreground from elaboration (3:00) 
click play to listen
3. Different versions of the Buddha; exhibition of Chinese cave carvings in Cardiff; what is won and lost by separating out manifestations of the Buddha; Socrates as a contemporary - can we find out someone's personality from texts we have about them? (3:10) 
click play to listen
4. Separating legend from history; religious studies and lessons on the Four Sights, not found in the suttas; the Buddha Vipassi in the Mahapadana Sutta, the development of a legendary story; details in the Buddha legend missing from the Pali Canon (4:04) 
click play to listen
5. Entering into fables as entering into a certain way of thinking and relating; Dr Ambedkar's rejection of the Four Sights as legitimate or relevant to his people's struggle (2:09) 
click play to listen
6. Getting at truth, powerful emotions in the suttas; reading from The Attadanda Sutta ('Taking Arms'); the thorn in one's heart as the root of conflict in society; Four Noble Truths and need for fundamental change; the Buddha generalising from experience (5:17) 
click play to listen
7. Commentaries on the sutta, a war over water; two questions; distinguishing characteristics of the Buddha and his society; in praise of Pali-English Dictionary of Proper Names; a coherent personality and set of teachings about the nature of existence (4:59) 
click play to listen
8. Taking the texts at face value and tellng the Buddha's story; no previous full biographies; an interpretation of the Buddha; Harold Bloom on Jesus and Yahweh; impossible to be neutral in relation to the someone who proposes an end to suffering (3:27) 
click play to listen
9. An act of imagination constrained by the evidence - wanting to really see the Buddha and his society; finding an image of the Buddha that isn't perfect; looking for the learning Buddha; the Buddha gets feedback from Dhammadinna (4:34) 
click play to listen
10. The Buddha learns how to teach laypeople; how the teaching is framed against the backdrop of contemporary views; navigating the world of politics - some verses for fat King Pasenadi of Kosala; expectations of holy men regarding the spirit world (4:56) 
click play to listen
11. All history and biography must be imagined; how to write about someone beyond ordinary experience; contemplating the Buddha, understanding the nature of your “fathom-long” body (1:49) 
click play to listen
12. Reading from 'Gautama Buddha', teaching Bahiya of the Bark Garment about the way to the end of suffering; a picture of the streets of Kosala and a portrait of Gautama; an embodied shift in consciousness (6:30) 
click play to listen
13. Question 1 - Was the Pali Canon written at the time of the Buddha? Ananda and the memorization of the teachings; not worrying too much about 'problems' around the texts - a coherent body of teaching (2:55) 
click play to listen
14. Question 2 - Evidential, empirical and imaginative approaches to the Buddha and his teaching; the imagination disciplined by the evidence (3:30) 
click play to listen
15. Question 3 - How has adopting an experiential approach affected Vishvapani's own practice and interaction with others? Feeling as if he knows the Buddha as a good friend; comparison to spending time with a more experienced teacher, Sangharakshita (2:06) 
click play to listen
16. Question 4 - Was there an issue working with contradictions in the texts? Diverse traditions of practice and view - prioritising looking for a vision of reality (1:50) 
click play to listen
17. Question 5 - The Buddha's humour (verses from the Dhammapada in a whiny voice); tone of voice; the Buddha on food and over-eating; the dung beetle; not many jokes in the Pali Canon (2:42) 


Total running time: 58:00

close