The seminar will examine the Amitābha, or Sukhāvatī, motif of the "Pure Land" teaching in Song China through the lens of social and cultural processes. We will explore selected documents and genres that played a formative role in (and hence also reflect) the collective discourses of devotees intent on rebirth in the Pure Land, briefly consider the historical circumstances behind the production and circulation of these texts, and examine them for what they reveal about Pure Land practice, discourse, and identity, as well as for insights they might provide regarding some of the categories that inform our studies of "Pure Land" in China. The basic refrain will be "Pure Land" sociality as "liturgical community": how individuals who collectively identified themselves as persons intent on "binding the connections that lead to rebirth in the Pure Land (結淨緣)," as the common saying goes, personalized and lived out this identity largely in the form of ritual obligation and tale-telling.
Dan Stevenson teaches in the Department of Religious Studies, University of Kansas. A graduate of Columbia, he specializes in Chinese Buddhism, with particular interest in ritual, exegetical, and institutional practices in the Tiantai and Pure Land traditions during the Tang and Song dynasties.
He is the author of numerous articles and several volumes, including Nanyue Huisi (515-577) and the Lotus Sūtra: A Study and Annotated Translation of Huisi’s Meaning of the Course of Ease and Bliss (Fahua jing anlexing yi) (2006, with Kannō Hiroshi); and The Great Calming and Contemplation: An Annotated Translation of the Synopsis Chapter of Chih-i's Mo-ho chih-kuan (1993, with Neal Donner).