Roads to Reincarnation: A Two-Part Lecture by Sherry Fowler, Ph.D. and Max Moerman, Ph.D.

Sunday, July 16, 2017
2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

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Price: Free with Museum admission. Seating is limited. Please arrive early.

Hungry Ghosts
Japan, Edo period, ca. 1800
Hanging scroll; ink and colors on silk, 86 1/8 x 33 ½ in.
Private Collection
Photography by Peggy Tenison

This two-lecture program will focus on different aspects of heaven and hell in the Pure Land faith. Sherry Fowler is a Professor of Japanese Art at The University of Kansas and specialist in Japanese Buddhist Art. Max Moerman is Chair and Professor in the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Chair at Columbia University and widely published in aspects of Japanese Buddhist funerary practices.

Japanese Buddhist Pictures of the Six Paths by Sherry Fowler, Ph.D.
In the Buddhist system of reincarnation there are six possible paths—from the lowest of the hells to the highest as a place where heavenly beings reside. The pictorial tradition of Japanese art offers inspiration in the form of blissful visions as well as disincentive in the form of shocking and grotesque images in order to provide a glimpse of the possibilities of where we might be reincarnated. This talk will not only consider the development of the pictures of the six paths, which flourished in the thirteenth century, but also consider a rare set of sixteenth-century hanging scrolls that combine scenes of the six paths with different guises of the compassionate Buddhist deity named Kannon (Skt. Avalokiteshvara, Ch. Guanyin, K. Gwaneum), who can specifically help free beings trapped in each of the six paths and guide them to salvation.

Visiting Heaven and Going to Hell in Medieval Japan by Max Moerman, Ph.D.
The images of heaven and hells in this exhibition celebrate the visual culture of Pure Land Buddhism.  But visual culture is more than the culture of images.  It is the culture of vision itself: the theories, practices, and experiences of vision within a given culture.  Practices of vision are particularly important to Pure Land Buddhism, a tradition distinguished by an emphasis on rituals in which devotees are directed to create detailed visions of heavens and hells in which to visualize their own rebirth.  This talk will take a closer look at the practices of vision within Japanese Pure Land Buddhism to examine the ways in which the images in this exhibition were employed by their historical owners and audiences.  In doing so it will explore how practitioners in medieval Japan used such images to prepare for, to contemplate, and to experience salvation and retribution in Pure Land Buddhism.


Seating is limited. Please arrive early.

Sherry Fowler, Ph.D.

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